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Story last updated: 03 Apr 2004 1215 BST Printable version of this page
The Downs
Jogger on the Downs  

For kite flying to football, jogging to picnicking, the Downs are dearly loved by Bristolians.

Sometimes referred to as "Bristol's green lung", the 400 acres of grassland have a rich history and are free to all.

Hundreds of joggers enjoy the great escape that is the Downs

Clifton and Durdham Downs stretch from the spectacular cliffs of the Avon Gorge to the edge of the city's houses.

Clifton Downs were originally owned by the Society of Merchant Venturers, but were given to the public and protected by an Act of Parliament in 1861.

The adjacent Durdham Down was purchased from the Lords of the Manor of Henbury.

The land was used for sheep-grazing and lead-mining but was also blighted by highwaymen and robbers, so much so that gallows were erected for a time on Gallows Acre Lane.

The Downs are home to a thriving football league

Since then, the Downs have had a great history of sport, from horse-racing to wrestling - and the tradition carries on today, with cricket and football leagues enthusiastically attended.

Check out our Downs League football site,
home to one of the largest amateur football leagues to play in the same area in the country, to find out more.

One of the jewels in the Downs' crown must be the view across the gorge to t
he Clifton Suspension Bridge.

A spectacular combination of nature's splendour and engineering achievement, the bridge was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and spans more than 240ft across the Avon Gorge.

Unfortunately, he only got so far as putting up the end piers in his lifetime. The Clifton Suspension Bridge was completed in his honour by his engineering friends in 1864.

A walk across the bridge is rewarded with fantastic views of the city,and is especially magical at night when the bridge is lit by 30,000 light bulbs.

Clifton Suspension Bridge
Brunel never saw his suspended bridge completed

The gorge is formed by the River Avon, a tributary of the River Severn, which has the second highest tidal range in the world.

It is also a unique area of wildlife, where conditions are so unusual that plants which died out in the rest of the country up to 10,000 years ago have survived here.

Wildlife Project hosts numerous activities throughout the year. For further information call 0117 903 0609.

Where it is

The Downs are just a few minutes by car or bus from the city centre. Just head on up Park Street, continue up Queen's Road and Whiteladies Road and there you will find them, at the top of Blackboy Hill in Clifton.

There is always plenty going on on the Downs.

If you want somewhere the kids can run wild on miles of grassland this is it. It's also a great place for kite-flying.

Bristol Zoo is also sited close to the Downs, and if you are taking a stroll across the Suspension Bridge you'll find Ashton Court estate five minutes' walk away on the other side.

The University's Botanic gardens are also just across the bridge and are open to the public several times a year.

There are also regular shows and events on the Downs, particularly during school holidays, along with the annual flower show in August.

  Clifton Suspension Bridge

Bristol Zoo

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