Willsbridge Mill, Willsbridge, Bristol
In January of this year we went to look around a small woodland site within Willsbridge Mill, an old iron mill turned nature reserve, to discuss a tender for their new fairy woodland. Willsbridge Mill is a historic site and non-profit voluntary local group, who have been maintaining the site since 2014. Prior to that it was managed by Avon Wildlife Trust.
The site that the voluntary group had chosen was covered in brambles, ivy and various saplings. We really enjoyed walking around the site and discussing their requirements.
The fairy woodland designed in mind for children’s groups, is to have an activity trail, a fairy grotto with seating area, a Bluebell glade, Snowdrop & Primrose glade and Scilian Honey Garlic glade, an insect hotel, bird, bat and hedgehog boxes, and of course fairy doors amongst the trees!
We started off preparing the ground, along part of the perimeter, where a native hedge was to be planted. We removed ivy from along a crumbling part of the wall. We took out a huge amount of stone whilst we were preparing the ground. This was used to rebuild the wall, and later the fairy grotto.
This part of the site used to be the garden that belonged to a nearby ruined house. We dug up an old cast iron fireplace, an archimedes screw (a screw pump used for transferring water from a low lying body of water – the river – into irrigation ditches) huge pieces of concrete and a lot of fly tipped rubbish. The plan for the screw is to clean it up and display it.
We dug a trench where the whips for the native hedge would be planted, followed by laying down membrane to suppress competition from weeds. The membrane was pegged down with cuts made through it to plant the trees. We chose a Blackthorn based mix of native hedging, comprised of Field Maple, Hawthorn, Hazel, Dog Rose and Bird Cherry,
We planted two staggered rows of whips, ensuring that they didn’t dry out during the planting process by keeping them in a tub of water. As well as the main native hedge area we also planted them singly in other parts of the perimeter to fill in gaps amongst the trees already in situ.
I absolutely loved planting the trees, it was a fresh, sunny day, with the sound of the rushing river and birdsong. It’s such a tranquil place, with children’s forest school groups, families and dog walkers milling around. There was always someone who wanted to come over and chat about what we were doing. Have a look on our previous post about creating the native hedge here.
Once the native hedge was planted, we set to clearing the areas that were to be the flower glades. We pulled out the majority of the Ivy and brambles, thinned out saplings that were not needed and started clearing any scrub from the pathways.
There is plenty of Ivy, brambles and saplings around the rest of site for wildlife and we were always considerate of habitats and creatures whilst we were working. The last day working at Willsbridge was sunny and dry and we got a lot done, but still have more clearing to do on the flower glades, as well as laying the edging for the paths, membrane and wood-chip.
We were hoping to visit the site last week to do further work, but the Coronavirus UK lock down has stopped business for the time being. We are not sure when we’ll be back to work, but I for one can’t wait to be back working at Willsbridge Mill with the fresh, musty smell of the woodland, smiling faces and the sound of children playing…