Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Bears Brook

Between the back of West Town Lane school – sorry, Academy – and the incessant traffic of Callington Road, there's this 'meeting of the waters' of Brislington Brook.
The muddier looking one in the foreground rises in the fields between the village of Whitchurch and the Bristol ward of the same name, flowing north under the Wells Road at Saltwell viaduct, and continuing close by (though largely hidden from) Sturminster Road. A short tributary comes down from the Coots hillside, and forms the Knowle golf course boundary. Throughout, the stream is 'off-road' and provides a superb corridor for wildlife.

The more westerly branch, seen flowing (above) between concrete walls, has risen in Hengrove, around Briery Leaze.
Much of its Hengrove course is now underground, followed by an unloved stretch alongside Airport Road before it dives beneath Wells Road into the Imperial Ground.
On that final stretch it becomes far more attractive , insulated by trees and shrubs from the parallel flow of petrol-driven humans.

 I have seen kingfishers patrolling here – though not for a year or two now.

Combined, the two streams continue down through Brislington and St Anns in a deepening wooded valley to join the Avon a little upstream of Netham Lock.

On just about every map I can find that takes the trouble to name these streams, both the Whitchurch and the Hengrove branches are called 'Brislington Brook' – although they're separate watercourses. Only one map departs from that – and I can't find it anywhere!

However, where the Hengrove stream passes beneath the Wells Road, several maps name the bridge as Bears Bridge.

And just along Airport Road, the first house – a modern one, reached by its own driveway bridge over the stream – has the name 'Bears Brook Lodge'.  

Bears Brook is the name on the lost map, too.  (information welcome!)

Every stream has its distinctive identity, and should have a distinctive name. Let's get 'Bears Brook' back on the map.

While we're at it, maybe the major road junction at Bears Bridge should carry that name more obviously. It has no name now, and 'Bears Bridge' on the signs would be a nice reminder that beneath all that traffic engineering (and more to come to cope with the extra South Bristol Link traffic)  there's still a little bit of the real natural world. 

Probably still with kingfishers.
 Links:  lets you superimpose old maps over current ones (or vice versa).  Fascinating.  - Rowan M's Brislington Brook blog


Glenn Vowles said...

Really enjoyed reading this. The Book was one of my childhood haunts. Thanks Pete.

Stockwood Pete said...

Thanks, Glenn. Did you have a name for the brook, those many years ago? ;-)

Glenn Vowles said...

We just called it the Brook (not Book!! as I said earlier) I'm afraid. I'll ask around the older folks in the family and see what they say about names.

I do remember attempting to walk from the airport road side under the road but cant remember where we came out or if we could make it all the way through. Used to catch sticklebacks there.

Alan Dawe said...

Back in about 1958 it was possible to enter what we called the quarter mile tunnel. Its entrance was in the field at the bottom of The Drive off Woodleigh Gdns. It was not very tall or wide and you needed a torch. After about 20 or 30yds. it became much wider and taller and you were able to stand up quite easily. The exit was opposite the shops on Sturminster Road. It was quite something to do that when only 10 yrs old. I believe both exits are now protected by steel bars. We always referred to it as the "brook" or the "stream". I lived just off Ridgeway Lane.

Alan Dawe said...

I would dearly love to see some pictures of the area before the Saltwell viaduct was built. If they exist. Anybody know of any such photos.

Stockwood Pete said...

That's quite a story Alan. We've been looking at that culvert recently and speculating whether it's passable. Maybe get the Mendip cavers to have a look? But the notion of a 10 year old going through, with a fifties torch... doesn't bear thinking about!

We (a couple of us from Friends of Stockwood Open Spaces) cleared a lot of debris from the entrance to the tunnel earlier this year, as it was threatening to flood. When the flow's a bit stronger, maybe we'll float a test duck through. If that works, maybe we could organise an underground duck race!

Do you still live locally? If so, your welcome to get in touch with me at my FoSOS address, fosos.sec (at)

Mark Semple said...

I currently live in Hengrove Avenue at the bottom of which lies 'Bears Brook Lodge', in fact i even remember when said house didn't yet exist. And even back then that bit of stream was colloquially known as 'Bears Brook' and apart from high dry summers or multiple day downpours pretty much fits the description of a brook (shallow stream easily forded with a typically rocky bed).
There is an old turn of the last century photo of the Wells Road/Airport Road junction which i have seen that did refer to the crossing as 'Bears Bridge' it was being sold at a stall in St Nicks market.
I would also like to point out that the 'St Ann' in your blog is actually called 'St Anne's Park' as there was an old Victorian park in the wooded valley. The West side of Newbridge road is just 'St Anne's'.

Mike Gould said...

Like Glenn, we just knew it as "the brook". Later, I was told that it was the River Malago, but whether it is just a brook that eventually feeds into the Malago, I don't know.
I had a great uncle and aunt who lived at 495 Wells Road - just up from Airport Road opposite the Imperial Ground. However, in 1934, it was known as 4 Bearsbridge, Wells Road. It only later became 495.

Stockwood Pete said...

Thanks for that, Mike. Whoever told you the brook fed into the Malago was misinformed - the Malago streams are to the west of the Hartcliffe roundabout, while those to the east form the Brislington Brook system.

With your confirmation that the houses along Wells Road were known as Bears Bridge, plus Mark's recollections above, there can't be much doubt that the stream was known as Bears Brook. Still seems a shame not to recognise it, and just settle for Brislington Brook.