The world flocks to our neck of the woods
THIS month's round-up has something of a bizarre international flavour to it, which just goes to show that Eastville Park is a lot more than a big green blob on the map of Bristol.
American signal crayfish, Siberia, cowgirls, parakeets, Italian snakes and dangerous journeys from North Africa all feature in our stories in this edition so buckle up and enjoy the ride!
The ‘Beast From The East’ carried on winds originating in Siberia obligingly headed along the Frome Valley and transformed the park into the winter wonderland we dream of. There’s something really special about being able to trample through a pure white blanket of snow at dawn, hoping you’ll be the first to leave your fleeting moment of history making in your footsteps. Because you know for sure that as curtains are drawn back a frenzied search for wellies, warm jackets and gloves soon gives way to a ‘rush for the slopes’ as excited children head for our very own Winter Olympics venue at the bottom of Everest Road.
Further into the park, more magic begins to unfold; beyond the muffled excited cries and laughter of children a perfectly silent and serene landscape of a river slowly giving up the fight to flow eastwards towards the lake, a dull white sheen of icy froth loses its sense of direction and chooses to take shelter in the sparse vegetation on the river bank. The shapes of the trees change in an instant; laden heavy by a barrage of clinging snowflakes that refuse to budge and warn the early buds that spring is not quite here yet. As we reach the lake it’s not difficult to imagine we’re on the set of a Scandi-Noir, all is monochrome- soft relief in black and white. We are entertained by the waterfowl as they adapt to another new day - no graceful glide or paddle to be had here. And of course, the birds don’t have much to sing about either. They’re probably busy thinking about how they’ll keep warm and find enough food to get them through the day.
Walkers in the park might notice a lack of anglers on the lake or river between March 14 and June 16 as the closed fishing season is on us, giving the stock a chance to spawn the next generation. All responsible anglers know the rules so let’s hope there are no infringements this year.
Staying with the river theme, there was panic in the park following reports from Vassalls that some otter traps had been discovered in the river and removed by an RSPCA inspector. The fear turned to relief after enquiries found that the contraptions were in fact legally set crayfish traps which are used throughout the country to try to reduce the population of American signal crayfish. This particular species was introduced in 1970s to be farmed in controlled waters. Unfortunately, many of them escaped and swiftly spread across watercourses and land, where they began to out-compete the native white-clawed crayfish for both food and habitat. They can also carry crayfish plague and, being larger than our native species, cause considerable damage burrowing into the river banks.
One day soon, when the threat of snow and ice has passed, spring will return and we’ll be celebrating the arrival of visiting birdlife (who had the common sense to migrate to warmer climes rather than shiver here amongst us over winter!) Many of them will have made the long journey from Morocco, Algeria and other North African countries, giving us a chance to see the old favourites again: blackcap, chiffchaff, willow warbler and whitethroat, among others. And of course the amazing aerial displays of the swallows and house martins are sure to enthral us all. Bristol Ornithological Club often organise walks around Eastville Park and you can find details of future dates on their website.
Just before the last snowstorm arrived, there were sightings of bats around the lake: pipistrelle or daubentons - nobody’s quite sure which - but if you’d like to know for sure then you can join Avon Bat Group on one of their walk n talks around the park on 27, 28 or 29 April. Visit their website to book a place.
Following on from the amazing response to our DuckFeed Art Project, we thought it would be nice to open it out to artists who sketch, draw or paint anything park related. Well, no understatement to say that the images that are coming are absolutely superb! Impossible to describe just how talented these people are so please visit Friends of Eastville Park ArtScene FB page to see for yourself! We’d like to show some of them here in Fishponds Voice next month too so keep an eye out for May issue.
We’re busy thinking about summer activities for children, so if you like the sound of pooh sticks and raft races, get excited early! And if you’re familiar with the National Trust ’50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾’, you’ve got high expectations! (so we’ll probably get to 20 odd). We’re going to need some help over the summer so let us know on our group page if you’d like to be involved in a fun packed summer- especially if you’re a fund raiser who finds the job really easy and needs a bigger challenge!
So we had the beast from the east. Now we need something from the wild west for a sense of balance! How about the Easton Cowgirls? Bad enough grazing woodland on Purdown but Eastville Park?- C’MON!!!! (Actually), they’re a football team who train in the park and got in touch with us to ask how they could help to keep things lookin’ good. We’re on it and we’ll keep you up to date about what they get up-or down- to.
By the time you’re reading this, we’ll have had our Friends Open Meeting where we’re encouraging huge numbers of local residents to let us know face to face the kind of things they’d like to see or for us to do in our park. The more the merrier, so do come along and have your say- you will be heard and have the opportunity to influence stuff. I’ll give feedback here next month and a date for the next meeting.
There’s also still time to help us with our 2018 Consultation Survey which will help us to understand where to concentrate our efforts in attracting funds from the council for improvements.
And while the council aren’t really spending anything in our parks, as a friends group we try to do a bit here and there for ourselves. This month we’ll be out cleaning and renovating the signs and notices dotted around the park - a bit of a ‘springclean’ you might say.
And finally, the moan of the month:
What pleasure does ANYONE get from going to the effort of smashing up a wrought iron Victorian bench at the side of the lake and dumping the pieces in the lake? We all get mad sometimes but, really?
A small mention at the bottom of this month’s article - because that’s where he belongs- for the pond life who thinks it’s OK to expose himself to women and children in our park. One day, I guess, you won’t be quite fast enough to run away from the people who’d like to catch up with you.