Permaculture in Bristol

I have recently started a Permaculture Design course run by Shift Bristol and today was the first of our field trips. We visited Golden Hill Community Garden, Feed Bristol and Royate Hill Community Orchard. Here are some of my thoughts from the day, some of the things I learnt that are of particular interest to me.

Golden Hill

Golden Hill is a community garden based in the Horfield area of Bristol. For those that know the area, it’s tucked away down a quiet street behind the prison just off Gloucester Road. The garden is self funded by the community and aims to be as accessible as possible to a broad range of people.

I was impressed with their solar powered water pump. Water from the local Horfield Common travels down hill through the garden to a small lake and well at the bottom of the garden. A solar powered water pump moves the collected water back up to the top of the hill. A system that makes use of gravity helps to keep the whole garden irrigated. This helps save around 1500 litres of water each week and £800 per year in water charges.

They have a rather posh compost toilet on site. Different from what you usually see on allotments or at festivals, this loo is designed to be accessible to all and easier to maintain day to day. See the picture below for a description of how it works.

To find out more about Golden Hill visit their website

Feed Bristol

This project is located in North Bristol close to the controversial MetroBus project. The soil in this area is of very high growing quality and the area saw campaigns by local community activists The Blue Finger Alliance who are dedicated to the preservation of active food growing land, much of which is Grade 1 Agricultural Soil, that stretches from South Gloucester into Bristol.

As with Golden Hill, the site is designed to be physically accessible to all, with wide paths and spaces for people to gather. There is a very well built rainwater harvesting system that is used to flush toilets and provides water for washing. The roundhouse, which has a reciprocal reinforcing structure for the living roof, was built by volunteers on a Shift Bristol practical permaculture course.

To find out more about Feed Bristol visit their website

Royate Hill

This community orchard and allotment has a rich and varied history, over the years having been used for dairy production, fruit production, brick making and allotments. It was saved from being developed into housing by the creation of a community orchard. You can find it tucked away near the viaduct on Rose Green Road in East Bristol.

The chickens at this site are an example of sustainable permaculture practices in operation. Prior to their use in this permaculture system everything about them was considered a waste by our globally predominant and unsustainable food farming operations. The chickens are rescued from a commercial battery farm, they are fed on floor sweepings from a local wholefoods producer and spoiled vegetables from local shops (the chickens love eating melon, pomegranate and grapes!), waste wood sourced from the orchard is turned into biochar and mixed with the chicken poop which is then spread across the orchard and allotment as fertiliser.

What really stuck with me from this visit is the importance of community involvement and social experiences in permaculture projects. Without community involvement and action wonderful permaculture projects such as this simply would not exist. Something Mike Feingold, the organiser at the community orchard, said at the end of the day resonated with me – “it’s not a place where I come to work, it’s a space that I enjoy being in” – I am firm believer in the idea that ‘work’ doesn’t have to be some kind of spiritual sacrifice, if you truly love what you are doing and enjoy the environment that you are doing it in then it doesn’t feel like ‘work’ at all.

To find out more about Royate Hill Community Orchard and Permaculture Allotment visit the Bristol Networks website