A walk up on the Downs represents a personal link between past and present, and a space for peaceful contemplation high above the city.
This story was made on a five-day digital storytelling workshop for members of Watershed staff and local artists, led by Ruth Jacobs, Liz Milner and Beth Trimmer,
The course took place at Watershed during May 2005 and was supported by Bristol’s Museums, Galleries & Archives.
In the sixties my grandad used to walk there from home, through Montpelier, crossing the Cheltenham Road, up Arley Hill and Redland Road, turning right at the top onto Blackboy Hill and on to Durdham Down.
Being up on the Downs gives me a sense of being out of the city without actually leaving it, and that’s probably what grandad was after too.
To me, it’s the ultimate public garden, enclosed not by gates and railings, but by leafy trees and open all hours. All ball games allowed here.
What better way to let off steam and get rid of excess energy than having a kick-around with the kids?
When evening falls the Downs become a place for romantic liaisons. One evening I drove there on a date, parking up in Ladies Mall for an intimate chat. All of a sudden a mysterious figure with a torch appeared, pacing up and down and peering in at us. The significance of his actions wasn’t as immediately apparent as it is now [a reference to “dogging” by voyeurs] but the man’s presence spooked us and took all the magic out of the moment.
When Helen and I subsequently became an item we’d walk together on the Downs. When we broke up we’d go there to talk about what went wrong. When we got back together we’d walk and talk, and make new plans. But then we broke up again.
After that I’d come up on the downs and reflect on what had been and what might have been between us, had things turned out differently. This helped mend my broken heart.
Now I go there simply to relax and ponder life’s meaning, traveling up from Montpelier, my grandad’s favoured route.
At dusk, I sit on high, surveying the city down below. To the north lies the dramatic Avon Gorge, to the south, Clifton Suspension Bridge with an unending trickle of cars traversing its mighty span.
All media not otherwise credited created by the story author, or permission obtained, used under copyright licence.