Lamplighters Marsh, Bristol

If you park at the old Lamplighters Pub by the Pill ferry and walk north you come to Lamplighters Marsh. In the 1930s this was a huge marshalling yard for freight trains and it connected up with Avon mouth Docks.

Today it an official SNCI, site of Nature Conservation Interest, one of 99 in the city, and a vivid illustration of the way that sites that yesterday were industrial are today biodiversity havens. It lies in the shadow of the M5 Bridge, and the traffic sound is a constant background, and it runs right along the narrow strip of estuary saltmarsh. It is only a metre or so above the high tide level, and may even get swamped in the biggest tides.

There is a fine new path running through it, full of dog-walkers and children on bikes, but the rest of it is a mass of brambles and hawthorn, interspersed with ponds and little reed-beds. It is a wonderfully wild place because most of it is totally inaccessible. On the day I was there, the Collared Doves and a Song Thrush were in song, Greenfinches were wheezing, and Goldfinches producing their glittering notes. It early spring it is full of warblers, and as the Severn Estuary is a natural migration route there are probably a lot of migrant birds that use it as a stopover. Earlier in the winter it will have been full of Redwings and Fieldfares, as the Hawthorns have been stripped of all their berries.

There are lots of rabbits in the summer who keep the areas of grass well cropped, and a number of unusual plants, as a lot of the “soil” is ballast chippings for the complex of rail-lines that once ran through it, and which can still be seen in a few places. There are Moth Mullein, Teazel, and Asters in the autumn.

The park continues right up to the Bridge, and the Park and Ride is close by. I daresay that some of the reserve may become absorbed by parking demand, especially if some intelligent person links the old Severn Beach rail line to the Park and Ride, and cuts out the tedious commute down the Portway. But for the moment is as wild a spot as any in the city. Being totally inaccessible makes it very valuable indeed. I will be visiting it in May as part of the Bristol 99 surve