Who we are and what we do
The Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project was launched in 1999. We were originally set up to secure the outstanding wildlife interest of the Bristol side of the Avon Gorge and Clifton and Durdham Downs and to raise awareness and understanding of this unique location and its importance for people and wildlife.
The National Trust and Forestry England (who manage Leigh Woods and the North Somerset side of the Gorge) have also joined the Project steering group.
The Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife is a partnership of Bristol City Council, Bristol Zoo Gardens, Natural England, University of Bristol, the Society of Merchant Venturers, Downs Committee, Bristol Zoological Society, National Trust and Forestry England.
Surveying and monitoring
Local experts regularly survey the wildlife of the site, often using climbing techniques to access difficult areas of the Gorge. The Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge record butterflies, the rare silky wave moths are monitored by the Bristol Zoological Society and Bristol Ornithological Club records breeding peregrine success. The project undertakes a monthly bird survey in partnership with Bristol Ornithological Club to monitor the richness and abundance of bird species in four transects on the Downs and in the Gully. This will inform us on the health of our Downs and Avon Gorge ecosystem over the years.
We protect rare plants in the Avon Gorge by controlling scrub and non-native plants. In most areas we do this by cutting back scrub and introduced plants by hand. However, in a specially fenced area, known as the Gully, we have introduced a small herd of goats. They’re here to restore wildflower-rich grassland by munching the scrub, bramble and ivy, thereby making space for the rare plants to flourish. Meadow areas on the Downs are left un-mown during the spring and summer. After the plants have had time flower and set seed the meadows are cut to make hay.
We provide opportunities for everyone to discover, learn about and enjoy the wildlife and the landscape of the Gorge and Downs. We run a very popular programme of walks, talks, courses, family events and children’s holiday activities. We also run education sessions for schools, playscheme and uniformed groups.
We also run guided walks and give talks to community groups. These groups cater for a very varied audience, some being hobby-focussed (e.g. gardening groups, WIs, etc.), others have a community involvement, social or health remit (e.g. Headway, which works with people recovering from brain injury and strokes, the ‘Five ways to wellbeing’ group coordinated by Bristol’s Inner City and East Bristol Health Improvement Team or Bridges for Communities who work with refugees and asylum seekers).
For people who want to explore the site at their own pace there are interpretation panels at various points around the Downs. A range of leaflets and nature trails, as well as a mobile app (developed in conjunction with the University of the West of England and the Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge) are available.
Displays showcasing the rare plants of the Avon Gorge can also be found on the Clifton Suspension Bridge, at Bristol Zoo Gardens and at the University of Bristol Botanic Gardens.
Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge
Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge was established in 2008 and is involved in conserving the Downs and Avon Gorge. As a voluntary multi-interest group, Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge act independently to:
- monitor, work with and influence the Downs Committee, Bristol City Council and all those involved in the management, maintenance and improvement of the Gorge and Downs.
- protect and enhance the Downs and the Gorge for the benefit both of all its users and its wildlife.
- To consult with, and represent, the views and aspirations of all users.
Members are actively engaged in a variety of projects, such as restoration projects, conservation and education. Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge run a full programme of talks, walks and events as well as volunteer programmes such as wildlife monitoring and deep litter clean-ups.
Photographs: Meadow on the Downs (© Denice Stout), Silky wave moth (© Mark Parsons – Butterfly Conservation), Avon Gorge goat (© Denice Stout), Community walk on the Downs with FODAG (© Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project).