Posts tagged Bristol

Corvids nesting in BS5

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Having been brought up in rural Shropshire, I normally wouldn’t have paid a lot of attention to corvids when I lived there.

However, things are different now I’m an inner city resident and appreciate all the birdlife I see.

As regards corvids specifically, magpies and carrion crows seem to be the most numerous. Indeed, magpies nested in the large ash tree in the ‘pocket park‘ around the corner a couple of years ago.

Furthermore, jays, those most colourful of British resident corvids, are not unknown in Easton, whilst sightings of ravens are rarer (posts passim).

Indeed, the only members of the resident 8 strong British corvid family that I’ve not seen locally over the years are the chough (which tends to prefer sea cliffs as habitat. Ed.) and hooded crow, which is more readily found found in N and W Scotland, N Ireland and on the Isle of Man as a replacement for the carrion crow.

Croydon Street crow's nest

Croydon Street crow’s nest in top of sycamore.

Monday was a lovely sunny day and returning from my constitutional, I was passing down Croydon Street when I noticed a crow alight in a nest in a roadside sycamore tree. A crow’s nest is best described as a roughly crafted collection of sticks in the fork of a tree. Most corvids are not builders of complicated or artistic-looking nests.

As I was attempting to get a halfway decent shot of the nest, the other bird in the pair turned up with fresh nest material in its beak. It can be seen in the picture below. Apologies for the wobbly camera work: I was leaning back and pointing the camera straight up at arm’s length.

Croydon Street crow's nest with bird to left

Croydon Street crow’s nest with bird to left

Update: there’s also a crow’s next in a tree in the pocket park on Chaplin Road.

Another classic headline

Bristol Live (formerly the Bristol (Evening) Post. Ed.) really has form when it comes to writing ambiguous headlines (posts passim).

Attempting to drive whilst giving birth is extremely dangerous! Do not try it on the roads! 😀

Headline reads 'Dangerous driver had baby in car before crash'

New alternative to binning soft plastic

Tesco logoThe BBC reports that Tesco is to introduce collection points for soft plastic packaging such as crisp packets, pet food pouches and bread bags at its stores in England and Wales.

This follows a successful trial in 2018 at 10 stores.

The roll-out will start with facilities being installed in 171 stores in south-west England and Wales.

Tesco is hoping to collect 1,000 tonnes of soft plastic a year and customers may return packaging from other retailers as well as its own packaging provided all packaging presented for collection is clean.

Soft plastic is notoriously hard to recycle and most currently ends up going to landfill or being incinerated.

Given Bristol’s wide range recycling collections, this type of plastic makes up the majority of my residual waste collected by the refuse lorry.

With this move, Tesco is finally living up to its “Every little helps” motto.

Theft, consent and tautology

Another day and every regional newspaper in the country is replete with examples of one of its mainstays – reports of criminal cases being processed through the local courts of justice.

The details of one case in particular on the Bristol Live (formerly the Bristol Post. Ed.) website caught my eye for one single sentence.

In the relevant sentence we are told that the defendant*

stole his dad’s car keys without consent last October.

I have never before heard of an item being stolen with its owner’s consent, so let’s examine that sentence in detail.

We are told the defendant “stole his dad’s car keys“.

The dictionary definition of the verb to steal is “to take (the property of another or others) without permission or right, especially secretly or by force“. That definition includes the words without permission, i.e. without consent.

The lack of consent is implicit in verb’s definition, hence the qualification without permission is superfluous.

This brings us to another concept with which the author of the piece in question will be unfamiliar: tautology, i.e. “needless repetition of an idea, especially in words other than those of the immediate context, without imparting additional force or clearness“.

To some it may seem that I’m being overly pedantic, but as a linguist I’m all too aware that words matter as they are the only tools we have to convey meaning and in being the main source of information the press has a duty to use them properly.

* = Name omitted as having his name pop up once for a youthful misdemeanour in search engine results is enough without my adding to his woes.

IWD stencils

Yesterday, like 8th March every year, was International Women’s Day, this year focussing on the theme #ChooseToChallenge.

To quote from the IWD website:

A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.
So let’s all choose to challenge.

How will you help forge a gender equal world?
Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.

Easton Way in Bristol was yesterday sporting some new challenging stencil art in celebration of IWD near its junction with Easton Road.

Organise Yourself Sister stencil art Feminist in Training

Marg’s 10K steps a day for Felix Road

Local councillor Marg Hickman, who is also one of the trustees of Eastside Community Trust, has launched a crowdfunder to raise funds for Felix Road Adventure Playground, one of the Trust’s 2 sites in Easton, Bristol.

Felix Road Adventure Playground

Felix Road Adventure Playground. Photo credit: Eastside Community Trust


Felix Road has been in existence for nearly as long as I’ve been in Bristol and provided a much-needed safe space for generations of local children to play, socialise and develop.

Marg writes:

Felix Road Adventure Playground is an inner-city playground supporting some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children, young people and families in Bristol. Felix Road is an inspiring beacon of inclusive play, a space where children and families can come together and celebrate diversity.

We need resources to continue to run our busy kitchen staffed by volunteers and providing much needed healthy and nutritious meals for children and families every day, and to help run a girls’ group for Somali young women.

I plan to walk or dance 10,000 steps each day in March. I would so appreciate you sponsoring me to reach my goal. Follow my progress on my Facebook page. Much love.

If you would like to support Marg, please visit her crowdfunding page and kindly give what you can.

Update: Marg’s efforts ended up raising over £2,500 for Felix Road. Well done if you also contributed.

Planning for clichés

The inspiration to write this post was what an old friend referred to on social media as the Town Planners’ Little Book of Tired Clichés.

We were discussing a press report on long-term plans for Bristol Temple Meads, the city’s main railway station and its environs.

The report itself was written up from a press release issued by the literary geniuses employed in the Bristol City Council Newsroom down the Counts Louse (which some people now call City Hall. Ed.).

Bristol Temple Meads railway station

Bristol Temple Meads. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Whilst avoiding clichés has long been a given as advice for good creative writing, the various actors quoted in the Temple Meads piece seem to relish in their use.

Thus the surrounding area “will be rejuvenated with housing, shops and hospitality outlets creating a new area of the city where people can live, shop, visit and socialise”.

Note the exemplary use of rejuvenated.

In addition, how a new area of the city can be created by covering an existing but derelict city area in architecturally contrived arrangements of building materials is beyond me. If you have any clues, dear reader, please enlighten me via the comments.

Then there’s that essential element for anything involving urban planning – the vision thing. This is ably provided in this case in a quotation by Network Rail’s spokesperson: “We are delighted to be working with our partners on this significant regeneration project and Bristol Temple Meads station is at the heart of this vision.”

Helmut Schmidt, who served as the West German chancellor from 1974 to 1982, had a thing to say about visions: “Wer Visionen hat, sollte zum Arzt gehen“. In English: People who have visions should go to the doctor. Genau! Sie haben Recht, Herr Schmidt.

Needless to the whole glossary of hackneyed phraseology seems to have been upended into the phraseology mixing bowl to create something not only unappetising, but indigestible: ambitious; innovative; rejuvenate/rejuvenation; regeneration; gateway; transformation/transformative; integrate; blueprint; showcase.

And on the clichés go, marching tediously across and down the page.

There are nevertheless a couple of absolute gems in the piece to compensate for all this guff.

Firstly,there’s the timescale for the plans. We are are informed that “work is not expected to start for another decade with the expected completion not until 2041 at the earliest“. Thus all that hot air is being expended on something whose actual implementation is two decades in the future; if not more.

A well-known adage springs to mind: pigs might fly.

Secondly, there’s the promise of an integrated transport hub. Basically this means creating a major public transport interchange (as seen in sensible city’s where the local bus/tram serve the railway station). To my knowledge, there’s been talk of a transport hub/interchange at Temple Meads for at least 3 decades already, so for it actually to become a reality within 5 decades would entail the city’s infrastructure planning process moving at more than their usual slower than tectonic plates speed.

Around the block history lesson

Walls made of stone blocks are not unknown in Bristol. Since medieval times the local grey Pennant sandstone has been a common building material, as in the wall shown below, which is situated in All Hallows Road in the Easton area.

Slag block in stone wall, All Hallows Road, Easton

Please note the second block down in the centre of the photograph; the purply-black one that isn’t Pennant sandstone.

It’s a by-product of a formerly common industry in Bristol and the surrounding area that only ceased in the 1920s – copper and brass smelting. Brass goods in particular were mass-produced locally and traded extensively, especially as part of the triangular trade during when Bristol grew rich on slavery.

Indeed it’s a block of slag left over from the smelting process. When brass working was a major industry in the Bristol area, the slag was often poured into block-shaped moulds and used as a building material when cooled and hardened.

Stone walls were frequently capped with a decorative slag coping stones, as can be seen below on one of the walls of Saint Peter & St Paul Greek Orthodox Church in Lower Ashley Road. Otherwise the blocks were just used like ordinary stone blocks in masonry as above. In some instances, the blocks have been used as vertical decorative features in masonry.

Greek Orthodox Curch wall with slag copings

The finest example of the use of slag as a building material within the Bristol area is Brislington’s Grade I listed Black Castle pub (originally a folly. Ed.), where slag has been used extensively.

Black Castle, Brislington

Black Castle, Brislington, Bristol. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

So if you see any slag blocks in a wall in Bristol, you can be sure it usually dates to the 18th or 19th century, more usually the latter, when Bristol underwent a massive expansion.

Moreover, these blocks are apparently referred to as “Bristol Blacks.

There’s a link between Bristol’s brass industry and my home county of Shropshire in the shape of Abraham Darby I.

In 1702 local Quakers, including Abraham Darby, established the Baptist Mills brass works of the Bristol Brass Company not far from the site of today’s Greek Orthodox Church on the site of an old grist (i.e. flour) mill on the now culverted River Frome. The site was chosen because of:

  1. water-power from the Frome;
  2. both charcoal and coal were available locally;
  3. Baptist Mills was close to Bristol and its port;
  4. there was room for expansion (the site eventually covered 13 acres. Ed.).

In 1708-9 Darby leaves the Baptist Mills works and Bristol, moving to Coalbrookdale in Shropshire’s Ironbridge Gorge, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. In Coalbrookdale, Darby together with two business partners bought an unused iron furnace and forges. Here Darby eventually establishes a joint works – running copper, brass, iron and steel works side by side.

Below is the site of Darby’s furnace in Coalbrookdale today.

Darby's blast furnace in Coalbrookdale

Darby’s blast furnace in Coalbrookdale. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By contrast, here is what occupies the site of the brass works in Baptist Mills – junction 3 of the M32.

M32 roundabout

The site of the Bristol Brass Company’s Baptist Mills works. Image courtesy of OpenStreetMap.

Going, going…

Here’s a wee update on the bike I reported on Lawrence Hill (posts passim).

Since reporting, a member of Bristol Waste staff has been out and affixed a removal notice to the bike, giving the owner – if any – a fixed period, in this case 21 days (3 weeks), in which to recover their property before it is removed.

Abandoned bike on Lawrence Hill with Bristol Waste removal notice attached

Abandoned bike with removal notice attached to its top tube

I trust when it is removed, the 2 redundant D-locks also affixed to the stand are likewise removed at the same time. 😀

 

Footways, footpaths and pavements

How many of us pay that much attention to road signs when out and about on our daily business on foot as pedestrians?

I mean really pay attention, not just to the instruction being given or the advice being offered by the road sign itself, but the actual words used.

Take the two examples below, both taken during this past week on the streets of Bristol. Both are on a part of the highway used by pedestrians and generally referred to by the general public as the pavement (on which more anon. Ed.). But which – if any – is the correct term? Are footways and footpaths the same?

Composite image showing 'Diverted Footway' and 'Footpath Closed' road signs

Left, Newfoundland Road = correct. Right, Lansdown Road, Easton = incorrect.

To answer the second question first, no; they are not the same.

If there’s one thing many decades of being a linguist has taught me, it is that terminology is important – the correct word used in the right context.

One generally has be a legislator, highway engineer or transport campaigner to know the difference between a footway and a footpath.

Fortunately, it is clearly defined in legislation, in this case the Highways Act 1980, which provides the following definitions:

“footpath” means a highway over which the public have a right of way on foot only, not being a footway;
“footway” means a way comprised in a highway which also comprises a carriageway, being a way over which the public have a right of way on foot only.

In addition, Cheshire East Council provides the following information on its webpage entitled “What Are Public Rights of Way?

You should be careful to distinguish between ‘public footpaths’ and ‘footways’. Pavements beside public roads are not public footpaths – it is better to refer to them as footways or simply pavements.
Footways are not recorded on the Definitive Map as Public Rights of Way. A footway is really a part of the main highway which has been set apart for pedestrians.

Nevertheless, a caveat needs to be added to the clause where Cheshire East Council advises that “it is better to refer to them as footways or simply pavements“.

The caveat is that there’s a world of difference between what “pavement” denotes to ordinary mortals and professionals such as civil and highway engineers: for the former it’s the footway; for the latter more specialised use, Britannica gives the following definition:

Pavement, in civil engineering, durable surfacing of a road, airstrip, or similar area. The primary function of a pavement is to transmit loads to the sub-base and underlying soil.

Who would have thought two words on two such simple temporary road signs deployed for road works could be such a terminological minefield? 😉

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