Park Life

Our city is bursting with life as we head towards summer. It’s a time of getting together, picnics in parks and walks in our city’s vibrant green spaces. So let’s hope we get the weather to enjoy it!

In addition to being places for us to enjoy, our hundreds of green spaces – no matter how big or small – provide vital habitats for nature. We know how important this is. Since 1970, around the world we’ve lost 60% of wild invertebrates and up to 76% of insects. In Bristol, songbird populations, like swifts and starlings, have dropped by more than 96%.

That’s why back in February 2020 we became the first local authority in the country to declare an Ecological Emergency, and we’ve been working with city partners to take action. Our One City Ecological Emergency Strategy includes commitments to manage 30% of Bristol’s land for the benefit of nature, reduce pesticide use by 50% and plant thousands of trees, with more than 9,000 planted last year alone and some 70,000 planted since 2016.

To enhance our habitats, we are cutting grasses less frequently where appropriate, which will support our invertebrates, some of which require long grass over winter in order to complete their lifecycle. Similarly, we are looking to reduce the frequency of cutting native hedgerows where this won’t impact on footpaths. This will increase the availability of berries for birds and other wildlife.

We are also exploring where we may be able to introduce long grass margins alongside hedges and woodland edges to provide a valuable transition between habitats that supports a diversity of wildlife.

Wildflowers growing in long grass, in front of Bristol Cathedral on College Green
Wildflowers growing in long grass, in front of Bristol Cathedral on College Green

Our Meadow Bristol project has been increasing the number of urban meadows in Bristol in recent years, which provide an important food source for pollinators which is crucial all year round, not just today on World Bee Day. We manage over 154 hectares of native wildflower meadows across Bristol, and you may well have seen the section of College Green where wildflowers have been added, the green roofs in the Bearpit, or pockets of longer grass and wildflowers in your local park.

We’ve launched a new £200,000 fund to support community action that reduces greenhouse gas emissions or makes changes that benefit wildlife in Bristol. The grants are for community groups or small not-for-profit organisations based and working in Bristol. You can apply from 9 May until 23 June 2022 for the Bristol Climate and Ecological Emergency Community Grants of up to £5,000 on the Quartet Community Foundation website.

There are lots of competing pressures on our city’s space and we must balance the needs of our communities with those of our nature. Our hundreds of green spaces are the lungs of our city, a space to exercise, socialise and seek sanctuary when the stresses of life get the better of us, as well as providing habitats for wildlife. We are working to protect and enhance nature across the city including in existing and new green spaces. In doing so we will benefit people: providing trees for shade, cooling our city and addressing inequalities in tree coverage and access to green space.

We can all play our part, and hope that International Day of Biological Diversity on Sunday helps highlight how. If you have a window box, garden, balcony or verge, consider letting it grow wild or allowing a variety of plants to grow that support pollinators. Avon Wildlife Trust have a great guide to get you started, as does Bristol Climate Hub.

It’s also a time to celebrate those from all walks of life who are championing nature, like Sumita in Sea MillsMinnie & Olly in Lockleaze and Denice in Hartcliffe.