Located in the heart of Bristol is a glorious expanse of open green space known affectionately as ‘the Downs’. Enjoyed by residents and visitors to the city, the Downs offers a peaceful place to sit back and relax, be at one with nature and its protected surroundings, take part in sports and recreation activities, or enjoy events and entertainment.

With Bristol City Council, SMV jointly owns and cares for the Downs, working together with the support and expertise of stakeholders to manage and protect this space for the people of Bristol.

Alongside Bristol’s Lord Mayor and Councillors from Bristol City Council, seven representatives from SMV work together to protect and manage the Downs, serving on what’s known as the Downs Committee. This group of passionate, experienced and dedicated professionals are in effect the guardians of this jewel in Bristol’s crown. They meet on a regular basis with stakeholders who all have an interest in this green space, to ensure that it stays protected as a place of recreation for everyone.

The guiding principles of the Downs Committee include how the open space is used for both recreation and conservation,  the role of events, funding, infrastructure and engagement with communities.

The Downs Committee came into being by an Act of Parliament in 1861, which brought together by law the two landowners (SMV and Bristol City Council) to become the joint guardians of this precious space, placing the Downs in safe hands.

SMV’s members bring to the Downs Committee many years of experience in business and management, as well as a love for Bristol and a commitment to protect the Downs for the long-term.

The Downs Committee holds regular meetings, details of which can be found here.

Click on the links below to learn more about the history of the Downs and the Downs Act; how and why the Downs thrives today; and what the Downs has meant to Bristol during the pandemic. Some of the facts might surprise you!

Did you know?

  • There are over 2,294 trees growing on the Downs plateau, not including woodland trees on the gorge edges.
  • Durdham Down was the original home of Gloucester Cricket Club.
  • There are two scheduled ancient monuments on the Downs. One is the Roman Road on Durdham Down, the other is the Clifton Down Camp – an Iron Age Fort with overlying medieval field system.
  • There are 13 groups or individuals who have grazing rights for a total of 1885 sheep on the Downs. The rights are maintained by tethering at least one sheep on the Downs for one day every five years.
  • The Downs plateau runs roughly three km along the north east/southwest axis, and approximately one km at its widest point. It’s bounded on the western edge by the Avon Gorge. Ladies Mile forms a spine down the centre of the site.