Where Zeb Walks in Badock’s Woods

Where we walk a lot of the time is a piece of old woodland ten minutes away from home. I am not good at reading landscape and seeing the past and using my imagination to see what was and how it looked. I don’t usually see ghosts. This place however has a curious quality to it. It isn’t very big at all but it has steep sides and trees and the River Trym runs through from Filton to where it meets the Avon at Sea Mills. (So named as there used to be tidal mills there). It is another place worth visiting if you haven’t been there and only know Bristol as a busy city.

In the middle of the woods the Trym meets an unnamed stream which comes in under the road and is often full of something nasty from somewhere higher up.

This summer the Trym was almost dry and we wondered why it was so much lower than any previous year. Two evenings ago we were walking through and there were men in big helmets and yellow jackets, clambering about in the water and up the slopes and I wondered what they were doing. Fortunately I met Mark yesterday; he is the wonderful hard working park keeper who looks after the Woods on behalf of Bristol City Council – the man who knows everyone and everything that is going on.

The riverbed has a leak, a large hole in its side and it’s running into the sewers. It’s going to cost lots of money to fix and it’s all a bit of a worry. It’s very unusual for a river to run into a sewer, usually it’s the other way round. When it rains heavily the river rises right up the banks and rushes along in a mad frenzy, it’s very variable.

I was told a bit of the history of the river by Mark and how it has been altered over time.  There is more to be read on the Friends of Badocks Wood site; how it used to be four feet deep but got filled in when some boys drowned in it and how there used to be a pond down from the weirs. Someone else told me there used to be a little tea place by the side of the rocks.

There is a nice pdf here which shows you the layout of the woods, as you can see it really isn’t very big but it feels big because of the mature trees and the hill slopes and you feel a mile away from the city when in fact you are surrounded by it. These images have been put on boards around the woods to help people orientate themselves when they are there.

Dog walkers are a wonderful disparate group of people, the one thing we have in common are our animals and their needs and as we go round and about we love to share our stories and our bits of gossip.  I have met people who came here as children, people who remember the Wildlife Park, now closed, people who remember shimmying up the fences round the Lake and swimming late at night when the Club was closed. In the war there were allotments on the field by Doncaster gate, then pre-fabs which were demolished in 1979. I heard about how it was almost a no-go area full of burnt-out cars at one time before we moved here and now it is a much loved and well used place. Last winter I saw the spotted woodpeckers most days and there are nearly always grey wagtails down by the stream. Wild garlic grows here in abundance in the Spring and there is lovely mixed woodland to wander through.  The Council make changes and not everyone likes them, but that is always the way with spaces with different groups of users. From a dog walker’s point of view it is almost perfect. It is safe, enclosed and peaceful; there are streams to jump in and a mix of woodland and open spaces to run in off lead.

Here is an experiment with WordPress’s Gallery Format, I think you should be able to see all the photos full size in a sort of carousel if you click on one of them (let me know it it works and if you like it).

Photos from my phone yesterday, not an iphone, so they are a bit blurry… Zeb saw a ball in the water so decided he had to rescue it. Poodles like going in water if there’s a bit of a challenge involved.

I looked for photos and old maps today, I wanted to find a picture or a drawing of the rivers and the pond that Mark was talking about but I ended up getting completely distracted by these acoustic pieces by Jono Gilmurray based on recordings of the water rushing through Badock’s Wood. Not only dog walkers are inspired by this lovely place….

Badock’s Wood 11 by Jono Gilmurray

25 thoughts on “Where Zeb Walks in Badock’s Woods

  1. Suelle

    I envy you having such a lovely place to walk. Living in the Fens, we don’t have such interesting landscapes.

    By a strange coincidence, I know Jono Gilmurray – we worked together as assistants to an autistic child several years ago. It was nice to be reminded of him and catch up with what he’s doing now.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Serendipity Suelle ! I had never come across him before today when I was writing this. On the few occasions I have been in the Fens on my way to the North Norfolk coast I have always thought it one of the most extraordinary landscapes in England, but I don’t know what it would be like to live there. I ought to do some baking soon and catch up with everyone properly x

  2. cecilia

    What a great piece of work on your lovely peaceful walk. So much to learn about these old places, we forget so quickly that we are not the first ones here.. c

    1. Joanna Post author

      Evening Cecliia ! I think we forget that there were fields here not so very long ago, at least on the edges of cities like the one I live in. Towns and cities have a way of destroying landscapes and rendering them invisible. I am always surprised when I stand somewhere high up in the city and look across and realise that Bristol is draped across so many hills. The tightly packed houses and narrow streets camouflage the hills and you lose your sense of place so quickly. Little green lungs like these give us all a bit of space and time just to be.

    1. Joanna Post author

      This one was a hanging around sort of a walk, the one where you wait for a dog and chat with the park keeper and ask people how old their dogs are, (the safest question). I am glad you like pottering along with me :)

  3. drfugawe

    Zeb is a lucky dog indeed – but he knows that, doesn’t he! We just returned, with Henry, our doxie, from a visit to check out our chanterelle patch – Henry loves all the smells and being able to dash off in every direction – but he makes sure he never gets too far away – these are big scary woods, not the kind of place where a small doggie wants to get lost.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Unspeakably jealous of chanterelle patches, we don’t have acid soil here so I don’t think you would find many here. I am seeing mostly fungi growing on trees at the moment, though a foraging dog walking friend showed me stump puffballs last autumn in this wood which I had never noticed before. Henry is a smart dog not to get lost in those big Oregon woods :)

  4. heidi

    Oh Joanna- how very lovely! I love to join you on your rambles, too. Sometimes I listen for the mumbling under your breath- but the music of your river is near to entrancing! You go into wonderful places with Zeb- and it is so interesting following up on all your links, as well.
    Thanks for the background material.
    I loved this post!!!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Heidi – it’s very hard to get a real sense of place from a couple of photos, which is why I was pleased to find the links. One day I will take a picture of the little Trym when it is full, I will have to go after a heavy rainstorm or something :)

  5. Ann

    What a lovely place for a dog walk – I wish Spot and I could join you. Your slide show does work – great pictures and nice to see the other poodle if only the hind end!
    I also clicked on the acoustic work – loved it.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I really ought to do some baking and post about that but at the moment I am only baking my everyday breads and nothing jumps out at me, so dog walks it is – thanks for reading Ann and regards to Spot :)

  6. hotlyspiced

    It looks like a very idyllic and beautiful place to go for a walk. Zeb is fortunate to be taken on such interesting walks xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      It’s the nearest place for us here in the suburbs of Bristol. He is lucky though, the other place is Clifton Downs but it is unfenced and dogs get run over there quite regularly.

  7. Misky

    Do you know what comes to mind when I see those lovely photos? “This be a place where fairies live …. ” :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      How sweet of you Misky! This summer on still evenings we could hear the drone of wild bees in the canopy as we walked through the woods, but we never saw them high above us. Maybe your fairies were riding on their fuzzy little backs ?

  8. sallybr

    Loved the virtual walk, peaceful, full of mystery too… I also liked the gallery (it worked for me), I just had trouble getting out of that mode and going back to the site, but that could be “operator error”… :-)

    wonderful post!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Sally! I had trouble getting out of the gallery too at first as there is no obvious ‘exit here’ or return to post button. I have figured out that what you need to do (on a Mac at any rate) is click somewhere on the black screen away from the photos themselves and it returns to the post.

  9. timethief

    Hi Joanna,
    I enjoyed reading about your walks in this lovely spot. Green spaces and places are so precious and we need to wake up to that fact and preserve more of them for future generations to enjoy. They are even more precious when situate in areas of high density.

    My husband and I are blessed as we chose to purchase a larger property many years ago and built our home here. It’s a forested property with natural meadows and has a creek and a stream that are very special to us. We also had a very large pond constructed years ago to adjoin the creek and it’s become a wildlife refuge for many species. We choose to leave the majority of our property in it’s natural state and don’t even tread in it unless a fence needs mending.

    I liked your images very much but I do admit that I’m not keen on the carousel viewer. I’m quite taken with the mosaic display we can create now and have used it on my personal blog. However, truth be told I avoid creating galleries because I don’t like the carousel display.

    I clicked through all the links and listened to Badock’s Wood II – River (2012). It reminded me of a tune I like very much. I no longer liver where Connie Kaldor sings about but I recall this river from my childhood walks with my grandfather and his dog a golden retriever called Barney. l an sharing a link to it as I am captivated by the rhythm of the musical score and how it emulates that flow of the water as it ships over the stones and twists and bends http://www.conniekaldor.com/about/wood-river/

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Timethief,
      This little piece of land has a convenant over it from Badock who left it to Bristol City Council which prohibits building on it, though I guess if land pressure became such these things might change. On a bigger scale the Government of the day doesn’t get things all its own way here as we have many vocal NGOs looking out for the interests of green spaces. The plan to sell off forests provoked a huge ongoing outcry here : http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jul/04/no-sell-off-forests-spelman

      You are blessed indeed with your lovely property, it sounds very special and peaceful there.

      I am not that keen on the carousel viewer as it seems too far removed from the blog and as Sally said above it is not obvious how to leave it and get back to the post window, but I thought I would try it and see what people thought.

      I love the Connie Kaldor song ! Thank you for sharing this with us and your memories.

  10. cityhippyfarmgirl

    A beautiful spot indeed. I think anything named something like Badocks Woods, has got to have a little enchanted quality to it… I’d be disappointed if it was all cul de sacs and concrete.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Brydie! There are hard paths here along the River, though the leaves fall over them at this time of year. In terms of access this means that wheelchair users and people who are not so steady on their feet can come here and walk their dogs and mums with kids in pushchairs use the woods more easily too. It really is a juggling act for the various groups who have an interest in the Woods, some people would like to see it as more of a wilderness. We have a bigger wooded area on the other side of the Avon Gorge called Leigh Woods but that is a good forty five minute walk away and has very steep slopes. We go there less frequently now the dogs are older.

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