Greening the inner-city

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When you drive up the M32 from Bristol City Centre it’s hard to imagine what lies behind the colourful roadside fencing on Newfoundland Road.

Yet under the shadow of a large sycamore tree just short of junction 3 you’ll find a green oasis.

Nestled between St Agnes Church and a terrace of houses, St Pauls Adventure Playground serves local young people living within earshot of hurtling lorries.

A lot has been written about the environmental and health impacts of air pollution:

  • Polluted air is one of our four greatest public health risks. The direct health impacts of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide pollution in England will cost us £1.69bn in the eight years to 2025
  • And around £83m in Bristol alone each year.

But St Pauls Adventure Playground isn’t about numbers. It’s about the young people who spend their days on streets that suffer a notoriously high level of air pollution.

The children have helped with planting and watering as they've developed a new orchard. Strawberries, raspberries, spinach, chard and mushrooms now grow on the allotment site.

Addressing climate change, Covid and arson 

APE Project CiC – who run St Pauls Adventure Playground – received a £2,000 Megawatt Community Energy grant in 2019 for Green on the Scene. The funding helped set-up weekly environmental awareness sessions at St Pauls Adventure Playground with a focus on improving local air quality and increasing biodiversity.

Despite the pressures of a pandemic, and rebuilding the play equipment following a devastating act of arson, APE CiC still made a success of this project.

They used their outdoor space to run sessions focusing on proactive ways that local families can be a part of the solution to growing carbon emissions. The sessions ran at the same time as the children’s bike exchange which offers affordable bikes to local families and provides young people with the skills they need to repair their own bikes. This funding also helped offer an apprenticeship opportunity to a young person from a nearby local estate as an apprentice environmental playworker.

Project helps grow healthy local food which cuts carbon

Guy Dobson Director at APE Project CiC explains: “We’ve developed a new orchard of apple trees on site, all of which our apprentice Eliot has led on planting and maintaining. We’ve involved the children in planting and watering them and relocating any that needed moving to the new orchard location. We’ve landscaped some new steps to rationalise our allotment space which has been producing strawberries, raspberries, spinach, chard and mushrooms. Eliot has also led on cultivating the plants, edibles and flowers in our planters around the site, as well as planting bulbs including daffs, tulips and snow drops. We’ve also been monitoring and sending data back to Knowle West Media Centre regarding our air quality reading from the sensor they installed last year, crucial due to our location by the M32.

“Our apprentice Eliot relates so well to the young people and has grown with the project. Having been in trouble when a youth and also leaving school with no GSCE’s, he has flourished into the most wonderful playworker, exhibiting a natural flair for the role, possibly due to him coming from a family of nine siblings. He’s strongly rooted in the St Pauls’ community and has a deep understanding of the issues surrounding culture, class, diversity and equality. He has shown a thirst for knowledge and we have now put him forward for a community leadership course as well as endless other training opportunities to develop his personal and professional development.”

A bright, colourful environment awaits children & young people at St Pauls Adventure Playground