Resilience Spotlight – Laura Murgatroyd

The Resilience Spotlight is an initiative of the Bristol Resilience Network (formally the Resilience Action Group), which is part of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership. Every month in 2015, we have invited nominations for someone in the city who demonstrates how we can work at a local level to develop Bristol’s capacity to respond to shocks and stresses.

This month’s theme was Nature and we were looking for someone who is developing ecology diversity, creating and improving green spaces, and supporting biodiversity. 

Clifton St Oct14 008smallPatchwork Community Gardening was set up in 2003, in order to transform small unused and derelict green spaces into small nature havens with plants, flowers, fruit trees and shrubs. The initiative grew out of Sustainable Southville, a community development initiative tackling social and environmental issues in the area.

Laura Murgatroyd, a volunteer with Patchwork, shares how they now manage half a dozen spaces. Volunteers meet once a month and tend to these spaces, gardening and clearing litter to maintain them as pleasant spaces for the community. The project also runs events; this year’s included a wassail and an apple pressing day. They also take part in the annual Get Growing Trail in the city.

Laura sees the project as engaging with resilience in a few different ways:

  1. Nature: We rely heavily on the natural environment, but it can be easy to forget this. Creating spaces for nature to flourish in the city provides a habitat for the city’s wildlife, supporting bee populations (vital to the fertilisation of our food). Green space also absorbs pollutants and carbon emissions, improves drainage of rainwater (minimising flooding), boosts wellbeing for the local population and provides recreational space.
  2. Food: As part of Sustainable Southville, the project was developed with underlying concerns of peak oil, food miles and other environmental issues. By growing food on these otherwise unused spaces, Patchwork is demonstrating ways that a community can develop their resilience to food shocks and increasing prices.
  3. Community: By clearing up the neighbourhood, Patchwork is developing the neighbourhood as a pleasant place for both people and nature to be. These patches of land used to be prime places for fly-tipping, but now they are managed there are far fewer incidents of littering. They have also found that local people feel ownership for the space and often help keep the spaces managed.

Laura says: “The projecPatchwork spring 2015 016smallt itself is just as much about building community and meeting new people as it is about creating green spaces. We garden and then we go to the pub!”

Her experience with this project has shown that there are things that everyone can do, no matter how small their garden. “Plant some bee-friendly plants in pots or create a small pond or water feature– you don’t need loads of space.” She notes that the Good Garden Awards in Southville and Bedminster have encouraged a lot of people to get stuck into creating their own nature havens.

Laura also encourages people to think about whether they could do a similar project to Patchwork in their own community, suggesting that people “look out for a patch of land that needs some attention.” She advises, “find out who owns it and chances are – especially if its council owned – they will be happy for you to restore it.”Patchwork 30apr15 001small

She adds: “Don’t be daunted – it doesn’t require that much work. But also be realistic and don’t take on too much. We have built up how many pieces of land over the last ten years, taking on each as and when we can.”

Kim Dowsett, Co-chair of the Bristol Resilience Network, says: “This project is a fantastic example of how communities can get together to create spaces for people and wildlife – turning spaces with rubbish and concrete into small havens for wildlife in the middle of the city. As Laura says, this can be replicated across Bristol (with many groups doing this already), so keep an eye out for spaces near you!”