Note for those unfamiliar with Bristol: Cumberland Basin is the bit of the Bristol harbour system that sits between the Floating Harbour (where the historical docks are/were) and the tidal River Avon that heads out under Clifton Suspension Bridge and into the Severn Estuary at Avonmouth (where the modern docks are). This is not the same Avon as Stratford-upon-Avon – that joins the Severn at Tewkesbury.

Cumberland Basin normally looks like this.

A few weeks ago someone at work mentioned that Cumberland Basin was empty, which sounded unusual so I quickly googled to see what was going on – and apparently it’s something that happens quite regularly, with a schedule published on the harbourmaster’s website.
It’s all part of the process to stop the Floating Harbour from getting silted up – they let the Cumberland Basin empty with the tide and then open sluice gates to allow water from the Floating Harbour out, which takes silt with it. The process is called “scouring”.

Given that Cumberland Basin is about 15 minutes walk from the office, I naturally headed out to see what was going on. The photos below are from a couple of different trips to see it – nothing of spectacular quality, just something interesting to see.

It struck me that I’ve lived in Bristol for more than 20 years and have never seen this before – but then they only ever scour at lunchtime on weekdays so most people are at work, and it’s only in the last year that I’ve taken to occasionally walking to Cumberland Basin during lunch. On the other hand, I’ve never even seen or heard about it before so perhaps it is one of those things that even Bristolians don’t realise happens?

And some video

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