Sunday, 29 September 2013

A Voyage Around Brunel and Bristol's Floating Harbour

The weather forecast had been grim - heavy rain for Saturday afternoon - but as it turned out, it turned out nice - warmish, definitely dry, rather grey admittedly, but a beautiful soft grey, the sort that makes you think of the end of the world (but in a good way).  The inaugural event of Bristol Poetry Festival 2013, the intrepid IsamBards' celebration of Brunel, was all set.

Having discovered that Temple Meads Station - that masterpiece of Brunel-designed architecture - was even noisier than we had envisaged, we beat a retreat to Temple Quay rather sooner than we had planned, there to finish our railway poems before embarking on the water-borne part of our voyage.  

Mal dressed for the occasion 

Then we were off on a quick detour under the first of Brunel's bridges over the Avon before executing a nifty turn in the allotted space and heading off on the first leg of our journey, to the SS Great Britain. 

Passing St Peter's on Castle Green, bombed during the Bristol Blitz and now a memorial to Bristol's civilian dead.   

Dru just before she gave me an impromptu physics lesson on 'How concrete barges float' 

Brunel's Severn Shed, now a restaurant, previously a storage facility for the luggage of SS Great Britain passengers.

Now another restaurant, The River Station was formerly the HQ of the Port of Bristol Police. 

The familiar landmark of Redcliffe Parade.

Thekla ... 

... with her very early Banksy. (An even earlier one was painted over by the Harbour Master who failed to appreciate the fine line between vandalism and art.)

Proof that the Press Gang is still operational in Bristol. 

A fishing boat from Fowey moored near the Lloyds Bank HQ.

The replica of Cabot's Matthew heading for SS Great Britain.

Two iconic ships

At the SS Great Britain, we stopped alongside its bows and poeticised, which seemed to go down well ... at least, none of our listeners took advantage of the drowning option.






Then it was on to the Underfall Yard, a historic boatyard dating from the early 19th century, with improvements by Brunel in the 1830s.  
The name Underfall comes from the series of sluices Brunel designed to keep the harbour as silt-free as possible.  

The Matthew seemed to be following a similar route to us.  

At the Yard we disembarked for more poetry.  

So good to see it still being used for its original purpose also. 



A short distance on, and our last poetry stop of the day, at the lock, considerably enlarged and improved by Brunel so that his SS Great Britain could pass through.  Looming above it - as if you didn't know - is that other iconic emblem of Brunel's Bristol, the Clifton Suspension Bridge. 


Colin Brown of Poetry Can with two IsamBards, Stewart Carswell and Pameli Benham 

IsamBard David Johnson

Returning below Clifton Wood ... 

... and past the SS Great Britain again. 

Passing Cabot Tower

Approaching St Augustine's Reach, with the Arnolfini, far right  

The spire of St Mary Redcliffe and Prince Street Bridge

Pero's Bridge 

The Reach

Very pleased to be from Bristol on a day like this. 

The Little Giant ... 






Saturday, 28 September 2013

Ancient Oaks and Art in Somerset

Every year, Somerset Art Weeks Festival straddles the end of September into October, and for local lovers of art it is fast becoming as intrinsic a part of autumn as Hallowe'en and Bonfire Night.  Organised by Somerset Art Works, an artist-led organisation with more than 400 members, the festival this year totals 109 exhibitions, events and artist-led projects at venues scattered over the county.  'Er-Over-The-Road (aka Cathy) wanted to go to North Wootton to view Tamsin Abbott's beautiful sgraffitoed glass panels, I still had a third of a box of Bristol Poetry Festival brochures to distribute, and Dru had cards to waft invitingly under the noses of arty shop owners, so we decided a jaunt was in order.  

After stopping off at Warm Glass at Wrington to stock up on some bullseye fusing glass for our own creative efforts, we duly headed for North Wootton, where we found blackberries, strawberries and walnuts in the village hall car park ... 


... and beauty inside also. 

Although familiar with them through photographs online, I was stunned by the delicacy of Tamsin's work, which really comes into its own when you see it with antural light streaming through the glass.  A badger sgraffitoes onto sunset coloured art glass was a particularly poignant exhibit, given the destruction currently being visited on this most noble and playful of creatures and the proximity of the venue to the cull zone.
                                                                                    Exhibited alongside Tamsin's panels were some very sympathetic paintings and prints and exquisitie jewellery, again all on a wildlife theme, by Hannah Willow, felt pictures by Vanda Athay, and some beautifully lit landscapes by Angie Rooke, as well as folk pottery by Sheena Spacey and paintings by Alison Jacobs.

I wished I had the money to buy just a small example of Tamsin's glasswork or a pair of Hannah's highly covetable earrings, but with something liquidy dripping from under my car, I had to desist. 


Then it was off to Glastonbury for lunch, with lovely misty views over to the Tor on the way.




After I'd distributed the last of the brochures and Dru persuaded one of the Glastonbury shops to take no less than four of her beautiful cards, we revisited two ancient and venerable friends, Gog and Magog, who are believed to be the last remnants of a Druidical avenue of oaks leading up to the Tor.  (Their peers were felled in 1906, and reputedly more than 2000 age rings were counted on the stumps.)

Gog has been - whisper it - dead for some time but we try not to mention that in front of him as I'm not sure he realises.

Magog is still going strong, however. 

Both trees are liberally adorned with votive offerings. I left a feather and some blackberries.











Then on to Hornblotton and St Peter's, its remarkable Grade 1-listed Arts and Crafts Church.  It was a return visit for me and Cathy, but new to Dru, who was mightily impressed.  And how could she not be? 















 
It was a little concerning to see that the interior of what Pevsner described as 'a really important little church' has suffered a fair bit since we saw it last, the sgraffito plasterwork being considerably more cracked than it was.  




Our final stop was Pilton Tithe Barn which was also part of Somerset Art Weeks Festival, hosting a variety of embroidered textiles, many on a mediaeval theme, by seven local stitchers. 

Embroidered mediaeval footwear by Thelma Masters 

It was hard to imagine a better setting for their exquisite, Klimtian works than the austere interior of this Grade 1-listed barn with its spectacular timber roof, restored several years ago, thanks to the intervention of Michael Eavis, following a disastrous fire in the 1960s. 



And home, my emptied carrier bag of poetry festival brochures now filled with inspiration.