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Agenda item

Wildlife Project Education Programme


The committee welcomed Mandy Leivers (Avon Gorge & Downs Biodiversity Education Manager) back from furlough. She gave an update on the Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project as there new members now on the committee.

·       The Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project started in 1999 and is a partnership of Downs Committee, Bristol City Council, Merchant Venturers, Bristol Zoo, Natural England, University of Bristol, The Forestry Commission and The National Trust. The project has three roles: wildlife surveying and monitoring; habitat management; education and community engagement. The Avon Gorge & Downs Biodiversity Education Manager and the seasonal Avon Gorge and Downs Learning and Engagement Officer roles are funded by Downs Committee and Bristol Zoo. Mandy is grateful to Downs Committee for their continued support.

·       Since the education programme began in 2001, over 127,000 people have participated. The project has a public programme of events (walks, talks, courses, family and children’s events); school groups are taught between Easter and October; playschemes visit for education sessions in the summer holidays; and we have run many longer-term community projects that engage with under-represented groups. Many of the latter are part of the ‘Your Downs’ initiative (run in conjunction with the Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge and the Downs Supervisor) which is about enabling a wider audience to visit, learn about and enjoy the special wildlife of the Downs and Avon Gorge.

·       We recruited a new engagement officer who started end of May, training has been intensive. We’re also working hard to rebuild our volunteer team.

·       500 children are coming back to the Downs for school education sessions this summer, we have had to start slowly due to covid restrictions. This includes social distancing, enhanced cleaning, etc. The autumn term booking is going well, and schools are very keen to get involved.

·       Events for 2020 were cancelled but we are now planning ones for this autumn.

·       We are also starting a ‘Your Downs’ project, Nature in the Streets, for young people with mental ill-health. We are working with mental health charity Off the Record and FOD+AG to run the project which focuses on nature connection and wellbeing.

·       The Downs is part of the ‘Wastes and Strays’ project to promote urban green spaces. This includes a researcher collecting oral history about the Downs, also a ‘poet in residence’ who is leading poetry events to celebrate the Downs.

·       The integration of 4 new Bagot Goats was successful and was picked up by ITV news, with lots of sharing across social media.

·       Some of the information panels on the Downs are in poor condition and some are vandalised, that will need looking at with the appropriate funding.


Discussion notes:

·       The committee would welcome an update on the Wastes and Strays project. It is a comparative study on 4 urban green spaces so is likely to provide good learning opportunities. POR was involved in Phase 1 a couple of years back and could draft a report. [ACTION].

·       The committee welcomed the return of the education project. The partnership with FOD+AG shows how important voluntary groups are for the welfare of the Downs.

·       Visiting the Downs is very beneficial for all. A key part of the education strategy is to include groups that do not usually visit the Downs. Inclusion of under-represented groups could be part of the governance review.

·       Members thanked Ben Skuse and his team for their help restoring areas for educational use.


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