I live in Bristol, which being a relatively large city, on first thoughts would not be great for trail running. However, Bristol is awash with great trails and routes which give a feeling of being far away from the city, enduring those knee crushing kilometres.
This page intends to provide a bit detail on areas with trails that I regularly run in. There are a lots of options, which typically, I do travel on the road to get to. For some of the further to reach trails, such as around the Blaise Castle Estate, hoping on a bicycle is a great way of getting there or alternatively, if you are trying to push your distance and endurance, run there!
My personal favourite area to run in is along the River Frome. The Frome Valley Walkway is 30 km long and starts from the centre of Bristol and ends in the Cotswold Hills. The part of the trails I run on start in Eastville Park and can be followed through Snuff Mills, Oldbury Court, Frenchay and up to Winterbourne Down and beyond. Following the river up to Winterbourne and back is in the realm of 16 km/10 miles. The paths can in areas be very muddy after substantial rain and through Snuff Mills can be busy on a Sunny day. The great thing about following this trail is there are many little off shoots and steep ascents or descents to join adjacent paths. The real beauty is running along the river is it completely separates you from the Bristol, the trees over head and the river, drown out the sound of the city.
Very near to Snuff Mills there is Stoke Park. Stoke Park is a large public space that is along side the M32 motorway into Bristol. There is a lot of open spaces but also some excellent woodlands and trail paths that go around the end of the park. There is a substantial hill that rises from the Yellow House side of the park, up towards the BT tower. This is a great hill if you want to get some hill reps in.
Below is an OS Map of a roughly 12 km circular run that I often do after work which follows cycle paths from the city centre to Eastville Park. Then along the river to Snuff Mills after which I turn up and out of Snuff Mills and drop into Stoke Park. This can be followed back to St Werberg’s City Farm and to St Werberg’s Narrow Ways. Most of this route is away from the road with only a couple crossings and a couple sections along minor roads.
In the opposite direction to Eastville and Stoke Park there is Clifton Downs. Clifton Downs is a large open public space which is used for all sorts of activities ranging from football, tag rugby, 5 km Tough Mudder to the yearly Downs Festival. The area is generally very flat but at the most westerly point, on a good day, there is an excellent view of Avon Gorge and the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Over the bridge there is Ashton Court, home to the Bristol Balloon Festival. Ashton court is again a large open space but also hosts a large woodland. There is a well maintained Mountain Biking trail in the grounds of Ashton Court but also a huge range of steep ascents, technical descents and single-track paths. Just make sure if you end up on the mountain biking trail, you have an ear free to listen out for approaching bikes.
Along from Ashton Court is Leigh Woods. Leigh Woods is again host to several well-maintained mountain biking trails but there is a huge potential for trail running. A personal favourite of mine is travelling under the Clifton Suspension Bridge on the River Avon Trail and the turning up into Leigh Woods on a leg crushing ascent which rises above the height of Avon Gorge.
A final area that I will mention is the Blaise Castle Estate. Blaise Castle Estate is North of Clifton Down towards Henbury. The Estate contains Blaise Castle House and the actual castle which was build in 1766. From the city centre it is around 10 km to get to the estate but there is a huge variety of accessible and beautiful trials.
These are just a few areas of Bristol which provide a trail runner a valuable training playground. We do lack the long gruelling ascents found in the mountains but as Bristol is an exceptionally hilly city, there is more than enough opportunity to squeeze in some valuable hill reps, Marlborough Hill being a local tarmac favourite.
Not to forget, Leigh Woods, Blaise Castle & Snuff Mills are home to some great climbing routes.
If you have any questions on the trails, how to get there or possible circuits, get in touch!