The Northern Slopes Part 1: The Bommie

Countryside in the City

Who would have thunk it. Autumn is very nearly here and the summers we remember from our childhoods never really arrived this year… Personally, I don’t mind. The start of autumn is probably one of my favourite times of year (that and spring, which I’ll wait for with baited breath).

Over the final weeks of summer 2015 we have explored more of Bristol’s green city spaces and frolicked the fields and beaches of gorgeous west Wales. Our favourite new spots are the fields, woodlands, bushes and hills of The Northern Slopes in South Bristol. The Northern Slopes are three expanses of luscious green space set cascading down the landscape of the neighbourhood. From The Bommie to Glyn Vale and The Novers, each section of the Slopes has a different name, a unique history and a modern-day story to tell. Bristol folk may be surprised to hear of such a glorious collection of green spaces in the heart of this area of the city but believe me, it’s worth a trip. As part of my Countryside in the City feature I’ll be breaking down The Northern Slopes into three posts and first off is the wild community-centric area of The Bommie.

Cotton plant

Purple-flowers-in-Bristol  Yellow flowers Bristol

The Bommie

Obscurely named and unsuspectingly placed, The Bommie can be discovered from a number of entrances, either at the bottom of the hill through bushes and woodland, or from its highest point at the top of the open grassy hill. Our first question when we found out about this spot of nature in our city was why is it called The Bommie!? Wedmore Vale is its official name but the locals think the site’s better-known title was given after World War II, when the area avoided complete decimation when a German bomb was dropped but didn’t explode.

The land has a farming history that goes back to the early 1900s and today, The Bommie still sits at the heart of the community of Knowle. Bramble Farm, the Wildfest project and stretches of allotments are all part of the welcoming nature of the land. It truly lends itself to families, foragers and tearaway ramblers like us. We even discovered a rope swing on our way into the woodland – and of course had a wistful play.

Rope Swing

At the end of our latest visit and blackberry forage, a hot air balloon sailed over the area, floating precariously close to the top of the hill. As we stood and stared children’s screams from the surrounding streets called out – “Land on The Bommie! Land on The Bommie!”.

From the top of The Bommie you can see on to Glyn Vale and beyond. The views across Bedminster, Ashton Court and Clifton alone are a treat but what really interested me on our last few visits were the abundance of blackberries and the wildlife.

Hill on The Bommie Bristol

View from The Bommie Bristol

Wildflower Muses and Fruit Foraging

As well as in our garden, wildflowers can be spotted all around the city and I wish I could name them all. Something else to add to my ‘to-do’ list. The Bommie is covered in greenery with patches of wildflowers spawning out here and there. On entering The Bommie from the west gate we have always been welcomed by bright greens speckled with pinks, purples, yellows and whites. Over the coming weeks the look of the Slopes will change but I look forward to witnessing the autumnal tones we have to look forward to!

Bee on a flower

Every opportunity must, of course, be taken to enjoy some of nature’s best gifts and you only have to follow me on Instagram to know that blackberries, apples and herbs have been staining my fingers over the past couple of months! On every trip to The Bommie so far, we have foraged and scrounged, filling a fare few tubs with plump, ripe blackberries from hedges surrounding the fields and nestled beneath the undergrowth, which has lead to plenty of fresh and healthy puddings, smoothies and pies! (recipes to come…)

Blackberry picking

Blackberry season Bristol

As with so many of Bristol’s green spaces, the risk of building development, pollution and neglect are a real threat for The Bommie. I’m grateful to be able to revel in the glories of the space and enjoy these parts of it. With The Northern Slopes Initiative and the active community in and around it, I’m sure the fruits of the land will continue to be reaped for years to come.

Next on the agenda, I’ll make my way westward to Glyn Vale to discover more of Bristol’s hidden treasures a top The Northern Slopes…

Dreams of the Darkroom – Inspired by Blossfeldt

Holidays and an influx of work have drawn me away from many things recently, including this little blog. The full workload has made me release how much I need to take a break and dedicate some time to the creative things I love to do and the relaxing things that keep me calm (and don’t involve a computer screen!).

I used to spend hours printing and experimenting with different techniques in the darkroom. There’s something wondrous about creating new things with your own hands, seeing images come to life and bringing those moments into light.  Right now finding the time to do it just doesn’t seem possible – but I long for another stint in the dark to create my latest ideas.

Analogue photography and fine art printing can bring emotive new elements to an image. As my work has always moved in and out of installation, teased at sculptural art and often incorporated textiles, traditional film photography and hand printing always allowed me to capture the beauty, harshness and texture I wanted to represent that just wasn’t possible otherwise.

Sunflower-Leaves-Nicola-Dellard-Lyle-flower-photography

Along with John Blakemore, Robert Mapplethorpe and Sally Mann, Karl Blossfeldt has been a great influence and source of inspiration for me as a fine art photographer. Seeing some of Blossfeldt’s original photographs in an exhibition at Bristol Museum has only intensified my yearning for another visit to the darkroom.

However, until time permits I’ll be outsourcing my film processing and playing around with my digital camera.

  

Inspired by Blossfeldt’s work at Bristol Museum and another summer of glorious wildflowers, we’ve collected bouquets from our garden and the house has been full of colour. We’ve spotted beautiful flowers in hedgerows on our adventures around Bristol too, especially in the countryside spots hidden within the city.

A recent collection from our garden (and a gift of flowers from a friend) inspired me to grab my camera and capture some of their beauty up close – à la Karl.

Leaf-Nicola-Dellard-Lyle-Photography

The Karl Blossfeldt exhibition at Bristol Museum is open until 13th September and is well worth a visit if you love photography, flowers and the simplified beauty of nature. You can read an article I’ve written about the exhibition and Blossfeldt’s fine art printing on the Bristol Museums website.

Sunflower-Stem-Nicola-Dellard-Lyle-Photography

An Abundance of Fresh Ginger – Ginger Cake Recipe

We love to use ginger in savoury meals and desserts, so finding a delicate ginger root finger in the fridge is normal in this household. Every week I usually chop it up and add some to soups, curries, stir fries, smoothies, crumbles… the list goes on. It gives an enriching, deep flavour kick that just can’t be beaten. This weekend, I discovered that an abnormally large hand of ginger (love this technical foodie term) had snuck its way into our veg delivery. A great discovery but such a purchase would normally be planned, for a specific use or in anticipation of a ginger loving guest…

What do you do when you’re sent a humungous hand of fresh ginger root?

ginger root hand

Well, in typical Sunday baking fashion, I made a cake. Loosely following the delicious Hemsley and Hemsley Jamaican Ginger Bread recipe, with a few twists and an extra healthy helping of fresh ginger root, I happily used a couple of fingers of the spicy root.

The warmth of fresh ginger running through sweet and savoury dishes awakens the taste buds and gives a satisfyingly fresh tone to whatever it is combined with. It’s as healthy as it is zingy, which is another reason this cake was at the top of my ginger recipe list. Even more satisfying, it’s gluten free, refined sugar free and dairy free (it’s another perfectly acceptable breakfast cake).

Benefits of Eating Ginger – settles, warms, soothes, relieves, cleanses.

Ginger Root

Ways to use an Abundance of Fresh Ginger Root

Healthy Ginger Cake (see below!)

Fresh Ginger Tea

Green and Gingery Breakfast Smoothie

Stewed Rhubarb and Ginger with Sugar Free Crumble Topping

Ginger Rice Noodles

Ginger Spiced Sweet Potato Wedges

ginger cake

Healthy Ginger Cake Recipe

Ingredients
100g banana
100g pear
30g melted coconut oil
4tbsp honey
3 eggs
120g almonds
100g walnuts
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
40g fresh ginger root

Preheat the oven to 170C
Grease and line a loaf tin
In a mixing bowl, mash the banana and pear, then stir in the coconut oil, honey and eggs
In a food processor, blitz the almonds and walnuts with the cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, fresh ginger and bicarbonate of soda
Add the dry ingredients from the food processor into the mixing bowl with the wet ingredients
Stir together gently until combined
Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and cook for 1 hour – 1 hour 15 mins until golden and a knife comes out clean
Leave to cool for 20 minutes and enjoy still warm, then have some more when completely set later!

(This recipe is based on the Hemsley and Hemsley Jamaican Ginger Bread recipe)