James Witts is a sports journalist with a background in sports science who has written for publications including 220 Triathlon, Runner’s World, Men’s Health, GQ and The Guardian.
He has reported from numerous editions of the Tour de France and is also an active endurance athlete, competing in triathlons, half-marathons and sportives around the world.
His new book, Training Secrets of the World’s Greatest Footballers, has recently been published by Bloomsbury.
These are his top-five Bristol favourites:
Bristol Central Library
“A freelance writer’s frugal dream: a free (well, council tax aside) office within an inspirational setting. In an age of library cuts and digitalised everything, it’s reassuring that this stunning building within the shadows of Bristol Cathedral stands tall. Opening hours have recently reverted to seven days a week, too. Libraries are most definitely not dead.”
“Who needs a cutting-edge stadium and innovative training ground when you have the ramshackle Mem? A place where dreams regularly wilt and die with the occasional blooming season. We had two of them with the ‘rise’ from the Conference to League One. Sadly, the ‘evolution not revolution’ hashtag of Bristol Rovers owner Wael al-Qadi suggests we’ve hit our ceiling. Still, Graham Coughlan did a good job to maintain that League One status, albeit in a situation that suited his more conservative tastes. It’ll be interesting to see how this season pans out with the Northern Irishman in charge from day one. Either way, we’ll still come along for the pasties, creaky speaker system and misplaced hope.”
Goals Bristol South
“Ask any sports journalist how they arrived at their vocation and, chances are, it’s down to being a failed sports(wo)man. Football’s my first love, reaching the heady heights of league champions for Ottery St Mary’s junior team and a trial for Watford – which officially showed me I didn’t have what it takes. Still, the competitive juices continue to flow, albeit mildly contaminated with real ale. I play every week at Goals Bristol South in Brislington on the excellent astro pitches and am linesman for my son’s team, AEK-Boco. In both cases, I’d like to think slowness of limbs is compensated for by speediness of thought.”
Bristol & Bath Railway Path
“We live on the outskirts of Bristol in the downtown hood that is Staple Hill. I’ve regularly commuted for full-time and freelance employment for 20 years and never take for granted just how brilliant the cycle network is. Yes, as a city and a country we could do more, and yes the investment is pitiful compared to a nation like Holland. But it’s consistently provided a safe, easy environment to enjoy our great city. That said, I’d urge roadies (of which I guess I’m one) to leave the egos at home. Too many times a pair of budding Chris Froomes fly past at 20mph-plus. That’s fine for the open roads; it’s really not when you’re sharing the path with pedestrians and commuters.”
The Old Fish Market
“This was a close call with the Old Duke, whose jazz nights are brilliant, but the Old Fish Market tips it because it’s become a bit of an after-work regular. Well, if once every month is a regular. Warm atmosphere, good choice of ale and moderate company of my mate Chris is a good combo. My wife and I have also enjoyed an evening or two at the Wooden Walls in Staple Hill. Fine selection of ale and a cosy environment.”
Read more: My Bristol Favourites: Chrissie Wellington