It’s a busy city, Bristol, with gigs, galleries, theatres and museums to keep locals and visitors of all ages entertained all year round. But what to do if you want a break from all that? Sometimes what we really need is a breather — a chance to relax, kick back and watch the flowers grow. It’s therapeutic, you know?
Starting in the very heart of Bristol and moving out to the North Somerset countryside, here’s a little look into a few of the hidden parks, secret gardens and open green spaces where you can return to nature and find space for a deep breath away from the city.
Royal Fort Gardens
Just a step up the hillside from the traffic and noise of bustling Park Street, the Royal Fort Gardens offer a haven of peace and tranquillity in the centre of Bristol. Students swot on manicured lawns, gardeners busy themselves in the flowerbeds and all around, an enduring sense of calm pervades. Visitors can follow the garden’s circular stroll — Convocation Walk — and ponder life’s complex questions the way the students undoubtedly do.
The site’s original fortifications date back to the Civil War in the 17th century, but the building you see today was built in the mid-18th century by Thomas Tyndall — a local merchant. Keen-eyed visitors may spot three different styles in the building — Baroque, Rococo and Palladian — after three different architects submitted plans.
To get there, head up Park Street, swing a right at the Wills Memorial Tower and follow your nose straight.
The Botanic Gardens
Like the Royal Fort Gardens, the Botanic Gardens fall under the protectorship of the University of Bristol, and they’re widely used for teaching, studying and research on a broad range of courses and workshops.
Visitors to the Botanic Gardens can explore winding walkways through diverse landscapes where exotic flora and fauna from across the globe thrive. The gardens sit over four zones; Evolution, Mediterranean, Local and Rare Native Plants, and Useful Plants — the latter home to herbs prevalent in Chinese medicine. Huge glasshouses hold tropical and sub-tropical plants which wouldn’t otherwise survive our colder climes.
The collections are carefully curated to educate visitors on the plants’ behaviour and natural habitats, all set on the edge of Durdham Down — within a healthy stomp or short bus-ride from Clifton and Bristol city centre.
Across the country, the National Trust protects some of the UK’s most beautiful and valuable parks and estates — and Tyntesfield is a fine example. This Victorian country house and estate was home to four generations of the Gibbs family, wealthy landowners who made their fortune importing guano (bat poo) from South America for use as fertilizer by English farmers. A tour of the house is enough to show any visitor just how successful this slightly niche enterprise turned out to be.
But it’s perhaps for the gardens that the majority of visitors come… With sheltered play areas and sculpture trails to enjoy, the grounds around Tyntesfield are a haven for families with kids. You’ll find visitors young and old exploring the herb garden and rose garden, the orangery and orchards, the dense woodlands and rolling parkland — and each new season brings fresh surprises.
To reach Tyntesfield, head out of Bristol on the B3128 and swing a left after Failand. Discounts in the café and shop are available to visitors coming by bike or by public transport.
For more details on the Royal Fort Gardens, click here.
To plan a visit to Bristol’s Botanic Gardens, click here.
And to read more into the National Trust’s Tyntesfield Estate, click here.
For more Bristol-based tales, find me on Twitter @cjcallaghan