Takin’ it to the Streets (Bristol – October 2009)

logoWelcome to Walking Class Hero – a regular sideways look at walking and the walking environment. Whether you like walking on your own, with friends or in an organised group this blog will cover it. It’ll embrace walking in cities and towns and villages. Walking in the day and during the night. Walking in the countryside and along the coast and up hills and down dales. Walking through parks and by rivers and across heath and down and moor. It’ll comment on public rights of way, access to open country, permissive paths, public urban space and countryside protection. Sometimes it’ll even be about walking outside the UK. Basically if you can walk there it’ll be in this blog.


Back in April 1980 Bristol’s disaffected youth (and probably some middle-aged’s as well) took their grievances to the streets. Beginning in the St Pauls area of the city they were a precursor of several summers of discontent in the UK in the early 80’s. These days the residents of St Pauls and the surrounding area take their grievances to the streets in an entirely different, not to mention more colourful way.

wave-blogIf any British city can be said to have embraced street art, murals and graffiti then Bristol is it. But then of course Banksy is one of its more famous contemporary sons. It’s been a long-time coming and there is still much reluctance on the part of the decision-makers but the results so far certainly make Bristol a city not only a pleasure to visit but a joy to spend time wandering the backstreets and alleyways hunting for artistic gems as well as marvelling at the Georgian architecture. (Anyway who couldn’t love a city where you can have a drink in the Black Boy Inn on Whiteladies Road – well maybe Nick Griffin and the rest of his BNP cronies I guess).

migrationBristol is built on a lot of hills (well strictly speaking I guess it was built on the profits of slavery and tobacco but that doesn’t really help when you’re writing a walking blog) and any walking here reminds you of this endlessly (the hills not the other stuff). On the other hand it does offer some stunning views. (On a clear day…etc.) Much of the street art is crowded round the Stokes Croft area of the city which is really close to the centre. They’ve even got their own Peoples Republic of Stokes Croft and a shop you can buy souvies in. Remember people the revolution is just a T-shirt away! It ranges from the really big and colourful to the small and discreet. It’s well worth paying a visit to Montpelier Station to see what they’ve done there. And if you fancy a go yourself bring along an aerosol and visit the practice site on Ashley Road.



Bristol like most other UK cities these days seems to survive on shopping and they have a swanky new shopping precinct called Cabot Circus complete with a Harvey Nicks. It’s opened up an area that was previously closed off and its combination of indoor and outdoor shopping is certainly a plus for the pedestrian. But at what cost? The area is ringed with security guards and rather sinister signs saying: “These streets are privately owned by The Bristol Alliance. The public are permitted to pass through when they are open. The owners do not intend that any permanent rights are to be created by prescription or otherwise. The owners reserve the right to introduce rules and regulations. For further details contact the Centre Director, Cabot Circus, The Management Suite, Glass House, Bristol Cabot Circus, BS1 3BX.”  The current rules and regulations include no photography, no smoking, no dogs, no drinking (I guess alcohol but that’s unclear), no skate boarding and no cycling. Can’t be long before it’s no hoodies I’m thinking and lord alone knows what would happen to someone with a spray can.



I also reckon you should take the time to visit Brandon Hill Park – the views across Bristol are stunning. The park is home to Cabot’s Tower, built to commemorate Giovanni (John) Cabot’s ‘discovery’ of North America in 1497. Sponsored by Henry VII, the Venetian navigator set sail from Bristolcabot-tower in 1496 and became the first European to set foot on the continent since Leif Ericson in 1003 when he made land in what is today Newfoundland. Eat your heart out Columbus. If after all that gritty street art and the chrome of upmarket shops has you yearning for something a little more genteel you can do no better than head for Clifton Village. All tea shops and Georgian terraces it also has Brunel’s engineering masterpiece – Clifton Suspension Bridge. It almost makes you nostalgic for empire and the days where we ruled most of the globe. Just one final note of caution – it rains a lot in Bristol so bring your waterproof along.

More information

Map used Bristol A to Z Street Atlas

Buy it here:


Useful links:

Bristol Graffiti Map: http://www.bristolgraffitimap.com/

Bristol Graffiti: http://bristolgraffiti.wordpress.com/

Listen to:

The Doobie Brothers – Takin’ It To The Streets – LP Version

Curved Air – Back Street Luv

Tony Bennett – On A Clear Day You Can See Forever

Massive Attack – Dissolved Girl

Tricky – Far Away

The Wake – English Rain


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