Boardwalk’s co-founder, Nick Stopard muses on the dazzling allure of smaller, independent-led high streets.
Bristol is known for being the home of some of the country’s biggest and most eye-catching stretches of independent shops and cafes. Major urban arteries packed with back-to-back bars, shops and eateries, such as Gloucester Road and North Street, serving some of Bristol’s iconic (and expensive) districts, like Southville and Bishopston.
When we’re talking to home buyers, the classic high streets of Church Road, Sandy Park Road and St Marks Road are also frequently cited as major reasons for increasing interest in areas like St George, Brislington and Easton. From Clifton Village and Whiteladies Road to the Harbourside and Old City, Bristol has multiple hubs, bringing regular visits from tourists and locals alike.
Once home to a wealth of specialist products and trades, such as butchers, bakers, grocers, tailors, ironmongers and more, our high streets are now home to cafes, fresh produce shops, bars, bakeries and barbers. They are places to go to visit pop-up markets, to see graffiti, to eat and drink with friends; places where the experience you have is now the main product on sale, and anything you take away is often locally sourced and/or freshly produced. Social media is awash with street scene photos of the establishments which line these major roads, with much of Bristol’s creative energy and independent spirit pouring out of these popular places.
However, more recently we have found it’s the lesser-known local hubs that are in fact driving a huge amount of demand within certain areas of Bristol. Accessibility to Bristol’s major high streets is appreciated, but no longer a primary driving factor, replaced, we feel, by a sense of community that has developed around some smaller collections of great shops and cafes.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Greenbank, a fantastic area where all our staff really enjoy working, mainly for its relaxed feel and friendly people. This vibe is definitely evident amidst the cluster of just a few shops, a cafe and a pub on Greenbank Road. Probably the most micro of Bristol’s ‘micro high streets’, Greenbank Road is mostly residential but is also home to these establishments, which are so highly regarded by local residents that they come up in almost every conversation we have with buyers and sellers in this popular pocket of BS5.
Matter Whole Foods gives people a ‘go-to’ store for some great fresh produce, plastic-reducing refills and walk-away smoothies. They also offer event space to the local community, a brilliant diversification from an inspiring shop. Just a couple of doors up is the often talked-about Este Kitchen. With its Latin American-inspired mantra and great fresh coffee and food, a visit here makes you realise that every neighbourhood needs an Este.
Adjoining Bellevue Road is also home to some great local newsagents selling more local produce and Bristol-brewed beers. This ‘High Street Hamlet’ is perfectly crowned by The Greenbank Pub, sat proudly on the corner of both streets. The pub gives residents of the area a great space to eat, drink and meet, with a room for events like vintage clothing swaps also available for locals. Greenbank Road is a great example of a trend we are seeing where a highly regarded ‘micro high street’ is attracting home movers to a specific area. It’s a fantastic mix of largely independent establishments where people can spend time with each other, sample some great drinks and food, buy essentials and attend community events, and all just minutes from their homes.
Elsewhere in the city, there are similar examples. On a slightly larger scale, Mina Road is a buzzing independent hub within the hugely popular area of St Werburghs. Home to The Cauldron, Napolita, Sonni’s, and leading to the fantastic City Farm at its top end, it’s also flanked by one of Bristol’s best breweries, Wiper and True. Mina Road is certainly one of the best local hubs but is rarely recognised as such outside of the community of St Werburghs, which it serves so well. It’s not mentioned alongside the likes of Gloucester Road and North Street because of its incomparable size, but we feel it certainly should be when it comes to quality, experience and atmosphere.
Coldharbour Road and North View in Westbury Park are creeping up in the shadows of the greater, more recognised Whiteladies Road. These two small but classy roads are home to some of Bristol’s best eateries, such as Little French and Prego. These venues are great to have on your doorstep but, crucially, and not to be forgotten, these high streets are also often home to successful independent butchers, pharmacies and newsagents, combining the eye-catching with the essential.
Similarly, in southern boroughs of the city, Wells Road, Wyatt’s View and Bishopsworth Road are all home to small strings of shops and cafes, arguably too small for the demand from surrounding homes. It’s in these areas; Knowle, St Annes, and Bishopsworth in which we have seen a huge increase in demand for homes in the past couple of years. So whilst Wapping Wharf, The Mall and Corn Street grab the attention of Instagrammers and the day visitors, we feel it’s the flying popularity of suburb-based micro-high streets that have really helped to drive the moving and shaking in Bristol of late.