Wellspring Settlement, one of Bristol’s Welcoming Spaces

Haylee Cowley, smiling and looking to her right, behind her is Arnos Vale cemetery cafe.
Today’s guest blog is from Haylee Cowley,
Communications Manager at Wellspring Settlement

Bristol City Council’s Welcoming Spaces scheme has given us the chance to further support our local community over the next few months.

Wellspring Settlement has had a café at the Ducie Road site for years, and after it closed during the pandemic there was a big push to get it open again. Being a Welcoming Space has given us the freedom to think beyond just being a café – it’s now a real community hub! People can turn up and stay as long as they like, and as the food and drink is pay-what-you-feel, there’s no pressure for them to buy anything in order to stay.

The café itself is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 11am to 1.30pm, but people are welcome to come and make use of the space even if the café is shut. There is an over 55’s group, who meet up on a Monday between 11am and 1pm, where people are welcome to come along and take advantage of the free hot drinks and biscuits. They can also speak to a tech volunteer and ask any questions they have around using their smartphone or laptop.

People are able to charge their phones and laptops here for as long as they need to. This means they can stay online to manage bills, check emails, and stay connected with friends and family. We’ve got a host of activities running alongside the café, and a children’s corner with toys and books.

We also offer information about the other services on offer at Wellspring Settlement, which include money advice, support in accessing other community activities, family services, community arts, physical activities and more.

All the food we’re serving is hot and healthy, with veggie and halal options. It’s all cooked by us – except on the days when we have our guest cooks from the Bristol Somali Women’s group who are serving up some amazing meals every Thursday.

One of the highlights of being a Welcoming Space is that it’s created volunteering opportunities for local people. We’ve got volunteers who are giving their time to help out, and also developing valuable skills that will help them in the future. To connect with volunteering opportunities, check the Can Do Bristol website.

Wellspring Settlement has a really positive atmosphere, and it’s great to see people of all ages and backgrounds enjoying each other’s company. People are enjoying the food and we’ve had a mix of people taking up the offer of a free meal, and people who are able to make a donation. The children’s corner has been really popular, with mums hanging out there rather than having to keep buying cups of tea to stay in a café.

We are very aware that for some people the worst of the national cost of living crisis, is yet to come. We have been lucky with a warm autumn so far, but temperatures have started to drop.

Residents in Barton Hill are likely to be among the hardest hit by increased energy and food bills, both of which are factors that contribute to wider health issues. Many local people live in poor housing which will only become worse if not heated over winter, and they already struggle to afford and cook healthy food.

We’re happy at the moment that the space is being established as one that is truly welcoming, whatever the need might be. As we move into winter, we’re confident our community will know where they can go to access healthy, hot food, save on bills, and find support from each other, from Wellspring Settlement and community and city partners.

If you need any cost of living advice or support visit the Bristol City Council cost of living support webpage to find organisations who can help you. You can also call the We Are Bristol helpline for free on 0800 694 0184, Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5pm.