On Sunday, Mr Kitsch and I went on a smallish expedition all around the edge of The Downs. The Downs are a large open area of land in Bristol. It's like a park, but it's not walled in: there are no flowerbeds or park architecture, just grass and trees; there are roads through it, but parts of it are quiet and hardly disturbed.
On winter Saturdays, 30 football pitches are set up, where amateur league teams play to the death. And even then, there's still plenty of space for walkers, runners, kids, kites, bikes, balls, barbecues, picnics, pitches, twitchers, crows, dogs, doggers, joggers, jackdaws, outdoors, lovers, mothers, ice-creams, frisbees and sometimes funfairs, fun-runs, fireworks and circus tents. But all that makes it sounds crowded and it never is. You can always find somewhere away from the crowd. And the sky is always huge.
It's my favourite place in Bristol. Even on a mundane walk to the shops, the open space and greenery will lift my spirits every time. I keep saying I should walk there every day, but stupidly, I don't. But I am trying to walk more, and I've thought for ages it would be interesting to walk right round the very edge of The Downs. Not just the roads and paths that go round near the edge, but the grass at the very edge, next to garden walls, or the cliffs of the Avon Gorge.
So we did it on Sunday. My estimate from the map is that the whole route was something over 3 miles. Not too strenuous, and we made it pretty leisurely, with lots of stops to admire interesting plants or ripening berries. Halfway through we made a small detour to have a cup of tea in the cafe by the water tower. However, we were very strict, and had to retrace our steps, so not one inch of the perimeter was missed!
All the houses round The Downs are beautiful, covetable properties. It's not just the position, but the houses themselves, which are full of character and charm. The sort of house you stroll past, and dream "One day...". the sort of place that makes you yearn to win the lottery or discover a gold mine (real or metaphorical - I don't mind!). My dream house would have a tower, and I love quirky Victorian mansions with turrets and battlements. Oh yes, there's a lot of dreaming to be done as you walk round The Downs.
It was a sunny afternoon and it seemed as though everyone we saw had an ice cream. Two climbers who had scaled the cliffs and arrived at the top festooned with ropes and clanking with hardware, walked past us scoffing choc ices. There are always ice cream vans on the downs. When my brother was a teenager, many years ago, he got a job selling ice creams in a van. The van the firm gave him was so old, it broke down on the first day. Undeterred, they towed him and the ancient van up to The Downs each day and just left him there. In the evening they would come and tow him back to the yard again. I think he did that for a whole summer.
Despite temptation, we nobly resisted the lure of a 99 from the 'Kool Ices' van. Instead, we feasted on the view (see what I did there?). When we looked down into the Avon Gorge at the river, we were just in time to see a flotilla of small ships leaving this weekend's Harbour Festival. The view into the gorge is always impressive, and it was a great end to a lovely afternoon.
Walking round The Downs is like talking to an old friend. Sometimes you cover old ground and enjoy the same old subjects, but sometimes, when you have time, you can discover something new or unexpected.