Taking a visual tour of the section of the Frome selected for this project, our journey begins just beyond the lake in Eastville Park where the river’s sinuous curve is echoed in the shape of the lake along its northern flank. In high water, the flooding river and lake sometimes merge and have even frozen together like this in winter.
On the opposite bank are the Colston’s School playing fields and, just downstream, the Colston’s Field allotments.
Located on the floodplain, they are seasonally inundated by the river (even in May 2012 below, the water is nearly up to the top of the bank!), but while there are stories of floating sheds and polytunnels, the water also brings valuable nutrients and silt, so it’s a delicate trade-off.
The river emerges from the park at the road bridge by the Merchants Arms where it crossesunder both the B4058 road towards Stapleton and Frenchay and — zooming overhead — the M32. This is the beginning of a river / motorway duet…
Just along here, though, the river curves round sharply to the south, hugging Glenfrome Road on the bend. A massive defence wall has been built here to protect the steeply rising land above this curve from being eaten into and eroded by rushing water (though when this picture was taken – before the heavy rains of May – the water was very low). Directly uphill of the bend is Glenfrome Primary School.
As the river heads South, it disappears from public view to run between two residential streets — Heath Road on the West bank and (below) Cottrell Road to the East. Home-owners along the river bank here are riparian owners, legally responsible for the condition of their half of the section of river that runs past their property.
Heath and Cottrell both end at Muller Road as it cuts through on its way under the M32 (seen on the raised level in the picture below). The river itself runs under the road intersection where the green lights show here, but you have to look for it to spot it.
Here’s the point (below) where green riverbanks give way to heavy concrete engineering, directly underneath the exit slip road from the M32 (pictured) which carries traffic down to the Tesco roundabout. The supermarket is directly up the bank you see ahead and to the left in this picture.
And from here the river moves into a stretch of perfect harmony (?) with the motorway, running along directly underneath it. It’s a kind of urban cathedral here — with the river itself canalised between sheet metal piling and sloping concrete banks, and caged beneath support struts. No danger of erosion here…
From here the river runs along between Napier Road (the sole surviving stretch of residential housing to the west of the motorway) and the IKEA superstore, which sits just to the south of Tescos. Here the homes are separated from the river by trees and bushes, as if to hide away the unsightly view of iron and concrete.
We then hit a rather non-descript patch of concrete crossings and underpasses (again overlooked by the motorway), which separate the houses and superstores and – just visible on the right in this picture – the local mosque, from the Environment Agency’s Eastville Sluice Gates…
The sluices (below) are where the Frome disappears from view, to run into culverts that take it underground as it runs towards the city centre (where it joins the Avon / Floating Harbour). The sluices skim rubbish off the river’s surface, and operate to channel the water: in flood conditions, the overflow is taken off by an ‘Interceptor Tunnel’ which takes it down towards the Avon Gorge, bypassing the city centre.