an initial response – Sand Point excursion in relation to my current practice

known variously as ‘the centre’ and ‘the fountains’, this was once the confluence of the rivers Frome and Avon, a marshy, tidal landscape upon which Bristol perched warily, a city of bridges and dykes.

 

to the south, the somerset levels, a vast expanse of former lakes and wetlands, a rich and varied habitat, with homo sapiens one species among many

{scavenged image: geograph.org.uk} between the narrow banks of the ‘new cut’ the avon rises and falls, the trickle at ebb tide exposing bare slopes of lifeless mud

with a tidal range of over 14 metres, this river must once have suffused the landscape with its regular fluctuation. is all of Avon and Somerset in fact more clearly read as a waterscape, temporarily restrained?

how else might people come to see and inhabit this fluid landscape? if empires, like egos, are brief and brittle things, then what remains during those long ‘dark’ ages between must be that which is supple - resilient and responsive

this stretch of land lying in the shelter of Sand Point is a tenuous thing, not entirely solid ground, though it has cradled a medieval priory and a dozen generations of farmers during its brief stay

the culverts carry water out and away – some of them wind like a river meandering. are they reluctant to leave, or have they been cut this way to maximise surface area for efficient drainage? whose hand cut these lines - are they recent, or ancient? die-straight tributaries flow into it: the more familiar rectilinear grid, dividing up the land into regimented sections. running from priory land to creek, perhaps this channel is one of the oldest? even the ‘improved’ bed of an original stream?


more stream than drain, its flow is clear, with abundant watery life

on the sea dyke we stand between tamed land and wild. the fields are a lush but uniform green; the marsh a roughly exuberant mix of colours and textures.

pale fingers of sea are just visible either side of the strip of low farmland that stretches back to the mainland from where we stand upon the ridge. it is an easy exercise for the mind’s eye, to drag a silver wash like a curtain across the landscape from A to B

up on the ridge, the land is cropped to a sparse green fuzz by grazing sheep. a multitude of ridges line the curved slopes of the raised beach – narrow terraces like a rumpled carpet where the land slips slowly back down towards the sea beneath the inexorable pressure of sheep feet

further out on the point the land is held in Trust for the Nation; grazed periodically by good old English cows to keep the thorny scrub from encroaching on cherished species-rich grasslands. it is not yet quite the season, but there is little sign of grassland bounty – no larks exultant above the meadow, only one small thistle flowering alone.

beyond the first crevice, where cows do not go to bother, the grass grows stronger – tough seashore grasses

and in the safe haven of rocky slopes other green life flourishes.

in the crook of Sand point, where the bay lies exposed to the surge of incoming seas, the seafront is perhaps less easily governed, for it seems to have been allowed free range. above the tide line a small beach stretches, and a patch of salt marsh, luminous in the late afternoon light

the low ridge at the top of the beach is all that protects the row of bungalows and the low-lying farmland beyond.

even a half-hearted surge from an irritable sea would be enough to breach this low ridge and make Sand Point an island once more

scale obscures slower narratives. in the soft brick of a world-war bunker the water has already begun to shape a new, organic landscape from the detritus of discarded human agendas.

there is a move to reinstate the common crane in the Somerset Levels where it once thrived. what choices can we make now, that somebody might be grateful for in uncertain future times?

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