My Wild City – transforming hidden spaces for wildlife and people

(c) Adam Chlebik

Eight local wildlife sites, eight distinct neighbourhoods across Bristol, eight communities of children, families, professionals and older people, eight hidden havens for wildlife and people. Over the next three years, we’re bringing people closer to wonderful urban spaces through an exciting programme of family days, creative experiences, school visits and practical conservation days in our My Wild City project. Here’s how we’re getting started…

Nature on the doorstep

My Wild City is all about enhancing, exploring and enjoying the hidden wildlife havens we have in our city – those forgotten places where nature rules. Places where we can step out of the concrete into a shaded valley with a brook or head up a hill to emerge above the city skyline and see rolling hills heading out to sea.

We want to give more people the opportunity to experience nature on their doorstep. Working closely with local people to create these opportunities – from water testing with the Friends of Coombe Brook Valley group, to working with resident-led community organisation Ambition Lawrence Weston and community theatre company Brave Bold Drama, we’re developing activities and events that offer something different. Each place is special, each community is unique, and this is what makes the My Wild City project so exciting.

At Lawrence Weston Moor we were delighted to meet artist Jules Woolford. Jules has spent the last eight years observing and recording wildlife on these sites and will be helping us to deliver arts and nature-based activities.

Linking schools with local nature havens

This September we started working with eight primary schools across Bristol to empower pupils, teachers and parents to explore and learn about an amazing local wildlife site within walking distance of their school. And linking school communities with their nearest nature site is a core part of the My Wild City project. One school we are working with is Oasis Academy Longcross in Lawrence Weston, which is in walking distance of Saltmarsh Drive Open Space. We’re working with the school and the wider community to transform this hidden natural gem, which already teems with butterflies and orchids, into a safe and enjoyable place for local families to visit.

Our conservation work ahead

As autumn and winter progress, the landscape across the eight local wildlife sites is changing as leaves fall and trees and shrubs prepare for four months of dormancy. Seeds have set and small mammals prepare to bed down and hibernate, waiting for the seasonal abundance of insect prey next spring. But this is the busiest time of year for managing the landscapes of the eight different sites. Our plans this season will focus on reinstating woodland management techniques like coppicing and selective tree thinning, which benefit biodiversity and create a range of wildlife-rich habitats within the woodland system.

We are particularly interested in preserving and protecting ancient trees that still exist as remnants of a more rural landscape at the fringes of the city. Sites like Dundry Slopes and Stockwood Open Space in south Bristol contain a wealth of these beautifully gnarled and wizened oak and ash trees, some hundreds of years old. Their huge size and increased potential for hollowing and dead wood habitat make them an invaluable nesting, sheltering and feeding resource for a wide range of species. In order to ensure these giants last for many more years, we will be selectively felling younger trees nearby that cast shade and compete for resources, a process known as ‘haloing’. Another benefit of this kind of work is increased light levels on the woodland floor, which will help woodland flowers like moschatel, Bath asparagus and yellow archangel flourish next spring and summer.

The eight local wildlife sites are:

  • Dundry Slopes
  • Northern Slopes
  • Hengrove Mounds and Hawkfield Meadow
  • Lawrence Weston Moor
  • Saltmarsh Drive Open Space
  • Stockwood Open Space
  • Coombe Brook Valley
  • Dundridge Woodland

Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, The National Lottery Heritage Fund has awarded funding to this project. If you would like to get involved in the My Wild City project, please email mywildcity@avonwildlifetrust.org.uk.