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24 September 2014

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You are in: Bristol > Nature > Walks > The Avon Gorge - Bristol's Great Glacier? > Stage 2
St Vincent's Rocks
St Vincent's Rock is a haven for wildlife.
The Avon Gorge, Bristol's Great Glacier? - is a circular walk from Clifton Suspension Bridge to the Peregrine Falcon observation point.

Our walk starts on the Suspension Bridge by the information board on the Clifton (north) side of the bridge.

The span of Brunel's bridge is over 700 feet, longer than any existing when it was designed, and the height above water about 245 feet.

Suspension Bridge

The bridge eventually opened in 1864 after Brunel's death

The technical challenges of this engineering project were immense, and Brunel dealt with them with his usual thoroughness and ingenuity.

The foundation stone was laid in 1836 but by 1843 when the money ran out only the piers had been built.

The bridge eventually opened in 1864 but visitors to the site had been coming long before to see the unique flora and fauna of the area.

the Avon Gorge is recognised as a Site Of Special Scientific Interest because of the amazing geology and wildlife that thrives here.

Take a look at the cliff-face as it plunges down to the Portway beneath and the River Avon winding its way to the Bristol Channel at Avonmouth.

The sides are covered in grassland and craggy rock ledges supporting some of the UK's rarest plants - some unique to the gorge.


Plants growing in rock face

There is much vegetation growing in the gorge.

The gorge has its own microclimate that has helped seeds grow here that would not normally be expected this far north.

The south-facing sides receive a lot of sunlight and shelter; the limestone is also well-drained.

Winds can be funnelled through the gorge those from a southerly direction are often warm and dry making an almost "Mediterranean" feel

But when the wind blows northerly off the Bristol Channel it can be wet, grey and quite a forbidding location. Updrafts formed during bright sunshine provide ideal soaring conditions for birds of prey hovering in search of their next meal.

Rare plants

It is likely seeds were brought in after the last Ice Age and deposited in the gorge.

Because the soil was so thin trees didn't grow very well in the gorge and smaller plants survived.

Growing in the gorge are 24 nationally rare and scarce plants including two trees - the Bristol and Wilmotts's whitebeams that are unique to the gorge.

Other plants of interest are the Bristol rock cress and Bristol onion. Also Spiked Speedwell and Autumn Squill. Honewort - a small member of the carrot family - was first written about in 1562.

The then Dean of Wells, William Turner, came to St Vincents Rock just below the observatory and wrote about Honewort in his herbal - a book all about plants that can be used for medicinal purposes, in this case a purgative.

We start our walk by heading back towards Bristol and taking a look at some seaside fossils!

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