Families who are not going away for the summer may welcome some Bristol walks to get them out and about. I have been asked a few times which of my walks are most suitable for little legs and/or buggies. Here are some recommendations from the walks I have published so far.
The City Docks
The short route of Walk Two: The City Docks always has plenty going on to interest younger walkers. The route is buggy-friendly if you take a small detour to avoid the steps at the Harbour Inlet. If the full distance of the short route seems a little far, then the Cross Harbour Ferry provides an excellent way to cut the walk a little short.
If you can find somewhere to park the car (I’d suggest around Cotham Road South), then the Kingsdown section of Walk Four: The Northern Edge, from somewhere near Somerset Street to St. Michael’s Hill and the Royal Fort Gardens, may have enough twists and turns and secret ways to interest an older child. Young walkers will particularly like the pond and art installations at Royal Fort Gardens. If you’re trying to find a more direct route back to Kingsdown from Royal Fort Gardens afterwards, then the many twists and turns of the maze-like High Kingsdown housing estate will have a definite appeal to young explorers.
The short route of Walk Five: Introduction to Clifton has plenty to appeal to younger walkers, whether it’s kicking through leaves on The Promenade, visiting the Observatory or Giant’s Cave, checking out the Clifton Suspension Bridge, or sliding down the infamous slippy rocks. There is also a good children’s playground at Observatory Road and Observatory Hill itself is great picnic territory. If walking with very young children you may wish to foreshorten the walk at Caledonia Place or Princess Victoria Street – the Royal York Crescent section is not accessible for buggies.
Arno’s Vale Cemetery
A walk around Arno’s Vale Cemetery is an adventure in itself. If you park in nearby Totterdown, you can start at the top of the cemetery and either follow the route down through the cemetery set out in Walk Eight: Bedminster, Totterdown and Arno’s Vale and then make your own route back up to the top, or you can venture out along Bath Road to reach the playground at Arno’s Court Park and make your way back into the cemetery through the back way as shown in Walk Ten: Upper Knowle and Kensington Park. Be warned that the cemetery is currently operating limited opening hours, so check before you travel.
The Avon Valley
Either Short Route 1 or Short Route 2 of Walk Nineteen: Crew’s Hole, Conham and St. George can provide a family-friendly walk with plenty of adventure. Both involve steep steps going either up or down, but for strong little legs that shouldn’t diminish the fun of exploring somewhere with plenty of twists and turns and hidden spaces.
Eastville Park lake
Short route 1 of Walk Twenty: Stapleton and the Frome Valley should be a hit with little ones who would like to meet some ducks and swans and possibly feed them. The circuit is not too long and is fully accessible.
Short route 2 of Walk Twenty: Stapleton and the Frome Valley starts and finishes near a good children’s playground, includes adventures in the woods by the river and great picnic territory at Frenchay Common. This section of the Frome Valley walkway is not well suited to buggies but, if you don’t mind missing out the playground, you could shorten the walk even further by parking at the top of Frenchay Hill and just exploring the village itself, perhaps including one of the optional Frenchay route extensions.
Stoke Park Estate
Buggy-friendly: Yes, if you have off-road wheels
The country park setting of Walk Twenty-One: Stoke Park and Purdown is ideal for a family ramble and picnic. You can foreshorten the route a good deal by cutting out the long section along Sir John’s Lane and/or bypassing the section behind the Dower House via the cycle path (which also cuts out the only section of the walk to feature steps).
Badock’s Wood and Westbury-on-Trym
The short route of Walk Twenty-Two: Henleaze and Westbury-on-Trym has much to offer as a family walk, including hiding in the bamboo or splashing in the riverbed at Badock’s Wood, a picnic in the meadows there, exploring the nooks and crannies of Westbury Village and even a very basic children’s playground in the housing estate on the way back to the car. The route is not fully accessible for buggies due to steps at the churchyard and on the way up out of Westbury Village.
If you live in north Bristol, then Short Route 1 of Walk Twenty-Four: Stoke Bishop and Sneyd Park is a great way of having a family stroll that starts and finishes on the Downs. It was a regular circuit for my family when I was little. Buggy-friendly if you don’t mind bumping down a few fairly gentle steps just after Cote House Lane.
The Avon Gorge at Sneyd Park
Intrepid younger explorers with strong legs will find much to enjoy in Short Route 2 of Walk Twenty-Four: Stoke Bishop and Sneyd Park, which includes wildflowers, a small lake, a sculpture of a whale and a lost woodland garden. Be warned that the climb back up from the bottom of the Avon Gorge is steep and rocky.
Buggy-friendly: Yes, if you have off-road wheels
The whole of Walk Twenty-Nine: Willsbridge Mill is ideally suited for families, especially the upper mill pond at Willsbridge Mill itself, where there is great potential for mini-beast hunting. You can walk the circuit fairly easily with a buggy but may need to lift it over a couple of the smaller gates.
Big skies, the sea (sort of), flat ground, sticks and stones to throw into the river mud and a go-as-far-as-you-like sort of route: Walk Thirty-One: Severn Beach is fully accessible and is ideal territory for walkers of all ages.