Andy and I had pre-arranged to meet and walk on the outskirts of the city, on the east side of the Severn, to explore the hinterland there. We’d been discussing sensing on the phone and then issues relating to the bleed-edge, the liminal. I had been along the first part before, but not beyond. For Andy it was the opposite. We knew only where the beginning of the walk was, but nothing more. It was very busy around the Over end of the pathways, groups of people, dogs and herds of longhaired, long horned cows. It was a lovely sunny day, with a slight chill in the air. The Severn is notoriously windy and meandering, our walk followed a similar trajectory. The first part was mostly on a flood plain.
We both used phone maps, Andy more than me, because I actually quite enjoy getting lost, as often happens. And it is a treat to let go of the control sometimes, especially when someone else is taking that on for me. When I did make directional decision’s, they were invariably wrong. Which resulted in our being in the docks rather than the edge of the city. Oh well, we saw a wonderful dry dock with strange structural forms in the base, and a wonderful anchor fixed on a wall. The crackled mud was tempting for me – I had hoped to do some mud/rock rubbings – but it wasn’t to be.
We had a really nice chat with the people who own the lightship down in the Harbour, well Andy did most the talking, while I sneaked in some little films of the light playing on the underside of the boat.
We eventually began to move away from the city by walking past Sainsbury’s, around the new building sites, down to the new housing estate, where we stopped to have a drink and some chocolate. We turned and headed back to Sainsburys, where we planned to cross the Bristol Road and find pour way back to the river. We passed a swan on her nest and an odd, dead looking pig shaped thing lying in the undergrowth. Must be an old fern tree or something similar but I had to press it with my foot, just in case. Just in case of what I do not know. But it was necessary.
We were like lost kids, trying to cross at traffic lights along Bristol Rd, ones that I have driven through a million times. From the footpath, one felt acutely aware that this place is not designed for pedestrians. We headed off down one of the little side streets. I’d always been curious about this area, with little terrace houses a bit like mine, but right in the city centre. I’d wondered where they went to. The houses were homely, a little out of place. Very quickly the city sounds became quieter, until we could hear very little traffic noise. We left the city behind – when I looked over my shoulder I could just see the top of the cathedral.
The street shifted gear into an industrial area, a dirt track led to manufacturing units, rubbish everywhere, a scrapyard, stuff fly tipped and big steel gates with keep out signs. But no footpath signs going the way we needed them to go.
Andy disappeared around a building, came back and said maybe we can get through these huge concrete blocks with kind of V shaped spaces between them. Mostly very narrow, I managed to find one that I could squeeze through, if I took my backpack off, so we crossed through from one world to another.
I wish I had taken a photo at this point, because there was a little portable TV sitting on top of a block, facing out into the field. I wonder if homeless people go there and pretend that the walls are a virtual home, and watch films on the TV, ones they conjure up in their minds. Everything seemed so carefully placed. And sadly desolate.
Time began to slow down after climbing into the field. An open view with rabbits bobbing about, coming out of the hedge. And oh – so – quite – sssssh.
To prevent this writing from becoming a long ramble I am typing faster now. Partly because my fingers are cold – the weather is like winter as I write. So, more haste, less rambling. To cut a long story short, we wandered forwards – divining the river through our increasingly tired dry bones. My knees were beginning to hurt.
We walked a mile or so around the council tip, looking for signs of footpaths, indeed signs of anything. We didn’t see a soul. Once we were back on the bank of the Severn we could navigate more easily, we knew we were on our way back to civilisation, as we walked towards the cathedral again.
Indeed we walked back onto the Bristol Road up a different street, with different houses, and ended up just one turning down from where we entered the unknown, unmapped territory. We’d done a loop de loop. A few metres along the Bristol Road and we could get back down to the original route and returned to our cars by wandering under a series of bridges, me feeling every inch of the eight miles in my body.
I took this photo on our way home, and I think it sums up the walk rather well – a route with no boundaries imposed on it by us – an amble more than a ramble, a ramble more than a chat. Our verbal rambling flowed quite deep at some points, as we navigated our open route. It was the art of conversation, not of the studio. Words were released and dispersed like seeds, planting new thoughts and ideas. Some will take root, some won’t.
It was about making friends with the edge of Gloucester, the known and the unknown, and with each other. Familiarisation. Different views, different vistas. Bridging the banks of the Severn, the canal and the city. Fertile grounds, food for thought.