Features: Victorian steps restored at Avon Gorge gully

Martin Booth, September 9, 2015

If you’ve ever wanted to walk from the Downs, past some goats and end up by a monument commemorating a storm drain next to the Portway, your luck is in.

A set of Victorian steps has been restored, winding down from the top of the new goat enclosure through what’s known as the Gully – a Site of Special Scientific Interest – all the way down to the Portway, that in Victorian times was a much more pleasant place to stroll along than it is today.

I didn’t see any goats on my own walk down the newly restored steps, although there were a few telltale droppings, but I did discover this:

It’s a ventilation shaft for the Severn Beach railway line which passes underground here between Clifton Down and Sea Mills.

The journey down the steps and scree is steep and sturdy footwear is advised.

But it felt like I was on holiday, going for an invigorating walk in a corner of Bristol I previously never knew existed, and which at times was so peaceful (until the Portway approached) I could have sworn I heard the sound of scrambling goats.

It has been opened up again thanks to a £20,000 restoration project, with Bristol City Council providing half of the funding and the Merchant Ventures and Downs Committee each contributing £5,000.

Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge committee chairman Jack Penrose said: “The project to restore these Victorian steps and footpath is an excellent example of what can be achieved by a volunteer organisation working together with the city council and the Merchant Venturers.

“The completion of the project during Bristol’s tenure as Green Capital will provide a safe environment for visitors to enjoy the iconic landscape of this part of the Avon Gorge.”

As my own exploration came to a close, a family of four began the walk – obviously also keen to find those goats and storm drains.

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