Grow Wilder: urban beacon of hope

Urban wildlife is in trouble, but at Avon Wildlife Trust, we’ve got a solution. And the best news is that you can help.

For many people growing up in our cities and towns a generation ago, interacting with wildlife was just as much a part of life as it was for their country cousins. The call of an owl in the park? Historically, as normal as the cheery sound of the ice cream van. The sight of a hedgehog scuttling behind a hedge at dawn? No more surprising to a child of the seventies than the familiar sight of the lollipop lady. It’s hardly surprising that reading about the state of the wildlife in our cities today can be a bleak business.

The sad truth is that more than half of the UK’s species are in trouble, and urban creatures are no exception. Take hedgehogs, for example - urban numbers have plummeted by 30% since the turn of the century.  Meanwhile, sparrows decreased by a staggering 60% between 1994 and 2004 in some of the UK’s most built-up areas. Amphibians are also suffering, with toad populations thought to have declined by 68% across the UK in the last 30 years, partly due to the neglect of urban ponds.

There are beacons of hope, however, and one of the most exciting is right here in Bristol. In the year we are celebrating our 40th birthday, it is fitting that we are also celebrating one of our flagship sites which solves the problem of declining urban wildlife.

Grow Wilder is our 12-acre organic food production hub in the heart of Bristol and is host to 7 independent food producers, a wildflower nursery and a flourishing living seed bank as well as ponds, chickens, and even some goats. This inspiring place bears witness to one little-known fact: urban food growing land has the highest diversity and abundance of pollinators out of all categories of land, both urban and rural.

Allow that to sink in. It’s amazing, isn’t it? It means that there really is a way of helping nature to recover, in our cities, whilst also providing the food that communities need.

Visit Grow Wilder in the Stapleton area of Bristol and see for yourself. The place is humming with life. Bees, birds, butterflies and tadpoles – they are all there in abundance, as are lines of lush veggies and, as spring marches on, ever-growing cascades of wildflowers.

It’s flourishing with human life too, because it is used by every part of the community. Children meet for nature sessions in our ‘My Wild Child’ and ‘Wildlife Watch’ groups. Many volunteers find solace from their busy lives there – or even gain valuable work experience. Visitors attend our wildlife gardening courses, perhaps buying some wildflowers from the nursery at the same time.

Now the future is bright for Grow Wilder because we have big dreams for it. We are planning to create a beautiful community space to welcome visitors as they arrive: a stunning, low impact eco building which will make this inspiring site even more inviting to even more people. There will be rooms to be used by local people, a shop selling food grown on the site, and a café for sitting and dreaming as you enjoy the view of our wonderful garden.

Therefore it’s with pleasure that we’re launching our Crowdfunder on our website, to help us make this dream become a reality. So please, do consider showing your support. You might even claim one of the fantastic rewards we’re offering. Together we can help solve the ecological emergency here in Bristol.

Donate to our Crowdfunder today