The Avon Gorge

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As part of our selection of Saturday walks, we have this beautiful walk which takes you out of the bustling heart of Bristol into the wilderness of Leigh Woods. Dare I say it, this is one of my favourite walks in Bristol, perfect for when you need a quick break from the city, but don’t have access to a car or want to battle with Bristol buses. 

This walk explores a historic section of Bristol as you wonder further out of Bristol into the wilderness. 

Avon Gorge has a rich and fascinating history so below are some facts I’ve gathered for your consumption. 

  • Legend has it the Avon Gorge was constructed by two giants called Vincent and Goram. Goram’s head can be found on the grounds of Ashton Court after he threw himself into the Bristol Channel turning him to stone. While Vincent’s head is a bit more of a challenge to find.
  • The equally exciting story behind the formation of the Avon Gorge is that it formed during the last ice age
  • The Avon Gorge is thought to be one of the top three sites for rare plants in England. Hosting both the Bristol onion and Bristol rockcress, which grow nowhere else in the UK. 
  • The Bristol Channel and Avon estuary have a very high tidal range of 15 meters, coming only second to Bay of Fundy in Eastern Canada. 
  • The Greater Horseshoe bats roost in the Gorge and roe deer are sometimes seen swimming across the river Avon during high tide. 
  • Out of the UK’s 59 butterfly species 35 can be found on the Avon Gorge and Downs. 
  • What is now the observatory used to be a windmill which produced snuff from the tobacco, one of Bristol’s main imports 
  • In 1754 a proposal to build a bridge spanning the gorge was put forward. It wasn’t until another 80 years before work began and another 30 years until it what is now Clifton Suspension Bridge was completed.  

Clifton Rocks Railway

  • Hidden in the rocks along Bristol’s Portway is the remainder of Clifton Rocks Railway. 
  • This water powered ‘funicular’ opened in 1893 and ran for 40 years.
  • The railway connected Clifton to Hotwells and Bristol Harbour. Most importantly the train provided transport from the river Avon up to a luxury spa at the top of the gorge, which today is the Avon Gorge Hotel.
  • After its closure in 1943 it continued to be used as a secret base for the BBC during World War 2.  

There is so much history about the Avon Gorge I can’t possibly tell it all, so below are some links for the extra curious:

This walk takes you to Brackenwood Tea Room where you’re greeted by some delicious treats made by Dotty, I can vouch for that.