Festival of Nature’s Community Day | Guest Blog by Hazel Rowland

As part of Festival of Nature and Avon Wildlife Trust's Community Day on Sunday 9 June 2024, Hazel Rowland attended a number of South Bristol community-led events and shared her experience with us.

A day of discovery, community, and the enriching impact of nature

Festival of Nature and Avon Wildlife Trust’s Community Day on 9 June shone a light on the incredible spaces and dedicated organisations around the West of England connecting community with nature. I took the challenge to discover what some of my local areas in Bristol had to offer by visiting three different events. From the tranquil wellness day event at Redcatch Community Garden, to the dedicated FaithSpace volunteers who highlighted the vital role of urban green spaces, to the story of a community taking back their space and creating key habitats for city wildlife. Community Day was an enriching experience , helping me to understand how nurturing nature can enrich our lives and communities.

Hopping on a bus, I made my way over to Redcatch Community Garden in Knowle. The garden is a beautiful community space promoting sustainable gardening methods and teaching the importance of biodiversity and wellbeing. I had the opportunity to talk to Cath, an organiser from the garden, who spoke about the activities they host for the community; From art and well-being activities, to kids gardening and nature days. Redcatch host fundraising events, such as food nights (grown from the garden) and comedy evenings, of which the funds generated go towards developing new areas on site, such as the new sensory garden. There was a range of wellbeing classes to choose from during the community day event including yoga, meditation, sound-bowls and art therapy.

As I sat in the garden sipping a mint and apple ice-tea (locally grown of course), I met a lady who had come down to check out the wellness events. She suffered from agoraphobia and had been reading up on dealing with anxiety. She explained that events like the garden’s wellness day were extremely helpful, and supported the community because Redcatch made sessions affordable and accessible. I invited her to join the breathwork class with me and we went into the canopy to start the class.

I learnt that breathwork is a powerful tool that anyone can practise anywhere. It can also be useful if you’re struggling to get back to sleep. The key was to incorporate the stomach, ribs and chest when breathing in. The breath in, should be shorter than the exhale. My favourite part of this practice was when we included humming on the exhale. It was an odd but relaxing sensation, and sounded cool when the whole class did it at the same time. I left the class feeling very positive and extremely calm. I'll definitely be trying breathwork again! Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to do another class because it was time to head to my next Community Day destination in Redcliffe.

Tucked behind Broughton House in Redcliffe, I found the FaithSpace gardening volunteer party. They have been tending and nurturing these hidden green spaces in the heart of the city for over 10 years. The green space has grown to include a vegetable garden, rockery, wildlife garden, and soon the Woodland Trust would be donating orchard trees and shrubs.

I pulled up my gloves and got stuck in. Weeding, planting veg, and adding wildflowers donated from Avon Wildlife Trust's Grow Wilder nursery. I asked Sarah, one of the volunteers, what the best part of having a volunteer group like this was:

"Seeing the results of what you've done, and seeing it all come together. Also, it’s great getting people together and just being outdoors, it’s amazing. If others wanted to join we meet every Thursday morning between 10:30 and 12:30. Or you can contact FaithSpace Community Redcliffe for more details."

I really enjoyed chatting to the volunteers in Redcliffe and taking a moment to zone into the gardening. Knowing the garden behind Broughton House was for others to enjoy and benefits from made it incredibly special because you are giving back to both nature and the community. It made me realise I should do more volunteering! I handed back my gloves and said my goodbyes then headed to Totterdown for my third and final Community Day event.

Arriving in Totterdown, I met the team of volunteers running Zone A Community Group and they introduced the history of the 'Zone A' space which had once been houses. The area was bulldozed to make way for a road and caused many people to be evacuated. The plans were then scrapped, and the land was left for the community to take back. This area is now a wonderful green space, providing a habitat for local wildlife and a place for local people to enjoy. We explored the newly created nature trail, which included newly planted trees, shrubs, and wildflower beds, all added by the volunteer group. We learnt about the importance of providing a habitat for urban wildlife. Including the many species of pollinators that exist in the city, which goes far beyond the bees we know about. Flies, wasps, butterflies and hoverflies can all pollinate and contribute to the ecosystem - and we need to help make spaces for them in our city centres.

Our next activity was making our very own solitary bee hotels! Choosing from a variety of materials including pots, tubes and wooden square structures, we packed them with bamboo tubes to mimic bees' natural chosen habitats. Getting stuck into this activity showed just how easy it can be to make a wildlife habitat yourself. With the decline in natural spaces, especially in our urban environments and cities, we should ensure that we are doing our very best to share outside space respectfully with wildlife.

On my return home from my Community Day events, I reflected on all the fun I'd had that day and was deeply heartened by the wide range of diverse groups, volunteers, and dedicated spaces we are fortunate to have in Bristol. Each, in their unique way, contributes to enhancing our communities and underscores the crucial role nature plays in our wellbeing and that of our planet.

Blog by Hazel Rowland for Festival of Nature 2024. Find Hazel on Instagram at @my.allotment.obsession

Professional photos by Ania Shrimpton www.aniashrimpton.com

Festival of Nature 2024 is made possible with The National Lottery Heritage Fund. Thanks to National Lottery Players we have been able to support communities to explore and celebrate their natural heritage through Community Day.