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Urban escapes: a guide to Bristol’s green spaces

Ellicia Metcalfe directs you to some of Bristol's best green spaces.

By Ellicia Metcalfe, Features Subeditor

The positive effects of spending time in green spaces are undeniable, helping to elevate your mood, improve mental and physical wellbeing and reduce stress levels.

Luckily for residents of Bristol - the 2015 European Green Capital - the city boasts over 450 parks and green spaces. This guide highlights five of Bristol’s best spots to ensure you know where to go to get your green fix.

'Brandon Hill' | Epigram / Ellicia Metcalfe

The Downs

This wouldn’t be a guide to green spaces in Bristol if it didn’t include the biggest green space of them all: The Downs. Located at the very top of Whiteladies Road - a stone’s throw from the Stoke Bishop Accommodation Village - and snaking down to the Clifton Suspension Bridge, The Downs are the lungs of Bristol.

Escape the chaos of the city by completing one of the many walking or running routes, or watch a spectacular sunset from the Avon Gorge Cliff Edge viewpoint. You can even take the trip to see the widely known ‘Goats in the Gully’, six goats living inside a fenced area of the Avon Gorge.

During the summer months, the Downs comes alive not only with students and their disposable barbecues, but with annual music and food festivals. In September, you can even find Bristol University’s very own Freshers Fair, so there is no excuse not to pay The Downs a little visit!

Brandon Hill

Featuring benches which offer some of the best views in Bristol, it’s no surprise that Brandon Hill has made it onto our screens in various episodes of the Bristol-based TV show Skins. Living up to its name, the park is essentially one big hill - while this means making your way from one end to another is quite the ordeal, the view from the top is worth it. This view makes the park particularly popular at sunset and on bonfire night, where you can watch a city-wide firework show for free.

The park’s signature landmark, Cabot Tower, sits at the top of a small nature reserve and is a sight for sore eyes, regardless of the season. Located just off park street, it is an ideal spot for a rest break or detour during a day of sightseeing. Grab a coffee from one of the many great cafés on Park Street and enjoy watching the world go by.

'Cabot Tower' | Epigram / Ellicia Metcalfe

Royal Fort Gardens

Recently bestowed with a ‘Green Flag Award’ and thus recognised as one of the country’s best parks, Royal Fort Gardens is nestled in the heart of the university campus and is the perfect place to take a break from the library or relax inbetween lectures.

Originally a Civil War Fortification, the picturesque gardens are now host to a series of temporary artworks and a wildflower meadow dedicated to the winners of the Bristol Teaching Awards. Bask in the sun and forget those deadlines ... at least for an hour or so.

Queen’s Square

A green refuge in the centre of Bristol, Queen’s Square is situated next to Harbourside. A regular host of outdoor theatre and cinema, music concerts, business exhibitions and other major events, there is always something to do in this inner-city pocket of green. In the summer months, you’ll find yourself having to dodge picnickers and volleyball players to find a space to sit and soak up the surroundings.

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Leigh Woods

If you dare to venture over Clifton Suspension Bridge, you’ll find the National Trust Park known as Leigh Woods. Located outside of Bristol’s centre with an area of 2-square-kilometres, Leigh Woods is for those who want to escape the bustle of the city.

The National Nature Reserve is filled with paths and wildlife trails for walkers, runners and BMX enthusiasts alike. Why not try the Leigh Woods veteran tree route, a mile-long stroll alongside some of the park’s oldest trees? Of course, no National Trust park is complete without a picnic bench or two to enjoy a lunch, so be sure to pack your own and really live out the National Trust experience.

'Leigh Woods' | Epigram / Ellicia Metcalfe

Featured image: Unsplash

What are some of your favourite green spaces in Bristol?