The Downs are composed of two separate areas – but how are they divided.? Gerry Nichols, a keen historian of the Downs, gives a description, whilst Mandy Leivers finds mere stones.
My personal memories are from 1953 onwards. We had a dog so I was walking dogs up there, so that’s 50 years of knowing just about every bit of the Durdham Downs. As you may know the Downs consist of two parts, the old Clifton Down which is really the Bridge Valley Road/Observatory area, which was owned by the Merchant Venturers, and the other part, which I knew better is the Durdham Down which is the area from really the zoo up to St Monicas, the white tree. And that was owned by the manor of Henbury and bought by the corporation, and that was their contribution to the Downs of 1861. There are a number of markers from the water tower and those are the old city boundary which are also the Clifton and Westbury parish boundaries, and have been taken more or less as the boundary between the Clifton and Durdham Downs. It’s quite interesting that in the days when there were sheep roaming on the Downs, because there were two separate commons there were two pounds. But it was really recognised that you couldn’t keep sheep to a notional boundary so it’s really a matter of usage rather than a precise definition.
So we are at the top o the gulley, so that’s the little valley that goes down to the Portway, and we’re just approaching two little sort of raggedy old stones. They’re called ‘mere stones’, and they are boundary markers, and apparently ‘mere’ is an anglo-saxon word meaning boundary. So on one side this stones says CP, so that measn where we’re standing now we’re in Clifton Parish, and we are on Clifton Down. If you walk round the stones on the other side it says WP, that means we are in Westbury Parish, and we are now on Durdham Down. And if you just look underneath the tree that’s just ahead of us, can you just see to the right of it there’s some stones, and they actually run all the way across the Downs, towards the water tower. Now the interesting thing is the stones diverge and there’s a bit of a no mans land, nobody’s quite sure why, where one bit doesn’t seem to belong to either parish. It’s not as if Stoke Road – that sides Durdham Down and that side’s Clifton Down because it actually goes up here, veers off at an angle towards the water tower, and then goes along to the triangle that’s at the top of Blackboy Hill.