The gateway to the South-West is now a high-tech centre and a green city. Arabella Youens explores.
Local property market update
‘Bristol has been a bit of a well-kept secret for a few years, but now it’s one that’s firmly got out,’ says Richard Brooks, who heads up the Savills office in the city. ‘We’ve got big law firms based here, Lloyds Bank and Hargreaves Landsdown and, after years of inactivity, the city council is now promoting development and new pockets of the city are being elevated.’
Adam Lock of Hamptons International agrees: ‘It still has a spirit of independence, but the new money coming in has definitely smartened it up—The Ivy is due to open its first restaurant outside of London in Clifton.’
Strategically, it’s also extremely well placed, adds Philip Stevenson of Fine & Country. ‘It really is the gateway to the country, with motorway access in all directions and access to Heathrow, Birmingham and our own international airport.’
However, the icing on the cake will be the electrification of the Reading to Cardiff track, which will shave about 20 minutes off the journey to London. ‘Once Crossrail opens in Reading, it will mean you can be in Canary Wharf in less than two hours—and that’s definitely piqued interest in the Bristol city market,’ adds Philip.
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Although at least half of the demand for property is driven by Bristolians moving around the city, there is a definite trend for those who were at university in the city and are keen to move back. Other buyers are made up of the ‘London set’, a smattering of expatriates wanting a base back home and also, explains Adam, ‘parents who are fed up of being a taxi service for their children and want to move back into the city’.
Like London, Bristol is a collection of villages of which the most popular is Clifton, with its range of independent shops and restaurants and 400 acres of Durdham Downs on the doorstep, and where desirable addresses include College Fields, Canynge Square and Harley Place.
‘It has a fantastic community spirit, is home to the most popular private school in the city, Clifton College, and will always be the jewel in Bristol’s crown,’ says Philip. But it’s not very practical, adds Adam: ‘Parking is awful [ameliorated somewhat by the introduction of residents’ parking zones last year], so some will head to Redland, home to the popular secondary school Redland Green, where a Victorian semi-detached house will cost about £1 million.’
The other area to look out for is the BS9 postcode, which takes in Sneyd Park and Stoke Bishop, where you can find 1930s era houses with large gardens.
‘Education has a big part to play in drawing people to the city,’ says Richard. ‘If we’re selling a house for about £2 million or £3 million, it’s likely to be to someone with children at Clifton College.’ Badminton School, a girls’ school in Henleaze, is very popular and there are also Bristol Grammar School and QEH.
In the State sector, there’s competition for houses that fall within the catchment areas for St John’s Primary, Henleaze Junior School, Elmlea Junior School and Bishop Road Primary School. ‘And the catchment continually shrinks for the secondary Redland Green School,’ warns Adam. ‘Demand is enormous.’
Butcher, baker, coffee-maker
Perhaps as a result of its hippy reputation, the city is the antidote to bland, homogenous brand- dominated high streets elsewhere in the country. Be it Chandos Road in Redland, Whiteladies Road in Clifton, along the length of Gloucester Road or even in the arches underneath Temple Meads station, gastronomic gems abound.
Both Clifton Village Butchers (where you can source South African biltong and boerewors) and Ruby & White come highly recommended—the proprietors of the latter also own the Cowshed restaurant. Excellent coffee shops include Small St. Espresso and Playground Coffee House and the long-standing Papadeli in Clifton, which has a cookery school and cafe attached, sources fine-quality products from Spain and Italy.
Pub-wise, The Albion in Clifton gets regularly mentioned and the chefs at the Wallfish Bistro, also in Clifton, learnt their skills from Mark Hix. Bravas on Cotham Hill is a lively Spanish restaurant run by the owners of Bakers & Co on Gloucester Road.
Out and about
From the mainstream to the alternative, there’s no shortage of cultural highlights in the city, from exhibitions at the Royal West of England Academy—England’s only regional Royal Academy of Art—to walking tours of Banksy’s street art.
Bristol Food Connections, a city-wide food festival, takes place from April 29 to May 7 and the colourful Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is booked for August 11 to 14. West End shows regularly come to the Bristol Hippodrome, the Bristol Old Vic has benefitted from a £12.5 million redevelopment and the Tobacco Factory hosts alternative productions and a weekly market.
Hyde Park homesick
‘From the city centre, walk in any direction and you’ll find green spaces, almost within five minutes,’ says Richard. From the Durdham and Clifton Downs to Leigh Woods and Ashton Court, which covers 850 acres—among many others—the city is blessed with spectacular outdoor spaces.
Need to know
Bristol Airport is ranked as the most punctual in the country and it has direct flights to Europe’s finest snow and sun spots.
Houses for sale in Bristol
For sale: £1.75 million
Latchford House stands between Clifton Village and Whiteladies Road and is within an easy distance of St John’s, Clifton College and Clifton College Prep. Set out over some 3,300sq ft, there are five bedrooms, two kitchens and gardens. Fine & Country (0117–973 3081)
For sale: £799,995
The Coach House in Leigh Woods (BS8) originally formed part of the Gables estate. It has been sympathetically restored into a three-bedroom house with a smart, open-plan kitchen and a large orangery. Hamptons International (0117–901 5591)
For sale: £2.75 million
Overlooking Clifton College’s playing fields and on the edge of Clifton Downs stands this five-bedroom house. The lower-ground floor has separate access, meaning it could be converted easily into a nanny or granny flat. Savills (0117–933 5800)