Clifton Down Circular Walk

Map of Clifton Down Circular walk

Station: Clifton Down
Trains: Usually every 30 minutes from Bristol Temple Meads. Some services operate from Weston-super-Mare.
Distance: 5km
Allow: About 1 hour 15 mins

The Walk

From Clifton Down station cross Whiteladies Road by the pedestrian crossing, turn right up Cotham Hill then left into Hampton Park. All the houses on the left hand side of this road (numbers 1 to 35) are, with their frontages, railings and gates, Grade II Listed (1).

Hampton Park bends to the left and crosses the Severn Beach Railway by road bridge Here in a cutting with a double track for passing trains. (2). Take the next left down to the pedestrian crossing on Hampton Road.

Cross here and keep going in same general direction as before along Chandos Road opposite Hampton Park. Walk along Chandos Road passing several shops, many with original shop-fronts until you come to the large church (formerly St Saviours) on the left converted in housing in 2003. Turn left into an alleyway between the last shop (No.23) and the church.

Just at the start of this pathway is a war memorial (3). Originally located in the church grounds next door it commemorates the deaths of 48 local servicemen. The date of 1914 to 1920 is unusual but not rare. Such monuments can present end dates of 1918, 1919, 1920 or even in s few cases 1921. The conflict we call World War I did not end with the armistice on the Western Front with Germany. Fighting continued for two more years in Russia between allied forces and the Bolsheviks. This memorial was erected in 1920.

Walk along the alleyway to emerge via an iron gate into Woodfield Road. A quick left and right brings you into Clyde Park (4) with its own pleasant though small oval residents’ park, a rarity in this part of Bristol.

Continue and turn right in Clyde Road, turn left into Woolcot Street (oddly, the only “street” in Redland) turn to the right and stop on the corner, opposite the convenience store.

The road in front of you is Redland Road and, a little surprisingly, started life as a Roman road. This was the Via Julia (though some academics would argue Strata rather than Via) which, from the second century ran from Portus Abonea (present day Sea Mills) to Aqua Sulis (Bath). If you look up to roofline of the shop, opposite, you can still make out (though badly eroded) at least the second half of the Roman name in tile work (5). Not original, of course but something of a Victorian tribute.

Cross Redland Road and go uphill along Harrington Park. At the top of this rise bear left into the open space of Redland Green. Take the footpath to the right towards the church. Note the largish boulder (6) half buried in the grass to the left near the start of this path. The stone has certainly been there for more than 150 years. It appears to be type of limestone not found locally and has a number of interesting hollows on its top surface. Some reckon it to be a Roman milestone or boundary marker or even a road-side shrine.

Walk along this path until you reach the church. Redland Parish Church (7) is an elegant though small building with cupola tower built 1742 as private chapel for Redland Court, further back down Redland Road which was for many years Redland Girls’ School.

At the gates of the church, do not follow the churchyard wall and Redland Green Road but cross over the roadway veering to the left along a tarmac road past the sign welcoming you to Redland Green. Do not go down the other roadway to the left which only leads to the well-known facilities of Redland Green Tennis club (8).

Keeping to the roadway, pass between the high hedge of the tennis courts on your left and the immaculate bowling green on your right and keep straight on. Ignore all turnings to the right, though over to the right beyond the children’s playground the modern curved residential building is the former site of the Bishop of Bristol’s Palace (9).

The bishop’s palace built in 1898 was destroyed on 2nd December 1940 by Luftwaffe Incendiary bombs.
Keep onwards along the now descending path. This is Redland Green Park (10) and covers approximately 10 acres.

Passing the allotments to the right of the path and the remains of a stone wall on the left, the path now rises up the slope ahead. Ignore all paths to the right, including the rising steps and continue uphill till reaching more stone steps, climb them to reach Cossins Road.

Turn left, in the same general direction, towards Coldharbour Road. Just before the junction with
the main road note the pillar box on the left hand side (11). This is a King Edward VII type B pillar box installed in 1902.

Turn left on Coldharbour Road then cross over to enter Blenheim Road to the left of St Alban’s Church. The church’s large stained-glass window is a WW1 memorial window installed 1919.

In Blenheim Road, the first building on the right is Redland Knoll (12), one of two large villas built in the early 1880’s. The other, Redland Lodge, was destroyed in WW2 bombing. In 1881, Redland Knoll was the home of Henry Overton Wills of tobacco production fame.

Walk to the end of Blenheim Road and turn right along Redland Road. On reaching the edge of the Downs, turn left, crossing Redland Road into the short Clay Pit Road. A footpath on the left, which veers left away from Clay Pit Road, will bring you to a pedestrian crossing on the main road, Westbury Road.

The elongated triangle of grass and trees between Redland Road and Westbury Road is very uneven (13): the origin of these variations is indicated by the name of the Clay Pit Road. In recent times, the establishing of a number of care and retirement homes here has given rise to the local name of Granny Downs (14).

When you have successfully crossed Westbury Road, take a moment to look towards Blackboy Hill.
On the left of this busy road, behind a low stone wall, is a large old quarry known as The Glen (15).
Between here and the old Bristol Zoo there were five major quarries in a line cut into this edge of the downs all working until the 1870’s. Three have been completely filled in and one partially filled. This one here, originally called Redland House Quarry was the biggest and closed in 1876.

Pre WW2 it contained a large roller-skating rink which was destroyed in the Blitz. The quarry floor was used as a public recreation site after 1946 equipped with swings and roundabouts. The dance hall was rebuilt post-war as the Locarno which became The Glen and was renowned for its classy plastic palm trees.

In the early 70’s it was renamed Boobs, which, in the late 70’s became Tiffany’s, known for the Thursday Night Rule: girls get in free. A little surprisingly, Bob Marley and the Wailers played here May 1973.

Tiffany’s closed in 1983; the site is now occupied by a BUPA hospital – The Spire.

After crossing Westbury Road, turn right and walk parallel to Westbury Road. The large level open space to your left is Durdham Down now mainly used for sports activities but before WWI it saw one of the world’s first air displays. On Monday 14th November 1910, Sir George White of the Bristol and Colonial Aircraft Company held a flying display here which attracted a crowd of 30,000 spectators. On that day, the world’s first paying air passenger Mrs Farnell Thurston (his niece) was flown from here in a Bristol Boxkite.

Newspapers reported that she lost her hat during the flight.

Veer slightly left towards a small clump of tall trees. This group of Scots Pines is known as The Seven Sisters (16). In 1871 a local doctor planted a ring of six trees around a seventh tree in the middle to celebrate his seven daughters. The daughters thrived but the trees were less fortunate. The central tree expired in 1900; another fell in a storm of 1990, and two more succumbed to honey fungus. Seven new trees have been planted a few yards further on.

Standing to the left of the Seven Sisters, with your back to Westbury Road, there is a long curving line of six or seven well spaced mature beech trees (17). These trees were planted in 1860 as part of the boundary to Gloucestershire Cricket Club’s ground then sited here. The famous cricketer WG Grace played here regularly till the club moved to its present-day site in Horfield.

The Gloucestershire County Cricket Club played its initial first-class match, against Surrey, on Durdham Down in June 1870.

Walk along this row of trees until you reach the traffic lights where Saville Road meets Stoke Road. To the right is a war memorial (18). This memorial was dedicated on 15 May 1920. It is a little unusual in that it has two later additions: one for a Palestine casualty of 1947 and one for Korea in 1951.

There are estimated to be more than 100,000 war memorials in the UK. There are 10,500 parishes and all but 52 have war memorials. Those 52 are known as “Thankful Villages” where all the men returned. Of those fifty-two, fourteen are “Double Thankful” where all returned from WW2 as well.

Cross Stoke Road at the traffic lights and walk out to the left onto this part of the downs, keeping equidistant from the two roads (Stoke Road and Downleaze). After about 50 yards you will again meet the Roman road, Via Julia (19).

Look across the grass towards the Water Tower. You will see a long, raised strip with hollows along either side. This is a remnant of the original Via Julia. The raised strip is the roadway, the hollows are drainage ditches.

The Romans were not the last army to pass through here. In June 1944 this part of the downs all the way down to Sea Walls played host to a large part of the American 3rd Army. Hundreds of tanks were parked here. Many men slept here in tents, others were locally billeted eight to a house. At the end of June, they all departed for newly captured Cherbourg, sailing from Avonmouth.

Walk along the line of the Roman road and continue in the same direction till meeting Ladies Mile
Ladies mile was originally a safe riding track much used by society ladies frequenting Hotwells Spa.

Just beyond Ladies mile, just opposite the cafe and well hidden under the turf is Durdham Down Bone Cave (20). Discovered by quarrymen in 1842, workmen found an opening into a ninety foot deep cavern containing a large quantity of animal bones. The bones belonged to hyenas, bears, rhinoceros, hippopotami, wild bulls, deer, elephants, and animals of a later date. It was concluded that the cave had been the retreat of hyenas, which had carried in portions of their prey.

Most of the material was acquired by Bristol Museum, while some was lost in the Blitz of 1940, there is a significant collection present there today including a scale model of the cave.

Cross Stoke Road near the Water Tower (21) and turn right.

The original ground-level reservoir was built by the Bristol Waterworks Company in 1850. Clean water was pumped from a spring at Barrow Gurney. The water tower was added in 1954 to improve pressure.
To the right of the water tower are public toilets. The Ladies is nearest the road and has a blue plaque (22) dedicated to former attendant Victoria Hughes.

Walk down the short one-way road called Roman Road to the Westbury Road roundabout. The long low building with strikingly patterned roof tiles to the right of the pedestrian crossing was originally St John’s Parochial School (23) built in 1851. Closed and sold in 2012, it is now residential apartments.

As you cross the pedestrian crossing facing you is a large green painted wooden shelter (24). This shelter was paid for by public subscription being erected to provide shelter for the recovering wounded soldiers during WW1.

These wounded soldiers came from Queen Victoria House (25), the large redbrick building a few yards away on the right hand side of Redland Hill. Queen Victoria House was completed in 1885 as a private boys’ school, later becoming a maternity hospital opened as such by Queen Victoria in 1899 during her Jubilee visit to Bristol.

During WW1 it was requisitioned for the treatment of wounded soldiers, so many of whom would walk around here that this area became known as ‘Convalescents’ Corner’. Wounded military personnel wore a blue military style uniform and cap, white shirt and red tie. More recently, Victoria House reverted to a maternity hospital then became offices, and much more recently was converted to residential apartments for the over 60s and called The Vincent.

Cross the second pedestrian crossing and turn right in front of the modern AXA-PPP Healthcare building. Look through the foyer windows of this building to see the statues of Gromit and Shaun the Sheep (26).
The walk from this point goes straight down the left hand side of Blackboy Hill and Whiteladies Road until Clifton Down station.

Points of interest along this road, follow:

Gents Toilet (27) on the right just below the old school, one of only three survivors in Bristol. It is a dark green painted prefabricated cast iron building made in Glasgow and Installed in the 1880’s it was moved a few yards to its present location in 1903 when the fountain and clock tower was installed.

Memorial Fountain and Clock Tower (28) erected in 1903 in memory of the Reverend Urija Rees Thomas (1862-1901. He was the first minister appointed to Redland Park Chapel – a United Reform Church. Aged 22 when appointed he organised missions, clubs, social activities as well as being a civic and political campaigner. He died aged 39.

Fossil Fern leaf (29) built into the low wall of the Asda filling station, little is known about this particular fossil except that it probably came from one of the nearby quarries in the 1840’s and is around 250 million years old.

Blackboy Hill (30) Many people believe that the name Blackboy Hill is related in some way to the slave trade. The truth is that they are named from public houses. Until 1874 the Blackboy Inn stood near the top of the hill between the division into two roads. The inn sign carried a portrait of Charles I, who was commonly known as “the blackboy” because of his black hair and dark complexion. Similarly, the name of Whiteladies Road also comes from the White Ladies Inn, depicting a Carmelite Nun, shown on maps
in 1746 and 1804 to be at Whiteladies Gate, near the present site of Clifton Down station.

Parish boundary marker (31) Pass The Jersey Lily bar on the left and at head height between Ocean Estate Agents and Mr Doner is a cutaway square of woodwork exposing an 1848 Westbury on Trym parish boundary stone

After passing Burlington Road with its attractive frontages on the left, the road we are walking becomes Whiteladies Road.

On the wall of No.155 just behind the large bus shelter is a blue plaque commemorating author Frank Norman. Next door at 157 with the blue painted frontage used to be Colley’s Supper Rooms (32). An individual establishment where everyone had to be seated on communal tables by a certain time and there was no menu to choose from, but each main course and pudding would be presented to customers before making their choice. It closed mid to late 1980s.

Further along on the corner of Ashgrove road is a stone structure (33) looking like a heavyweight stone gazebo. It is in fact the bell chamber from base of steeple of Trinity Wesleyan Church which stood on this corner from 1866- to the late 1980s

Redland Library (34) opened 1885 is still under threat of closure. The building is reportedly in poor condition internally and externally while its conservation status as a listed building makes changes and improvements difficult and expensive.

Finally, we cross Whiteladies Road on the pedestrian crossing and re-enter Clifton Down Station.

Whilst every care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the route description, FoSBR cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions, or for changes in the details given. Hedges, footpaths and fences can be moved and redirected. Paths can become slippery, boggy and dangerous in wet and wintry weather. Take special care when crossing major roads.

Check for service disruption before setting off.

Maps © OpenStreetMap contributors

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