I’m cold and stomping along Somerset Street quickly in the silence not paying a lot of attention to anything until the fox crosses my path. He’s big (I remember a cat called Taboo and wonder if the fox is living off kebabs) but trots softly and purposefully across and down the steps. Which reminds me that the views across Bristol are impressive from up here. City lights. Still too cold to stop for long but much revived.


The Silence Experiment
Silent: Just Me
Site: Somerset Street and beyond, Bristol
State: Walking
Surprises: Look up. Look around. Feel better.


Under the ground the stream is bubbling. Under the frozen snow, yes sometimes. But also under the ground itself. Under a layer of stone and spagnum. It’s dancing in the cracks and I can track it by ear, and by eye to the spot where it sneaks out in an watering can spurt. I am glad we stopped, even though the stream has to fight with the sound of wind in my waterproof and my ears hurt.

hillsideThe Silence Experiment
Silent: Me and Ben
Site: Side of a hill on the road between Merthyr and Brecon
State: Listening
Surprises: Only when I turn to look at the road below do I hear the noise of the cars

St Andrew’s Park had been sledged to within an inch of its life. Shallow slopes to start with, now mixed ice scraped away grass and treachery against boots supposed to be made for walking. B and I tried to share the bucket swing. We didn’t fit well but it was fun until a passing parent applied passive aggressive conversation with her child to persuade us to move. The solo swings went higher and we both felt seasick.

dreamy image of a swingThe Silence Experiment
Silent: Me and Ben
Site: St Andrew’s Park, Bristol
State: Swinging in the park
Surprises: Adults are supposed to give way to children in matters of fun. During the daytime at least.


C tells me that we used to come up here as children, and whilst the cousins played on the castle I would read, invariably leaving behind clothing or other items they later had to fetch.  I feel faintly guilty, for anti-sociability and for forgetfulness – particularly as I’ve also forgotten to bring a book today and am reading my phone and sneaking peeks at her book. It’s cold and my fingers wish that I had brought gloves.

kendal castleThe Silence Experiment:
Silent: Me and Clare
Site: Kendal Castle, on the ramparts
State: Reading
Surprises: Consuming words the silence passes very quickly

Flyering becomes much easier when silent. The shifting from foot to foot, waiting for customers to finish then trying to catch someone’s eye and the sheepish ‘is it ok if I leave some of these here’ all condensed to a wave of the bundle of flyers and a nod in the direction of the shelf. Easy too, to plan our movements. M and I nod to select targets, the silence pinging us back together – gentle elastic.

story festival logo

The Silence Experiment:
Silent: Me and Martin M.
Site: Stokes Croft, Bristol
State: Flyering for Bristol Storytelling Festival
Surprises: Martin says the silence makes him more patient when waiting for traffic lights to change

I have not walked this way from the house before. You can tell it is Bristol, the garages all have interesting, if aging, grafitti. Discarded Christmas trees make obstacle course litter and l walk in the middle of the road, owning the dark. I am looking for a right turn up the hill. There isn’t one, but I do reach a building intriguingly named Montpelier Toilet Saloon. Time runs out as I struggle to take its photo.
The Silence Experiment:
Silent: Just Me
Site: St Andrew’s Road, Bristol
State: Walking
Surprises: Such a short distance covered

We agree to walk by the harbour and I let E set the pace and direction, following her gaze. A red-haired girl and dark-haired boy dangle legs and feed a swan; the tour boat signposts its winter activity and we become sandwiched in a phone conversation, one couple on the walkway, the other inside a bar waving through the glass. The silence is busy and our eyebrows are pantomime loud – so many comments we want to share.

boat signThe Silence Experiment:
Silent:Me and Eirwen
Site: Bristol Harbour, from the Watershed
State: Walking
Surprises: At 6 minute we reached a turn in the harbour – a natural journey’s end so… “was time up?” E asked. It would help if I informed my silent partners that the timer makes a noise at 7 minutes!

We wanted somewhere a little wild but easy to reach. Where else but a winter seafront? Beach, sea and sky merge – layers of grey in the misty dark. Waves – unseen – roar like a motorway. The sand hardly squelches, so I expect to avoid the flailing of the man on the ‘sinking mud’ sign. We share pockets, hand warmers and thumbs, and I fail to realise that the blue neon we are staring at is a pier.

weston pier at nightThe Silence Experiment:
Silent: Me and Ben
Site: The beach at Weston Super-Mare
State: Walking
Surprises: avoiding silence breaking sniffing is made nigh on impossible by a sharp sea breeze

The moss is damp so I choose cold rather than wet and sit on my coat. I am silent but this New Year’s Day woodland is far from it. Crows and other unidentifiable birds are louder than the M32 drone but not as loud as the dogs barking at the mud. Angrily rather than comfortably solitary; I am so preoccupied that I do not notice the lines of pale fungi on the tree in front of me until almost the end.

foot in mud, high contrast weird colour

The Silence Experiment:
Silent: Just me
Site: Nameless woodland beyond Lockleaze Open Space, Bristol
State: Sitting, looking, thinking
Surprises: Can’t see for looking