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An under-explored corner of the Downs is being championed as a new trail launches today to encourage greater appreciation of the area.
A host of native and exotic trees will be coming into blossom this month, on an area of Durdham Down, between Westbury Road and Westbury Park, near White Tree roundabout.
Known locally as ‘the Granny Downs’, it is said to have been where the residents of a nearby old people’s home were brought out on sunny days to sit and enjoy the trees.
The area has a rich diversity of trees, from familiar natives such as the English oak and ash, to the more exotic tulip tree, silver maple and red chestnut.
Now a new public trail has launched, which celebrates the beauty and variety of trees in the area, many of which are in full bloom throughout late April and May.
The Lord Mayor of Bristol, councillor Cleo Lake, attended a ceremony today (April 12) to celebrate the start of the new trail, along with the chief executive of Bristol Zoological Society, Dr Justin Morris.
Special guests also included the family of the late Richard Bland, who was instrumental in the development of the tree trail.
The trail is a collaboration between the Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project and the Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge. It takes visitors on a gentle 1.1km (0.7 mile) route to discover 17 trees, including laburnums, horse chestnuts, hawthorns and cherry trees, now in flower.
The initial research for the Granny Downs Tree Trail was done by the late Richard Bland, a local naturalist who observed and recorded the wildlife on the Downs for decades. Richard passed away last year and the trail has been completed in his memory.
Robert Westlake, chair of the Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge said: “The Granny Downs Tree Trail has been very much a labour of love for all concerned. Sadly, one of those who laboured long and hard to bring this project to fruition is no longer with us.
“Richard Bland was our vice chairman and founder member of the Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge - he was instrumental in the development of this tree trail. His love of the Downs and its wildlife is enduring. I’m so very pleased that we have been able to collaborate with the Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project to complete the trail in Richard’s memory, thereby sharing Richard’s passion for trees with visitors to the Downs.”
The trail was completed with funding from the OVO Foundation and Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge, and is the fifth in a series of nature trails for the Downs.
Other trails include a bird trail, tree trail (covering Christchurch Green and the Promenade), a lichen trail and a meadow trail. There are also seasonal family trails available.
Copies of the Granny Downs Tree Trail can be picked up from Café Retreat on the Downs. You can also request a postal copy by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project at Bristol Zoo Gardens on 0117 903 0609.
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