Ravens of Clevedon

I keep banging on about how enjoyable walking is, and how much easier it is to get and stay fit if you like walking. I honestly do try to shut up sometimes, but the trouble is every time I go out for a walk, I see something interesting or thought provoking!  So here’s what happened today.

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I started with a walk along the sea front, from the pier towards the Marine Lake. Renovations are going well, and these shots show how much has been cleared already, as well as the new concrete being laid to form the path and the new inner wall between the main lake and the small lake. The original concrete base of the small lake is now visible, with the mud having been cleared out.

They are working in sections to pour the new concrete, so it’ll be good to see how work unfolds each week. Of course, as the lake is tidal they will also need to fit in pouring fresh concrete between high tides. It’s all carefully worked out! Children (and adults) did walk along the old wall, but it was narrow and crumbly and the new version looks much more inviting and safer for crabbing.

Then I walked around Poet’s walk, and onto the causeway between Clevedon Pill and Marshall’s Field (one of the key locations in the first series of Broadchurch – the field where Ellie stood while Beth was shouting at her…).  It was here I saw the raven, and as wildlife is another of my interests, very glad I was to see it too! In case you don’t know, there are four black-feathered members of the crow family that you can often see in the UK, and they are generally easy to tell apart. Jackdaw’s are the smallest. They have blue eyes and a shiny grey patch across the back of their heads. They always fly in groups, and make a very distinctive chattering sound. Then you get crows (carrion crows) – very common and completely glossy black from beak to tail. They make a distinctive cawing sound. Rooks are a bit bigger and easy to identify. They have shaggy feathers round their legs, and grey skin visible round their grey beaks. They are more of a rural bird, and they move around in flocks picking up food in the fields. They nest communally in rookeries, and can be quite intimidating if you walk too close to their trees whhile they have eggs and chicks in the nest.

Then there are ravens, the biggest and wildest of the crows, and glossy black from beak to tail tip. You see them if you visit the Tower of London, but otherwise they are associated with moors and mountains. Except they are also quite common around here. I saw my first raven at the Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol – sitting on one of the towers croaking (‘cronking’) away. We also saw one patrolling the roof tops near the bridge while we were eating lunch; no doubt keeping his eyes open for food he could steal. Or she, of course. But they are generally harder to make a clear identification for, as from a distance you can’t be sure how big they are and you can’t hear their vocalisations. Being glossy black, they could just be a crow. You need to get a view of their diamond shaped tail to be sure.

So this morning I was pleased to see a raven and a crow flying above me, engaged in a bit of a scuffle. The crow was definitey trying to stop the raven from getting too settled, and encouraging him to move on! The bird landed down near the boats, ‘cronked’ a bit, flew around a bit more, had a run-in with a gull and then decided to move on down the coast. I saw the size difference, heard the call and saw the tail – positive ID – job done!

Now I just have to spot the peregrines which nested here last year and hopefully are back now, and the avocets which were also seen.

It must be summer!

The most striking thing I saw on my early walk round Clevedon today was the sky.

Just look at these contrails (vapour trails to you and me!).

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What a fabulous network of journey markers. Wonder where they are all headed? One thing is for sure, the holiday season is properly underway.

Elsewhere on the walk there was plenty of birdsong to let me know that all manner of flying creatures are busy nesting now the good weather is here. I need to get one of those bird song recognition apps, but I definitely heard a chiff-chaff and I think I heard a blackcap too, amongst others that are for now a mystery to me.

Even though people are starting to get away for holidays, it’s still early enough in the year to experience a real lift in the spirits at the sight of a sun drenched bank of flowers…

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… and of course the pier always looks magificent!

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This view is taken across the empty Marine Lake, where restoration, renovation and improvements are set to get properly underway. Latest news is that there should be a floating island in the lake for swimmers to climb up onto, as well as huts for changing and improved seating and landscaping.

Work on the pier is progressing well too, and the excavations for the new visitor centre are worth the modest entry fee just by themselves! Remember that if you are a regular visitor to Clevedon it’s worth buying a season ticket for the pier. You can visit as many times as you like in a year.

It’s easy to enjoy the benefits of a healthy walk when there is so much to see! What’s happening round your way?

Time travel in Clevedon… bringing the past into the future

I’ve written about the charms of Clevedon many times: how the Victorian features of this peaceful seaside town have been preserved and are here to be enjoyed today.  We’re just back from a walk along the pier, to see the works that are in progress, and that has reminded me that I should have blogged about some of the developments that are underway here.

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The photos show the work at the pier on the new visitor centre and tea rooms. Not the huge building swathed in red mesh on the left – that’s the conversion of the old hotel into flats. The pier development will fit neatly into the ramp beside the old toll house. The work will mostly be underground, and will provide a large room with views under the pier to see the structure including Brunel’s old railway tracks, that were recycled into the pier arches, and of course views across the rising tide. We had a great chat about the work with one of the pier trustees, who was on hand with the plans.

The pier is worth a walk at any time, but will be even more enjoyable when the work is done. We are currently season ticket holders, and will be looking out to buy shares when they become available in the new year to raise the last of the funding needed.

At the other end of the bay, near the Salthouse and Little Harp pubs, the Marine Lakes are also going to be refurbished and restored. These are the Victorian swimming, boating and crabbing lakes, which have fallen into disrepair over the years. Although they are still used almost every day, they look a bit sad and the work, which will include improved seating and terracing and huts to change in for swimming, will bring them back to life.

And in town,  things are happening at the Curzon Community Cinema. From what I hear a new cafe/restaurant is on the way, and they are planning to open up the upper floor boxes and balcony in the auditorium. We already love the cinema and it will be fantastic to have further improvements. These should secure the cinema’s future for many years to come.

So what all these developments have in common is that they are breathing new life into much loved and rare historical places; keeping the essence of them true to their past but fitting them for a long future. Locals and visitors will have the pleasure of authentic Victorian buildings and amenities, but will be able to enjoy them in a way that fits right into modern life.

Hurrah for Clevedon, and for all those involved in these projects.

Maybe we’ll be able to tie the whole thing together by providing an authentic transport solution for the sea front (and shopping areas). Victorian trams, horse drawn coaches, early 20th Century buses … I wonder what might be possible? It would be fabulous to have most of the cars removed from the sea front, and to give visitors and locals alike a fun alternative service. Any ideas, anyone?