Knoll Hill, Bristol

The Woodland Trust reserve of Knoll hill is the remnants of the extended woodland garden of the nineteenth century Bishops palace. It extends down the slope of the Gorge as far as the track of the Severn Beach railway line.

The original House has long since been replaced by three large blocks of flats with manicured lawns and wonderful views across the Avon to Leigh Woods.

The Woodland Trust planted a lot of native species, rebuilt old paths and some of the old walls, and the site is now a wonderfully wild steeply sloping site, much loved by children building dens, and dog-walkers. It is a mysterious place, with odd walls and remnants of nineteenth century ironwork appearing out of the brambles. There is even an arbour with ancient Apples that once were trained over it. There are masses of young Ash and Oak and Maple, the remnants of an apple orchard with gnarled trees hung with Lichens. And then every so often a vast tree suddenly emerges from the mass of young growth. The oldest is a huge Sessile Oak, over seven meters in circumference and at least 500 years old, surrounded by an iron fence. There is a vast Black Pine, which must be 200 years old, a lot of relatively young Redwoods, a huge Western Red Cedar whose horizontal bows are a children’s favourite for climbing on, a massive Monterey Cypress, and an interesting series of conifers one of which, the Jefferies Pine has needles twenty cm long, and a cone that weighs in at half a pound. There is also a rare Oriental Spruce.

Everywhere there are self-sown young trees, both traditional English species such as Ash, Maple, Yew, Hazel, Holly, and Silver birch, and then new-comers that have spread from gardens including Holm Oak, Laurel, Bay, Portuguese Laurel, Buddleia, Japanese Spindle, Laurustinus, and several kinds of Cotoneasters. Our native woodland is going to look rather different in a hundred years’ time as these mature.

There is too much shade for many plants to flourish but there are primroses and Lesser Periwinkle, Madder, Stinking Iris, Italian Lords and Ladies, and lots of Ivy, Bramble and Clematis.