Rewilding College Green

Anniversary of Greta Thunberg visit marked by launch of visionary rewilding project to 'green' College Green.

A year on from the visit by Greta Thunberg to Bristol and the successful crowd funder that followed, the anniversary is being marked by the launch of a visionary rewilding project on College Green as part of the reimagining of this iconic public space.

Last year’s rally organised by Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate and led by Greta Thunberg was a call for action on climate change. The event was held in pouring rain that left College Green muddy and damaged from the footsteps of 15,000 people who attended. The resulting crowdfunder to repair the Green, initiated by local resident, Jon Usher, raised a total of £15,575 with an additional contribution of £5,000 from Good Energy.

Bristol and Bath Parks Foundation have been acting as custodians of the fund and co-ordinating an innovative partnership between the Foundation, Bristol Cathedral, Bristol City Council, Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate and Avon Wildlife Trust to begin re-visioning the space. With lawn repairs completed in April 2020 and the majority of the raised funds remaining, the next stage of the project alongside the Cathedral will significantly enhance this green space for nature, providing a new habitat in the heart of the city.

This will include an area of meadows running alongside the Cathedral building and the planting of 500m2 of wildflowers and small flowering trees specifically designed to complement the Cathedral’s architecture together with a new hedgerow of native flowering species. Meadow planting will begin this Spring followed by tree, hedgerow and bulb planting later in the year.

The Very Rev’d Mandy Ford, Dean of Bristol said:
“It is a great joy to be hosting this wild space on College Green in the shelter of Bristol Cathedral, with all its diversity of plants and the promise of insects and birds to enhance the area. As Christians we recognise the importance of care for all Creation and to being good stewards of our buildings and land. This exciting project creates a different kind of space for us to nurture in partnership with others and we look forward to working with the Bristol and Bath Parks Foundation and the City Council in the planting, maintenance and care of this green space.”

Charlee Bennett, Director of Bristol and Bath Parks Foundation commented “We’re delighted to be leading this partnership to explore new and innovative ways to support more nature in the heart of Bristol. Today we are setting out plans for the first stage of what we hope will be a long-term project to re-vision College Green for nature. Bristol City Council has already improved the flower bed beside City Hall to support a wider range of pollinators. I am really excited about the long-term potential of this project and what we can achieve together.”

The meadows will contain native species like strawberry clover, cowslip, white campion, and tufted vetch and will be complemented with bright, flowering species like common poppy, cornflower and yellow rattle. These are intended to attract pollinators including solitary bees, beetles, bumble bees, butterflies, hoverflies that will in turn support more insect feeding birds.

The existing wildflower meadow strip planted by Avon Wildlife Trust’s My Wild City project and supplemented by Buglife’s Urban Buzz project, will be incorporated into the new meadows through plug planting from the Avon Wildlife Trust’s wildflower nursery.

Isobel from Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate said: “On the anniversary of the visit from Greta Thunberg, that catalysed this exciting project, we would like to thank all those involved in the partnership. College Green has always been significant to Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate, and we believe the meadow will act as a continuous symbol of the power and hope felt so fervently at our strikes. The meadow is a great step in reimagining intensely used inner-city green spaces”.

Bristol Diocese was the first in the Church of England to declare a climate emergency. The enhancements will provide opportunities for the Cathedral’s community, local residents, employees and students to connect with nature in the heart of the city and learn about the ecology and importance of biodiversity for a sustainable future.

The changes are part of an ongoing process to reimagine College Green and respond to the ecological emergency by increasing its biodiversity while balancing the needs of a busy public open space that will once again host large gatherings post the pandemic.

Bristol City Council are supporting the process through the expertise of their City Design Group and Parks department who have already provided a solution for making planting more bio-diverse in the civic flower beds that edge the main space, informed by the University of Bristol’s Urban Pollinator Project.

You can help get urban spaces buzzing with pollinators by buying wildflowers from our wildflower nursery, Grow Wilder: growwilder.co.uk.