My Wild City - discovering nature on our doorstep

Nick Turner

My Wild City is a celebration of the wild places we have in Bristol. Funding from the National Heritage Lottery Fund is helping us bring people closer to their local green spaces in 8 different communities in the city. We are working with volunteers to improve wildlife habitats, working with local schools, and running a programme of creative and nature-based activities to engage people of all ages and backgrounds with urban wildlife. My Wild City proves you don’t need to travel far to get your dose of health-boosting nature. We invite you to slow down, go exploring and discover the wild city on your doorstep..

I started work on the My Wild City project in 2019 during the development year of the project. My work is all about helping as many people as possible in these eight places to discover and connect to nature on their doorstep. I love getting to know the different spaces through the seasons and working with so many active, creative and inspiring people in these places is amazing.”

By working closely with local organisations such as the Northern Slopes Initiative, theatre and arts group Brave Bold Drama and Ambition Lawrence Weston, and passionate individuals we are helping to develop strong community networks that know about and champion their local wildlife. Through these networks we are helping more people, from different backgrounds, and of different ages to explore nature. From fun family sessions to foraging forays, dawn chorus walks and species surveys, wellbeing walks and more creative and unusual ways of interacting with the natural world.

Outdoor spaces have become even more important to most of us living in the city over the past year. Although My Wild City paused for most of 2020 through the first lockdown, we were encouraged by the fact that more and more people were finding value and solace in the green areas near to their homes. Since our return in August, we’ve heard many stories about people discovering their local wildlife site for the first time or exploring new parts. One of the comments I hear most often is “I’ve lived here for so long and didn’t even know this place was here!”

While My Wild City has been on hold our practical volunteering group the Wild City Action Team (known locally as the Wild Cats) have been climbing the walls without their usual Tuesday workdays on site. Fortunately, in October we did manage to run three successful foraging walks with foraging expert Martin from GoForage. People loved learning how to create healthy soups or fantastic cocktails from the free, wild foods around them. Our series of How to Be an Explorer family fun events also went down a treat, despite the half term rains. Children had a great time jumping in puddles, discovering their spirit animal and becoming intrepid wild explorers.

Although winter is drawing in, and this is set to be a particularly challenging one, these green spaces offer the perfect antidote to the winter blues. Get wrapped up, take a flask of something warm and head out for free, mood and immunity boosting walks in nature. It’s proven, spending time in nature makes us happier, healthier humans!

All the My Wild City sites are open 24hrs a day, 365 days per year, and the eight sites are wonderfully diverse. Spread across the city each has something special to offer, from ancient woodlands to old orchards laden with apples, meandering streams in hidden valleys to high hills with views across Bristol and out to sea. If you're around Bristol, why not explore your local one, or hop on your bike and explore all eight?

The eight local wildlife sites are:

My Wild City - Dundry Slopes

Dundry Slopes is a beautiful, wooded hillside connecting Bristol to the rolling hills of North Somerset. With stunning views over the city to the north and countryside to the south, being this high up gives a real escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Explore the network of paths that wind through old woodland, criss-crossing streams lush with ferns and horsetails. Once deep in the woodland you might forget you’re in the city at all.  

My Wild City - Northern Slopes

The Northern Slopes are made up of three green spaces near to Knowle and Bedminster in South Bristol.  Wedmore Vale (the Bommie) and Glyn Vale are designated Local Nature Reserves and home to many species of birds, slow worms, badgers and hedgehogs. There are wildflower meadows and woods with streams to explore, and if you make it the top, beautiful views over Bristol to the suspension bridge.

My Wild City - Hengrove / Hawkfield

Hengrove Mounds is a hidden gem near to the popular Hengrove Playpark. Continue round the path and you’ll discover a wildlife haven that has developed over old landfill site. The raised doughnut shape of the mounds provides a circular walk amongst wildflowers and scrub that provides habitat for many butterflies, bees and insects. Hawkfield meadow is a valuable patch of remnant countryside home to rare bees and many butterflies.

Lawrence Weston Moor

Lawrence Weston Moor - between the Lawrence Weston and the M5 lies a little slice of history. Remnant countryside criss-crossed by rhines that are home to Bristol’s most endangered species, the water vole. Tune out of the roar of the motorway and you can forget all about the city, enjoying impressive old oak trees, ponds and if you’re lucky the sight of a deer bounding through the long grass.

My Wild City - Saltmarsh Drive Open Space

(c) Adam Chlebik

Home to a beautiful old orchard that was recently restored by volunteers, Saltmarsh Drive Open Space (Longcross tip) is a patch of old farmland divided by small paths and rhines. Situated behind Lawrence Weston Community Farm, the site is a great place to explore on foot, taking time to spot birds and butterflies in summer and enjoying the silhouettes of trees and foraging for free food in winter.

My Wild City - Stockwood Open Space

(c) Nick Turner

One of the largest patches of green space in Bristol, Stockwood Open Space boasts ancient woodland, beautiful wildflower meadows, ponds and a large orchard brimming with apples in the autumn. An excellent place to go exploring in the winter where you can forage for winter berries, explore hidden paths, and keep an eye out for the deer that are often spotted bounding across the meadows.  

My Wild City - Coombe Brook Valley

Coombe Brook Valley is a little oasis for wildlife, tucked away amongst housing in Fishponds. Drop down via one of the many pathways, following steps to find a babbling brook that winds along the valley bottom. The nature reserve is home to many species of birds, butterflies and is lined with beautiful trees and ferns.

My Wild City - Dundridge

A wooded valley that connects Dundridge Park and Conham Vale in the east of Bristol, this is the perfect start to a longer walk along the river. Start by exploring the steeply sided slopes, where bluebells emerge in spring and old trees provide homes to all sorts of birds, bats and badgers. At the bottom of the valley a pond has been created by the local volunteer group, now home to frogs, damselflies and a host of other aquatic invertebrates.