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Eyesore land transformed into wildlife haven

Published on: 04 Aug 2017

AN eyesore piece of land has been transformed into a haven of tranquillity thanks to a Fishponds resident.

The verge at the entrance to Thingwall Park Allotments, opposite the end of Hawkesbury Road, had been a magnet for fly tippers and looked a mess.

But Rachel Fry, who lives nearby, saw the land's potential and set about turning it into a wildflower garden.

She enlisted the help of the community in donating plants and flowers and now the spot is a riot of colour with beautiful wildflowers nestling alongside visiting bees, butterflies and insects.

The garden project began in January 2015 as a Christmas holiday project to clear the rubbish and fly tipping, which had been accumulating along the verge to the allotments. 

Rachel said: "It turned out that the thick bramble thicket needed to be cut back in order to reach the rubbish and many trips to the tip resulted. 

"The rubbish was varied - shoes, an ironing board, broken mirror and lots of building waste and many, many crisp and sweet wrappers. 

"Once the bramble was cut back the area looked huge, and without digging out the bramble it would soon return to its previous state. Much advice was offered by allotment holders on how this should be achieved but one of our long-standing plot holders, Joseph, rolled up his sleeves and joined my husband and I in pick-axing up the roots. 

"I decided to try and establish a wildflower meadow on the cleared ground to support bees and butterflies and introduce some colour into the street. The ground still contains a lot of broken glass and therefore isn’t suitable for growing vegetables on the Incredible Edible model found on The Straits."

Many of Rachel's friends and neighbours have helped by donating plants, seeds and bulbs as well as growing seeds to plant out and watering and weeding the site.

The Woodcraft Folk planted seeds from the Grow Wild scheme donated by Kew Gardens and the garden has hosted a number of their scarecrows.

Rachel said the project hasn't always been plain sailing: "There have been a few set backs from inconsiderate builders, fly tipping and car parking on the garden - skip lorries on wet soil make very deep ruts." 

Many of the plants are perennial such as ox eye daisy and knap weed, so grow up again each spring.  

Nowadays work in the garden is mainly to keep the nettle and bramble from taking over again.

Rachel said: "We have all learnt that thick leather gloves are essential! The plants need cutting back when they finish flowering and setting seed in the late summer and all the stems taken away for composting. 

"In order to provide as long a season of flowers as possible we are looking to add some more spring flowers such as primrose and daffodils and a few winter flowering shrubs.

"On warm summer days the garden is busy with bees and insects and is enjoyed just as much by the passing humans!"

Rachel added that the gardens of Fishponds have great potential to be rich in wildlife and said Avon Wildlife Trust’s ‘Get Bristol Buzzing’ project has leaflets and advice on what gardeners and allotment holders can do to support bees.

Irene Blessitt, site representative at Thingwall Park Allotments, said: "The land was covered in brambles and dumped rubbish but today it looks fab and is great for insects.

"Each day the garden has new flowers to see. Today there are poppies out amid the corn marigolds and it all buzzes with bees and butterflies. It's well worth a visit!"

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