Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Portishead Marina (Port Marine); Somerset

Original Harbour Wall: Marina Development to Left

Having grown up in North Somerset our nearest seaside town was Weston Super Mare which was about 20 miles away. We would go there several times each summer and occasionally would drive a little further south or north to take in Brean Sands, Burnham-on-Sea, Clevedon and Portishead.

The Marina from the Land Ward End

I can’t remember much about Portishead, except that it was dull in relation to the other destinations especially in comparison to the bright lights and the buzz of the pier to be found at Weston.

It was dull for good reason: It was effectively a small industrial port slowly coming to the end of an era as such; only really hanging on because of the two nearby coal fired power stations (now demolished). I never thought that I would bother to go back until I got talking to a few local Bristolians who made mention of the rejuvenation of the place over the past few years. So wanting an excuse to make the most of the wonderful weather we are currently having I set off with my son (the architectural undergraduate) in tow.

The "Deep-Sea" Lock

I have to say that I really enjoyed our couple of hours ambling around the new marina development (Named Port Marine). My son was wearing his usual “young man’s architectural critic” hat and took some time to warm towards it: Mainly stuff about cheap, poorly finished façades and cladding. However he finally agreed that it was an overall well planned and not too "shabbily" implemented project.

It’s ironic to think that had it not been an imperative to keep coal flowing from the South Wales mines across the Severn estuary into Portishead harbour for onward transport to the power stations, today’s marina redevelopment would not exist. It’s due to the massive sea lock that consistently connects the deep water marina to the sea that allows 365 day access in and out.

A Marina Side Bar/Restaurant

As for the architecture of the development I’ll let you judge for yourself via the pictures here and the larger number over on my website. What I will say is that it has something of a Southern France feel about it, which is no bad thing. It also has several contemporary bars/eateries (with retail space being made available for more to come) and is well serviced by shops: Waitrose and Lidl at the land end and a soon to be opened Morrisons at the sea end.

We were also surprised to find quite a few pieces of commissioned sculpture dotted around the place and were particularly impressed by the “forest” of granite pillars on a hillock overlooking the sea. Random pillars had several words engraved into their vertical edges; words that symbolise the history of the place.

Typical Water Front Apartments

In conclusion: Would I live here? Well not permanently perhaps (until they sort out the road access from Bristol/M5. When we left in the opposite direction around 6 pm cars were queued all the way back from the motorway junction to the town centre. However the idea of a small 1 or 2 bed apartment and a 6m speed boat in the Marina for weekends away in the summer: Not that I can afford that....

All images and text copyright Andrew Hill 2013

More and larger Images may be found on the Revealing Light website.

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