Posted by: lialeendertz | February 18, 2012

Ashton Court

You take Ashton Court for granted. I went recently almost by accident, because it is the sort of place you can go by accident. Gifted to the people of Bristol in [long-ago year] by [posh but well-meaning folk] it has just always been there, on the edge of Bristol, special but not special.

The house, with view of Bristol

It was always the bit of countryside that you could get to on the bus. You could get stoned and do things in the woods there and be very unlikely to get caught out by your mum’s friends (though ridiculously I once was, in all those many, many acres, fag in hand. I wont say who by because my mum reads this, and I believe to this day the friend kept it to herself, after giving me a stern talking to. Gawd bless her). I used to go to the deer park with my dad on Sunday visits. His friend briefly had an ice cream van there, one of those occurrences that is hugely impressive to a young brain, and so still always flits through my mind as I pass his spot. I’ve spent many a chilly birthday picnic there, convinced that it really SHOULD be warm enough for a picnic in early May (it never is). Anyway, it’s a place of many layers, and I view it through a haze of nostalgia. I don’t think a garden could make me more dewy-eyed if it had piped Van Morrison playing from every tree.

But I never really think of it as much of a garden. Council-maintained as it is, I guess any finesse of planting it may once have had has been lost over the years. But on this particular, almost accidental visit the winter light was low and clear, and it struck me what great bones the place has. In particular I have always loved the walls there, particularly the half-crumbled walls in the further flung corners of the estate. There’s no better wall than an Ashton Court wall.

I havent taken the kids for a long time though I can’t think why. Like I said, you take it for granted. But they wheeled about in all that space and gasped at the deer and didn’t complain that they hadn’t actually had any lunch other than a shared chocolate brownie, on account of us being uncharacteristically spontaneous. And of course, them being well-behaved and me being in that Van Morrison frame of mind already, I smiled at them indulgently, and wondered about the other layers that Ashton Court is going to accumulate.


  1. It sounds and looks magical.

  2. Do they still have hot air balloons on a Sunday? I lived in Bristol for a year in the early 80’s and spent much time cycling around and taking pics. It was always a good place to hide and relax!

  3. All the Pauls!

    Paul S – It really was. Thank you.

    Paul D – They do. Summer weekends are pretty hot air balloontastic. We get them over our house if the wind blows the right way.

  4. I’ve not been to Ashton Court in years, since we moved out of the city. Last time I was there was for a wedding, which isn’t quite the same as admiring the deer – or balloons. It is a special place though. Lovely to think of your own children evolving memories of their own, maybe including being caught out 😉

  5. Never been there but looks interesting. I love the final photo.

  6. I have other memories. Aston Court festivals (not quite Glastonbury but not bad) and outdoor Shakespeare in the gardens of the manor. The space has and continues to host a huge diversity of celebrations, public and private. For children it’s a huge adventureland and for adults if they let their inner child out!

    Was I that friend of Mum’s? If so, I’m now too old to remember so that’s OK!

  7. And while we are discussing Ashton Court and a certain Mum, my first visit was with her and, weirdly, I spent most of the time dressed as a womble. I think it was at the Free Festival. Your eyeholes are quite a long way down your nose and hence you have a very limited field of view. You need a minder to avoid being mugged by small children who realise you can’t spot them if they keep moving – brats!.

    I also got locked out from the bus where I could change and, since it was boiling hot, nearly passed out before finding somewhere suitable to de-fur. It is a complete no-no to behead yourself as a womble any where a child may see you, resulting in counselling and legal costs.

    Hence Ashton Court and wombles are forever linked in my head. Even a couple of balloon festivals can’t break that association!

  8. I spent a late summer in Bristol…I think it was 1983. That was the year I woke up. A girlfriend’s older sisters lived there, maybe her brother too…very Bristol, early 80s they were too….think we went to Ashton Court festival which if increasingly dim memory serves was the first year it has been on for a while and it was a one dayer I think. It has made Bristol stick in my head as a very lively, family-friendly, hippydippy, large enough to be multicultural but small enough to get yr head around city. Never been back to Ashton Court since, so thank you for the window in

  9. Oops my next post was going to be winter structure and amongst other shots would feature Ashton Court! I may still do it, but love the light in those last 3 or 4 snaps!

  10. Janet – they’d better not…I’ll have their guts for garters etc…

    Green bench – thank you. I love that one too, of course.

    Annie – No not you! Blimey, that would have been an earful… Started on festival memories and it was turning into a very long post indeed.

    john – Ha ha! Heroic wombling action! She owes you…

    MarkD – didnt even start on festival memories here, but of course, was a summer ritual to get blisters trecking across the suspension bridge in your best shoes to eat veggie burgers/drink cider/dodge exes.

    Robert – It was beautiful light. Couldnt stop. Hope you still do write it. Would be very interested in a designer’s point of view.

  11. Your photos also gave me good memories, thank-you! Although now a garden designer in Scotland, I grew up in Ashton and my adjacent school’s cross-country route was through the grounds of Ashton Court. The highlight was running through the redwood grove, though more truthfully, I was usually puffed out and walking by then.

  12. Good bones! All gardeners should remember that – without good bones their garden will eventually just turn into an amorphous blob. I’m beginning to think I could have done with good bones on my face 😦

    I love the way these parklands hold such memories.

  13. Tracy – Cross country running. What was that all about, eh? Pure horror. I suppose if you have to wheeze your lungs out while getting soaking wet and covered in mud, Ashton Court is a nice place to do it.

    Arabella – Im rather impressed that I appear to have made a valid garden designery point! I think they should make me a chelsea judge. And you, with your ‘good bones’ *wags finger*. Such a beauty!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: