12 things to do in Bristol’s parks this winter

Posted on by Lauren MacCarthy.

The museums can be great places to escape the weather on dreary days but sometimes it’s great to venture out and blow away the cobwebs – especially over Christmas! We’ve joined up with the Parks team to explore what’s on offer in Bristol’s parks this winter – from Blaise to Ashton Court.

Tag @bristolcouncil on Instagram and show everyone that a little cold weather should never get in the way of a good time.

1. Find the perfect Christmas tree

Blaise Plant Nursery at Blaise Castle is selling great quality responsibly sourced Christmas trees from their specialist shop until 20 December. They even supply the trees for Bristol Museum and Ashton Court Mansion, so you know you are getting some of the best in town. Alongside Christmas trees the nursery has decorations and gifts as well as their usual stock of high-quality plants.

Why not make it a fun day out for the whole family and explore Blaise Museum and the 650 acres of Grade II* listed parkland before picking up your tree. The cafe will be open too so you can warm up with coffee from local provider, Wogan Coffee.

2. Get to know some of Bristol’s wilder residents

A deer stood amongst bracken and tree branchesYou may have seen Ashton Court Manor sitting up on the hill, but did you know that it was home to some rather unusual residents? On the Estate you can find both red deer and fallow deer, who aren’t that distantly related to Father Christmas’ antlered friends! Ashton Court Estate has had a deer park for over 400 years, and is designed for relaxing and picturesque afternoon walks.

Warm up after your walk in the Courtyard Café with healthy hot soups, sandwiches and snacks. The caramel cappuccino is a perfect winter treat.

3. See another side of the city – Park Bingo

You may think that you know Bristol, but we bet that there are many great parks you didn’t know about. From beautiful nature walks, exciting playparks to historical landmarks, our parks have it all. Challenge your friends to Park Bingo – who can visit five of these lesser known parks first?

4. Puddle splashing

Let’s face it, the one thing that is certain in winter is rain. But rain means plenty of puddles to splash in! Grab your wellies and head to your favourite park to see just how many puddles you can jump in, jump over or splosh through. Who will win – the person who has jumped in the most puddles, or the person who ends up the muddiest? We’ll leave that up to you!

5. Follow the Christmas Mince Pie trail

Did you know all of our park cafes will be open on Boxing Day this year for the first time ever? Now there’s really no excuse to not follow the mince pie trail!

Our park cafes will be open every day except Christmas Day, 10.30am – 3.30pm.

Our favourite park cafes will be serving signature drinks with mince pies as part of our special ‘Christmas Mince Pie Trail’ deal this winter:

  • Hengrove Playpark Luxury Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows and Cream
  • St George’s Park Hazelnut Latte
  • Canford Park Peppermint Tea
  • Oldbury Court Caramel Cappuccino

6. Take your four-legged friend on an adventure

Two dogs stood in a pond, one is shaking itself dry sending jets of water everywhereWith a large lake, children’s play area, running circuit, woodlands and wildflower meadows, Eastville Park is the perfect place to take your dog for an exciting day out. They will be spoilt for choice with so many different environments to explore.

It connects via the Frome Valley Walkway to Snuff Mills and Oldbury Court Estate, making it part of a wider network of nature trails, cycle ways and play areas.

7. Take some time to watch the stars

With the night-time drawing in early, it’s now easy enough to fit in a spot of stargazing before tea-time. From The Downs, you can get a great view of the night sky. Make sure you wrap up warm, bring a flask of hot drink and a blanket to lie on for the best experience.

Don’t forget that stargazing is best done during a new moon or crescent moon, and you can download an app like Star Walk (iPhone) or Google Sky (Android) which will tell you what stars you can see from your current location.

8. Discover Bristol’s hidden wildlife

Some animals hibernate during the winter, but just as many are out and about and on your doorstep. Dundry Slopes, Northern Slopes, Hengrove Mounds and Hawkfield Meadow, Lawrence Weston Moor, Saltmarsh Drive Open Space, Stockwood Open Space, Coombe Brook Valley, and Dundridge Woodland are being restored by Avon Wildlife Trust as Local Wildlife Sites.

At these sites you’ll be able to spot birds, minibeasts such as beetles and centipedes, small mammals as well as badgers and foxes at dusk. Please remember to respect our wildlife and don’t feed the animals. Tweet us your best @bristolparks.

For a nature fix when the weather is really miserable, check out Wildlife Photographer of the Year at M Shed.

9. Look through the ruins of Bristol Castle

Castle Park in Bristol featuring the remains of Bristol CastleDid you know that Bristol had a castle, built in 1088, which was one of England’s largest royal fortresses? While the castle may have been demolished in 1656, you can still find the remains in Castle Park. Above ground you can easily find what survives of the castle walls to the north of the park, and you can picture just how big it would have been.

Use your imagination to draw what you think the castle would have looked like in medieval times. In the South East corner of the park you’ll find the vaulted chambers, the ceilings of which are formed by a series of carved stone arches over two rooms.

The building was probably once the entrance to the castle’s great hall. You can’t go in, but you can take a peek through the glass panels in the doors. In the centre of the park you’ll find a sally port, one of the hidden entryways to the old Norman keep of Bristol Castle. It served as the entrance to an underground tunnel, allowing the castle’s defenders to leave the castle and attack their enemies.

10. Keep active with a family bike ride

Two people cycling on a road with frosty looking grass on either sideIt can be easy this time of year to spend a lot of time snuggled up inside in front of the TV, especially when it’s cold outside. But, a really fun way to keep both active and warm is to take the family out on a bike ride through Bristol’s parks.

There are routes of all lengths to choose from including sightseeing routes and nature routes. If your bike is out of action, how about hiring one? Find out more about cycling in Bristol.

11. Ashton Court Christmas Trail

Lace up your walking boots and don your warmest hat for the Ashton Court Family Christmas trail! Discover cool nature facts, fascinating wildlife, breath-taking views, historical landmarks and Christmas surprises.

It starts at the Mansion car park. The trial is suitable for all ages and lasts under an hour, just be aware that some parts of the trail are steep and have uneven terrain.

A map of Ashton Court showing a trail around the park

12. Pretend it’s not winter at all

Both Hengrove Playpark and Oldbury Court Playground have fantastic sand play pits, with pirate ships and play equipment. Why does it have to be winter when you have a beach in your park? At Oldbury Court Estate you can follow the river paths and see what wildlife you can spot in the water.

Follow a footpath from Hengrove Playpark to Hengrove Mounds Nature Reserve – a great meadow to explore in the winter sun. Definitely finish up with a delicious Marshfield Farm ice cream (yes we said it, ice cream tastes great whatever the weather!) in one of our park cafes.

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