Last updated: September 2020
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St Paul’s, like Easton, is an inner-city community that has suffered from some difficulties in recent decades, notably the St. Paul’s Riot in 1980, and has acquired a reputation for being a problem area. However, this does not do the area justice. St. Pauls is home to a vibrant Afro-Caribbean community who plough a lot of energy into raising the lot of their area, as exemplified by the spectacular annual St. Paul’s Carnival. There is also a strong cultural scene in the area, with many music and art venues around Stokes Croft and unique enterprises such as the Circomedia circus training centre in the disused St. Paul’s Church.
This walk begins in the hardest inner city with a visit to the heart of St. Paul’s itself, gradually becoming greener and more open as it progresses to St. Werburgh’s and beyond, where one finds the delights of the St. Werburgh’s City Farm nestled in leafy Ashley Vale. We then return to the city centre via the Bohemian area of lower Montpelier and Stokes Croft.
Terrain: Largely flat, with one significant climb.
Key Attractions: Broadmead shops, Cabot Circus shops, Brunswick Square, St. Agnes’ Park, Mina Road Park, St. Werburgh’s City Farm, Ashley Vale allotments, Stokes Croft shops and street art.
Refreshments: Widely available in the Broadmead area; pubs and cafés available at various points en route.
Starting point: Broadmead Podium
Getting there: Fifteen minutes’ walk from Centre Promenade and Temple Meads Station. Widely accessible by city centre bus routes running to the Horsefair, Broad Weir and Union Street. Multi-storey car parks available at Bond Street, Cabot Circus, Lower Castle Street, The Galleries shopping centre, Nelson Street, Rupert Street and Trenchard Street.
Approx. Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Approx. Distance: 3.9 miles
Our route starts at the Broadmead Podium, last seen in Walk Three ‘The Eastern Arc’, amid the mannered but uninspired buildings of the city’s post-war shopping precinct. Although you are at the heart of the main retail area, you are actually somewhat on the periphery of the city centre as a whole here. The community of St Paul’s lies just to the other side of Bond Street, the nearby inner circuit road, which has for many years served to segregate St Paul’s from the broader city centre.
If you’re hungry, you may wish to start the walk with a bite to eat. Cabot Circus offers a wide range of dining choices across its three floors, from cafés to restaurants, particularly on the top floor. Nearby Quakers Friars is also home to some of Cabot Circus’ higher-end dining options. Meanwhile, the food court in the Galleries shopping centre is the best spot in the Broadmead area for fast food options.
Begin by heading east along Broadmead, towards Cabot Circus.
You will soon reach Penn Street, just outside the Cabot Circus development.
Turn left onto the Horsefair and exit the shopping area via Hanover Court, a pedestrian lane that runs between the new development and the old (1).
The six-lane highway of Bond Street lies before you. Its influence on the city is still harmful, but not as bad as it used to be; you used to have to use a footbridge to get across. Now, you can simply cross over at the traffic lights.
Cross the road and take the side street opposite, Gloucester Street.
Gloucester Street is a truncated shadow of its former self. On the right, note the futuristic (but now rather retro) glass design of the Spectrum building, designed to take a corner in Bond Street that no longer exists.
The remainder of Gloucester Street will lead you past fine Georgian style buildings until you reach Brunswick Square, which you may recognise from Walk Four ‘The Northern Edge’. The cobbled entrance to the Spectrum building’s car park on the right is all that remains of Norfolk Street, a street that used to run from here across to Pritchard Street before the post-war construction of Bond Street.
You are now in St. Paul’s, a diverse area which comprises a mix of Georgian and Victorian terraces, council housing and industrial sites. St. Paul’s is a vibrant, multicultural inner-city community. The annual St. Paul’s Carnival celebrates the area’s diversity, but many still remember the area for the infamous St. Paul’s Riot of 1980, which happened in a time when race relations in the area were highly strained.
Brunswick Square and nearby Portland Square offer some little-known but fine urban spaces. Despite their architectural grandeur, however, these squares never quite achieved the fashionable status that their original developers had hoped for: too close to the industrial parts of the city centre, perhaps, they lost out to the cleaner air and panoramic views afforded by development taking place on the Kingsdown escarpment to the west (see Walk Four ‘The Northern Edge’).
Brunswick Square was never actually finished and parts of it could do with some restoration, but it still boasts fine Georgian residential façades on its south and east sides, while the rose beds and apple trees of the square’s central garden still give the square some structure. The north side of the square contains a couple of other interesting old buildings, including the Bristol Unitarian Meeting.
Make your way diagonally across the rose garden of Brunswick Square and turn right up Upper York Street.
Glance down Cumberland Street (2) and you will see some lovely Georgian houses and former shops that have fallen on hard times and have largely been converted to student housing. Cumberland Street used to connect through to the main road and was even a tram route for a while, but has now been downgraded to a cul-de-sac at the rear of the unsightly 51°02 building.
Upper York Street will take you past a variety of interesting historic buildings, including a former school building in Backfields, most recently used as coroner’s court but now vacant, and the Lakota nightclub occupying a former industrial building, an iconic venue that is now set for redevelopment.
Just before you get to the end of the street, turn right into cobbled Backfields Lane.
Backfields Lane is a mews street behind the more prominent City Road. The overall feeling is hard and urban, but on it you will find an interesting mix of mews houses and studios.
At the end of the street, climb the footpath ramp to emerge onto Brunswick Street.
Brunswick Street is typical of side-streets in this area, with colourful flat-fronted terraced houses mixed with modern buildings of varied quality.
Turn left into Brunswick Street and then right onto City Road (3).
The long, straight and fairly grand City Road is unusual in Bristol, being a Victorian street designed almost entirely to the Georgian architectural style: flat-fronted, narrow terraced houses (albeit with small bay windows), many of which are set above open front lightwells. The place has a slight air of neglect, as almost all of the fine houses have been turned into flats, but the street is well worth taking a walk down at least once.
One innovation that benefits City Road is the use of communal bins, which saves the street from a litter of separate containers for every flat – a blight to many inner-city neighbourhoods.
At the end of City Road, bear right onto Ashley Road (4).
Ashley Road forms the boundary between St Paul’s and Montpelier – we will be returning to Montpelier later. The substantial villas on the left hand of the street hint at the area’s more affluent past.
Shortly, you will reach the beginning of St. Paul’s’ main shopping area, where Grosvenor Road merges with Ashley Road from the right, next to a small park area that is known as Grosvenor Green or the Grosvenor Road Triangle.
Turn right onto a footpath across the green, heading for Grosvenor Road.
Grosvenor Green is home to a bust of Alfred Fagon, poet, playwright and actor, and still one of the only statues of a person of colour to exist in Bristol.
Turn right into Grosvenor Road.
Grosvenor Road has a bit of a reputation, dating back to the era of St. Paul’s Riots, which centred on the Black and White Café, an establishment further down the street that has now gone. However, there has been a certain amount of investment in the appearance of this area in recent years, with many of the shops on Grosvenor Road sporting replicas of traditional-style shopfronts.
After a short while you will reach an open area known locally as St. Paul’s Green. Turn left into St. Nicholas’ Road (5).
On the far side of the green, the modern St Paul’s Learning Centre helps to provide a focal point for the area.
St. Nicholas’ Road will lead you past terraced housing towards the M32 motorway. At the far end of Franklyn Street, first on the left, are the remains of a small factory that are set for redevelopment but, for now, continue to decay in a vaguely picturesque style. Off right, the grey buildings of the St. Paul’s Gardens housing estate provide a less inviting picture.
We are going to take a brief detour through St. Agnes’, a pleasant but somewhat forgotten residential neighbourhood sandwiched between Ashley Road and the M32.
Shortly before you reach the Motorway, take the fourth left onto Thomas Street (6).
The welcoming residential Thomas Street ends at a pedestrianised section, where you will find yourself at the heart of the neighbourhood. The Victorian St. Agnes’ Church lies to the right, while the historic green space to the left is St. Agnes’ Park, which has benefited from some investment and general TLC in recent years. The park is also home to St. Paul’s Adventure Playground (7), a great resource that has unfortunately been subject to vandalism and arson in recent years.
Make your way around the edge of the adventure playground and then go straight on into Tudor Road.
As you pass Badminton Road on the left, note the substantial Victorian property at the next corner, somewhat out of place amidst the typical two-storey terraced houses of St Agnes’.
Tudor Road contains pleasant two-storey terraced villas with full height bay windows that are typical of the St. Agnes’ area. Look out for exotic trees in the front yards.
At the end of the road, cross the main road, Lower Ashley Road, via the crossing to the left. Turn right along Lower Ashley Road (8).
Lower Ashley Road is a rather sad street that was ravaged by the construction of M32 Junction 3, which you can see ahead of you. The street marks a boundary of sorts between St. Paul’s/St. Agnes’ and the adjoining community of St. Werburgh’s.
Turn left into Conduit Road.
After a rocky start, narrow Conduit Road becomes a fairly pleasant street containing an odd mix of houses. It will lead you to Conduit Place. This was once a crossroads with a narrow little street called Jubilee Row, of which only traces now remain. The land that used to be Jubilee Row’s gardens was repurposed as Ashley Street Park, a cute, hidden little green space serving this immediate neighbourhood.
Turn right along Conduit Place, passing through a short pedestrianised section. Take the second left, Cowmead Walk (9).
Cowmead Walk will quickly lead you to the rear gate of Mina Road Park. This oddly-shaped Victorian park provides a valuable public amenity in a flood-prone part of St. Werburgh’s. Its mature trees give it a gloomy sort of dignity.
Enter the park. Bear left and cross the two bridges to get a look at the stream, then bear left across the park to exit onto Mina Road at the corner gate.
Mina Road is the spine of St. Werburgh’s, its importance as the local high street diminished by its awkward connection with the northbound entry slipway of the M32 at Junction 3. However, this section of the street retains a vibrant character thanks to the presence of a couple of bars/cafés and some interesting public art in the form of decorative hanging shop signs. The tower of the former St. Werburgh’s Church, which gives the area its name, rises in the distance.
There are a couple of food and drink options among the shops on Mina Road. A bit further down, towards the church, you will also find the Miner’s Arms, the local pub.
Just beyond the shops, carefully cross York Street / James Street (10) and continue straight on into the next section of Mina Road.
The next section of Mina Road is more residential, apart from the pub and the church.
St. Werburgh’s Church was declared redundant some years ago. It originally stood in Corn Street, in the city centre, but was moved to this location during the Victorian era. It is now in use, innovatively, as a climbing centre.
The footpath to the right just after the church leads to the Narroways Hill nature area (11), which you will have a chance to explore as part of Walk Thirteen ‘St. Andrew’s and Ashley Down’. Next to that is a community garden associated with the nearby St. Werbugh’s City Farm.
For now, continue straight on along Mina Road.
You will soon find yourself entering a broad tunnel running under the main Great Western Railway line. Keep an eye out for interesting street art within the tunnel.
Beyond the railway line, the road enters a small enclave containing inner city-style terraced houses in unusually green surroundings. This is the most charming part of St. Werburgh’s, separated from the rest of the inner city by the railway embankment, largely free of traffic and containing this walk’s highlight, St. Werburgh’s City Farm, which we will get to shortly.
For now, continue straight on along Mina Road, passing the turning for Watercress Road off left (12).
You will soon find yourself on the edge of one of Bristol’s most unique modern developments: a crowded complex of self-build housing known as The Yard.
Turn right into The Yard and walk through the complex.
Note how each of the properties has a unique design, giving the complex a very eclectic feel. The widespread use of timber as a finishing material and the use of solar panels gives the complex a decidedly Alpine feel.
The roadway through The Yard ends at a gate where you can exit onto a broad footpath, Boiling Wells Lane. Turn left onto Boiling Wells Lane to head back towards Mina Road, noting as you go the quirky properties on the right, one of which looks like it’s just stepped out of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale.
Returning to Mina Road, turn right into Watercress Road (12).
St. Werburgh’s City Farm sprawls over the area around Watercress Road, with the main complex to the left and further enclosures up the hill ahead of you. There’s also a welcoming café, and the whole complex is popular with local families. Take a wander round the farm, soak up the sights and smells and say hello to the animals before you move on.
When you’re finished exploring the city farm, climb to the top of Watercress Road and turn left onto a track that soon becomes a footpath (13).
The café or the adjoining Farm pub on Hopetoun Road may be a good place to pause for refreshments.
You have reached Ashley Vale Allotments, which straddle both sides of the footpath and provide the residents of the inner city with somewhere to relax and grow their vegetables. In contrast to the dust and traffic noise of much of the inner city, here you can walk amidst the sounds of insects and bird song. Above, the imposing buildings of Ashley Hill on the edge of St Andrew’s provide a strong backdrop.
This is the major climb of this walk. Continue following the path. When it merges with the railway line and joins up with another path (14), bear right until you emerge on Ashley Hill. Turn left.
You will find yourself on a bridge over a railway cutting. This is the Severn Beach Line, which runs from Temple Meads Station out to Avonmouth and Severn Beach via Easton, Montpelier, Redland and Clifton.
Continue down Ashley Hill, crossing over at the traffic lights on the railway bridge.
Ashley Hill is a busy road, but it has a leafy feel thanks to presence of mature trees. The houses have very a faded grandeur about them. Take a good look at each of the side turnings, which offer intriguing glimpses into residential Montpelier; we’ll be seeing some of these side streets in more detail later in Walk Thirteen ‘St. Andrew’s and Ashley Down’.
At the bottom of the hill, opposite a small place of worship called the Ivy Church, turn right onto Lower Cheltenham Place (15), a very narrow residential street which will lead you into Montpelier.
Lower Cheltenham Place is a quirky street running along the bottom of the Montpelier hillside, with an eclectic mix of two and three-storey terraced homes. Don’t miss Cumberland Grove, a tiny cul-de-sac on the right, which climbs the hill to the right before coming to an abrupt end at the bottom of a substantial retaining wall.
After some time, Lower Cheltenham Place emerges at Albany Green, a small green space at the junction of several streets.
Albany Green is home to the Star & Garter pub, recently refurbished.
Head for the turning that’s diagonally opposite Lower Cheltenham Place, Shaftesbury Avenue (16).
Long Shaftesbury Avenue winds its way between two distinctively Bristolian terraces of two-storey homes. Telephone wires spider out overhead. About half way along the street, note the intriguing cobbled lane on the left, which provides a link through to Banner Road. Note also the colourful paint applied to the decorative stonework on some of the houses.
Continue along the street until it emerges on Wellington Avenue. Turn right on Wellington Avenue, passing the popular Herbert’s Bakery, and then left onto York Road.
As you may have guessed, you are now entering the heart of Montpelier. York Road comes down from upper Montpelier to join Picton Street (17). In this area you will find a handful of shops, pubs and cafés that cater for Montpelier’s decidedly Bohemian, arty community, as well as a notable importer of Italian foods.
Bear left along Picton Street.
As Picton Street climbs gradually back towards Ashley Road, it becomes more residential. Until recently, Picton Street stood in the perpetual shadow of Westmoreland House, a derelict office block on Stokes Croft which had blighted the area decades. The recent, long-awaited demolition of the building has done much to brighten up the area.
At the top of Picton Street turn right along the last little stretch of Ashley Road and then cross the end of Cheltenham Road (18). Turn left along the main road, Stokes Croft.
Stokes Croft’s regeneration in recent years has been a source of conflict and controversy. Generally community-led, regeneration in the area began with the formation of a thriving cultural scene including a number of nightclubs. It brought with it a lot of street art and the formation of a so-called ‘Peoples’ Republic of Stokes’ Croft’, an underground organisation which sought to celebrate the unique cultural identity of the area. More recent changes have seen the arrival of a number of trendy bars and alternative shops, leading to accusations of ‘gentrification’ and cultural cleansing. The arrival of a Tesco store in nearby Cheltenham Road a few years ago and the closure of a nearby squat even led to rioting. Whatever your view on these events, though, there’s no doubt that the street feels safer and more alive than it used to.
These days there are a number of places in Stokes Croft where you can get a drink or something decent to eat.
Look out also for some fine buildings as you walk down the street, including the retained façade of a handsome carriageworks to the left, which is part of the Westmoreland House development site. Further down, in front of another vacant office building, you will find Mild Wild West, a noted mural by the Bristol-born street artist Banksy. Further still, don’t miss the City Road Baptist Church on the corner of Upper York Street.
Stokes Croft widens as you enter the area most heavily damaged during the Blitz, where modern buildings predominate, including a monolithic block which bridges the bottom end of the road, effectively isolating Stokes Croft from the rest of the city centre. The building, which started life as offices for the now defunct Avon County Council, has since been converted to flats and rebranded as 51°02. To the left is the Full Moon pub (19), the last survivor of the historic development of North Street (the name originally given to last stretch of road into St. James’ Barton).
Continue along the main road as Stokes Croft becomes North Street, so that you pass beneath 51°02 to reach the large St James’ Barton roundabout.
The St. James’ Barton roundabout, also known as the Bear Pit, is surrounded by brutal post-war office buildings. On the far side, the Debenhams department store marks the edge of the Broadmead shopping centre.
Use the surface level crossings to reach the pavement around the inside of the roundabout. Descend the steps to the interior of the roundabout and take the subway opposite, towards Debenhams. Turn left to reach Bond Street on the Broadmead side.
Alternatively, if you wish to avoid the steps and subways, follow the pavement around the interior of the roundabout at road level. Use the surface level crossings to reach the Haymarket. Turn left past Debenhams to reach Bond Street on the Broadmead side.
The Bear Pit and its approach roads remain a significant barrier between Broadmead and the communities to the north, including St. Paul’s and Kingsdown.
Follow Bond Street past a few shops. Turn right into Barrs Court (20), a footpath which will take you down onto the Horsefair, amidst the Broadmead shops. Turn right onto the Horsefair and left onto Merchant Street to return to the Broadmead Podium and complete Walk Twelve.
In Walk Thirteen ‘St. Andrew’s and Ashley Down’ we will head a little further north to visit the bustling Gloucester Road, after which we will head across the more spacious Victorian suburb of St Andrew’s before finding another route down into Ashley Vale. A detour via Narroways Hill will bring us briefly back into St Werburgh’s, after which we will climb back up the hill to the distinctive Georgian hillside suburb of upper Montpelier.