We visit the time warp coastal village near Bristol with a real community spirit
The village of Pill used to be famous for its pottery and ships
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It takes just 20 minutes by bus from Bristol city centre but, in many ways, the peaceful village of Pill feels like turning the clock back centuries.
As you walk around the village on the southern bank of the River Avon, you soon spot houses with names like Mariner’s Cottage and street signs for Watch House Road and The Moorings.
This isn’t so surprising – the name ‘Pill’ comes from the Welsh word for ‘Pil’, which means a tidal inlet or harbour.
As soon as you walk away from the small shopping precinct in the heart of the village, past the shuttered Star Inn pub with its ‘to let’ sign and under the vast Victorian-built viaduct, you stumble upon the creek.
It’s here that you are quickly reminded just how close Pill is to the outlying areas of Bristol. Look across the muddy inlet and you can see The Lamplighters pub in Shirehampton and other riverside walks.
Originally called Crockerne Pill, the village today is also made up of the former hamlets of Ham Green and Lodway.
This quiet corner of North Somerset was originally known for its pottery. In the middle ages, the fields around the village were used for industrial-scale pottery manufacturing.
The potteries are long gone, as has the shipbuilding, but there are still signs of Pill’s nautical history, which goes back to the 13th century.
Walking along Marine Parade, a small boatyard located next to an office for Pill Hobblers Marine Services is one of the last reminders of Pill’s vital role in maritime matters.
The so-called Pill Pilots played a pivotal role in helping ships sailing to Bristol. These experienced seafarers knew how to navigate the notoriously difficult and dangerous tides of the Bristol Channel and River Avon and their nautical know-how brought ships safely to port for centuries.
There are still plenty of small boats moored in the inlet at Pill, overlooked by the American Monument, a stone plinth commemorating Francis Asbury, Thomas Coke and other 18th-century Methodist preachers who sailed from Pill for America.
Walk along Marine Parade, which runs along the River Avon, and you soon arrive at Pill Foreshore, a nature reserve known as the ‘gateway to the Severn Estuary’.
Close to the M5 motorway bridge over the River Avon, and with Avonmouth in the distance, this coastal grazing marsh is surprisingly tranquil and rich in wildlife.
A popular spot for walkers and birdwatchers, this marshy meadow is home to wading birds like snipe and curlew, but eagle-eyed visitors may also spot grey herons, oystercatchers and black-headed gulls.
Follow one of the man-made paths towards the houses and you find yourself in Jenny’s Meadow, a beautiful space with wild flowers, butterflies and many species of birds including goldfinches, kestrels and willow warblers.
Named after Pill resident and wildlife expert Jenny Evans, who died suddenly in 2010, the meadow belongs to Pill and Easton-in-Gordano Parish Council and is managed by a small group of volunteers.
And in some ways, the work of local volunteers to maintain Jenny’s Meadow encapsulates the strong sense of community there still is in Pill.
A booklet produced by Pill and Easton-in-Gordano Community Forum is packed with details of activities and groups in the area, from allotment groups and litter picking to hay makers and even the Treehuggers group for residents interested in mulching, weeding and planting trees.
A village with a fascinating history, it’s also a place that retains a strong sense of community.
A colourful wall mural in the village bears the words ‘Pill, Pill, we love thee still’ from The Wurzels’ song ‘Pill Pill’. It’s obvious the residents of this often overlooked village feel the same.