Tell us a bit about yourself…
My name is Judy Gowenlock and I have lived in Bristol for over 30 years, despite initially thinking I would only live here for about six months! One of the things which drew me to Bristol as a city was its green spaces and proximity to beautiful countryside. I still feel there is more to explore within the city and I am really fortunate that my job (as a Health Network Lead for Your Park Bristol and Bath) enables me to discover new parks and meet lovely people!
Tell us about your preferred Bristol walking route and why you love it so much.
Most weeks I go Nordic walking with friends on the Downs and at Ashton Court. I would not describe myself as a morning person, but getting up to meet my friends at 07:30 on the Downs is something I really enjoy.
I also love walking in Ashton Court estate. I love the vistas, the woods, the valleys and the area around the Mansion and even the hills!
On my doorstep I am fortunate to have St Andrews Park; a few loops of the park set me up for working from home. I also continue to revisit my lockdown walks through allotments to other local parks, with my walk to the lovely café at the Ardagh being one of my favourites.
I dabbled in early morning walks pre-lockdown but more often than not, cancelled at the last minute as I was not able to crawl out of bed in time. Now my alarm goes off early and I rarely miss a walk, unless it is very wet. Throughout the dark winter months of the second lockdown, early morning walks on the Downs twice a week with a friend helped my mental health immensely. Walking and chatting is the perfect exercise for me. I feel my shoulders ease and drop what seems like several inches when I am out in nature, plus a growing appreciation of nature in our city. Chatting about anything and everything when walking makes me appreciate my life and the support of my friends.
How do you feel when you’re out for a walk? Does it change your state of mind?
There is something special about walking on the Downs early in the morning. It’s a respite from the busyness of life, an escape from people rushing to be somewhere. During our walks, we quietly avoid the various exercise groups, lifting weights or doing sit ups to blaring music, and instead work our way around the Downs, taking in the sea wall, walking past trees, spotting the goats from the top of Goat Gully and if we are feeling more energetic, walking to the Observatory for the classic Suspension Bridge view.
My favourite time to walk is starting in darkness and ending with the sun rising. It feels like a perfect start to a day and a chat over coffee completes this.
Do you have any particular kit you take with you when you’re walking? If so, what do you take and why?
Kit-wise I love my walking shoes which are really comfortable and don’t look too obviously like I am going hiking in the city! Layers have been important over the winter months; I am quite partial to thermals and old jumpers when it’s cold plus a hat and gloves. I also have a good cagoule and finally invested in some waterproof trousers. I have built up my ‘walking clothes’ over the years so I don’t feel it is essential to have everything at the start (plus I have also found some good buys in charity shops).
What tips would you give to anyone thinking about getting into walking?
My main tip is to just give walking a try. We are fortunate to have so many parks and green spaces in this city. It is a great way of keeping fit, and connecting with nature. I particularly enjoy walking with friends but equally like walking on my own, and if there is a nice café at the end of it, it is an added bonus.