365Bristol Guide to DownendPosted on: 15 May 2018
It may well be a reasonably small outer suburb of Bristol, but Downend is nevertheless perfectly formed and a popular area in the North East locale of the city. And with the main high street, Badminton Road and the areas around it, there's an impressive mix of cafes, restaurants, independent shops, pubs, banks and supermarkets, plus beautiful green spaces and parks. Here, then, is our guide to some of the top things to see and do when you're next in Downend.
This excellent pub restaurant underwent extensive refurbishment in 2016 by the same folk who run the Gloucester Old Spot in Horfield. It's a great boozer too, with an extensive menu of traditional pub fare and a nice garden at the back, which is why its combo of well-kept drinks and first-rate grub make it a popular hub for both locals and those further afield. You can usually expect cool jazz drifting mellifluously from the speakers and a buzzy vibe of diners and drinkers. Well worth checking out.
One of the big draws in Downend of recent times has been the lure of this charming little indie cafe plonked on the high street. More specifically, however, folk have been attracted to the prospect of its deliciously indulgent, frothy, creamy creation, The Freak Shake. A shake topped with whipped cream, marshmallows, sprinkles, sauce and a doughnut, it's practically a meal in itself. There are plenty of coffees, teas and handcrafted cakes too, if you don't fancy pounding your system with such a colossal (and really quite delicious) shake-based sugar rush.
If you're into your sports, this is definitely the place to come. Home to the Downend Cricket Club, you can often find crowds of locals supporting the team and cheering them on from the sides. It's named after the legendary cricketer William Gilbert Grace who was born in a house overlooking the cricket grounds in 1848, and is one of the best community spots in the area.
The Leap Valley Trail
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of it all and recharge your batteries with a much-need, reinvigorating walk, this is just the tonic. The Leap Valley and part of the River Frome runs throughout Downend and, once you've navigated your way through the housing estates, it's like you've wandered straight into the marvellous bucolic splendour of the countryside. And as you amble along you can spot a veritable cornucopia of flowers, birds and pond life. Fresh country air and verdant beauty a stone's throw from the usual cosmopolitan chaos. Perfect.
Bristol and Bath Railway Path
Cycling - as if we didn't all know it - has become an increasingly popular pastime in recent years, with throngs of lycra-clad, helmeted two-wheeled warriors of the road championing their virtuous cause for keeping fit, saving the planet and ringing those tinkly little bells. For those partial to mounting the saddle, you can take advantage of the safe and pleasant Bristol and Bath Railway Path, which is accessible via a number of entrances in Downend. And if you don't fancy cycling all the way to Bath, you can still trundle to Bristol city centre in about 30 minutes.
The King George V Playing Fields
A vast garden, park and playing fields which is always popular, it's also home to Downend Round Table which runs a diverse range of activities and community projects enabling local folk to learn a raft of new skills. Every year, it also plays host to a really rather spectacular firework display, purported to the biggest in Bristol (which, if you've ever witnessed one of their eye-popping, ear-bashing nights of whizzes and bangs, you'd find that hard to argue with).
A beautifully restored 17th century pub, Mezze at The Green Dragon boasts an impressive Mediterranean-influenced menu of more than 50 delicious Mezze dishes. Expect, then, a mouthwatering melange of food incorporating Greek, Spanish, Indian, Chinese, Moroccan and Mexican, all prepared and cooked by chefs who have an impressive track record on the Bristol culinary circuit, working as they have at such respected venues as Aqua, Severn Shed and Browns.
If anything captures the heartwarming essence of true community spirit, it's this. Local volunteers and businesses join forces to donate money and create some genuinely gorgeous floral displays in the area, which are more than guaranteed to add a splash of colour, fun and creativity to the area and bring a smile to your face.
This family-run chippie has been dishing out some of the city's finest, most lip-smackingly delicious fish and chips for years. Always popular, you can tuck into the usual chip shop staples of deep-fried happiness but their eye-rollingly satisfying flaky cod and chunky chips take some beating. Consistently first-rate and always busy, this is a traditional Brit food favourite prepared and cooked by people with a passion for what they do. It's not just Fryday; every day's a good day here.
OK, so it's not strictly in Downend, but it's close and only a well-worth-it 10 minute car journey down the road - a small diversion that will reap fun-packed dividends. Fun for young and old alike, this is a pirate-themed miniature golf course comprising 18 holes of infinite twists and trickery that's bound to keep you entertained for hours. Golf, rafts, boats, alligators - it's all here. No need to book either. Ahar, me hearties!
Have we missed any gems of Downend out? Or shall we review your area? Either way, send us a message and we'll get on the case.
Jamie is a writer, blogger, journalist, critic, film fan, soundtrack nerd and all-round Bristolian good egg. He loves the music of Philip Glass, the art of Salvador Dali, the writings of Charles Bukowksi and Hunter S Thompson, the irreverence of Harry Hill, and the timeless, straw-chomping exuberance of The Wurzels. You can sometimes find him railing against a surging tide of passing cyclists, or gorging himself senseless on the Oriental delights of a Cosmos all-you-can-eat buffet.