Rewilding Dame Emily Park with the power of community

13th April 2022

Did you know that the vibrant, lively Dame Emily Park used to be Bedminster’s largest coal mine? Yes, this thriving green space in BS3 has a dusky, dim history. Whilst this can seem quite shocking, it says a lot about the transformative power that humans have over their surroundings. We chose to run a dangerous mine and now we’re choosing to help wildlife flourish in it.

At the heart of Dame Emily Park, you’ll find the community garden where residents have been growing edible fruit, herbs and vegetables since 1997. With such a diverse community, it’s not surprising to find exotic fruits like tomatillos or the cardoon, cherished in the Mediterranean. But local and seasonal produce is the star of the show, finding tangy raspberries in the summer and fragrant leeks in the winter. The harvest is shared amongst volunteers and donated to local food banks. Passersby are also encouraged to harvest as they please.

As well as growing edible plants, volunteers focus on rewilding the park. Bird boxes and bat houses are scattered all over, and you can spot bug and bee hotels near the garden to help pollinators rest safely. By planting a nettle patch, the community hopes to attract red admiral and comma caterpillars. Water is another essential element, with bee watering stations and water bowls for birds to bathe and animals to drink.

To meet the eldest members of the park, you just need to look up and you’ll find the London plane, the wild cherry or the purple sycamore maple. To accompany these wooden giants, the volunteers have also created wildflower patches and wildlife corridors all over the park. Of course, nature has a say in what grows in the park too, with oxeye daisies, yarrow, red campions, wild carrots, betony and garlic mustard spreading across the greenery. It’s heaven for bees, butterflies and other insects, and a colourful delight for the human eye.

Dame Emily Park is closely connected to BS3Wildlife, which monitor mammals and organise bird counts and butterfly hunts. The park is frequently visited by squirrels, bats and a fox family that has lived next door since 2015. The lucky ones might even bump into the three adorable hedgehogs adopted by the volunteers. Children love spotting worms, ladybirds, butterflies and even dragonflies. The aim is that everyone learns about sustainability and the importance of preserving our green spaces to help biodiversity thrive.

Anyone can get involved at Dame Emily Park, whether you want to join the weekly gardening and litter picking sessions, attend the free forest school or participate in the events, from apple pressing to CPRE’s star count. There’s something for everyone. A simple walk along the park with your eyes wide open and a thrilling curiosity can be your way of changing the world. Join the City Nature Challenge and record as many of your findings as possible. The fascinating world of wildlife is waiting for you. You just need to open the door!

Writing by Paula Rincon Naranjo, Content Writer and volunteer for Dame Emily Park


This piece was commissioned by the Natural History Consortium for City Nature Challenge 2022.

City Nature Challenge is a four-day global wildlife recording mission taking place in 450+ cities around the world. Residents and visitors across Bristol and Bath are taking part to help put nature on the map in the region from 29 April – 2 May.

You don’t have to be an expert or even know the name of the species you’ve seen. Just download the iNaturalist app, take a picture of the nature you find, upload – and share.  Once on the app, join the Bristol & Bath Project see live updates on how your area and the rest of the UK are doing.