Bristol street turned into wildlife haven in a race against the clock

Friday 2nd October 2015

My Wild Street

Avon Wildlife Trust in teaming up with leading UK law firm, Burges Salmon, and garden designers, Earth, Timber, Stone, have created a community project that has changed the urban street scape and attracted wildlife into Easton, Bristol.

The My Wild Street project was a race against time to complete the transformation of 30 front gardens on Stanley Park into wildlife-friendly spaces within two weeks finishing today, Friday 2 October.

With a short time span and a massive amount of gardening, building and construction work to be done, volunteers have worked tirelessly over the past fortnight to successfully complete the project.

To entice wildlife to each garden on Stanley Park, a wide array of bug and insect friendly plants have been planted, including 15 climbers, ten trees and eight hanging baskets. In addition, the team have installed five ponds and built a number of green roof structures and insect hotels. In total, over 580 plants have been introduced. 

96 volunteers from Burges Salmon staff have been involved in the project, with ten dedicated volunteer days and over 900 hours spent on the project in total, including preparatory work and site visits. The firm also provided funding and bought planting and hardware for use in this project.

The firm's volunteers also kept track of the number of steps each took to gauge the benefit of gardening for health and wellbeing which is part of their engagement programme. Volunteer Martyna Etmanska, from Burges Salmon, commented: “The physical and mental benefits of working in nature during the project have been fantastic for volunteers. Not only was it a rewarding experience to be outdoors creating something positive for wildlife, I also walked 6.84km between 9.00am and 5.00pm in comparison to around 4,500 steps on my ‘normal’ day in the office.”

The transformation would not have been possible without the help of a number of organisations and Stanley Park’s residents. Several tonnes of free soil were donated from a local builder and nearby Mivart Street studios loaned free storage space. An endless supply of water, electricity, tea, coffee and good will from residents, Claire and Mark at number 18 Stanley Park, ensured that work could go ahead. On the ground, Avon Wildlife Trust staff were also on site for 11 hours each day to ensure the project went off without a hitch. 

Claire said: “Our street community has really got behind My Wild Street. We contributed to the design of our own gardens, which were a mix of sunny and shady positions, and it has been wonderful to see them take shape. It’s great to that we are now able to enjoy nature right on our doorstep.”

The project has received positive feedback and has also seen lots of interest from residents in surrounding streets, with many coming along to see the work being done and expressing the inspiration they’ve found in the project. Passers-by have been intrigued by the work that has been taking place over the two weeks, with many approaching volunteers to discuss everything from protecting badgers to where to buy newts, and, most commonly, ‘how can I get this done in my street?’. 

Dr Bevis Watts, CEO, Avon Wildlife Trust explained: “We’re over the moon with the feedback we’ve had from ‘My Wild Street’. Both residents and passers-by alike have really been engaged about the importance of nature in our lives and in our cities. Easton was an ideal place for a creative project like My Wild Street, and we’re so pleased it has been the success it is. My Wild Street is part of our work with the city being European Green Capital in 2015, to make healthier, happier communities. We welcome all to come to our My Wild City showcase, which will feature at our Annual Meeting on October 22nd where we will show how our cities can become nature-rich.” 

Burges Salmon Chief Operating Officer, Emma Dowden, is leading the team of volunteers for this project. She said: “Volunteering forms an important part of our wider corporate and social responsibility programme. Everyone at the firm is entitled to one day’s paid annual leave each year to carry out a volunteering activity of their choice. In addition to this, we also undertake team building volunteering exercises as part of our wider learning and development programme.

“We hope that this volunteering project for Avon Wildlife will strengthen our relationship with it as one of our community relationship partners and also help pave the way for other teams within the firm to use as a potential volunteering model moving forward.” 

Full details of the project can be found here and people can follow the progress on Twitter using #MyWildCity. Members of the public are welcome to come down to an open morning on Friday 2nd October from 9.30 – 11.30 am. Bristol’s High Sherriff and Deputy Mayor will be presenting the residents with their own My Wild Street watering cans to help care for their gardens into the future.