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