One upside of lockdown is that more people are exploring Bristol’s leafy places on foot, but some of the best-known walking spots are getting over-crowded at times. Bristol Walk Fest have provided tips on some alternatives.
IMPORTANT NOTES: Follow the two-metre distancing advice when encountering other walkers or if this is impossible, turn your face/hands away while passing quickly. Bear in mind toilets and refreshments may not be available. If travelling by car, do not inconvenience local residents or businesses when parking; if the only available space blocks a road or drive, go elsewhere. Be sure to leave only footprints behind you (no litter & definitely no single use BBQs). Dogs aren’t allowed in some nature sites or have to be kept on leads, so check before travelling and read our blog on Top 10 Dog Walks in Bristol. Most of the places named here are cared for by charities or Friends groups so if you enjoy a visit please consider making a donation or volunteering yourself.
Ashton Hill is a 148-acre Forestry Commission site to the west of Bristol that was once part of the historic Tyntsfield estate. It is criss-crossed with walking, horse-riding and mountain biking trails through extensive plantations of conifers and broadleaves and patches of ancient woodland (that is, in continuous existence since 1600 or earlier). The site also includes a magnificent stand of California Redwoods (Sequoia). Access is off the B3129, Weston Road, near Failand, BS48 3QU.
Image - Ashton Hill by Forestry England
Badocks Wood covers around 10-hectares of a valley cut by the River Trym between Henleaze and Southmead in north west Bristol. As well as leafy walks, wildlife sights and sounds, river and lake views and a variety of wildflowers, the site also hints at the ancient history of settlement in the area as it contains a 3,500 year-old (Middle Bronze Age) burial mound in the field and a stylish artwork marking its position. Main access points are off Doncaster Road or Lakewood Road, BS10.
Image - Badock's Wood by Bristol Walk Fest
Eastwood Farm is a 45-acre wildlife haven abutting the river Avon at Brislington. Once home to the last dairy farm within the city’s boundaries, it was briefly used for landfill before being reclaimed by Bristol City Council and protected as a Local Nature Reserve. As well as gorgeous views of, and across the river, there’s the chance to explore ancient woodlands, water meadows, a lagoon and a pond. Look out especially for herons, woodpeckers, swans, newts and a rich range of wildflowers. Access is off Whitmore Road, BS4 4UD.
Image - Eastwood Farm by Bristol Barkers
Folly Farm at Bishop Sutton is one of 30+ nature reserves managed by Avon Wildlife Trust and one of its biggest – some 250-acres of unspoiled loveliness around the remains of an 18th Century ornamental farm and providing spectacular views of Chew Valley Lake and the Mendips. The wildflower meadows are especially fine but there are plenty of other wildlife attractions including a large badger sett easily visible from the path through the SSSI-ranked Dowling Wood. Because the site is so special dogs are strictly forbidden. Access is via an unnamed but sign-posted road just off the A368 near Stowey, BS39 4DW. For more info on this and other AWT reserves, see:
Image - Folly Farm by Konstantin Dankov
Gas Lamps & Cut Throats
Gas Lamps and Cut Throats (St Werburghs to Stapleton) is among several DIY walking trails described in free-to-download PDF format by Bristol Ramblers, a very active group running a wide choice of walks all year round. Follow the leaflet’s directions for insight into the area’s living and sometimes murky past, travelling by way of the Narroways nature reserve and Purdown Panorama.
Image - Gas Lamps & Cut Throats by Bristol Ramblers
Troopers Hill boasts a fascinating history, wildlife treasures and spectacular views of Bristol and the river Avon. An obvious sign of its industrial heritage is the tall Grade 2 Listed chimney on the hill’s crest - a relic of copper smelting, probably built in the 1790s. It’s also believed the hill was where Parliamentarian troops gathered before the 1645 siege of Bristol during the Civil War. The geology is interesting, too – sandstone, rather than the limestone more common locally, which when mixed with historic chemicals results in an acid soil and in wild plants found nowhere else in the city. It’s also a great place for wildlife spotting with, for instance, no fewer than 24 species of butterfly being recorded. Main access is off Troopers Hill Road or enter via Malvern Rd or Summerhill Terrace to avoid steps/a steep climb.
Image - Trooper's Hill Nature Reserve by Friends of Troopers Hill
Two Bridges Loop
Two Bridges Loop is one of 15 marked trails created by the Heritage Lottery funded Forgotten Landscapes Project, set up to conserve and celebrate the history and wildlife of the Lower Severn Vale Levels. This one, starting near Aust’s parish church, runs through excellent bird spotting country and offers glorious views of both Severn Bridges and the estuary, with scope to double back if the full 10kms route is too long. Others in the series include the Spanorium Skyway, the easy access Severn Beach Stroll and the Lamplighters’ Walk. For more info and free maps, visit:
Stockwood Open Space
Stockwood Open Space lies on the northern slopes of Dundry Hill – a 60-acre parcel of land once used by many generations of traditional farmers. Today, it’s a something for everyone mosaic with attractions which include a tree-lined brook, the very ancient Ilyngrove woodlands, marked nature trails, stone-lined old pond, sloping meadow, an adventure playground and more. There’s also a horseback trail or, if you prefer a two-wheeled ride, a section of the Whitchurch Way bike path. The main entrance is by Oasis Academy Brislington School at Hungerford Gardens, BS4 5HD, but alternatives include Whittock Road, Stockwood Road and Holsom Close, all BS14.
Image - Stockwood Open Space by This Bristol Brood
About the author
Bristol Walk Fest is a month-long walking festival, organised in Bristol for the 8th consecutive year. Choices include heritage tours, nature walks, explorations of street art and statues, wild food forays, walking sports tasters, woodland story times as well as plenty of ways to exercise muscles, discover new places or simply enjoy some fresh air with like-minded companions. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 developments, this year's event has been postponed, but don't let that put you off getting your walking boots on and getting out there.
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