I hate being stuck indoors all day, so rain or shine, I go exploring even if it’s just for an hour. I always feel so much worse if I stay inside all day.
At the moment I’m living in Bristol, in a house I’m sad to say, it being a bit too cold for vanlife now. I’m counting the days til I leave for my winter backpacking trip – this year it’s two months in South America, then the Trans-Mongolia Express from St Petersburg to Mongolia! Then, back to work on April 1st. Sigh.
I’ve got my old OS map out and I’ve been re-discovering some of my old walks from when I spent a year living in Bristol. I tried to ‘settle down’ and failed miserably. This was the time I did my twelve months, twelve different countries challenge, because I simply can’t live without travel!!
So here’s my favourite walks in and around Bristol, all easily accessible by public transport.
Avon Valley Woodlands, Hanham
These woods run alongside the River Avon, which meanders between Bath and Bristol and was once an important trade link. If you wanted, you could actually walk the entire length of the river from Bristol to Bath and then pick up a bus for the return journey.
For a shorter walk, I start from the Conham River Park car park (toilets here open all year) and walk east along the river path towards Hanham Locks. If arriving on public transport I’d recommend getting the bus to Hanham, then walking down to the woods following Church Road and Conham Hill. You can access the woods at several points along here.
Once in the woods, follow the river as far as you like to enjoy a peaceful walk. Look out for evidence of the woods industrial past – once much of the area was quarried and the Hanham colliery was part of the Bristol coalfields.
It’s about an hour and a half from the car park to Hanham Locks where you can enjoy a pint at one of two pubs and admire the riverboats. Here you can retrace your steps or find the footpath and steps directly under the A4174 road bridge and follow the cycle path back up to Hanham and hop on the frequent buses back into Bristol centre.
Blaise Castle Estate, Henbury
Blaise Castle is a folly built in 1766, set in the 400 acres of a country estate. There is a pleasant walk along the bottom of a dramatic limestone gorge alongside a small brook, with a steep climb up to the Blaise parkland.
I start my walks here at the Cafe, passing Blaise House before heading downhill into the gorge. Then there are various paths to follow along Hazel Brook and past Tarn Lake. Loop back around to climb a steep hill back up the gorge and don’t forget to visit the lookout by the Folly for great views.
The Blaise Museum is part of the Bristol Museums group and offers free entry but it’s not open everyday in winter, so check the website first. It’s housed in an 18th century estate house and has exhibitions from a Victorian toy room to a beautiful picture gallery.
To get here by bus, take Bus number 1 from the Centre towards Cribbs Causeway and get off on Henbury Road, walking along Rectory Gardens to access the estate.
Leigh Woods, Clifton
This is one of my favourite walks. I often meet my friend Sarah in Bedminster and we walk along the muddy banks of the River Avon into Leigh Woods, passing underneath the towering Suspension Bridge.
Check out Leigh Woods walking trails to choose a short walks once in the woods to explore more.
We always take the path on the left after passing under the bridge, which heads directly up through the woods and leads out onto North Road. It’s a bit steep and can be muddy in the winter. Turn left on North Road, to arrive at the Suspension Bridge. Cross over to have a pleasant ramble around Clifton Village or extend your walk to explore the Downs.
Buses leave frequently from the bus station to go to the woods. Look for the X3 or X4 (to Portishead) which both pass through the Centre as well. Hop off the bus on Abbots Leigh Road, just before the junction with North Road. From Clifton there’s regular buses back to Bristol bus and train station or just walk down to the city centre checking out Brandon Hill Park along the way.
Another one of my favourite walks is to walk the full circuit of the Bristol harbourside starting from the Centre, near the Watershed and Arnolfini.
The floating harbour comprises nearly eight miles of water across three miles of the city and has great views of the city along its length.
I tend to walk in a clockwise direction past the M Shed, and the enticing cafes at Cargo, following the harbour to the SS Great Britain, once the longest passenger ship in the world. Follow the signs to continue behind the SS and then return to the harbourside to pass the colourful houseboats at Bristol Marina. At the Underfall boat building yard there is now a pleasant museum and cafe.
Cross the bridge at Merchants Road and walk back towards the city on the opposite side of the water, passing the Grain Barge and the handful of cafes by Gasworks Lane, eventually ending up in Millennium Square. This is a pleasant hour or so walk and a great one to do if you don’t want to get muddy!
Stoke Park, Lockleaze
If you’ve ever been along the M32 heading out of Bristol and seen an odd yellow building in the middle of a park, then you know where Stoke Park is. The yellow building is the Dower House, a 17th century mansion now converted into flats (and allegedly haunted). The park began life as a hunting lodge high above the Frome valley and developed into a grand estate with carriage drives, woodland walks and stunning viewpoints.
There’s several well-marked walking trails here exploring meadows, woodland and a fishing lake. The Purdown BT tower and WWII gun emplacements are two other unique features of the park. I like the three mile Stoke Park Walking trail, which is a diverse route crossing the park towards the Dower House, then zigzagging down into Barn Wood Valley. After Duchess Pond there’s great views back towards the House, then the walk continues to the Tower and eventually returns to the starting point on Romney Avenue.
To access Stoke Park by bus, look for Bus 24 from the Centre which goes along Romney Avenue. Alight by St James Church and Lockleaze Library. Cross the road to enter the park and begin following one of the trails.
These are just a handful of great countryside walks in and around Bristol. So, no excuses, head outside and get exploring!