Portbury Wharf

This Avon Wildlife Trust site was the first to be managed as part of a residents levy initiative. Consent for a nearby housing estate was granted on condition that developers designated this land a nature reserve, with householders meeting the cost of maintaining it. Wildlife highlights include water voles, otters, hairy dragonflies and greater horseshoe bats.


Brandon Hill

In 1980, this landmark at the heart of Bristol became the first city-centre nature reserve in Britain, bringing hay meadows, ponds and butterfly gardens to a formal park setting.

It is full of cowslips in spring, and in summer ox-eye daisies, knapweed and yellow rattle add a fine splash of colour. Toads, frogs and smooth newts breed here, and grey squirrels (above) are common.

Three Brooks Nature Reserve

Close to the M4/M5 junction, this reserve comprises a lake, grassland, woodland and a trio of streams. It hosted a bioblitz in July – 617 species were found in 30 hours.

Bennett’s Patch and White’s Paddock

A new reserve due to open in 2015 beside the busy Portway road. Avon Wildlife Trust aims to transform the 5ha former sports ground into a mosaic of wildflower meadows, native woodland and ponds, to inspire local people to create habitat in their own communities. Slow-worms are already present.

Leigh Woods

Reached by Brunel’s iconic suspension bridge, Leigh Woods is a wide expanse of deciduous woodland with magnificent pollarded oaks, and a scattering of rarer species such as the wild service tree. Carpets of wood anemone in spring are a classic indicator of ancient woodland.


Avon Gorge

Linking Bristol with the River Severn, the limestone gorge serves as a wildlife corridor for badgers, hedgehogs and several bat species, and has resident peregrines and ravens. It is botanically rich, with several rare orchids and plants such as Bristol rock-cress, Bristol onion and Bristol whitebeam.


Sarah McPhersonFeatures editor, BBC Wildlife Magazine