I get the bus home from work, and from the bus stop a walk down a very steep lane. But recently I decided to descend the slope via a different route. A quick look on Open Street Map revealed a road called Fir Tree Lane, which would only add a few minutes to the walk. Maybe, if I was lucky, it would be less steep – I have dodgy knees, hips and feet, so anything of a gentler gradient would be much appreciated. Turns out it is probably just as steep – and anyway, it joins my previous hill before the steepest section. But Oh! what a tremendous route. Bristol often surprises me with green spaces, but this went beyond the usual manicured parkland. This path, in places, feels like a walk through a country village.
At first, a church, probably built in the 19th century, then a quaint wooden Scout hut with field. On the right, 100 year old cottages with overgrown gardens and dillapidated huts. This is still near the top (though sloping downwards), and the pavement-less road feels all the more rural for stone wall hemming its sides. Through the gaps in the buildings, it’s possible to glimpse Trooper’s Hill nature reserve, with its charred golden grass, purple flowers and abandoned smoke stack from its glory days when this was a working quarry (I can’t remember if they quarried coal here and shipped the copper ore for smelting, or if this was the site of a copper mine, and they brought in the coal – I’ll be looking in to this more in the future).
Further down the road (here called Firtree Lane – note the conjugation), the character returns to suburban, as is most common hereabouts. Buildings are in various states of completion as developers aim to fill any gaps not yet built on. But further still, and the road narrows to a path – steep enough for steps. It was raining today as I took my photos, yet this section remains dry – to my right a thicket of tall fir trees edge a garden and shelter the path.
Growing between the cracks in the stone slabs: lush, verdant plants, and filling between the plants are fine, colourless pine needles. Despite no rain making it on to the path, this can be a slippery walk; the needles shifting with each step. I imagine it would be easy to slip and fall here, though I’m relieved this is yet to happen.
Towards the bottom of the steps, the path curves, obscuring the view. It’s dark, and this all makes it feel everso slightly surreal. Yes, I’ve walked it many times before, but still, it’s not hard to feel a little bit of magic. I wonder: how old is this path? Why was it never widened to take traffic? In whose footsteps do I follow? I once saw a dead magpie in this darkened section – though it had vanished a day later when I retraced my steps.