Bristol is a city with lots to discover, many hidden charms and some gloriously diverse areas. One of these is East Bristol, which acts as the jump-off point from the city into the countryside, mixing different landscapes from park to water to woodland, bursting with wildlife and scenic views and generally being one of the best-kept secrets about the city. Bristol has more green spaces than any other city in the UK and East Bristol is a perfect example of this. So, here are ten things you didn’t know about the area. We hope you fall in love with the area like we have…

1. There’s a Grade II-listed Heritage Park

Stoke Park Estate is a 250-acre Grade II-listed parkland, with English woodland and an ornamental pond surrounded by hay meadows. The estate is the former home of the Gloucestershire Berkeley family and is recognisable from the dazzlingly yellow Dower house, visible from the M32, constructed in 1563 for Sir Richard Berkeley. The house was landscaped by celebrated 18th century garden improver Thomas Wright. The park is also the scheduled monument of the famous Purdown Percy, the legendary supergun in the WW2 gun emplacement.

2. It has the best bread pudding in Bristol

Snuff Mills is a secluded gem of a park hidden between Stapleton Village and Fishponds. The small independent café boasts, according to locals, the best bread pudding in Bristol. There are gardens with many different herbaceous perennials and other horticultural gems maintained by local award-winning action groups. The mill itself has been partially restored exposing its 20ft egg-ended boiler. In spring, the valley is covered in ancient woodland with carpets of bluebells and wood anemones.

3. It’s teeming with wildlife

Troopers Hill Nature Reserve is a local nature reserve in St George. Overlooking the River Avon it is a hillside that has been quarried and mined in the past but has been reclaimed by nature. This wild and romantic space contains a fascinating mix of history, wild plants and animals. With heather and broom, rocky crags, spoil heaps and gullies, stunning views and two listed chimneys, Troopers Hill Nature Reserve is one of the most spectacular wildlife spots in the city. And to top this all off, Troopers Hill Nature Reserve has won the prestigious Green Flag Award every year since 2007.

4. You can forget you’re in a city

As the River Avon twists and turns its way into Bristol from the east it creates a green wildlife corridor that can make you forget that you are so close to the centre of Bristol. It is not unusual to see cormorants and kingfishers and, on rare occasion, there are otters in the area. The adjacent woodland is home to owls, bats, foxes and deer which have been known to swim across the river.

There is a good quality riverside path for walks or cycles leading from the Feeder Canal on to riverside pubs, or in summer, the ferry to the legendary Beese’s Bar & Tea Gardens, which has been serving refreshments since 1846.

5. There are thousands upon thousands of trees

St George Park is a traditional Victorian Park and at its heart is the lake fed by the waters of the Wain Brook. The land for the park was acquired in 1894 and completed in 1902. Thousands of trees were planted when the park was first laid out and they now form some of its most memorable features, of particular note is the great avenue of London Plane trees parallel to the main road. The lake and its island is now a home for ducks, swans, moorhens and coots.

6. The ‘Maker’ of Modern India was buried here

Ram Mohan Roy (1774-1833), noted humanist, feminist, and social reformer, is widely accepted as the “Maker” or Father of Modern India and responsible for the start of the Bengal Renaissance.

The Renaissance was a revival of the positives of India’s past and appreciation of the impact of the Modern West. It blended together India’s ancient teachings with the efforts of the Christian Missionaries and the British Colonial Government who introduced Western education, politics and law in order to influence    public opinion against Hindu superstitions and practices such as Sati, infanticide, polygamy, child marriage and caste-division.

Ten days after arriving in Bristol to visit Mary Carpenter, Mohun Roy fell fatally ill with meningitis. Mary Carpenter attended to him until he died on 27 September 1833 in his bedroom on the 1st floor of Beech House. He was initially buried in the grounds of Beech House, but ten years later was reinterred at Arnos Vale Cemetery in a grand mausoleum.

7. Bad King John ran the country from his West Country hunting lodge

In the days of Robin Hood while King Richard was away from England and John of England (later to become King John) was unofficially running our country as Earl of Gloucester, he lived in Bristol Castle and one of his hunting lodges was on Lodge Hill overlooking Kingswood Forest, which has commanding views across his royal woodland.

Today, arguably the highest point in Bristol is at the top of Cossham Hospital, built on Lodge Hill by Handle Somerset Cossham. Unfortunately the lodge was demolished but there is another King John’s Hunting Lodge which is now a museum in Axbridge Village set in the Mendip Hills on the way to Cheddar Gorge.

8. Walking routes galore

In October 1799 Thomas Graeme bought Oldbury Court Estate and called in Humphrey Repton, the famous landscape designer, who made substantial changes to the character of the grounds around the house. One of the major changes was the route to the house, which was originally through rough farm land from Fishponds Road, to a new route from Frenchay Village closer to Gloucester Road. The route starts from Frenchay Bridge and climbs steadily until leveling off before reaching Sleads Stream where two ornamental ponds were made, as the horse and carts slowed down at the ponds, visitors to the mansion house were wowed by the landscaped valley down Sleads Stream to the boat house below where the stream meets the River Frome and it was here that the Mansion House was first seen as well.

Today the house is gone along with the Thatched Cottage at Frenchay Bridge and the Boat House, but the ponds remain and Repton’s path is one of the main routes still used every day by 100’s of people sharing the beautiful scenic walk

9. Frenchay’s green spots

Frenchay Common is a beautiful area on the edge of the city boundary at the back of the old Frenchay Hospital Estate set in a conservation area. Frenchay Museum is near the common and here you can explore local history and heritage. Alongside Frenchay Common via the Frome Valley Walkway on the way down to Frenchay’s historic and steep village is Frenchay Moor owned by the National Trust. This is a very small National Trust site but it’s as attractive as the Common itself. Connect with the Frome Valley to either walk further in to South Gloucestershire or explore Oldbury Court Estate and the Frome Valley heading towards Bristol City Centre by following The Tuckett Trail.

10. It has Bristol’s oldest bridge

Frank Tuckett was one of the prime movers behind the creation of Eastville Park. The land was purchased in 1889 and the park finally completed in 1909 with building of the lake. It was constructed by the unemployed as a job creation scheme and is now regarded as one of the best public park lakes in the country. The river flows through a series of gorges cut through the Pennant Sandstone between the Frenchay Subscription Bridge further up the valley and Eastville Park and evidence of the quarrying carried out in Frank’s day can be seen. The river falls more than 50 feet between Frenchay Bridge and Eastville Park which led to the establishment of 6 mills along this stretch of the Frome Valley which must have been familiar landmarks to Frank as most of them operated as corn mills. The weirs, which you will see at regular intervals, are the only remaining evidence of the mills. On this trail, you’ll come across a medieval stone bridge called Wickham Bridge, which is Bristol’s oldest bridge. Beyond the bridge, you’ll reach Wickham Court to see where General Fairfax met with Oliver Cromwell in 1645 for a cabinet of war meeting before the attack on Bristol Castle.

Contributions by Steve England (Stoke Park Delivery Group); Mark Logan (Snuff Mills Action Group); Rob Acton Campbell (St George Neighbourhood Partnership); David Sandilands; Richard Irwin (Greater Fishponds and St George Neighbourhood Partnerships); John Bartlett (Fishponds Local History Society); Frenchay Museum.

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