We visit Fishponds and discover an area where change is in the air ... just don’t mention the ‘G-word’

Walk along the high street and you’ll still see plenty of signs of ‘old Fishponds’ but things are changing

The G-word crops up quite a bit in Fishponds these days. That’s ‘G’ for gentrification, of course, as this north-east area of Bristol is a changing neighbourhood, a place very much ‘on the up’ as estate agents say.

A few years ago, this would have been an area where first-time buyers flocked but a quick look at the current properties for sale in Fishponds reveals a number of houses nudging the £600,000 mark.

People are already likening the changes to what happened in Southville 20 years ago, and the Redfield and St George area in recent years.

Walk along the main Fishponds Road and you’ll still see plenty of signs of ‘old Fishponds’ with its betting shops, barbers and charity shops, but things are changing.

The Victorian-built Full Moon pub is now The Crafty Egg, a newly opened cafe that also sells house plants in terracotta pots at £35 a pop.

With its vintage chapel chairs, tables made from upcycled floorboards and a Kentia palm sprouting from an old chimney next to the kitchen, it’s almost unrecognisable from the pub it was.

The Crafty Egg is one of the new cafes to open on Fishponds Road in recent months

Big on brunch, you can order a Vegan Crafty (veggie pattie, marinated tofu, sautéed potatoes, mushrooms, kale, beans, tomato salsa and toast) and wash it down with a blueberry and banana smoothie made with oat milk.

Across the road is the new Fishponds branch of Fed, which has gained a huge following since opening earlier this year.

On the breakfast menu, there’s salted maple granola with cardamom apricots, Earl Grey prunes, raspberries, Greek yoghurt and pistachios.

Lunch options include ‘abundantly filled’ brioche buns and sourdough toasties with such enticing fillings as creamed leeks, fresh thyme and West Country Cheddar.

Fed opened on Fishponds Road earlier this year and is already a popular spot with the locals

Around the corner from Fed is Artichoke Wholefoods, which was opened by husband and wife Penny and Jonny Barnett just under a year ago.

With its range of locally sourced food and drink products, fresh fruit and vegetables, zero-waste scoop and refill section and gifts made by local artists, Artichoke Wholefoods has been an instant hit.

Prior to opening, nutritional therapist Penny and professional musician Jonny crowdfunded £15,000 with 150 supporters in 28 days.

Penny says that the first year of trading has been good even though the return to shopping on the high street has been slow for some people who are still buying online.

But she adds that the arrival of other like-minded businesses on Fishponds Road has noticeably increased passing trade.

Penny Barnett, who runs Fishponds shop Artichoke Wholefoods with husband Jonny

“We opened just before The Crafty Egg and Fed so since they opened there have been more people on the high street.

“There’s a community feel and our shop has become a place where people meet. A lot of people working from home come here for their break, buy a coffee and pastry and then go back home. People seem to really love the shop and they come in every day, even thanking us for opening.”

Having lived and worked in Southville before, Penny can also spot the similarities between the two areas.

“I lived in Southville before it became gentrified so I saw it happen and it feels similar, but there’s still a lot of old Bristol here which is a good thing, it’s a real mix.

“We moved into the area and bought a house on shared ownership because that’s what we could afford. Before that, we had been spoilt in other areas for shops where we rented but there wasn’t a shop like this so we opened one ourselves!”

But despite the success of the first year, Penny and Jonny are now having to crowdfund again for the next stage of the business. The crowdfunder is for £30,000, which will go towards the next stage of the business.

“I don’t know if it’s because of the energy bills but the past week has been a lot quieter and it is a worry.

“We’re starting a new crowdfunder because we didn’t have enough capital when we started and we’re still trying to catch up.

“I’ve managed similar shops before but not run one and we didn’t know how busy we would be so underestimated how much stock we would need.

“We also didn’t anticipate having to employ extra staff so cashflow has been difficult. When you buy things like the refills, you don’t make a huge margin and you might not get that money back for weeks or months.

“It has been a full-on year with ups and downs but we have no regrets and there are lots of things we want to do with the shop which is why we are crowdfunding again.”

Gamescene on Fishponds Road has been open for more than 20 years

A few doors from Artichoke Wholefoods is Gamescene, which has been a popular shop with gamers for the past two decades.

Craig Baldwin has worked in the shop for 20 years and says business is still ‘ticking over’ although the high street isn’t as busy as it used to be and Gamescene has other challenges to deal with.

“The internet downloads haven’t helped our game sales. People can subscribe to yearly online subscriptions for top games now and that has affected us.

“But there are still people who prefer a physical copy of a game and they can trade it back in which they can’t do with a download so there’s always going to be a market for that.”

According to Craig, PlayStation 5 console games outsell Xbox ‘tenfold’ in the shop and current best-sellers include Fifa 23, The Last of Us and Saints Row. The shop also sells a lot of new Pokémon products.

But the shopping habits of locals has changed over the years and Craig says that’s especially noticeable in the run up to Christmas.

“When I first started, Christmas started at the start of December, even in November. Now it’s after the internet cut-off date.

“People now come in a few days before Christmas, when the final online deliveries are over. That’s when it picks up in the shop, sometimes as late as December 22!”

Further up Fishponds Road is The Pet Shop, which has been run by Sarah Skuse for the past seven years. As well as pet food and accessories, it sells house and bedding plants.

Sarah admits that the so-called ‘gentrification’ of Fishponds has passed under her radar but she has noticed a few changes in recent years.

“Obviously, there are a few posher food establishments opening up now. The Crafty Egg seems to be doing well - that used to be the The Full Moon when I was younger.

“There’s definitely a good mix. You’ve got your Wetherspoons but you’ve also got Snuffy Jack’s, a craft ale micropub.

“House prices are going up around here but you get more for your money in shops like mine. My house plants are a lot cheaper than they are in areas with a similar feel like Gloucester Road but it’s heading that way I think.

“I wouldn’t say Fishponds is getting any posher or more gentrified - I think it has always had different types of people and always been quite diverse.”