Last walk of the summer

On a hot sunny day at the end of August, I visited two contrasting sites. One was in the middle of a bustling city, the other deep in the countryside. Both are Avon Wildlife Trust nature reserves, providing  vital space for wildlife within a less hospitable landscape.

Brandon Hill Nature Park provides a haven for wildlife within the more formal parkland.
Brandon Hill Nature Park provides a haven for wildlife within the more formal parkland.

At Brandon Hill Nature Park, in Bristol, the Trust has transformed five acres of city park into a wildlife haven. It is a core part of the My Wild City scheme, which aims to link up green spaces and create wildlife corridors to enable wildlife to move easily around the city and connect to the wider countryside.

Bumblebees on scabious flowers at Avon Wildlife Trust's Brandon Hill Nature Reserve, with the Cabot Tower in the background.
Bumblebees on scabious flowers at Avon Wildlife Trust’s Brandon Hill Nature Park, with the Cabot Tower in the background.

It was certainly working for pollinating insects, the edges of the recently mown wildflower meadow were buzzing with bees. Butterflies danced from flower to flower, always one step ahead of the camera.

We climbed to the top of the Cabot Tower to see the city laid out around us, the River Avon a silver ribbon through the landscape. It was easy to see why Brandon Hill is an important stopping off point for migrating birds following the river valley.

The view across Bristol from the Cabot Tower
The view across Bristol from the Cabot Tower
Folly farm meadow
Part of the reserve has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, because it is a classic example of a traditionally managed grassland meadow. Ninety-seven percent of such meadows have disappeared in the last century.

After exploring Brandon Hill, we made our way to Folly Farm, about 10 miles to the south. Surrounded by farmland, the traditionally managed wildflower meadows and ancient woodlands of Folly Farm nature reserve provide 250 acres of wildlife habitat. At its heart is the Folly Farm centre, an award winning education, conference and wedding venue. Preparations were underway for a weekend wedding, so we didn’t get to peek at the buildings, but we were more than happy to spend our time out in the sunshine, and set of on a walk around the reserve.

A male common blue butterfly
A male common blue butterfly, looking rather the worse for wear.

Although it was late August, there were still plenty of flowers around, and blue butterflies flitted across the meadow like living confetti. Skylarks were tiny dark flecks of song in the hot blue sky and at one point I looked up to see five buzzards circling on the thermals above the hill, each one spiralling higher than the last.

It has taken such a long time to finish this series of blog posts about my wildlife journey around Britain. Partly because, once I got back, there was so much to catch up on, at work and at home, the time for writing just dissappeared. But I think that perhaps a part of me didn’t want the adventure to finish.

I had such a lovely time, saw amazing places and wildlife, and met many interesting, knowledgeable and dedicated Wildlife Trust people. I’d like to thank them all for being so kind and generous with their time, as well as for the work they do to ensure that all that wildlife is out there, for everyone to enjoy.


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