A November walk through Nature Reserves

Last week, Vik and I took a November walk, starting at Sea Mills, down through the nature reserves, then along the Portway to the Goat Gully, and up around the Downs to Clifton.  We started a bit late for this time of year, getting on a bus at around 1pm, so by the time we’d got to the Suspension Bridge, it was definitely dusk.

I’ve been to these places before, but never as one walk, and that always shows new sides to places.   The Avon always looks different every time, of course, and I’ve only been the the nature reserves in the Spring before.

Photos are in this flickr set – there are photos from my DLSR, point’n’shoot 35mm and medium format film cameras.  Click through to see more, and I have more links below too.

The Avon from the Goat Gully

I feel like I take the same photos whenever I go to Sea Mills, but I’m fascinated by the Harbour – where the original Roman port was, and the 18th Century harbour, and I love the strangeness of it, and walking on the grass-covered Harbour walls.  And the river there is beautiful, wide and open.  While we stood and watched, the wind was pushing waves upstream, clear swell, but the debris was going against them, carried on the tide as it rushed out.  I love that tension.   The sounds are fantastic too – trains every now and again, but it’s set away from the road, so you can hear the slap of the water, and the wind in the trees, and the birdsong.  It’s so peaceful.

The Avon at Sea Mills

The three nature reserves are so different.  Old Sneed Park Nature Reserve has a stand of reeds, a large tree-lined field, and a pond that’s been landscaped and planted, more like a park, maybe, than a nature reserve?  But I grew up going to London Wildlife Trust reserves, little patchworks of environments in the urban landscape and these kinds of place always make me happy.

Reeds, Old Sneed Park Nature Reserve



Bishop’s Knoll reminded me of LWT spaces even more – a woodland that includes old abandoned gardens, with an arboretum, terraces, a folly.  It has a really interesting history, but it’s amazing it’s just been left there.


The third is the newest, Bennett’s Patch and White’s Paddock, mostly open land along the Portway, only recently protected from development.  This is where the wicker whales live, and it’s got the continual thrum of cars rushing past.   It’s pretty scary, leaving the south end, and having to run across 2 lanes, diagonally on a corner to the lane divider, then running across the other lane.   The Portway is always difficult to cross, and it’s SO loud, the noise pushed down by the Avon Gorge.   You walk along it as it gets louder and louder coming to the cliffs.   The light was fantastic, and we diverted onto the river-side footpath, and onto the silt banks.

Footpath along the Portway

The light was already getting low, but it light the cliffs of the Gorge and the autumn colours so beautifully – everything looking yellow and golden.   Curving round the cliffs, watching the climbers, and then run across the road to get to the Goat Gully.

Avon Gorge

We stopped to watch the whirlpool at the waterworks, then headed in.   It’s like the noise cuts out immediately, and it’s suddenly a completely different landscape.  The goats (male only!) are there to eat back the undergrowth until it’s like the Downs looked when sheep were grazed there, and it was the first time I’ve seen all 5 goats (though they were too far to photograph properly, of course)

The Goat Gully


The goats in the Gully

I love the space – it feels like it should be in the Pyrenees or somewhere, but definitely so different to the rest of the Downs.  And the weird water tower, and the goats, of course.   We walked up, climbing through a fallen tree, and then to the look-out points at the top, everything golden as the sun was just about to dip behind Leigh Woods.   We walked the stupid (vertigo-inducing) path around the top, to the far viewpoint, where you can see the Avon.   I’ve done exactly the same before, freak out at the steep points, forgetting we could have gone out and round, and gone straight to the view…

The Avon from the Goat Gully

It’s well worth it though – then walking back, and we had to go back in because the light was SO golden, everything was glowing.

Evening sun in the Goat Gully

Then through the woods along the edge of the Downs road, finding all these little open glades between the woods, and when the road took a left, along the path that runs along the edge of the cliffs.  It’s always gorgeous, with views every few steps.   I had all the wrong cameras, but looking west, and seeing the Avon snaking towards the M5 road bridge, and the ports, and beyond them the islands in the Bristol Channel, and the misty Welsh hills.   Stunning!  All my photos have one part or another working, but not the whole thing – the experience was being there.

The Avon from the Downs

Over the road and along the beech avenue to Clifton, and watching the Bridge in the dusk – incredible skies.   The rest of the walk was the early November dark, but that was a fantastic day.


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