I went on a new Bristol bus route showing two sides of the city - and includes a Banksy and canal lock

The number 5 bus links St Anne’s with Clifton for the first time
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The newest bus route across Bristol takes only 40 minutes but it shows users two very different sides of the same city.

The number 5 is one of three new cross-city bus services created by operator First Bus and it travels between St Anne’s and Clifton for the first time.

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It essentially replaces the old 36 bus service to and from St Anne’s, although that only went as far as the city centre and if people wanted to carry on towards Clifton they had to change buses.

But now people living in St Anne’s and parts of Broomhill and east Brislington can jump on the number 5 and travel directly into Clifton Village should they wish to.

The higgledy-piggledy route also stops off in Redfield, Barton Hill and Old Market before reaching Cabot Circus, the city centre and up Park Street towards Clifton.

And it’s certainly a journey that shows two very different sides of Bristol as it travels through one of the most deprived and poorest areas of the city (Barton Hill) and ends up in the richest and most privileged area of Clifton.

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The Banksy mural in Barton HillThe Banksy mural in Barton Hill
The Banksy mural in Barton Hill

To get the full experience, I climbed aboard the single-decker number 5 at its starting point on St Anne’s Road. The service runs roughly every half-hour during weekdays and around every 45 minutes at weekends.

I was the first passenger on the 0938 service but three more people soon got on at Wootton Crescent in the area of St Anne’s Park between St Anne’s and Broomhill.

Within ten minutes, the bus was soon filling up. Six people got on at Ripon Road, four more at First Avenue (a stop opposite the beautiful Nightingale Valley and St Anne’s Woods) and then more passengers climbed aboard as the bus did a loop around St Anne’s and back down to the St Anne’s Road.

The new number 5 bus stops off in Barton Hill The new number 5 bus stops off in Barton Hill
The new number 5 bus stops off in Barton Hill

The bus then travelled over the bridge across the River Avon and over the smaller bridge next to picturesque Netham Lock.

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We were barely ten minutes into the journey and the bus was already pretty full as it continued through the narrow terraced streets of Redfield and past the St Anne's Board Mill Social Club.

As the bus arrived in Barton Hill, it passed the Banksy Valentine’s Day mural on the corner of Marsh Lane - an added bonus for fans of the Bristol street artist - and the vast tower blocks including Barton House.

The bus was by now almost full - so far, more people were getting on than they were getting off - as it went along Days Road and St Philips Causeway towards the Lawrence Hill roundabout and on to Old Market.

The bus travels past Netham Lock near RedfieldThe bus travels past Netham Lock near Redfield
The bus travels past Netham Lock near Redfield

By the time the bus arrived at Cabot Circus (only 23 minutes from the starting point of the route), a few more people got off, presumably shop workers or shoppers, but they were replaced by new passengers, most of whom seemed to be students heading towards the university buildings near Park Street.

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The bus arrived at the city centre at 1010 and eight more people got on, with a further five hopping on at College Green.

Being a new service, a lot of people waiting at bus stops in the city centre and College Green glanced at the number 5 but probably didn’t realise the final part of the route is essentially the same as the popular and always overcrowded number 8 to Clifton Village.

Many of the students got off on Queens Road opposite the museum and at the Victoria Rooms, which meant that only a handful of us remained on the bus as it arrived in Clifton Village and finally stopped at Christ Church.

The bus ends its journey at Christ Church in Clifton VillageThe bus ends its journey at Christ Church in Clifton Village
The bus ends its journey at Christ Church in Clifton Village

Interestingly, the journey back was a very different story. Leaving Christ Church at 10.30am, it arrived back at its original destination 40 minutes later but the bus was much emptier on this journey, with only a handful of passengers by the time it reached the city centre and passing most stops in Redfield and Barton Hill as nobody needed to get on or off.

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There were just two people left on the bus when it reached the final stop.

As well as an important new service connecting people from St Anne’s with the city centre and Clifton, the number 5 is a fascinating route for another reason.

OK, it might not be as scenic as some routes (such as the new 41 that travels past city landmarks like the SS Great Britain and Clifton Suspension Bridge), but it’s a route that shows two very different sides of Bristol as well as serving and linking the richest and poorest areas of the city.

At a time when large cities like Bristol have never seemed more divided, it’s certainly a bus route that shows just how public transport, when affordable and running on time, can be a great leveller and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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