New home for wildlife within city gateway

Saturday 5th April 2014

Bennett's Patch and White's Paddock nature reserveBennett's Patch and White's Paddock nature reserve

A major Avon Wildlife Trust project to celebrate Bristol being European Green Capital in 2015.

A derelict site next to the A4 Portway - one of the main gateways into Bristol - has been acquired by Avon Wildlife Trust to create a new nature reserve.

This 12-acre former sports ground at the entrance to the Avon Gorge, soon to be named Bennett's Patch and White's Paddock nature reserve, will create new habitats for wildlife and provide a new space for local communities and visitors to enjoy.

Funding has already been secured for the purchase from Viridor Credits Environmental Company, through the Landfill Communities Fund, and there has been additional generous support from donors Timothy Bennett and Peter and Patricia White.

Previous attempts to revitalise the area have failed to gain planning consent and it has become an eyesore, blighted by vandalism, within one of the area's greatest landscapes, the Avon Gorge.

The Trust's vision, which has won support from local residents and Bristol Mayor George Ferguson, is to create a new reserve which champions the importance of making new homes for nature, inspiring others to do the same during Green Capital Year and beyond. Wildlife which already uses the area as a wildlife corridor include barn owls, several bat species, badgers, hedgehogs and slow worms.

We hope this project will be a great contribution to celebrating Bristol being European Green Capital for 2015

The site of the Bennett’s Patch and White’s Paddock Reserve is historically significant to Bristol, and our vision is for it to play an important role in the city’s future. Long before it became the Bristol & West Sports Ground, the site was used to dispose of waste material from the Second World War’s Blitz raids, and the new reserve will contain a memorial to the women who supported Bristol during the war.

The Trust's vision is also to engage hundreds of volunteers in the project. The Trust hopes to demonstrate the important role of habitat creation for wildlife and the importance of people being connected to nature. Replicating the success of community engagement on the Trust's Feed Bristol project in Stapleton, the Trust will work with schools, businesses and therapeutic care agencies to create the site and inspire thousands to make homes for wildlife in their own gardens and communities.

A major £120,000 appeal is also being launched to help meet the Trust’s ambitions for the site and to engage people with the Trust's work during European Green Capital Year.

There is significant potential to increase the biodiversity of the site as well as improve the ecological connectivity within Avon Gorge, in turn creating somewhere for people to enjoy.

The site is next to Bishops Knoll Woodland and Old Sneed Park Nature Reserve, owned by the Woodland Trust and Bristol City Council respectively, and the area is linked through large gardens and woodland to the River Trym valley and the Downs and the Avon Gorge. The Gorge is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and an internationally significant botanical area.

Subject to formal planning approval, habitat creation at Bennett's Patch and White's Paddock reserve will include a wildflower meadow, native woodland, hedgerows and ponds. Visitors from across the city and beyond will be encouraged to create new homes for wildlife in their own gardens. The site will also have paths suitable for wheelchair users.

Avon Wildlife Trust's Chief Executive Dr Bevis Watts said: "We are grateful for the support already received from Viridor Credits, our donors and a large number of stakeholders including the Bristol Mayor George Ferguson.

"We hope this project will be a great contribution to celebrating Bristol being European Green Capital for 2015."

He added: "A major State of Nature report published by 25 conservation organisations in 2013 showed that 60% of over 3,000 UK wildlife species surveyed are in decline. We must reverse that for our own wellbeing and creating new homes for wildlife as well as enhancing existing ones is an important part of that."

Bristol Mayor George Ferguson commented: "I express strong support for Avon Wildlife Trust's vision to create a new nature reserve along the Portway, one of the major entrances to Bristol. The project is exciting for both wildlife and for the extent the Trust intends to engage the local community."

Lisa Nelson, Manager of Viridor Credits Environmental Company commented: “Preserving and enhancing our green spaces for people and wildlife is an important aim of the Landfill Communities Fund, and I am proud that Viridor Credits is playing such a big role in Bristol’s Green City celebrations."

Bill Redmond, Chair of Sneyd Park Residents Association, commented: “Sneyd Park residents are relieved that such a splendid solution has at last been found for this important threshold to Bristol after years of dereliction.”

The Trust has acquired an 848-year lease on the site. A formal planning application will be made imminently with works hopefully starting late summer to be able to open the reserve to the public early in 2015.

TLT solicitors acted for Avon Wildlife Trust in the purchase and DTZ were the selling land agents.

To support Avon Wildlife Trust's ambitious £120,000 2015 Appeal and help create a wildlife haven please go to the Just Giving page at http://www.justgiving.com/awt2015 or call the Trust on 0117 917 7270.