Last updated: February 2021
At time of writing, the Chocolate Path along the New Cut at Cumberland Road is closed following a collapse. The walk can still be completed following a fairly lengthy diversion via the City Docks, detailed below.
Our exploration of Bristol’s inner suburbs begins to the south of the city centre, where the New Cut of the River Avon draws a clear line between south Bristol and the rest of the city. Southville, the suburb that borders the western part of the New Cut, is an increasingly affluent area with many pleasant residential streets.
This walk, which isn’t exceptionally long, begins with a walk alongside the earthy New Cut itself, before taking you to Southville’s vibrant high street via the local park and then back to your starting point through terraced residential streets.
Terrain: Largely flat, some gentle climbs, some steps (can be avoided by taking detours).
Key Attractions: Floating Harbour, Bathurst Basin, River Avon New Cut, Wapping Wharf CREATE Centre, Greville Smyth Park, Tobacco Factory theatre, North Street shops.
Refreshments: There is a scattering of pubs and eateries particularly at the start of the walk and at Wapping Wharf. At the halfway point, North Street also provides opportunities both to eat and to pause for a drink.
Starting point: Bedminster Bridge Roundabout
Getting there: 20 minutes’ walk from Centre Promenade and 15 minutes’ walk from Temple Meads Station or Bedminster Station. Widely accessible by bus routes to Hartcliffe, running to the bottom of Redcliff Hill from Broad Quay. Small car parks available at Bedminster Parade and Little Paradise, and on-street parking available at weekends in industrial estates behind York Road (cars parked at owners’ risk).
Approx. Time: 1 hour 45 mins
Approx. Distance: 3.9 miles
Our walk starts at the busy Bedminster Bridge Roundabout, a short distance south of St. Mary Redcliffe church. Bedminster Bridge is where the old A38 from Exeter, Taunton and Bridgwater crosses the River Avon New Cut on its way into the city centre, and still carries a lot of traffic even today, despite the Cumberland Basin road system being built in the 1960s to take most of the strain.
There are actually two bridges here, creating a roundabout formation, the original being the westerly of the two. The bridge is dominated these days by large blocks of flats on its northwest and southeast corners. At the southwest corner, however, you will see Zion House, a former church that has been converted to offices. To the east, the bridge offers a distinctive view of Richmond Street, Totterdown, sitting high up on a crag above the houses on York Road. The spire of St. Mary Redcliffe, still one of Bristol’s tallest buildings, can be seen to the north.
The River Avon New Cut is an artificial channel that was dug over two hundred years ago to divert the tidal River Avon away from the city centre. The original course of the river became the Floating Harbour and has been maintained at a steady level ever since.
If you would like to start your walk with a drink there are a number of pubs within the first few streets of this route. These include the Cock & Tail (formerly the Velindra) on Commercial Road, the Golden Guinea on Guinea Street, the Ostrich on Lower Guinea Street (with harbour views) and the Louisiana at the corner of Wapping Road and Bathurst Parade (which doubles as a live music venue).
We will be heading west along the north side of the New Cut. However, we will also be taking a brief detour into west Redcliffe to see a few historic buildings and connect briefly with the River Avon New Cut’s predecessor, the Floating Harbour.
Begin by heading west along Commercial Road, opposite Zion House.
We will shortly be climbing a few steps. To avoid these, go north instead along busy Redcliff Hill, towards St. Mary Redcliffe church. Just before you crest the hill, turn left into Guinea Street. After passing a short row of surviving Georgian Houses on the left, turn left into French Yard to rejoin the main route at the top of the steps (2).
Commercial Road provides you with a good initial view of the New Cut and is lined with mature London Plane trees.
As you approach the first bend, cross the road and turn right into a lane to the left of the Cock & Tail pub (formerly known as the Velindra) (1).
You have entered a residential development called The General. This used to be Bristol General Hospital. The site has been redeveloped for high spec residential apartments through a mix of new build and converted historic buildings.
Follow the lane until you reach a flight of steps. Climb these to reach French Yard (2). Turn left into French Yard to reach the hospital courtyard.
The smartly finished courtyard is the centrepiece of the General development and is surrounded by fine old buildings. In the centre of the square you will find a stone ‘Fountain of Life’ (3).
Leave the courtyard via the refurbished hospital gates to the north. Turn right onto Guinea Street.
You are next to a railway cutting. The cutting used to be part of the Bristol Harbour Railway and contains the mouth of a tunnel that used to run underneath the churchyard of St. Mary Redcliffe on the way to Temple Meads Station. The cutting is now surrounded by unique modern houses.
Guinea Street is also home to a small fragment of historic Redcliffe that survived the drastic post-war remodelling of the area. As you approach the junction with Alfred Place (4), you will see an incomplete but characterful terrace of Georgian ahead on the right. The taller property, No.10, recently revealed its chequered past on the BBC documentary series A House Through Time.
Turn left into Alfred Place then left again into Barossa Place.
Cobbled Alfred Place offers a glimpse of the Floating Harbour ahead. Barossa Place is a more intimate mews street containing a variety of modern properties.
At the far end, Barossa Place turns a corner into Clift Place. Here you will find a couple of quirky older properties with tiny little gardens, after which you will emerge in a raised position at the end of Redcliffe Parade (5), where you can enjoy a fine view down to Welsh Back and The Grove on the Floating Harbour.
The view-commanding Georgian houses on Redcliffe Parade, which demonstrate the classic colourful palette of Bristol terraces, will have started their life as desirable residences for wealthy merchants; they have undergone mixed fortunes since then, although much of their historic character remains.
Descend the nearby flight of steps to reach Lower Guinea Street close to the Ostrich pub (6).
To avoid the steps, continue along Redcliffe Parade and then descend a ramp next to a small car park to reach Phoenix Wharf. Continue along the wharf to reach Lower Guinea Street close to the Ostrich pub (6). Be warned that some of the cobbles along this stretch are very uneven.
The Bathurst Basin lies ahead of you (see Walk Two ‘The City Docks’).
Cross the small footbridge just past the Ostrich and turn left to reach Bathurst Parade.
Bathurst Parade is a broad walkway running down the far side of the Bathurst Basin. After passing a couple of warehouses in distinctive ‘Bristol Byzantine’ style decorative brickwork you will pass a mix of residential properties. The former General Hospital looms opposite in all its renovated glory; the basin is also home to the lightship John Sebastian, moored at the southern edge. You will return to the River Avon New Cut at the junction of Wapping Road and Cumberland Road (7).
Make for the riverside pavement on the southern side of Cumberland Road. Watch out for traffic as you cross the two bridges leading to Commercial Road.
At this point on Cumberland Road you have a good view across the New Cut to St. Paul’s Church, Southville, on the other side. In the foreground, next to a small green space called God’s Garden, you can see the remains of a lock that used to allow access between the New Cut and the Bathurst Basin. The lock was filled in during the Second World War to help protect the Floating Harbour against bombing.
Make your way along Cumberland Road.
Looking across the river towards ASDA’s car park you may see a trapdoor set into the riverbank: this is the outlet of the Malago, a stream running through south Bristol that joined the original course of the River Avon via the present Bathurst Basin, but presently disgorges a fairly placid flow into the New Cut from a culvert that starts just beyond East Street (see Walk Seventeen ‘The Malago, Crox Bottom and Nover’s Hill’).
On the far side of Cumberland Road, the old stone walls are all that remains of the historic Cumberland Road Gaol, which are set to be integrated into the redevelopment of the open site behind. The surviving gatehouse, derelict for years, has already been refurbished as a pedestrian entrance (8).
Shortly after you pass the gatehouse, you will pass the cast iron Gaol Ferry Bridge, named after a ferry which used to run across the New Cut here. If you look down into the river cutting as you approach the bridge, you can still see the slipways.
Opposite the Gaol Ferry Bridge is the main entrance to the modern development known as Wapping Wharf, which has proven a popular destination for food and drink. At time of writing, the lower part of the site is home to a temporary installation of cargo containers containing a wide range of independent restaurants and other businesses.
Wapping Wharf is a great choice for a meal near the City Docks, although many of the temporary restaurants only have a small number of covers, so seats are in demand.
Continue along Cumberland Road.
In between two long apartment buildings on the right, look out for the last remains of St. Raphael’s Church, a prominent landmark on the south side of the Floating Harbour until its demolition in the 1950s following wartime bomb damage.
Shortly after the apartment buildings give way to semi-detached Victorian properties, you will reach a ramp down to a riverside cycle path. The path is known locally as the Chocolate Path due to the unusual brickwork used to surface it.
Make your way down the Chocolate Path ramp.
A large concrete structure pours water into the far side of the New Cut. This is the outfall of the Malago Interceptor, a storm drain that diverts most of the water flowing down the Malago and Pigeonhouse Stream from a point near Headley Park. This helps to spare Bedminster from flooding (see Walk Seventeen ‘The Malago, Crox Bottom and Nover’s Hill’).
After a short distance, the Chocolate Path merges with the Bristol Harbour Railway, which appears from a cutting under Cumberland Road (9).
If the Chocolate Path is open, continue along it.
At time of writing, the Chocolate Path is closed beyond this point due to a collapse. As an alternative, you can either walk along Cumberland Road or take this fairly lengthy diversion route via the City Docks.
Make a hard right onto a path that runs parallel to the railway lines, passing under Cumberland Road. At the far end, cross the tracks to reach the quayside walkway.
Turn left and walk along Wapping Railway Wharf. Reaching Brunel’s s.s. Great Britain, turn left along Gas Ferry Road until you can turn right along a footpath to the rear of the Albion dry dock (9A).
Emerging on Hanover Place, bear right to reach Bristol Marina. Pick up the quayside walkway again and follow it along Baltic Wharf. After passing the Cottage pub, go straight on and through a set of gates to reach car park outside the Underfall Yard and the Harbour Master’s office (9B). Bear left across the car park to come out on Cumberland Road.
Turn right onto Cumberland Road. When it starts to climb uphill, bear left onto a ramp used by Bristol’s MetroBus services. Descend the ramp to rejoin the main route at Ashton Avenue Bridge (10).
If following the main route along the Chocolate Path, you can enjoy gradually discovering the main features of the New Cut.
The raised Vauxhall Bridge will now be visible in the middle distance, with the bonded warehouses of the Cumberland Basin looming beyond.
As a manmade river channel, the New Cut lacks the meandering grace and wildlife interest of a natural waterway; it is also home to its fair share of shopping trolleys, which can often be seen at low tide. However, nature has done its best to take hold on the river’s muddy banks, and as well as a variety of plant life you are likely to see a few seagulls and maybe some ducks or a cormorant. Opposite, the dignified but occasionally run-down residential terraces on Coronation Road provide a strong riverside frontage to Southville.
As you approach the Vauxhall Bridge, if you look to the right across Cumberland Road you may see the Spike Island Centre, a converted tea packing factory that is now a base for contemporary visual arts. Beyond the Vauxhall Bridge is the modern housing of Baltic Wharf, which we last saw in Walk Two ‘The City Docks’.
The Chocolate Path ends shortly after you pass some interesting old industrial buildings close to the junction of Cumberland Road and Avon Crescent. You will find yourself on a tarmac apron, approaching the first of the bonded warehouses at the Cumberland Basin (A-Bond, currently disused) and the terminus of the Bristol Harbour Railway.
You will soon reach an old iron bridge that crosses the New Cut to the left (10). This is the Ashton Avenue Bridge, which was originally built as a double-decker swing bridge that carried trains on the lower deck and vehicular traffic on the top. Recently refurbished, the bridge presently carries a guided busway and serves as a pedestrian and cycle link across the river.
Our route takes us across this bridge now, but before crossing it note the second bonded warehouse, B-Bond, which now houses the Bristol Records Office and the CREATE Centre. The CREATE Centre is the council’s sustainability centre, and is sometimes home to interesting exhibitions and seminars.
The CREATE Centre also has a useful café.
Cross the Ashton Avenue Bridge. At the far end, cross the guided busway and go through the wooden gates on the right to enter an open grassy area (11).
You are now in part of the landscape setting for the Cumberland Basin road system, a spaghetti of concrete bridges and ramps built in the 1960s to ease traffic flows into the city from the southwest. Laid out by the noted landscape architect Dame Sylvia Crowe, the trees and other landscaping soften the impact of the roads on the green edge of Bristol. The city stops here, having no western sprawl due to the natural barrier created by the Avon Gorge.
Take the path that runs along the left-hand edge of the grassy area and then double back to the left so that you climb up to a footbridge over the guided busway.
The footbridge provides an aerial view of the Ashton Avenue Bridge and the guided busway, which was once a railway cutting for the Bristol Harbour Railway. It also provides a fine view out over the point where the New Cut and Floating Harbour merge to become the Avon Gorge. Brunel’s iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge crowns the vista.
Cross the footbridge to reach an area of raised ground with trees (12).
This area of raised ground is where the main road originally came off the top of the Ashton Avenue Bridge before veering southwest towards Long Ashton. If you cast your eyes across the highway junction below, you can see that the current main road, Brunel Way, still follows raised ground along the remains of this historic route.
Clift House Road.
On Clift House Road you will pass C-Bond, the last of the bonded warehouses.
Cross at the traffic lights to reach the upper entrance to Greville Smyth Park (13).
Serving as the main local park for much of Southville and Ashton, Greville Smyth Park is a large and fairly well-tended open space that is home to a children’s play area, football pitches, tennis courts, a bowling green and a number of mature trees. The park is bounded by Ashton Road on the far side, beyond which you may be able to glimpse Ashton Gate Stadium, home to Bristol City FC.
Make your way down into the park, skirting the bottom edge of the children’s playground for the best overall views of the area.
At the far end of the park there is a pleasant shrubbery on the left (14) with paths leading up into a grove of trees.
Bear left at the far end of the park and climb past the shrubbery, parallel to Ashton Road. Keeping to the right-hand edge of the park, make your way down through the grove of trees to emerge on the corner of Ashton Road and Frayne Road (15).
Look out for flowering bulbs if walking through this area of the park in the spring.
Four roads converge at this point. Ashton Road becomes North Street, which curves off to the right. Coronation Road heads off to the left on its way to join the New Cut. On the corner of North Street and Coronation Road you will find the curved façade of an old turnpike toll house.
Head along North Street to the right of the turnpike house.
There are a number of pubs at Ashton Road and the bottom of North Street, including the Bristol Beer Factory Tap Room.
North Street is the main road from Ashton Gate to Bedminster. It is also the high street for Southville and, as such, has seen considerable regeneration in recent years. Although residential at first, the street soon takes on a more commercial character. North Street is also the focus of the annual Upfest street art festival and is home to a number of impressive and ever-changing murals.
After passing a supermarket on the left and the rather stark brick structure of St. Francis’ church on the right, you will enter the heart of the retail area. This well-tended Victorian high street is dominated by the looming red brick Tobacco Factory, which is now an acclaimed theatre and bar that lies at the heart of North Street’s recent regeneration (or gentrification, from a certain perspective) as an independent shopping and leisure destination.
There are plenty of food and drink options in North Street, but my choice would have to be the Lounge, which was the first outlet in a popular local chain that has now gone national.
Continue along North Street until you reach Greville Road, the left turn just as the shops and bars come to an end, next to the Hen & Chicken pub (16).
Greville Road is a long, straight residential street made distinctive by the handsome terrace of gabled, three-storey red brick houses that runs along its left-hand side. Creepers have been allowed to take over some of the properties and shrubs grow in the front yards of many, lending the terrace a slightly rustic feel.
You will reach a t-junction where Greville Road continues to the right and Upton Road heads left (17). Turn left into Upton Road and then right into Vicarage Road.
Upton Road offers a fine view of the Clifton hillside, along with another red brick factory building that is now a school.
The short climb up Vicarage Road will take you past typical, salubrious, terraced Southville houses. Half way up, Birch Road offers another good view of Clifton, this time contrasted with a looming tower block in the foreground.
At the end of Vicarage Road, turn right up Hamilton Road.
The house on the corner of Vicarage Road and Hamilton Road, with the view of Clifton beyond, enjoyed brief fame a few years ago in the ITV drama Afterlife.
Turn left into Stackpool Road (18).
The suburb of Southville was built on the slopes of a ridge running to the south of the New Cut. Stackpool Road runs along the top of this ridge. Despite being the main road through the area, Stackpool Road ends to the right in a cul-de-sac with a view out to the Ashton Court estate. After following Stackpool Road in the other direction, passing further well-tended terraced houses, Greville Road (now Greville Street) rejoins from the right (19).
Turn right into Greville Street and then left into Milford Street.
Milford Street runs to the rear of Stackpool Road. The pleasant street, which also runs to the rear of Southville Primary School, has been redesigned as a ‘Home Zone’ in a bid to encourage more play and social activity in the street – as such, instead of the traditional layout of a carriageway and two pavements, you will find cars parked at unusual angles between trees and decorative planters.
At the end of Milford Street, turn right into Merrywood Road then left into Morley Road.
Morley Road will lead you the entrance to Dame Emily Park (20). The park was built on the site of the former Dean Lane Colliery. There is a perpetual slight gloom and tattiness about the place, but it remains an important local green space that includes a children’s playground and a wheels park.
Enter the park and then bear left along the top of it, heading straight out onto Lydstep Terrace (21).
Lydstep Terrace mixes Victorian houses with more modern properties.
At the end of the street, turn right into Kingston Road.
Kingston Road is a narrow residential street that heads gently down the hill to emerge on Dean Lane next to the Coronation pub (22).
If you’re thirsty, there are two pubs that you will pass during the last part of this walk. The Coronation is one, and there is also the Little Grosvenor on Coronation Road. Be warned that they are both very local!
Cross Dean Lane here, as this is the safest point to do so. Turn right into Dean Lane then left into Acramans Road.
Acramans Road is a broader, leafier street that contains several substantial semi-detached houses. It will lead you to the peace and quiet of Southville Road, in the shadow of St. Paul’s Church. The sound of traffic on busy Coronation Road can be discerned just beyond the church. St. Paul’s Church was heavily damaged during the Second World War and was rebuilt in the 1950s, but the tower is an original feature. Note the attractive detached houses to either side of the junction, both of which are presently occupied by a firm of funeral directors.
Climb the steps leading to St. Paul’s Church and take a clockwise loop about the churchyard, returning to Southville Road at its junction with Alpha Road via the corner gate (23).
To avoid the steps, simply turn right along Southville Road and skip the churchyard. Rejoin the main route at the corner of Alpha Road (23).
Turn right into Alpha Road and then left into Southville Place.
Alpha Road is another quiet residential backwater. Our last terraced street, Southville Place with its pastel-coloured houses, will bring you to St. John’s Road opposite the entrance to the ASDA car park (24).
Turn left onto St. John’s Road.
The final stretch of this walk involves a brief return to the New Cut. Crossing busy Coronation Road at the traffic lights and turning right, a short walk along the south bank of the river will take you back to Bedminster Bridge to complete Walk Seven.
In Walk Eight ‘Bedminster, Totterdown and Arno’s Vale’ we will return to Bedminster to visit its high street, and will then walk via Windmill Hill and Victoria Park to the atmospheric Arno’s Vale Cemetery on the edge of Brislington, before returning via the quirky hilltop streets of Totterdown.