Walk with Pete Harrison (artist) and Jim Dixon (archeologist). Malago springs to Avon New Cut.
The aim of today was to walk all the way from the spring to the Avon, attempting to trace the whole river and share ideas with Pete for the public walks we will develop for April. I meet Pete and Max in town, and catch the bus to Hartcliffe to start our walk. We iupstairs and watch the streets slip by through the streaks of a torrential downpour. I find the bus stop that Anton had shown me, and lead the way up the muddy hillside, Jim trudging ahead whilst Pete slips in his city shoes. The veiw from the top is even more striking than I remembered, bright light bursting through the rainclouds and Bristol spread out before us.
We decide to stay as true to the river as possible, so we follow the stream downhill from the spring, and through woods until the path squeezes behind a small gasworks and leads us out to the back of some houses. Here, amongst a pool of strewn and charred papers, I find a music box. It’s wet and broken but still plays its tune. Loosing ourselves for a few minutes in residential streets, Jim picks up the scent of the river again, and we follow the Pigeonhouse stream through Hartcliffe: the path moving between a rubbish dump and strangly beautiful glens. Hazel catkins catch the light when the rain stops. There are wiers made from shopping trolleys. We see a rat swimming in the water but the current is very strong and he is swept downstream looking like he’s lost control.
The river disappears under Hengrove Way, and there’s a large pond next to a new ‘Lakeside’ development. I think this is where Pigeonhouse Farm once stood, and the large industrial building that’s being developed was a Tabacco factory. From here, the Pigeonhouse stream continues through Crox Bottom, a surprisingly rural wooded valley that leads you onto Hartcliffe Way a little further south than Manor Woods. There’s an interceptor here as well, taking water underground to join the Malago storm tunnel.
From here we go south through Manor Woods and into Bishopsworth, warming ourselves for a while in the lobby of the swimming pool. We walk back through Manor Woods, and up the Greenway into Bedminster. I tell Pete and Jim some of what I’ve learnt from my previous walks. We talk about books and journeys, and the translation of direct experience into something else.
It takes us six hours (with breaks and meanderings) to reach the Avon New Cut, where we stand on the north bank and see with glee the two huge outlets that mark the end of the Malago.