Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project sees increased interest from young and old

A community learning and engagement programme that raises awareness of the importance of the Avon Gorge and Downs, is to expand its services after a record year.

 Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project (AGDWP), a partnership led by Bristol Zoological Society, has seen the number of Bristol residents it’s engaged with in 2023 grow by 26 per cent.,

 Running regular walks, talks, workshops and community engagement sessions, it has increased the number of school children it’s taught by more than 1,000, reaching 2,507 young people. In addition, it’s almost doubled its children’s community play scheme involvement.

Now Bristol Zoological Society, an education and conservation charity working in nine countries across four continents, is expanding the project’s formal educational sessions from four to 11-year-olds, to two to 18-year-olds.

 Delivered by experienced environmental educators, each session is linked to a different area of the National Curriculum and is designed around a series of outdoor activities that embrace different learning styles and seasons. From peregrine falcons to wildflower meadows, it takes learning outside and immerses children in nature.

Anna Stevens, Avon Gorge & Downs biodiversity engagement and learning mnager at Bristol Zoological Society, said: “It’s been an incredibly busy year for us and fantastic to be able to reach even more school children. We are community focused and extremely proud of our surrounding environment. Our main aim is to instil the love of the natural world in young people, who will become the conservationists of the future.

“It is clear to see from our increase in outreach engagement that people are eager to explore and learn about the amazing wildlife on our doorstep. We couldn’t run our programme of stimulating nature-based activities without the support of our local community, and we are excited to grow together.”

Launched in 1999, AGDWP was set up to secure the outstanding wildlife interest of the Avon Gorge and Clifton, and Durdham Downs.

It’s led by Bristol Zoological Society in partnership with Bristol City Council, The Downs Committee, Natural England, The Society of Merchant Venturers, University of Bristol and Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge. It also works in partnership with the National Trust and Forestry England, which manage Leigh Woods on the North Somerset side of the Gorge.

By providing the local community with support and guidance through discovery walks, wildlife talks and in-depth workshops, the project has been able to improve wildlife habitat, as well as spread a wealth of knowledge to people of all ages.

Home to a wealth of wildlife, rare plants, ancient woodland, wildflower meadows, endemic trees, birds and fascinating geology, the Avon Gorge is internationally recognised as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and nationally designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Over the next few years, the Grade II listed former Bristol Zoo Gardens entrance building will become The Clifton Conservation Hub, a new community and exhibition space focused on the conservation of the incredible richness of local Bristol wildlife. It will also become home to AGDWP and include a café, learning and engagement space for local groups, and will host cultural, educational and community events.

To find out more about Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project, visit https://avongorge.org.uk/.