The Northern Slopes Part 1: The Bommie

Countryside in the City

Who would have thunk it. Autumn is very nearly here and the summers we remember from our childhoods never really arrived this year… Personally, I don’t mind. The start of autumn is probably one of my favourite times of year (that and spring, which I’ll wait for with baited breath).

Over the final weeks of summer 2015 we have explored more of Bristol’s green city spaces and frolicked the fields and beaches of gorgeous west Wales. Our favourite new spots are the fields, woodlands, bushes and hills of The Northern Slopes in South Bristol. The Northern Slopes are three expanses of luscious green space set cascading down the landscape of the neighbourhood. From The Bommie to Glyn Vale and The Novers, each section of the Slopes has a different name, a unique history and a modern-day story to tell. Bristol folk may be surprised to hear of such a glorious collection of green spaces in the heart of this area of the city but believe me, it’s worth a trip. As part of my Countryside in the City feature I’ll be breaking down The Northern Slopes into three posts and first off is the wild community-centric area of The Bommie.

Cotton plant

Purple-flowers-in-Bristol  Yellow flowers Bristol

The Bommie

Obscurely named and unsuspectingly placed, The Bommie can be discovered from a number of entrances, either at the bottom of the hill through bushes and woodland, or from its highest point at the top of the open grassy hill. Our first question when we found out about this spot of nature in our city was why is it called The Bommie!? Wedmore Vale is its official name but the locals think the site’s better-known title was given after World War II, when the area avoided complete decimation when a German bomb was dropped but didn’t explode.

The land has a farming history that goes back to the early 1900s and today, The Bommie still sits at the heart of the community of Knowle. Bramble Farm, the Wildfest project and stretches of allotments are all part of the welcoming nature of the land. It truly lends itself to families, foragers and tearaway ramblers like us. We even discovered a rope swing on our way into the woodland – and of course had a wistful play.

Rope Swing

At the end of our latest visit and blackberry forage, a hot air balloon sailed over the area, floating precariously close to the top of the hill. As we stood and stared children’s screams from the surrounding streets called out – “Land on The Bommie! Land on The Bommie!”.

From the top of The Bommie you can see on to Glyn Vale and beyond. The views across Bedminster, Ashton Court and Clifton alone are a treat but what really interested me on our last few visits were the abundance of blackberries and the wildlife.

Hill on The Bommie Bristol

View from The Bommie Bristol

Wildflower Muses and Fruit Foraging

As well as in our garden, wildflowers can be spotted all around the city and I wish I could name them all. Something else to add to my ‘to-do’ list. The Bommie is covered in greenery with patches of wildflowers spawning out here and there. On entering The Bommie from the west gate we have always been welcomed by bright greens speckled with pinks, purples, yellows and whites. Over the coming weeks the look of the Slopes will change but I look forward to witnessing the autumnal tones we have to look forward to!

Bee on a flower

Every opportunity must, of course, be taken to enjoy some of nature’s best gifts and you only have to follow me on Instagram to know that blackberries, apples and herbs have been staining my fingers over the past couple of months! On every trip to The Bommie so far, we have foraged and scrounged, filling a fare few tubs with plump, ripe blackberries from hedges surrounding the fields and nestled beneath the undergrowth, which has lead to plenty of fresh and healthy puddings, smoothies and pies! (recipes to come…)

Blackberry picking

Blackberry season Bristol

As with so many of Bristol’s green spaces, the risk of building development, pollution and neglect are a real threat for The Bommie. I’m grateful to be able to revel in the glories of the space and enjoy these parts of it. With The Northern Slopes Initiative and the active community in and around it, I’m sure the fruits of the land will continue to be reaped for years to come.

Next on the agenda, I’ll make my way westward to Glyn Vale to discover more of Bristol’s hidden treasures a top The Northern Slopes…

In the Bark of a Tree

Countryside in the City

Bristol has been named European Green Capital 2015 for a reason- it’s environmentally forward thinking; a city full of wildlife and natural colour. The RWA in Bristol reflected this green glory creatively, with their winter exhibition ‘Arboretum’. Continuing the longstanding relationship that art has with nature, the work shown embodied stories of environmental issues and natural beauty – all with trees as the core subject.

The variety of trees in Bristol parks, streets and in residential gardens is awesome. Although the trees are mostly standing bare at the moment, I still find that each tree has endless photographic appeal. I love getting up close to examine the textures, shapes and range of colours that are ever evolving.

branches of a tree

Callington Road Local Nature Reserve, Brislington

The details in the bark of a birch tree is what captured my eye during a visit to Callington Road Nature Reserve. When this land in Brislington was truly nurtured around 2009, plenty of young indigenous trees were planted. Now, more than 5 years on, these birches are still growing tall and providing hints of the countryside within our nature strewn city.

Patterned bark

Small Signs of Spring

small signs of spring

Spring won’t ‘officially’ leap into action until the end of March but already I’m finding small signs that let us know the beautiful season is beginning to bloom.

That fresh, unmistakable scent is in the morning air. The evening light is low but distinctive and the sun rays are highlighted by an energetic hue. Most trees are bare but here are there, dotted across branches, are small specks of pastel blossoms. Daffodil shoots and splashes of colour are appearing in parks and front gardens, breaking through muddy patches and the last of the fallen leaves.

purple flowers in spring

blossoms in spring

Although the chill here in Bristol has been on and off, the signs are all here for the start of Spring’s glorious months. Even when the morning mist still sits above the grass, the aroma of Spring is holding its own. For me, it changed in a morning- waking up earlier than usual with a brighter glow shining through our bedroom’s thin curtains. Instantly, my eyes felt brighter and a sprightly feeling took over my morning walk. Maybe it’s the anticipation of the longer days to come, which will be filled with adventure- I have so many outings planned that my heart has begun to yearn for the warmth that will accommodate them!

Now, all that’s left to do is prepare the house for sunshine, fill the calendar with springtime adventures and wait for the daffodils to show their faces.

Closed daffodils