Bristol Walk Fest returns from May 1 to 31 with a seventh annual edition offering a record number of ways to explore the city and its surrounds on foot -  often from fresh or overlooked angles.

With more than 250 events in the programme, and choices for all ages, interests and fitness levels, it’s well worth studying the full online calendar at www.bristolwalkfest.com or picking up the free brochure - available now from the tourist information centre at Harbourside and many other points around the city.

But here’s a taster of why Bristol Walk Fest attracts hundreds of participants and ranks as one of the UK’s biggest and most popular urban celebrations of walking.

Walkfest 2019

Famous or Infamous?

No trip to Bristol is complete without admiring the engineering achievements of Isambard Kingdom Brunel; discovering the city’s maritime connections, including with the notorious pirate Blackbeard, or enjoying the many and various examples of street art, some of it by the now renowned Banksy. All feature in several Walk Fest walks, among them:

Blood, Blackbeard and Buccaneers
Every Wednesday in May at 7pm & every Saturday at 3pm
Show of Strength Theatre Company reveals Bristol’s ties to the buccaneer Blackbeard, with the help of a pirate and a parrot. 

Image: Blood, Blackbeard and Buccaneers. Credit: Zuleika Henry 

Bristol Highlights
May 4, 11,  18 & 25 at 11am
The first of several walks focused on Brunel &/or sharing the history of Bristol Harbour. Others include Exploring the Floating Harbour (May 7, 10.30am), a Cumberland Basin History Walk (May 8, 2pm & May 28, 7pm); a Bristol Harbour to Brunel’s Bridge walk (also May 8, 2pm); The City Docks Through Maps (May 11 & 30 10.30am) exploring the development of the city docks using maps from 1568 to today and a Harbourside Walk starting and ending at Brunel’s SS Great Britain (May 16 & 25, 11am).

Discover Bristol's Street Art
May 14 at 10.30am
Graffiti artist Rob Wheeler leads a tour around some of Bristol's internationally famed street art sites.

It’s not all about Bristolians known for stealing, steeling or stencilling, though. See also Makers of Bristol (May 11, 10.30am), seeking out the many notables buried in Arnos Vale, one of the UK’s finest Victorian garden cemeteries and Cary Grant’s Bristol (May 14, 10.30am), visiting the city centre places which helped to transform local lad Archie Leach into the Hollywood star and style icon Cary Grant.

Street art tour Bristol
Image: Discover Bristol's Street Art. Credit: Graft 

Hidden Stories

The importance of Bristol as a world trading port dates back to before the 1300s, but there are many other aspects to the city’s history. Among the less familiar which can be explored during Walk Fest are:

Bristol’s Burning: The 1831 Riots
May 5 at 3pm
Proving political tension is nothing new by travelling back to when Bristol was literally inflamed by the rejection of calls for fairer voting rights.

Blood & Butchery in Bedminster
May 7, 14, 21 & 28 at 7pm
Show of Strength Theatre Company actors share gripping tales of grave robbers, man-eating lions, bullion heists and more.

Blood and Butchery in Bedminster, Bristol
Image: Exploring Blood and Butchery in Bedminster. Credit: Claire Greville

Roman Ruins
May 12 at 11am
Bristol Museum leads a walk through Lawrence Weston to the  site of a Roman villa complete with mosaics and the remains of a bath suite and early type of central heating.

Sea Mills Centenary
May 15 at 6.30pm
Hear about the development and architecture of Sea Mills, built on ‘garden city’ principles to provide homes for the families of Great War soldiers.

Tobacco Industry Trail
May 19 at 10am; May 20 at 6pm
Tracing the city’s centuries old links to the tobacco trade on a route from Castle Park to the former Wills factory in Southville.

Walkfest Bristol 2019
Credit: Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust

Same city, New View

Several walks in the Walk Fest programme offer ways to see Bristol from a fresh angle or in a new light. They include:

Trees of the Granny Downs
May 4 at 2pm
Find out about the different species growing along Bristol’s newest tree trail while enjoying the look and scent of chestnuts, hawthorns and laburnums in blossom.

Bristol in Books
May 7 at 6pm
Taking in the Bristol places mentioned in literature with stops for occasional readings.

Evening on Troopers Hill
May 7 at 6.30pm
As befits a place with a military-sounding name, Troopers Hill offers commanding views of Bristol, its river and surrounding countryside plus interesting relics of its mining, smelting and quarrying past and an abundance of wildlife, including many rare plants.

Troopers Hill
Credit: Friends of Troopers Hill

Skyline Walk
May 11 at 2pm; May 12 at 10.30am
A seven mile circular, from/to Temple Meads, taking in the greenest places and highest viewpoints of South Bristol. A shorter loop is also available or walkers can break off at other times, with advice on how to make their own way back to the station.

Bristol Statues May 16 at 10.30am &/or Statues, Monuments & Memorials May 19 at 3.30pm
The first, a tour of statues in the city centre; the second, a Who’s Who guide to a wide array of bronzes, stones, plaques and other commemorative features.

City Prayer Walk
May 23 at 6pm
No need to be religious to join in this contemplative stroll, reflecting on what’s good about the city and expressing hopes for the well-being of residents and visitors.

Walkfest Bristol 2019
Credit: Jennit Nott

Country Roads

Despite being a buzzing, international city, Bristol is enviably rich in green spaces and sits amid thousands of acres of unspoiled countryside. Ways to experience nature within or very close to the city’s heart include:

Foods of the Frome May 11 at 10.30am or
Foraging Walk May 12 at 10.30am
Wild food experts explain how to spot, collect, prepare and enjoy the huge variety of tasty edibles which can be found close to rivers and in other green spots.

Walking with Bristol Ramblers
Dates/times vary
Bristol Ramblers are leading several inner city and out of town adventures throughout Walk Fest, including along The Strawberry Line, a former railway track in the Mendips; around Chew Valley; to Bishops Knoll, with wicker whales, lost gardens and Gorge views; into the Wye Valley and Blagdon Lake.

Walkfest 2019 Bristol
Credit: Jesse Wild

Ready, Steady, Slow (dates, times and venues vary)

The fastest (no pun intended) building part of Bristol Walk Fest is the walking sports programme – an unrivalled chance to try out slowed down versions of many popular team games including cricket,  football, hockey, netball, rugby and tennis as well as less familiar ones, such as Boccia and New Age Kurling. 

Have-a-go sessions are happening on almost every day of the festival, nearly all of them free and with no need to book in advance. Check the calendar for more details. Parkrun and Nordic Walking tasters are also available, including at Ashton Court and on The Downs.

For further info and booking links, visit www.bristolwalkfest.com, Updates are also being shared via the Bristol Walk Fest pages on Facebook and via @briswalkfest19 on Twitter.

Walking Football Taster Session
Image: Walking Football Taster Session. Credit: Alex Rotas

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