Netham Common, Bristol
Back in 2009-2010 having worked on Selfsufficientish for 6 years I decided it was time to broaden my horizons a little. I contacted a number of magazines with various ideas. The Bristol Magazine picked up one of my ideas. Over almost a year I visited various spots around Bristol in an attempt to urge people to do the same.
Netham common is one of the green spaces that you will only find on a map. That is unless you live nearby and walk your dog on or you play football there on a Sunday afternoon. It is tucked away in my bit of Bristol, over in the badlands (south of the M32). On one side of the park is Avonvale Road on the other The Feeder Road canal and if you are standing on the common you can see about 3 blocks of flats. The flats I think frame it as a cityscape, without them the park might look out of place. Almost as a squirrel without a tail or a bird with no beak.
Every time I walk on Netham Common, which is almost every day at the moment, it really fills me with a sense of hope. In living memory, the common has been a toxic dump. I spoke to one of my neighbours and he remembers when it used to be a chemical works. The Barton Hill History Group state that from 1859 to 1949 a huge chimney used to belch out smoke, casting a shadow across Barton Hill. The massive 40-acre site must have looked like something out of post-apocalyptic 1980’s drama Threads.
Netham has now changed beyond recognition and when I learned of its story I found it most heart-warming. It was given back to the city in the fifties and the transformation began. Now there are native trees, squirrels and a host of birds that all call this former waste dump home. It is also a great place for foraging, with chestnut trees (if you beat the squirrels to is), sloes, elderberries, rosehips, and blackberries aplenty.
It is slightly frustrating though as due to the chemicals in the soil I would not be comfortable picking the mushrooms, nettles or many of the other plants that grow on the Netham. However, it does bring hope to the rest of the city, perhaps Tesco Eastville will become a freshwater wildlife reserve, Clifton Heights a wildflower meadow and the M32 a deer park. Well here’s hoping (and day dreaming).