161a Portishead

My walk starts on the green slopes above Mariner’s Path, Portishead.

[This wide open area – glowing a vibrant green – is clearly visible from the other side of the Bristol Channel, and its slopes become a way marker – a reminder of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come – when I continue my walk in Wales. But I’m getting ahead of myself…]

Across the bay I can see the squat lighthouse of Battery Point. And the low structure, brightly coloured, of Portishead’s open air swimming pool.

View across Kilkenny Bay, Portishead, Ruth walking the coast

I have an easy walk along the shore to reach Battery Point.

The back of the swimming pool is decorated with graffiti, and I stop to take photographs. I am not sure if this is an official graffiti wall or not, but the artwork is great. I particularly like the surreal image of the soldier wearing a lifebelt scaling the wall, next to a ‘DO NOT CLIMB’ notice.

Graffiti on back of wall, Portishead open air pool, Ruth Livingstone

Yesterday I passed the Black Nore lighthouse  (which, despite its name, is white). This was owned by Trinity House, who declared it defunct, removed its light and planned to demolish it. Local people started a Community Interest Company and purchased the structure, now a Grade 2 listed building.

The lighthouse on Battery Point is an ugly twin to the Black Nore, although, interestingly, it is owned by the Bristol Port Authority, not by Trinity House.

Battery Point, Portishead, Ruth walking the Somerset coast
Once the Battery Point lighthouse contained a bell, but this was removed because of fears the decaying structure could no longer support the bell’s weight. The bell was tracked down and discovered mouldering in a warehouse by two local residents (Annette Hennessy and Carol Thomas). The town council purchased it from the Port Authority for the princely sum of  £1. But then spent another £20,000 putting it on display within the town.

Close to the lighthouse is a stone dedicated to seafarers. Battery Point is, apparently, the closest place on the UK coast where large ships pass.

Battery Point stone, Ruth walking around Portishead

I remember the giant cargo ships I saw yesterday. Yes, it was strange to see them passing so close to the shore, knowing how low the tide can recede along the channel.

Leaving Battery Point, I head along the edge of East Wood, following first a path and then a quiet road.

walk through East Wood, Portishead, Ruth's coastal walk
I find myself walking through the grounds of a hotel. Business men in suits stand talking to each other and to their mobile phones. Beyond the hotel the path disappears into a building site.

 building site, Portishead pier, Ruth's coast walking
I walk along a residential street, wondering how to get down to the marina area below. A taxi driver stops to ask me the way. I tell her I’m as lost as she is!

Returning to the building site signs, I ask a man if I can walk through this area. Oh yes, he tells me. So I walk between barriers, around cranes and diggers, and emerge on the pier at the entrance to Portishead Marina.  I was expecting this area to be rather grim and full of industry, but it’s obviously undergoing a massive redevelopment.

At the end of the pier, I turn back and take a photo looking down the pier and out to sea. The new buildings are very attractive. Pretty.

Portishead piers, Ruth walking the coast, Somerset

The marina is full of water, its level controlled by enormous lock gates. They are filling the lock as I pass by and I can’t resist taking photographs of the water forcing its way through the partially opened gates. But I’m too impatient to wait long enough to see the lock fill up.

lock gates, Portishead Marina, Ruth walking the coast in Somerset

On the other side of the gates, the marina is full of pleasure ships and small boats, and is surrounded by new apartment blocks.

Portishead Marina, Ruth walking the British coast

What a surprise to find the area looking so attractive. I knew the old power station had been demolished, but I was expecting an industrial complex or a decaying wasteland.

Would I like to live in a place like this? It is bright and sparkly in the sunshine, but what about in winter? Or when the newness has worn off and the buildings lose their shine and begin to look shabby? I don’t know. Rather soulless, perhaps. Still, it’s a nice place to wander about.

09 Public art, Portishead, Energy, Ruth walking the coastpublic art, Portishead, Ship to Shore, Ruth's coastal walk, Somerset The other surprise was to come across some great pieces of modern sculpture.

The tall tower on the left is  ‘Energy’, an homage to the power stations that once sat here, and apparently even better at night.

While the shiny red piece of art on the other side of the marina is called ‘Ship to Shore’ , wonderfully bold.

public art, Portishead, Ox, Ruth walking around the coastlineFurther along is the ‘Ox’ – although it looks more like a donkey to me. It’s created from old industrial scraps of metal. There is something very appealing, although slightly mournful, about this piece.

But the best piece of all, in my opinion, was to be found on Portbury Wharf, as you begin to leave the marina area.

This is ‘Full Fathom Five’; a series of stone columns, arranged on a small hillock, overlooking the shore. It has a primeval air. Of pre-historic standing stones. Stonehenge: but more elegant.

 public art, Full Fathom Five, Ruth in Portishead, Bristol

And inscribed on some of the stones are lines of poetry. I wander among them, and would like to have recorded all the words in a series of photographs. But time is pressing…

Walking among Full Fathom Five, Ruth in Portishead

Ahead is a another bay and a stretch of grassy coastline, while in the distance I can see the cranes and docklands of The Royal Portbury Dock – my next destination.
Reluctantly, I leave the stones behind.

To be continued…

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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13 Responses to 161a Portishead

  1. Gary says:

    Great as always Ruth – always look forward to your updates!

  2. anstapa says:

    I like Full Fathom Five. It reminds me a bit of the New Zealand War memorial in London.

  3. Marie Keates says:

    I love those sculptures and the graffiti, especially the ox. Along the shore here was have wave seats inscribed with words, mostly memories of the place from residents. Maybe you saw them when you passed. The marina and all the little ships look very familiar too. I guess there is a connection of sorts to all port cities.

  4. It looks as though Portishead has more to offer than I could’ve realised. I’ve only ever walked inland around this area but I’m glad to see your route has eased up a bit.

  5. paul sennett says:

    Totally agree ‘re portishead.. we were amazed by the whole place.. and moved by the merchant navy plaque…

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  8. Karen White says:

    The ‘Ox’ is definitely more like a donkey! I like the graffiti too. Portishead looks much better than I remember i but I haven’t seen it for many years.

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