New nature reserve helps put wildlife at the heart of Bristol

Friday 24th April 2015

New nature reserve launch - Bennett's Patch and Whites PaddockNew nature reserve launch - Bennett's Patch and Whites Paddock

This morning Avon Wildlife Trust launched its people's nature reserve, in the Avon Gorge.

Two years in the making, Bennett's Patch and White's Paddock has involved over a thousand people from across Bristol, of all ages and mixed abilities, all enjoying the opportunity to get closer to nature in the heart of the city. Celebrating the launch, the Trust's President, Simon King along with Kevin McCloud and George Ferguson will all took action for local wildlife. Joined by more than 100 supporters they planted trees, plug plants and seeds to further transform the former derelict sports ground into a rich mosaic of habitats.

There will be opportunities throughout the year for the public to enjoy guided walks of the new nature reserve, starting with a community open afternoon on 26 April.

Simon King OBE, renowned wildlife broadcaster and President of Avon Wildlife Trust said, "This is a fantastic moment for Avon Wildlife Trust, the transformation of this incredibly challenging brownfield site not only connects up wildlife habitat in the Avon Gorge, it is helping to inspire a whole city. But this is just the beginning, Bennett's Patch and White's Paddock is a key part of the Trust's wider vision to create wildlife corridors across Bristol. As part of our My Wild City campaign we are calling on everyone to do something amazing for wildlife in their own communities. By restoring nature to the city's gardens and green spaces, Bristol could lead the way in a groundswell of positive action that could be echoed in other towns and cities across the UK and the rest of the world."

Central to creating this people's nature reserve has been the commitment of volunteers, with over 700 people rolling up their sleeves to plant almost 4,000 trees and create wildlife habitat in the first two months! School children, scouts, corporate volunteers and community groups have taken the knowledge and skills learnt at the reserve back to their own communities.
Working in partnership with Kevin McCloud's Bristol-based HAB Housing and Hugh Strange Architects, the Trust has built a unique volunteer cabin, providing a semi-seasonal shelter and classroom. Mindful of the need to cater for wildlife as well as human visitors on site, HAB’s design has a ‘bat hotel’ integrated into the canopy and ‘bee corridors’ will be planted across its concrete substructure.
Kevin McCloud MBE, Chairman of HAB Housing said, “It’s hugely exciting to be opening Avon Wildlife Trust’s newest nature reserve today, and I’m delighted that HAB has been able to contribute to and be part of this collaborative, transformative project for Bristol in its year as European Green Capital.
At HAB we focus on the spaces in-between buildings as much as architecture itself; we like to weave green spaces that provide rich habitats for human beings and wildlife alike. What we have loved about working with the Trust on this project is that it's all about the outdoors – HAB's building, artfully designed by Hugh Strange, is simply a means to allow people to care for and enjoy the ecology of the place.
We hope that thousands of people, and a host of bats and bees as well, will find that our cabin helps them enjoy and appreciate Bennett’s Patch and White’s Paddock."

George Fergusson CBE, Mayor of Bristol, "Bennett's Patch and White's Paddock is a tremendous asset to the city. It is tremendously heartening to see real action happening as part of our year as European Green Capital. We're asking everyone to try and make 15 environmentally friendly changes this year, so please support Avon Wildlife Trust and consider doing something positive for local wildlife as part of your Do 15 pledge.”
Avon Wildlife Trust is a pioneer of urban conservation and Brandon Hill in Bristol became the country's first city centre nature reserve in 1980. Bennett's Patch and White's Paddock, launched during Bristol 2015 and in Avon Wildlife Trust's 35th year, continues this commitment to ensuring wildlife can live and flourish alongside us.
Bevis Watt, CEO of Avon Wildlife Trust said, "Bennett's Patch and White's Paddock is a brownfield site used to dump spoil from the blitz, a former brick works, timber yard and sports ground. The spoil means there are 4m of rubble under most of the site. It had 1.5km of derelict fencing, derelict buildings, soil contamination issues and many more challenges including two unexploded world war II bombs! Despite all of those challenges there are already exciting signs of wildlife to be encouraged - a huge slow worm population and Kestrels and Weasels have already been seen hunting on the site. We hope the reserve's story will inspire people across Bristol to get involved with My Wild City, if you can create meaningful homes for wildlife here you can do it anywhere!