Another Sunday, another #Bristots review for you lovely people! Today, I am reviewing a very local spot to me; Vassals Park on Oldbury Court Estate in Fishponds. Vassals is somewhere I go without even thinking about it – for those of you with friends of the furry variety, you will seldom find somewhere quite so pawesome as Vassals. I’ve been coming here since I was very tiny since my Auntie & Uncle’s house backs straight onto it and my Mum grew up in Fishponds, so it’s a favourite jolly of ours.
Until the last year or so, though, we’d only used it as somewhere for a slow Sunday wander with Lily, and a spot of Geocaching, even though it was one of our favourites places to be. Since having Darcey (and particularly since she’s been walking) it’s fast become a place of great excitement for a toddler wanting to explore the world. Vassals has everything from vast green spaces, plenty of shade, a huge play area to fantastic shallow waters which are perfect for welly boot splashing and then more faster flowing water which is great for chasing Pooh Sticks!
We had a mediocre summer (in terms of weather!) last year but Sarah, our friend Lauren and I had a couple of lovely visits where we parked up in the free on-site car park (which also has an overflow in busy summer months) and chucked down a blanket ready to park ourselves for a very happy couple of hours. It’s also very accessible via the Cycle Track although if you aren’t a walker then the bus routes are easily accessible from Straits Parade, just down the road.
Ted, Eloise and Darcey had a lovely afternoon, where we could hide them from the sunshine when needed but where the expanse of grass was so big that we could see them everywhere we turned. (Maybe this summer will be a bit different when they are all faster than us!). If you stay at the top of Vassals, you avoid all the water so it’s perfect for family picnics or an hour’s play in the park. Sometimes in warmer weather there is also a bouncy castle which carries an entrance fee, and you can always pick up a coffee and a cake in the little outlet just outside of the play area.
However, if you feel like going on a Bear Hunt, venture further into the woods and discover some more of the delights that Vassals has to offer, following the meandering river whilst feeding the ducks (or for us when we have Lily; climbing up the banks and hunting in caves and finding hidden pathways) and you will find yourself ending up at Snuff Mills at the other end of the Estate. To do this with little people you may find that their legs tire as it’s around a 45-60 minute walk depending on your pace, so you might want to bring a pushchair, or carrier of some description. All the main paths are easily accessible for prams but you may find they need a scrub after wet weather!
This summer, Vassals also got involved in the Shaun in the City Trail so we had great fun hunting for this owl-inspired sheep on my Mum’s birthday with some of Darcey’s cousins. Walking to this end of Vassals also provides another opportunity for a coffee break as there is another little home made cafe at the Snuff Mills end – they do great sausage sandwiches which are perfect for cold winter days! At both ends you will find fairly new toilet blocks and there is free parking at both sides.
- Where is Vassals Park? Depending on which side is closer for you to enter, either: off Oldbury Court, Fishponds, Bristol, BS16 2JH or at the end of River Yew, Stapleton, Bristol, BS16 1DL
- When is it open? It’s open all year round. I imagine the tea huts aren’t, though, so you may want to come prepared if it’s a holiday.
- How much does it cost? It’s free! Even the parking doesn’t cost a penny, which is pretty unusual nowadays.
- What facilities are on site? There is a dog-free play area, lots of benches and two toilet blocks. Two different points for purchasing food and drink and lots of spots for fishing. For those interested there is lots of Geocaching, too! There are also a couple of football and cricket pitches for older children. In the summer you’ll also find an ice cream van just outside the play area.
- Is it pushchair/wheelchair accessible? Yes – there are paths the whole way round although they do get very muddy in the winter season.
- Is there parking? Yes, and it’s completely free! Go to either of the addresses above and you’ll find car parks both sides of the Estate.
I’d love to think that Darcey grows up with fond memories of Vassals, as I have done, and I know we’ll continue to visit Vassals often for a long time to come. It’s genuinely one of those places that’s as good in winter as it is in summer so if you haven’t done already, stick on some wellies and check it out! (Darcey says you’ll love it!)