We value the work of the Avon Wildlife Trust enormously and rarely does it become so vital as when looking at the future of the city itself. With Bristol’s ongoing growth the focus of this week’s Festival of the Future City, it can be all too easy just to focus on the big landmark issues, at the expense of the details. But it's the details which form the meshing that make all these major components operate effectively. With a Festival mandate to think of any and all things which can give the city a more "resilient, sustainable and prosperous future for all” it’s clear that major improvement won’t happen if we just have pockets of activity here and there. The wide sweep must be considered; what is the vision, what are the key elements to deliver and most importantly, what is the green connective tissue binding it all together.
The Trust is at the forefront of this debate, looking at how we can ensure a future of ecological richness through both the city and wider region, and their approach is one shared absolutely by us at HAB. As our Chairman Kevin McCloud said: "For wildlife to flourish in our cities and suburbs we need to join up habitats and provide wildlife corridors, stepping stones for insects, mammals and birds in an effort to garden collectively, plant trees and consider how the spaces between buildings, whether private or public can act as a conduit for wildlife movement.”
These ideas sit at the core of the Trust’s My Wild City initiative which seeks to seed environmental opportunism throughout Bristol. And this sits simultaneously at the heart of HAB’s work, where a constant refrain is that we put as much thought into the spaces between buildings as into the buildings themselves. We design in edible hedgerows, communal greens, shared car clubs and pocket orchards for alternating moments of conviviality or solace. We believe that these elements are the seeds which give neighbourliness and community a chance to thrive.
A remarkable opportunity to draw all of this together is imminent with the emerging Joint Spatial Plan for the area. Again to parrot Kevin’s recent words on this: "We must think of our ecological networks that support people with free services in the same way we think about transport and other infrastructure. The people here have implicitly demanded a better and more diverse ecological environment by setting up hundreds of their own neighbourhood schemes. Retrofitting projects like Bristol Green Doors are successfully adapting our housing stock to low energy standards, so why can’t we retrofit every available verge, every roundabout, riverbank and redundant scrap of land with wildflower seed and a pair of willows? Bristol is on the brink of an extraordinary opportunity to become one of the world’s most biodiverse and species-rich cities. And yet this idea has to be fully grasped. Let’s not miss this chance!”
Our work with the Trust on the conversion project and new volunteers’ centre at the recently-opened Bennett’s Patch and White’s Paddock nature reserve is an example of how coordinated action can create something truly amazing from an unloved and underused area of the city. One hopes that through the Festival of the Future City, Joint Spatial Plan and beyond we can see our way to a green city network; linking places, projects and people.
The Nature-Rich Cities series with the Avon Wildlife Trust at the Festival of the Future City is on on this Wednesday (18 November) at the Watershed in Bristol:
09.30-11.15 The Value of Urban Nature and Natural Capital
11.45-13.00 Promoting and Developing Nature in Cities
14.00-15.00 Architecture, Nature and Wildlife in Cities [where our boss Mike Roberts will be waxing lyric]
- register at www.ideasfestival.co.uk .
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Photography used by kind permission of Look Again, Paul Miller,
Studio Engleback, Thousand Word Media, Vicky Tilson and Timothy Soar
Created by Kolab Digital