Posted on

10 nature reserves in Bristol to catch the first signs of spring

Blue tit in a tree Photo by Paul Levesley on Unsplash 4 min read

Blue tits are on the lookout for nesting material from the end of February Photo by Paul Levesley on Unsplash 

February is the perfect time to spend more time outdoors and spot the first signs of spring – days are getting longer, birds are more vocal and first wildflowers are popping out to catch the warm rays of the sun. Located around scenic Avon Gorge central Bristol has a unique natural vibe, but there are also many other natural sites scattered around the city. Bring a pair of binoculars for bird watching and take a magnifier to study buds, tree bark and fluffy moss and you’ll have more emerging experience. Here are 10 nature reserves to explore in February. 

Clifton Suspension Bridge from Leigh Woods Photo by Aldrich C on Unsplash 

National Trust – Leigh Woods

Leigh Woods is Bristol’s own National Nature Reserve right in the city and easily accessible from Ashton or Clifton via the iconic Brunel’s suspension bridge. Abundant with wildlife and flora, but probably still quieter in February, it’s one of the best places to go looking for the early signs of the spring. Follow the many forest tracks and keep an eye out for snow-drops, buds and birdlife. 
C3 on Bristol Greenground Map

Avon New Cut NR

One of the newest Bristol nature sites in the city, Avon New Cut is home to mallards, gulls and herons, if you’re lucky you may even spot a kingfisher. Some species of butterflies may already start appearing in early spring, so look out for peacocks or small tortoiseshells at the Butterfly Junction.
C3 on Bristol Greenground Map

Nightingale Valley

Nightingale Valley is a small secluded nature reserve running alongside Brislington Brook, a tributary of the Avon. See if you can spot early wildflowers who like to get their feet wet and often grow by streams – such as marsh marigolds, primroses and snow-drops.
C4 on Bristol Greenground Map

First snowdrops of the year Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash 

Narroways Nature Preserve

Narroways is a small nature reserve in North Bristol next to railway lines with a panoramic view over the city and rich wildlife habitat. Look out for common frogs & toads and slow worms and lizards that may be starting to appear on the sunny south-facing embankments from the end of February. 
C4 on Bristol Greenground Map

Northern Slopes Nature Reserve

Made of three green spaces Nothern Slopes is a large wildlife reserve based (actually) in South Bristol with stunning vistas over Bristol. On the way to Bristol South Skyline Walk, the area has meadows, hedgerows and woods with a stream running through and several lookout points.
D4 on Bristol Greenground Map

Troopers Hill

Another wildlife-rich hillside nature reserve with great views of Bristol is located in the east of the city. At the edge of the woodland and scrub look out for woodland birds such as blue tits who start preparing for nesting at the end of February and if you’re lucky you might even see the green woodpecker! 
C4 on Bristol Greenground Map

Halfpenny Bridge, Snuff Mills ©crabchick | Flickr

Frome Valley Walkway

Running from Cotswold Hills to North East Bristol river Frome is an important wildlife corridor, where nature and people meet. Wagtails, Dippers and Kingfishers have made Frome valley their home and in early spring you can spot wildflowers such as primroses, crocuses and snow-drops on its banks.
B5 on Bristol Greenground Map

Old Sneed Park NR

Old Sneed is a secluded local nature reserve in Sneyd Park, northwest Bristol with woodlands, meadows and a small lake. A butterfly haven, Brimstone and Peacock are one of the earliest to emerge from hibernation. With over 40 species of birds recorded you’ll probably hear a few of them including goldcrests, finches and tits. 
C3 on Bristol Greenground Map

Brandon Hill

Brandon Hill and Cabot Tower is not only a tourist site but also a recognised nature reserve right in the middle of the city with birds, amphibians and urban meadows. A fuelling station for migrating birds you may spot redwings and fieldfares on the way back to North Europe later in the spring.
C3 on Bristol Greenground Map

Kingfisher fishing on the pond Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash 

Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve

Portishead is known for its beach and lighthouse, but not everyone knows it also has a large wetland area and nature reserve. Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve is a 100-acre nature site with large pools, ponds, marshes and meadows and an abundance of water-loving birds, animals and plant species. In February look out for frogs and toads and fluffy catkins on the willow trees.

B1 on Bristol Greenground Map

Posted on

Nine viewpoints in Edinburgh to explore this winter

Photo by Robin Canfield on Unsplash 5 min read

Edinburgh‘s well-known viewpoints and hidden lookouts have astounding views Photo by Robin Canfield on Unsplash

Famous for its spectacular views from Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat Edinburgh is less known for its other hills, but the less visited hilltops offer equally magnificent vistas over the city and surrounding landscape. Edinburgh is built on the ‘seven hills’ and is connected to a hill range, so the area has no shortage of peaks to climb. Here are some best viewpoints to discover this winter.

Walkers climbing Arthur’s Seat Photo by Diego Allen on Unsplash

Arthur’s Seat

251m, 4 hours, moderate

Everyone who has visited Edinburgh has seen Salisbury Crags towering over the city, but not all visitors climb Arthur’s Seat (although many do). The impressive volcanic rock in the popular Holyrood Park can be quieter in the winter but don’t count on it on a sunny day, especially near the summit. The park has a network of trails, so if one looks overly crowded, pick an alternative path. Steeper backtrails are great for hill views and wildlife spotting.
B5 on Edinburgh Greenground Map

Hilltop Viewpoint / Edinburgh Zoo

161 m, 1.5 hours, easy

Walks in this wooded hillside zoo not only mean encountering exotic animals but also great views over the city for visitors and residents alike. Located on the side of Corstorphine Hill the best view opens from the Hilltop Viewpoint. If you don’t want to buy the eye-watering zoo ticket (approx £20), hike the slightly more modest Corstorphine Hill Viewpoint managed by the local nature reserve.
B3 on Edinburgh Greenground Map

A passage with a view, the vista from Vennel viewpoint Photo ©Magnus Hagdorn / Flickr

The Vennel Viewpoint & Castle Rock

140m, 1 hour, easy

For some great wintery snaps of Castle Rock take a detour through this historic passageway connecting Lauriston Place to Grassmarket. The view from hidden steps is especially scenic after the snowfall. After you have admired the vista warm up in one of the many cafes in Grassmarket or if you want to continue to the castle (and are up for a steep climb), follow the narrow Castle Wynd passageway that takes you directly to the entrance.
B4 on Edinburgh Greenground Map

Cramond Beach & Island

2-3 miles, 2 hours, easy
Cramond island is one of the twelve islands in the Firth of Forth and can be accessed via a mile-long causeway during the low tide. It has some good views over the coastline and you can get a glimpse of Forth Bridge without leaving Edinburgh. Check tide times on the city council notice board to make sure you have enough time to get back on the land or just take a stroll on the beach and take in the sea views over the estuary from the shore.
A2 on Edinburgh Greenground Map

Visit Calton Hill during the golden hour Photo by Colin + Meg on Unsplash

Calton Hill

103m, 1,5 hours, easy

One of the most visited in Edinburgh, Calton Hill has views of a different light in the winter when the sun rises later in the morning and sets earlier in the evenings. Golden hour is the hour after sunrise and before sunset when the light is soft and Edinburgh looks especially magical during these times. Climb the hill on a clear sunny day and look out for the spot with a clear view. Wrap up warm and bring a hot drink in case you have to wait for a perfect shot.
B4 on Edinburgh Greenground Map

Buckstone Snab

208m, 2 hours, easy

Buckstone Snab is the highest point of Braid Hills with nearly 360-degree views over the city and Firth of Forth. Walk up the Braid Hills Trail until you reach the viewpoint with an indicator pointing to all seven Edinburgh hills. After you have rested on the bench and admired the view, continue hiking the whole loop circling the local golf club or even continuing to close by Blackford Hill.
C4 on Edinburgh Greenground Map

Blackford Hill

164m, 2 hours, easy

360 degrees viewpoint on Blackford Hill is a local nature reserve and popular recreation point crisscrossed with pathways. It’s connected to Braid Hills with pathways and you can combine the two hills on one walk. Royal Observatory is located here, so with clear winter skies it’s a great place for stargazing. If you want to try out bouldering, check out the Agassiz Rock beside Blackford Quarry.
C4 on Edinburgh Greenground Map

View of Glencorse Reservoir, Pentland Hills, Edinburgh Photo by David Spalding on Unsplash

Allemuir Hill / Pentland Hills Regional Park

493m, 1 day, moderate

If Arthur’s Seat is well traversed then few visitors know that Pentland Hills Regional Park is a spacious mountain range right next to Edinburgh with easy access from the city. Only a short bus ride from Edinburgh (Stop Snowsports Centre) Allemuir Hill is the closest summit with panoramic views over Edinburgh and twice the height of Arthur’s Seat. Follow the way-marked trails down to beautiful Glencorse Reservoir and catch a bus back from Castlelaw Inn.  
D4-E4 on Edinburgh Greenground Map

Craiglockhart Hill & Nature Reserve

158m & 175 m, 2 hours, easy

With two summits hidden between the urban landscape, this hill is one of Edinburgh’s best-kept secrets. Easter hill is a secluded local wildlife reserve with woods, nature trails and wildlife. Wester hill, the more exposed and higher of the two summits is a great place to watch the sunset. Take the bus 36 (Stop at Glenlockhart Bank) and the trails take you up to both summits.
C4 on Edinburgh Greenground Map

Find these viewpoints on the Edinburgh Greenground Map – your guide to 200+ green spaces, waterways and nature sites. Walk along the official paths, discover hidden gems or tailor your own custom adventures – you’ll never run out of ideas with this tube-style map with a new perspective.

Posted on

Copenhagen Greenground Map – a green guide for walkers and cyclists

4 min read
Copenhagen Greenground Map – Connecting parks & open spaces

Copenhagen is one of my favourite cities to walk and I’ve been looking forward making this map to inspire others to visit this cool, green and sustainably thinking European city. The first Copenhagen Greenground Map selects 360  parks and open spaces, linking them together with 12 creative green and blue lines for memorable day hikes and bike trips in and around the city. The map also features some camping sites and plenty of activities, inspiring you to explore outside city boundaries and discover the open spaces in Greater Copenhagen suburbia.

As usual the Greenground Map does not map the transport network, but it shows where to go! The map connects the parks and interest points to give you the oversight of the city based of its landscape and natural connections, so the Copenhagen becomes an intertwined network of canals, rivers, green paths, nature reserves and coastline. It will change the way you’ll perceive the city and helps finding interest points outside the centre, whether these are forests, hill-tops, beaches or even giant wooden trolls!

Close-up of the map

With 385 kilometres (239 miles) dedicated bike lanes in the city and even bike bridges crossing the harbour it’s easy to get around on the bike. This is remarkable considering London has about the same length of bike lanes (data from 2020), when being nearly 9 times bigger in size. It gets even better as you can take a bike on metro or S-Train (outside rush hours) and even catch the harbour bus for the price of public transport. All these perks make Copenhagen one of the most bike friendly cities in the world.

If you have time in your hands Copenhagen is also a great city to explore on foot and travelling on the public transport network is a great way to get around. Travelling in Copenhagen area is relatively cheap considering the 3 zone ticket costs about 5€ . The airport for example is in zone 3 and the Greenground Map shouldn’t cover area past zone 5. The tickets are even cheaper with local travel card (you have to pay to get one). This option may be worth to explore if you’re planning to stay longer.

Copenhageners have around 42 m2 of public green space per person (this may have changed since this report was published), whereas in Paris this number is less than 10 m2! In any case Copenhagen residents have plenty of opportunities to get close to nature as you’re never further than 300 m from a park, waterway or coastline. With selection of free designated camping sites in Greater Copenhagen as well you can spend a night or two outdoors, if you are venturing out for a longer hike or biking trip.

For art and design lovers the Greenground Map also has a dedicated museum line as many are surrounded by greenery or are located near the waterways. Either you’re into contemporary art or more traditional folk art, you’ll find something to match your interest or just have a nice day out in cultural or historic surroundings. If you’re planning a day out with kids, they would love exploring a huge nature playground or play on a beach near an old military fort you can find from the map.

Crowing seems to be in the nature of the Copenhageners and you can find many growing sites in the city such as this remarkable neighbourhood of round allotments. But now the planting seems to have moved on rooftops, where creative growers have started new era of urban farms with accompanying restaurants to hang out with friends in the evenings. You can also find organic food in Copenhagen street markets, best places to eat & drink and people spot, if you need some fuel up for your long walks.

Copenhagen Greenground Map is now available in our shop!

Green network for walking and cycling

Greenground Maps are based on Google Maps directions.

Additional resources: