We're sorry to say, we didn't win...
We lost the auction for Blackswarth Road Wood. The community pledged an incredible £87,000 plus an estimated £11,000 in gift aid. In addition, we had funds available including emergency funds and a loan should we need it, but it wasn’t enough. A final single competing bidder outbid us to £245,000, which is an astonishing amount of money for five acres of woodland that cannot be developed.
We will initiate a refund for all supporters this afternoon. It may take up to 7 days for the donated money to be returned to your bank account.
Read more here.
Right in the heart of Bristol is a woodland, historically known as Blackswarth Rd Wood, that many people know nothing about. It lies just west of Troopers Hill Woods or Crews Hole Woodland and is up for sale with "residential development possibilities".
With your support, environmental charity Protect Earth aims to buy the woodland, not just to protect the land, but to help it reach its potential for biodiversity and carbon sequestration.
Blackswarth Road Wood is half the size of the much loved Troopers Hill and Crews Hole Woodlands, but as part of a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI) it is crucial wildlife habitat for deer, badgers, buzzards, red kite, nuthatch, tawny owls, sparrow hawks, swifts, cuckoo, and a plethora of bats, including pipistrelle and possibly myotis.
As one of the largest pieces of remaining woodland in central Bristol it helps with carbon sequestration, and reducing particulate matter in the air along the busy Crews Hole Road where people live and work. Its also part of an important wildlife corridor along the Avon Valley, bringing wildlife into the centre of the city. It's also important for its appearance on the steep sides of the Avon Valley.
Blackswarth Road Wood has an amazing history with a rich social and industrial past. The eastern part was a formal terraced garden leading up to a grotto-like bathhouse (now Grade 2 listed). The garden was laid out in the mid-eighteenth century; some of the retaining walls still exist and the lines of the paths can still be seen. The garden belonged to a house attached to a glass bottle manufactory and furnace which was at the south-east corner of the wood.
Later, this site was used by Bristol Fireclay Company and their fireclay mines extended under Avon View Cemetery on the northern boundary of the wood. In the twentieth century, the garden terraces were used as allotments and some corrugated iron edging to the beds, water butts and rotting sheds remain from this time. The Bathhouse itself is in separate ownership and is not part of the sale, but the purchase would allow for continued access and potential collaboration.
The oldest trees are in the steeper northern part of the wood; in the 1840s, historic maps describe as 'Part of the Forest', meaning this area has probably always been woodland. Since the 1990s, the whole of Blackswarth Road Wood has been left to naturally regenerate into a diverse woodland, with open glades, young and old growth, and full of veteran oaks and enormous hazel.
There has been no public access, so wildlife in the wood has been largely undisturbed, but this also means that the wood has not been managed and has lost some of its diversity. Native bluebells, an ancient woodland indicator, are found on the site.
Sadly this land has also been abused, being used as a rubbish dump from various sides, with everything from old tyres and bathtubs to headstones from the cemetery.
Huge clean-up parties will be required to get this woodland back on track, but working with volunteers and contractors we can remove decades of rubbish and return this space to nature. Together we can rescue the wildlife from having to live amongst this mess and make sure the only changes happening to the woodland are positive.
Why are we doing this?
The site has been listed as ‘mature woodland with scope for residential development subject to consents’, which is highly misleading. There is no reasonable legal pathway to developing on this land. Previous planning has been rejected, and it’s highly unlikely future permission will be given, but that doesn’t mean this ecosystem won't be severely damaged or destroyed in the process.
“Friends of Troopers Hill particularly value Blackswarth Wood as it forms part of a wildlife corridor through the Avon Valley conservation area that includes Troopers Hill. We don't think there is any realistic prospect of a new owner getting permission to build on the site but we are concerned that someone might cause damage in trying to prove that building is feasible.
We really hope that the charity, Protect Earth, will be able to purchase the site to ensure that it is managed for wildlife and to enhance its biodiversity." - Susan Acton-Campbell, Chair, Friends of Troopers Hill.
There is also concern that whilst the land does have conservation status (SNCI), this is not neccessarily enough to protect it from damage under a new owner.
“The decision to build on Brislington Meadows shows that SNCI status gives no protection. Reserved Open Space land can be sold if it is 'no longer needed for its open space function'.” – Bristol Tree Forum
Who are we?
Protect Earth is an environmental charity that buys land to protect and restore to its full potential, for the benefit of wildlife, community, and carbon sequestration.
We are currently restoring a 64-acre ancient replanted woodland in Cornwall to its former glory as a temperate rainforest, we are creating a 70-acre woodland on marginal grazing land in Powys, and another 27 acres of woodland is being created in Flintshire.
For this community woodland acquisition we also have the support of the following organisations:
- Avon Wildlife Trust
- Bristol Tree Forum
- Friends of Avon Valley Woodlands
- Friends of Troopers Hill
- Forest of Avon Trust
- Barton Hill History Group
- St George Community Association
- Friends of Western Slopes
- Save Brislington Meadows
- Avon Gardens Trust
- Show of Strength Theatre Company
- Avon Needs Trees
- Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife
Discussions are ongoing with other environmental, historical, and architectural groups/charities to explore potential collaboration.
How will we do this?
The short-term goal (by September 2023) is to put together enough funding to make the winning bid at auction. Auctions can be tough, so the more funding we are armed with the better. The more we can raise through crowdfunding the less we’ll need to call on loans and investors. Together we can purchase this community woodland, and manage it for nature recovery, wellbeing, and learning.
The medium-term goals include baseline habitat and biodiversity surveys, risk-benefit assessments, a heritage survey, and an opportunity to share your views.
The long-term goals include:
- Community involvement, leading to improved connection with nature and mental wellbeing
- Sustainable woodland management
- Enhanced biodiversity, including tree species reintroduction
- More inclusive participation in this secluded location through open days
- Improved carbon sequestration
- Local reduction in runoff, reducing flooding, improved soil health and improved air and water quality
- Heritage preservation
Read here for a more detailed history of Blackswarth Wood
What happens if not enough is raised or the bid is not successful?
The donations will be held by Crowdfunder and returned in the event we do not hit the target. If our auction bid is not successful, all donated money will be returned.
We hit goal! What now?
Thanks to all of your support we have reached our fundraising target! When we started this Crowdfunder less than a week ago, we had no idea that we'd be celebrating this moment so early. We are so grateful for the herculean effort of everyone who has helped us get here. We've seen media coverage, radio interviews, BBC news bulletin coverage, celebrity endorsements, MP support and most importantly the community going the extra mile to promote and support this bid. You are all amazing!
So what happens now?
Firstly, we should celebrate what we've achieved in the past six days. This is how it feels to come together as a community and show our strength in numbers.
Next, we move to our stretch goal. The £40,000 +gift aid raised makes up a large chunk of the guide price, but we need to have more to ensure we can make a competitive bid. Auctions can go to much higher than guide price, so we need to keep raising funds to increase our chance of success.
If we win the auction and have donations left over, we will put those donations towards funding the extensive clearing of fly tipping, ecological surveys, and ongoing management of the woodland. Protect Earth will be transparent about how the money is used and managed as we work with various community groups and contractors to get this work done.
It's hard to articulate just how much we appreciate and value all of the support that helped us reach this point together, thanks to every one of you!