Where the Frome debouches

09 October 2011

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The Frome debouchesThe Frome debouches

If there were tall ships where the trees are, you could see immediately why the part of central Bristol above the red and white boat is called Broad Quay, because this is where ships once parked (as sailors say). Beyond the trees was a fish market. Now it’s traffic lights, buses and scary lane changes, and Long John Silver would feel rather lost here on Friday night, though he might remember Neptune’s statue standing on a fish – these days in front of a water feature that tumbles down steps to the left of the red and white boat.

This is also where the Frome debouches (as we hidden-river experts say) alongside Narrow Quay. ‘Frome’ is a Celtic river name from ffraw meaning something like ‘brisk’ or ‘fine’. The Frome starts in the Cotswolds. So picture it flowing briskly there with ducks on it among hills and woodland, expensive livestock and horseflesh, stone cottages and grand country houses. It’s all downhill from there, mostly only literally, until it gets to Bristol.

Here it disappears under the M32, popping up between concrete banks and disappearing again into a wet underworld of culverts, sluice gates  – and I suppose tree roots – under central Bristol. It goes past us in the picture along the quayside, joins the Avon for six miles or so, and finally debouches into the mud and tides of the Severn Estuary, carrying Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins in a tall ship, once upon a time.

Posted by Old Teasel

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