• Laura Purkess

Dundry Hill, Bristol

Location: East Dundry, Bristol

Nearest town: Bristol

Peak: 160 metres above sea level

Rank: 43/48

Difficulty: ★

Date climbed: 20 October 2020

Question: when was the county of Bristol established? If, like us, you thought Bristol only recently became an independent county, I'm afraid to say that you too were incorrect. Unlike 20th Century creations such as West Midlands, Merseyside, Tyne and Wear, Greater Manchester and Greater London, Bristol's origins date way back to 1373!

In the 14th Century, Bristol was one of the very first 'county corporates'; small, self-governing "urban" areas independent from the larger rural counties that surrounded them, for example, Somerset and Gloucestershire.

So long ago was this sub-division of local government that it actually pre-dated Bristol being granted 'city' status, which finally occurred in 1542 under the reign of Edward VI (Henry VIII's son). As such, Bristol has remained its own independent county for close to 650 years. Almost... for a brief 22-year period between 1974 and 1996, it was incorporated into the new ceremonial county of Avon. But following a review, Avon was dissolved and its land was handed back to Bristol, Somerset and Gloucestershire.

Bristol extends only 42 square miles, from the Bristol Channel to the southern and eastern limits of the city's suburban sprawl. This makes it the second-smallest county after the City of London, and with a large part of its land at sea-level, it's no surprise the high point on Dundry Hill is not very high at all.

The highest point of Dundry Hill that lies within the county of Bristol is 160 metres above sea-level - to date, this is the lowest high point we have climbed (East Anglia, we're coming for you!). But the actual peak of Dundry Hill is in the district of North Somerset, and tops out at 223 metres.

The highest point on Bristol's side is sadly inaccessible as it falls on private land, but the hill levels out for a couple of miles east to west, meaning we were able to stop off at a few villages as close as possible and consider the high point reached.

We first stopped off at East Dundry, a tiny cluster of farms overshadowed by a huge radio mast (also known as a heebie-jeebie). It was pouring with rain that refused to subside for more than two minutes at a time, so we made a dash up a country lane inaccessible by car to try and catch a view over Bristol. This involved walking past the heebie-jeebie (it's a real phobia) with my eyes covered as we got drenched.

We did catch a sort of glimpse of the eastern side of Bristol, but the better view could be found down the road in Dundry, a slightly larger village containing a striking church, a quaint pub, a primary school and several rows of weather-beaten cottages. From one road, you can view the entire skyline of Bristol (it would help if you know what to look for, mind) including the renowned Clifton suspension bridge.

We actually viewed the Clifton suspension bridge up close earlier in the day, when the rain hadn't yet started. En-route the high point, we stopped off at Clifton Common, a huge stretch of grass land on the edge of the Avon Gorge that leads down to the River Avon. From here, you can also see the Severn Estuary, and if you're brave enough to tackle some steep paths down the gorge, there is a fenced-off valley that contains wild goats! (we managed to spot one cheeky goat in the distance). If you're not familiar with Bristol, we would recommend stopping here on your trip.

As for the rest of Bristol, we're saving that for better weather in a post-Covid world. As it was, we were on our way to a soggy few days in Weston-super-Mare before the inevitable long Covid winter lockdown - which is where we are writing this blog from!

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