The Bristol Bearpit

I recently had reason to be in Bristol for work and whilst I was there I thought I should visit the Bearpit.  I had heard of it through my friend, Sara Venn, the founder of Incredible Edible Bristol and generally one of the most inspirational community gardeners you could ever hope to meet. 

Admittedly before setting off I was not 100% certain of what the Bearpit was, but I usually do a little research before visiting places and quickly established it is a sunken road traffic island in the Bristol Shopping Quarter.  Its official name is the St James Barton roundabout and it is a fine example of 1960s road architecture.  Whilst sunken pedestrian subways were once seen as a great idea I think it is fair to say that in reality they have often not gone hand-in-hand with feelings of great beauty and/or horticulture.  The area has gone through an extensive programme of renovation during recent years with an emphasis on art, play, trade and greening.  I was there for the latter primarily, but it is all one space and each element plays its part in making the whole.

My trusted sat nav guided me through Bristol and just when I wondered if I was nearly there yet....
.... something told me that I was close.  I parked up and found my way in.
It is a large open space and there is this great cafe (where we had tea).  There is also a small shop selling vegetables next to this and,
this bus which used to sell food too but it looks closed now.
The area is a great place for outdoor art.
it really is quite stunning in places.
But I was there to look at the work that Sara had been leading on community planting.  The plants are 'loosely' food based.  There are practical reasons why growing some foods are not suited to growing in such a city-space.
but there is soft fruit,
a winding of hops,
and fruit trees such as this quince tree.
It is nicely laid out in terraces and whilst it is clearly work in progress, it is impressive.
This cleared bed is sown as a meadow area, I can imagine already how fantastic it will look and just think of all the bees being attracted into this city-scape.

It is very easy to get all romantic about community projects and growing food in such places, but this is hard work and takes dedication from the volunteers who run it.  I was really glad I had visited as I strongly believe in community projects such as this.  When I was there the area was alive with skateboarders, people passing through and people who were just there.  Obviously I have no idea what it was like before the regeneration was started, but looking at it now it is a place with potential and it feels like a good usable space the people passing through.  The work that Sara and Incredible Edible Bristol does is important and is helping people reconnect with the food they eat.  I wish them every success.

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  1. Thank you for a very interesting article. Maybe you would like to come and see Incredible Edible Dunstable one day.

  2. Amazing what they have done. Our daughter and family live in Bristol and apparently our grandson had a Graffiti Party at the Outdoor Gallery! She is staying with me at the moment and hadn't realised that so much food is growing there.


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