Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Solar Tree Splendour

This is the latest arrival on the Nightingale Valley (Brislington) hillside that provides a home for EdibleFutures.

The SolarTree will provide a self-contained off-grid energy system to distribute rainwater gathered from Edible Future's polytunnels to irrigate the crops inside.

The project, and the enthusiasm that's turned it into reality, are seriously impressive.

It's one miniscule step toward making the food production cycle sustainable again, with an emphasis on perennial plants and on organic veg that are already being bought by some of Bristol's more discerning eateries. Congratulations to all concerned.

How this very local harnessing of solar power, using largely home-made kit, contrasts with what's planned (if we let them) a mile or two further down the Bath Road.  Around Hicks Gate, big international corporations are lining up to pour money and chemicals and huge amounts of water into the ground beneath us in an attempt to 'frack' more global warming gases out from the security of the coal measures.

All part of the farcical mismanagement by government of solar and other sustainable energy sources!   Instead of trying to boost the economy by extending homes - and upsetting the neighbours -  with red-tape-free uPVC conservatories, why on earth didn't the government kick-start the solar industry with more rigorous standards for new homes to be more self-sufficient in energy? 

The 'greenest government ever' could learn a thing or two from this little patch of Bristol hillside.

(The Brislington solar tree project has another open day tomorrow (Sat 27/9/2012) – with access through the allotments of Allison Road. After that, best contact the people behind the projects; this is not an easy place to reach!)

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Essential Plumbing skills

When the plumber arrived to service the boiler this morning, only a brief 'Hello' on the doorstep interrupted his continuing call on his smart phone, wedged neatly between his shoulder and his ear.

By now, he knows his way round our boiler, and he managed to continue the same hands-free conversation without a word to us the whole way through the service. Once the boiler casing was back on, there was a brief inter-call period long enough to present the bill, write a cheque and even exchange thoughts on photography (the phone having a further role here). But by the time that was done and the tools being packed back, his head was again propping the phone and another conversation was in progress.

Do they teach them that at the Skills Academy?

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

Monday, 24 September 2012

Stockwood Blues

It was sad, though predictable, to see Stockwood's two councillors' kneejerk support for rest of the Tory group at Tuesday's council meeting. They were wanting to stop any progress toward running buses as a public service, instead of the (largely monopoly) private business it is now. All the other councillors wanted to look more closely at 'Quality Bus Contracts' as a means of bringing Bristol a quality bus network. Not the Tories, though.

Don't the Stockwood councillors, Jay Jethwa and David Morris, know that Bristol's bus network is not fit for purpose?. Even if they don't travel on buses themselves, they must know someone who does. Presumably they read the papers. Perhaps they had even read the lengthy report that officers had prepared for them, setting out the background and spelling out some of the huge problems that crop up when the biggest bus operator by far shows no interest in co-operating with the local authority or with other companies.

All we got from the Tories in a disappointing debate on the proposals (to examine the business case for Quality Bus Contracts) was a feeble, ill-informed, irrelevant and irrational rant from their leader, Peter Abraham. But if the blue ranks around him were embarrassed, they didn't show it, and they dutifully followed his lead when it came to voting. As always.

In the Neighbourhood Partnership, local councillors have the opportunity to test local opinion on issues like this. They never use it. Nor have they ever used the online resources, (provided at public expense with local voluntary support) like the HandS ON forum, to keep us informed, or to invite our views.

It's self evident that the our councillors believe the mandate they get on the day they're elected is to represent the Tory line, however absurd, in the council for the next four years. And they carry out that duty one hundred per cent.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012


Egged on by the Post, the mayoral candidates all seem desperate to confirm that they see an Arena as priority for Bristol under their mayoralty. Probably alongside bread and circuses.

So it's probably a heresy to suggest that an Arena isn't really all that vital. Except as a means of getting elected, anyway.

I admit that I'm unlikely to be a regular patron of a new Arena. I've just taken a look at the shows, and the kind of prices charged at Newcastle and Nottingham, and I know that if I lived in either of those cities I'd not be at the front of the queue for the hugely expensive tickets. Arenas are a stage for the most popular entertainers, the most expensive productions, and they have to be big enough to pull in crowds from far afield on a scale that will pay the bills and still deliver a profit. Me, I seem to get more out of smaller scale, and more original entertainment, so that will still get my custom.

It's clear, though, that an Arena visit to see a favourite entertainer is something special, whatever the price at the gate. That's why existing Arenas do bring in the crowds from far and wide. It's why Bristolians are prepared to travel over to Cardiff (not far) or up to London (maybe with an overnight stay) for a big event. Given the ticket prices, the travel is a minor cost – and arguably it adds to making the occasion special.

I'm guessing.... but if I was in the business of running an Arena, I'd be taking a very cautious look at the potential market in Bristol before I leapt in. That's why, reportedly, the SWRDA's plans fell through two or three years back. The developers just weren't interested, the sums didn't add up. If that was true then, it's hard to believe that things are any different now. Unless there are inducements.
The preferred Arena site is still the diesel depot site alongside Temple Meads. Now part of the Enterprise Zone, it's hemmed in by the A4 on one side, the tidal Avon on the other, without any public access. A bridge is to be built across the river from Cattle Market Road to allow first the construction access, and, later, the customers. Potentially, there's access from the Temple Meads platforms too.

As the site has already been given privileged planning freedoms, it's most unlikely that the elected council, or the mayor, will play much part in getting development kick-started. Of course, that won't stop them queueing up to be associated with any progress on the site.

Yesterday the Post published astory on the lines that (a) part of the site is being temporarily gifted to the Severn Project – an established food growing project that gives therapeutic training to people recovering from drug dependency, and that (b) we won't get an Arena tomorrow. The linking of these two facts was clearly intentional, and the Post's usual website commentators, not bothering to check the detail of the article, predictably found it proved (yet again) that the council, drug users and vegetarians are to blame for the international humiliation of our city.

The only sure thing is that an Arena, even before it is built, will provide a stage for political actors to read the lines they think the audience wants to hear. Pity, that. There really are many more important things that should occupy the minds of would-be mayors.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Daniella leads in Mayoral Race!***

Yes, Daniella Radice, the Greens' candidate, is leading the field in letting voters know exactly what she stands for in the mayoral elections. Her full manifesto was published today. None of the others have yet stuck their heads above the parapet with anything more than a headline grabbing soundbite.

Daniella's manifesto can be read on her blog, or on the Bristol Green Party's webpages

***Couldn't resist it! The headline's a tongue-in-cheek parody of the half-truths that the LibDems are expert at using to promote themselves – as in this nonsense that landed on our mat last week.

 It draws mostly on a bookie's odds, plus presentation as if it were written as a newspaper report, not an advert. Plus the usual 'only the LibDems can beat (someone more popular)' pseudo-graphs. Shame on them.

Monday, 3 September 2012

The 'Avon Rider'

For over twenty years, bus travellers in the north-east have enjoyed the option of buying an 'Explorer' ticket. It's valid across all the main (and most of the smaller) bus operators, plus all the Tyneside Metro system and the Shields ferry  (sadly, not the main rail network). It provides a day's travel throughout Northumbria, from the Scottish border and down into North Yorkshire, and across the country to Carlisle as a bonus. Given that it's well over 100 miles north to south, that's a lot of square miles.

You buy it on the day, on the bus, the metro, or the ferry. These days the adult price is £9; there are family and concessionary rates too.

This weekend, our local bus companies finally got their act together to launch a Bristol and Bath equivalent. It covers the old Avon area – Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, and BaNES. It's called 'Avon Rider', and comes in just one version to start with, an adult version selling at £7.50 (and 30p off that at first!). Buy it on any of the companies' buses - Abus, Bath Bus Company, Bakers-Dolphin, Crosville Motor Services, Faresaver, First, North Somerset Coaches, Somerbus, Webber Bus and Wessex Connect .

It certainly has advantages for any complex journeys across the West of England patch; by contrast, First's Greater Bristol equivalent comes in at £6 for a day without straying far from Bristol's urban boundary and without any chance of using other operators' services. Though 'Avon Rider' still comes nowhere near the range and the economy of the north-east's Explorer, it is a promising first step.

What is special, and very welcome about the Avon Rider, is that for the very first time the local bus companies have actually got together to offer it. For years, that seemed impossible, and I suspect that had much to do with First protecting their regional monopoly position; their in-house Day Rider tickets effectively kept passengers from using rival services. I'm sure it's no coincidence that in the north-east First are not a significant bus operator, and the other big groups – Arriva, Go-Ahead, and Stagecoach were more relaxed about co-operation with other operators.   

A decent integrated transport system will never happen while the different elements put their own priorities First.