Last updated: December 2020
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Over the centuries, Bristol has expanded to subsume many outlying villages, some of which retain an identifiable village centre (such as Westbury-on-Trym), while others (such as Bishopsworth) retain only fragments. Brislington is somewhere in between, having lost its main historic centre through the repeated widening and redevelopment of the main Bath Road, but retaining some key historic buildings just behind the main road.
This walk starts by taking in some of the remaining sights of historic Brislington. The route then turns its attention to one of Bristol’s lesser-known waterways, Brislington Brook, which runs through a succession of attractive valleys and leafy glades. Emerging on the River Avon, we will follow its more spacious valley for a short while before taking a straightforward but interesting road-based route back to Brislington Village.
Terrain: Gently undulating, with some steeper sections. Includes steep steps at St. Anne’s Wood.
Ground: Paved and unpaved. Patches in Nightingale Valley, St. Anne’s Wood and along the River Avon may be muddy during the winter and after wet weather.
Key Attractions: Victory Park, Nightingale Valley, St. Anne’s Wood, Avon Valley, St. Anne’s Park.
Refreshments: Limited provision, with a couple of pubs en route, takeaways in Brislington and a supermarket in St. Anne’s.
Starting point: Brislington Hill, Brislington
Getting there: Accessible by bus routes running along the main Bath Road. Small shoppers’ car park available on just off Church Parade. On-street parking available on School Road and other nearby residential streets.
Approx. Time: 3 hours
Approx. Distance: 5.1 miles
Our route starts at the bottom of Brislington Hill in what used to be The Square, the central point of historic Brislington. There is only a faint semblance of it now; a wide place in the road at the junction of Bristol Hill, Hollywood Road, Church Hill and Brislington Hill. Here you will see how the widening of the main Bath road and the redevelopment of Brislington Hill for a post-war shopping parade has swept away much of the historic character, with the exception of the King’s Arms on the corner of Hollywood Road.
Brislington Village has a few options for food and drink. There are two pubs, the King’s Arms and Pilgrim Inn, on Hollywood Road, and a couple of takeaways at the bottom of Brislington Hill itself.
Take Church Hill, which is the turning between the petrol station and the shopping parade, and then turn immediately right into Church Parade (1).
Straight away some historic fragments of the village begin to assert themselves, with a fairly impressive Georgian house on the left. After a moment’s climb you will find yourself at the gates to Brislington’s charming church, St. Luke’s.
Take the footpath to the immediate right of the church gates (2).
The leafy footpath is lined by stone walls and will bring you out between a couple of houses on St. Luke’s Mews.
Bear left along St. Luke’s Mews and turn right onto Church Hill (3).
As you climb Church Hill you will pass Church Hill House, which is another imposing Georgian property.
Church Hill ends at the gates to Brislington Cemetery, a tucked-away little civic graveyard.
Take the footway to the right of the cemetery gates.
After passing alongside the cemetery for a little while, you will emerge suddenly into Victory Park, a large and pleasant green space with views of the rolling Brislington landscape.
Take the path to the left (4).
You will meander along the edge of the park, descending gently until you pass a block of council flats and emerge on School Road.
Cross School Road and turn right up the hill (5). Follow the fairly busy road for a short while until you can turn left into a residential street named The Rock.
At first, The Rock is pure post-war suburbia. However, after you descend past the turning for Millbank Close it takes on a different feel. The street opens out behind stone boundary walls and you will, unexpectedly, pass a couple of historic cottages.
The Rock is a cul-de-sac, but there is a broad footpath branching off to the left just before you get to the end. Following this footbridge will give you your first glimpse of Brislington Brook, which the footpath crosses at a small bridge.
After crossing the brook (6), climb the footpath straight ahead.
You will pass a row of secluded cottages, emerging back into suburbia on Sherwell Road.
Turn right and follow Sherwell Road, which brings you out on Allison Road. Cross over and take the turning roughly opposite, Hill Lawn (7).
Hill Lawn overlooks a grassy area on the right containing the footpath that will lead you down into Nightingale Valley, the first of two major wooded valleys that straddle the brook.
Take the footpath down into Nightingale Valley.
You will find yourself amid light woodland with Brislington Brook running to your right.
Cross the small footbridge at the bottom of the slope (8) and follow the main path along the right-hand-side of the brook.
The path runs through the valley for some time, with the brook running off to your left. For a while the woodland opens out as you path beneath electric pylons.
At length your route will be joined by another footpath coming down from the right, which crosses the brook by means of an ancient stone packhorse bridge.
Cross the bridge (9) and then turn right to continue along the left-hand-side of the brook.
Gradually, the valley widens out until it ends at a flood defence next to the main Great Western Railway Line (10).
You will need to climb temporarily out of the valley to cross the tracks. Follow the path as it bears round to the left and turns into a lane.
You will soon arrive at the bottom of St. Anne’s Terrace, a very quiet road containing a few characterful houses.
Climb the road to the top, so that you emerge on Wick Road. Turn right onto a bridge over the railway line (11).
Goats can sometimes be found in the steep paddock on the corner. If you look to the right as you cross the railway line you will see the site of the former St. Anne’s Park railway station, of which nothing really survives. It is hoped that the station may be reopened in the future.
Wick Road turns into Newbridge Road as you cross the railway line. Turn right immediately into St. Anne’s Park Road.
On the left-hand side of St. Anne’s Park Road you will find yourself looking down into another steep-sided valley where Brislington Brook continues out towards the River Avon.
Follow the road until you reach the junction of St. Anne’s Park Road and First Avenue.
Tree-lined First Avenue ascends into the St. Anne’s Park council estate with a grandeur that is unusual for the area.
Bear left into the next section of St. Anne’s Park Road and follow the road until you find a gate granting you access to the valley below. Take this footpath and then go down the steep steps on the left (12).
You are now in St. Anne’s Wood.You will descend steeply into the leafy seclusion, heading to the left at first until you reach a footbridge over brook. In the late spring, this area bristles with fragrant wild garlic flowers.
This area of woodland is where the valley is at its steepest.
Cross the footbridge (13) and turn right so that you follow the valley with the stream to your right. After a few moments you will cross another footbridge so that the stream is to your left (14).
In this part of the valley, the trees open out to create a meadow area. In a small fenced compound you will find the ancient St. Anne’s Well. It may not look like much, but it is a pilgrimage site for some, as shown by the wishing ribbons in the trees.
A few moment later, the trees close in again and you will find yourself drawn away from the brook as you pass behind the Avon Valley Business Park (15).
Follow the path as it climbs fairly steeply uphill to merge with another path coming in from the right. Go straight on and descend gently until you emerge from the woods at a roundabout (16).
Ahead of you is the car park for St. Anne’s Village Centre, which is a rather grand name for a small modern shopping parade.
St. Anne’s Village Centre has a couple of basic food options and a small supermarket.
The River Avon lies beyond the car park. However, it’s not time to join the river just yet.
Take the first right onto Wootton Road, crossing to the far side of the road.
This fairly ordinary residential road climbs gently until you reach a junction where traffic is led round to the right.
Bear left into the next, quieter stretch of Wootton Road (17). As this road starts to curve round to the right, take the footpath leading down to the left (18).
This pleasant grass-edged footpath offers you a good view of the chimney at the top of Troopers Hill, a nature reserve on the far side of the River Avon (see Walk Nineteen ‘Crew’s Hole, Conham and St. George’).
The footpath will take you to Robertson Drive. These modern houses were built on the site of St. Anne’s Board Mills, one of the last heavy industries to occupy this part of the Avon Valley.
Continue straight across Robertson Drive onto another footpath (19).
You are now on the south bank of the River Avon, in the part of the Avon Valley known as Crew’s Hole. Although shrouded in trees at first, the footpath offers glimpses out across the river to the quiet housing and wooded slopes on the other side.
After a while, the trees open out and you can make your way along the river with a clearer view.
Continue following the River Avon downstream.
After a while you will return to St. Anne’s Village Centre (20), where an old metal footbridge is the furthest upstream crossing of the River Avon until the Avon Ring Road near Keynsham (apart from a small ferry at Conham).
Continue following the River Avon downstream until you reach the main road next to a concrete road bridge (21).
The bridge here leads to St. Philip’s Marsh and historic Netham Lock, the upstream entrance to the Feeder Canal and the Floating Harbour, which is worth a look if you fancy a brief detour.
When you’re done, return to the St. Anne’s side of the river. Bear left onto Newbridge Road. Just before the main road splits in two, cross over at the traffic lights. Turn right onto Arlington Road to climb fairly steeply away from the main road (22).
It’s time to head back towards Brislington. A pleasant terraced Edwardian street typical of the older part of St. Anne’s, Arlington Road ends at a T-junction with Langton Court Road.
Turn left onto Langton Court Road (23).
After a short walk along Langton Court Road you will find yourself outside The Langton, a very substantial pub that is notable for the highly decorative exterior plasterwork at first floor level.
The Langton is the last pub on the route before you return to Brislington Village.
Just before the end of the road, turn right into St. Anne’s Park (24).
St. Anne’s Park is a pleasant but unassuming local park tucked away behind the houses in this part of St. Anne’s.
Turn right and follow the path along the bottom edge of the park, passing the playground. Turn right along the short Maple Road to return to Langton Court Road (25). Turn left.
Continuing down Langton Court Road you will soon find yourself on another railway bridge. It’s worth pausing here for the unique view over the city centre that the bridge offers.
When you’re done, continue across into Langton Road.
Here, you will find an interesting cluster of historic buildings: St. Anne’s Infant and Junior schools dominate the first stretch of the road to the right, followed by St. Anne’s church with its attractive border of holly trees to the left.
Continue straight on past the church until Langton Road ends at the main road, Wick Road (26). Turn right.
We have to follow the relatively busy Wick Road for quite a while, unfortunately, but there’s still plenty to see. Look out for the occasional substantial Georgian house amidst the Victorian, Edwardian and modern properties. Most of the streets to the right, meanwhile, offer glimpses of interesting views.
After passing the turnings for Sunnydene and Upper Sandhurst Road you will find yourself at Wick Road’s main feature of interest: Wick House (27), a large Georgian mansion located in spacious grounds to the left, which now has a slightly run-down look to it after a history of institutional uses.
After while you will pass a point where several roads join Wick Road, including Sandy Park Road to the right, with the red brick St. Cuthbert’s Church on the corner. Sandy Park Road is the local high street; from this position at the top of the hill, it offers good views out towards Clifton.
Cross to the left-hand-side of Wick Road and continue straight on.
Soon you will find yourself opposite another interesting complex of Victorian buildings at Holymead Primary School. At this point, it’s time to leave Wick Road.
Turn left into Trelawney Park (28) and then right into Grove Park Road.
Trelawney Park and Grove Park Road are terraced Victorian streets typical of Brislington.
When Grove Park Road ends at a crossroads, turn left into Montrose Park.
Montrose Park is a cul-de-sac that descends gently, framing a pleasant view across the Brislington Brook valley to St. Luke’s Church.
At the end of the cul-de-sac continue straight on onto a footpath (29).
This is Fry’s Hill, an interesting lane that will take you back down into Brislington Village past a few tucked-away cottages.
At the bottom of the lane, turn right onto Hollywood Road (30).
Hollywood Road runs between old village buildings next to Brislington Brook and will give you a closer view of the Pilgrim Inn, which, like the Langton, has an elaborate decorative plaster frontage.
Continue along Hollywood Road to emerge back on Brislington Hill and complete Walk Eighteen.
In Walk Nineteen ‘Crew’s Hole, Conham and St. George’ we will cross over to the far side of Avon Valley. We will explore the numerous quirky by-ways of its steep northern side, en route taking in Avon View Cemetery, Crew’s Hole, Conham River Park and the delights of Conham Vale and Trooper’s Hill.