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Bristol? Or Somerset?

This is disturbing. Especially for a pedant. Which I used to be but I’m much better now.

Look at the Ordnance Survey map, and look closely at the Bristol and North Somerset boundary. After crossing the A369 by Ashton Court it snakes along the south bank of the Avon to Royal Portbury Dock. So far, not a surprise. Then what does it do?

It only follows the high tide line across Portbury Wharf, that’s all. So all that delicious mud exposed at low tide, with its waders, shelducks and great black-backed gulls, is technically in Bristol. To add insult to injury so too is the wee inlet by the sewage works. Spot a teal or common sandpiper there and it goes on the Bristol list as well.

There’s more. Anything offshore from Portishead Marina, through Eastwood to Battery Point and beyond… Bristol. Somerset does get a concession here when the boundary slips down to the low tide mark. Phew! We can at least count the waterfowl loafing in Woodhill Bay and Black Nore.

Now the most extraordinary development of all. The boundary keeps going right down to Clevedon, round the pier – it lets Somerset have that – across the Yeo Estuary and out into the Bristol Channel. You may think it would end there, but no. it bangs on all the way to Steep Holm, hangs a sharp north to Flat Holm (without actually containing either of the islands) and returns via Denny Island to terra firma just north of Avonmouth.

It’s as though Bristol sent a probe on some mad south-westerly elliptical orbit, liked all the water it saw and claimed it. It’s the wierdest thing. But I don’t think it’ll stop me adding Portishead sightings to my Somerset list – even those tiny specks way out in the Channel.

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