The Bearpit Continues…We Hope

3 years ago our founder, Sara Venn, was invited to a meeting with owners of Bearpit Social and then members of the Bearpit Improvement Group, to discuss the possibility of Incredible Edible Bristol designing and supporting the planting aspect of the work that was ongoing in the Bearpit. At that time there was still lots of physical change ongoing in the space and it was actually in 2016 that we finally managed to get spades in the ground and began the project.

As with all the projects we work on we are 100{2f2874fc6125dd5cf7bd0be296e4e150855e421b2444f8743791b81c4b31d296} committed to the garden in the Bearpit but times down there, as written across much of Bristol’s press right now, are very hard. Drugs, addiction and sexual predation are all an everyday part of a day in the Bearpit, and due to this we have struggled to recruit and maintain volunteers in the space over the last year, and particularly so since the spice epidemic began. We can no longer leave our volunteer co-ordinator in the space alone so we have to commit to there being at least one other, if not two, of our steering group in the space, limiting work on other projects.


In the beginning…..

Last year we began to ask our amazing volunteers what they loved about the space and what they didn’t. These volunteers ranged in age from 7 to 70 and were from a diverse range of Bristol communities and it was particularly interesting to hear what younger people had to say. There was astonishment from an 8 year old that is was deemed acceptable to write words she wasn’t allowed to say on the walls in the space and she openly said that made her uncomfortable. We had several teenagers comment on the darkness of some of the imagery in the space. Several people mentioned that the toilets seemed to be very busy with drug dealing despite the fact there was a member of council staff in there.

Whilst all this was going on the garden has had much attention from both the UK and internationally. Last February the wonderful ladies from Bloom Fringe in Dublin came to spend the day with us in the Bearpit and later in the year Sara visited Dublin and supported the ladies to turn a space in Dublin very similar to the Bearpit, into a garden for a day, bringing together the Dublin community through the poor of a garden. Visitors from Norway were astounded by what they saw had been created and after a tour of lots of food related places deemed the Bearpit to be their favourite. The garden has been acknowledged by the UK gardening community too, with interest from landscape architects and their students.


Whilst in our first year in the Bearpit we had a small pot of funding from Bristol City Council, of which we only used half, last year that funding dried up and the project continued through donations and the ongoing support of volunteers. We were given an entire garden of plants from a friend of the project who had designed a garden at RHS Tatton. We were donated bulbs and seeds from Almondsbury Garden Centre and we muddled along, happily making what we knew was becoming a extraordinary space. and most importantly we worked alongside the businesses to make this happen.

Now we find ourselves in the saddest situation. Thousands, literally, of volunteer hours have gone into the Bearpit Garden. Costed at the volunteer rate of £11.06 the hours equate to a match fund from Incredible Edible Bristol to the garden of nearly £25,000. If we had employed people to make and work on the garden that figure would be double at least. Our founder, horticulturalist and designer Sara spent hundreds of volunteer hours designing the space and working on the plan to bring that to reality, firstly with the Bearpit Improvement Group, and then, as we felt it inappropriate for us to be on a strategic board when we were in delivery mode, working with the other organisations in the space. To quote Sara, “The Bearpit Garden will always be the most meaningful project I have ever worked on.”


But as you will all understand we have to ensure the safety of our volunteers above everything else and so we await to see what the landlord, Bristol city Council, along with the police and other agencies do following the announcement from the businesses that without significant change and policy around the space, their time must be limited. those businesses support the safety of the space, from dusk until dawn, and without them there it would be a far darker place where we cannot imagine volunteers from across the city would feel safe.

At that meeting 3 years ago we spoke about creating a safe and inclusive space for the whole city. A space in which everyone was welcome and no one judged as long as their behaviour was acceptable. A space where greening would play a huge role in supporting a calm, productive and beautiful city centre. We hope that vision can finally be realised and are excited about moving the garden forwards………

And if you want to get involved, get in touch. Our next work party is Thursday 24th between and 11 and 3. We would love to see you there!


Avonmouth GardenAlong

This year we are really excited to be working with Avonmouth Community Centre, Severnside Community Rail Partnership and the Incredible Edible Network to support families to grow their own food in their gardens and in community spaces.

We’ll be providing 25 families with a raised bed, which we will make with them at a free workshop in March, compost, plants and seeds, to create a growing space in their gardens. Along with this we will hold monthly events at the community centre, where we will have plants to give to the attendees as well offering lots of support and advice on how to get the best from their metre square garden. And in case they are concerned about what their children will do during this event, we’ll be holding a children’s event in the community centre garden, which will see gardening mixed with forest school in a fun and enjoyable way for 6-11 year olds.

So what will the families grow? Well that will be up to them. On 17th February we will be at the community centre where Avonmouth residents who are interested in taking part can come along and find out more! At that meeting we will be talking to people about what they would like to grow, and from that conversation we will order the plug plants that are the most popular choices. This will mean if you want to grow salad and tomatoes, you can but equally if you want to grow kale and pumpkins that will be fine too. We hope that all the families will show that, despite growing in the same, relatively small space, there are lots of things that are possible to grow in a metre square garden, with huge success.

Then at the end of the project we’ll hold a GardenAlong Festival, celebrating all the produce that has been grown, and all the amazing things that have happened or will happen with that produce!

How do I get involved we hear you shout?

Well first and foremost you need to live in Avonmouth. Then come along to the meeting on 17th February at the Community Centre in Avonmouth and sign up for the project and we’ll give you the dates for the events over the next few months, along with any other information you might need to know.

And in the meantime, if you would like to know any further information, please contact or call 07786 194805.


We’re a Beacon Group!!

As you will all know, we are a part of a large movement of Incredible Edible towns and cities that span not just the UK but also the globe. This movement was inspired but the work of Incredible Edible Todmorden and has been supported by the Incredible Edible Network, founded by Pam Warhurst,  since around 2012. Our founder, Sara Venn, is also Vice Chair of the IENetwork and along with others involved has been working very hard to bring together a project called Roots and Branches that will see 6 Beacons across the UK help to support new groups to form and established groups to bloom.

Incredible Edible is not just about food growing or community gardens, but is about spinning the 3 Incredible Plates. Those plates, of community, business and learning mean that in every place across the UK the work is done differently whilst the ethos is the same. For some the business plate is about supporting local, for others it is about working with businesses around funding. For some learning is all about schools when for others it is about upskilling communities. It’s about finding the way to create your local solutions to global issues and bring your communities together. It’s a powerful tool!!

Recently the National Lottery agreed to fund this work, and we were all excited to announce this project yesterday.

So what can you expect? Well, business will be as normal but we will be in a position to support more growing in public spaces both in and around the city of Bristol but also further afield in the south west area. Sara and the other Beacon leads from across the UK will be ensuring that there is available information on a new Incredible Edible Network website for new and interested groups to be able to access for information about how to get involved with Incredible Edible where ever you are in the country, and more importantly share the mistakes they all made to ensure new groups have a smoother ride!!

The Incredible Edible Network has received £400,000 for this work, of which about £12,000 will be available to Incredible Edible Bristol over 2 years, and with which we will be supporting new groups and individuals to learn more about becoming Incredible Edible and about growing in general. If you would like any further info please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!

In case you’d like to know who the other Beacons are, they include Incredible Education in Salford, Incredible Edible Wakefield, Incredible Edible Dunstable, Incredible Edible Conwy and Middlesborough Environment City, all of whom are doing extraordinary work across the UK!!