Growers Hub

Bristol Leigh Woods - Our Site Moving Forwards

Written by
Ed Morrison
May 16, 2024

All of our growing locations are mixed use spaces that hold many similarities to the government's newly launched Farming for the Future strategies that represent great needed change to the system across the country.

It has consistently been our intention to engage with ecologists before creating no-dig patches in area A & B and this has always been our chosen next steps when considering the sensitivities around the creation of this growing space on this specific agricultural land, when focusing on Area B our ambitions are to establish a higher diversity of wildflower species, establish wetland habitat and plant native woodland. 

We are currently not creating patches in the Northern Area, of which we will assess as time goes on to wait until peak nesting season is over where we will conduct subsequent thorough ecological checks to monitor the situation in collaboration with the Rural Affairs Unit of Avon and Somerset Police. If any skylark nests are found these will have a 20m exclusion zone installed (double the legal limit) with no access which will be maintained until all nesting activity ceases.

On 29th April there was also an ecologist present to monitor the area when we started creating the first patches in Southern Part of our location. This was the second survey we conducted within a short space of time and there was a thorough nest check of every tussock in the Southern Part. There was no evidence of nesting skylarks.

As each of our growing communities’ agricultural spaces are different and to make sure we were creating the no-dig patches in a conscious manner on 19th April 2024 we commissioned another Skylark survey to ensure none were nesting before the first tractor and trailers of compost were brought onto site.

In the past we conducted a further two separate Skylark Surveys across two months in June & July 2023 including a thorough tussock check and rope drag test in accordance with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) best practise guidelines which showed no skylarks were nesting in our field.

We have always communicated plans to maintain over 5 acres of current pasture to further invigorate with a high diversity of wildflower species. When creating a mixed use agricultural space for community, food growing and nature we always have plans at every location to increase biodiversity. Space is very limited in and around urban environments and we still believe this location can benefit many people whilst being managed ecologically sensitively, and enabling people to engage in regenerative agriculture, learn new skills, connect with one another and the natural world. 

Please click here to download the use the most recent study.

Further information

  • We have confirmed with the Rural Affairs Police that any additional short term works were to continue such as fence creation then there would always be an ecologist present and a clear method followed;
  • An additional check for skylark nests within 20m of the proposed fence route for the whole length.

  • If any skylark nests are found these will have a 20m exclusion zone installed (double the legal limit) with no access which will be maintained until all nesting activity ceases. There will be updates provided regularly where nests are found.

  • Nesting skylark checks will continue every 2 days until the fencing is completed. This will likely take up to 5 working days given posts are already installed.
  • In England and Wales - all wild birds, their young, nests and eggs are protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. It's an offence to: Damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it's in use or being built. Destroy or remove any egg of any wild bird. However some birds also fall into a second classification; Schedule 1. Schedule 1 birds require a license (to disturb) if you are operating within their vicinity. Skylarks are not schedule 1 in England & Wales and so no license for work is required. Just extra care to be taken during nesting season.
  • Previously during our ecological survey in 2023 we identified an in use outlier badger sett that was not deemed to be in regular use. Despite the low use we still placed an exclusion zone of 30m that is set into our boundary. 

1) No digging needed! Your Back Will Thank You

Yes, it’s true. You’ll be picking bountiful harvests without needing to dig, turn or fork the earth! Your back will thank you because digging takes about 2 x times longer than No dig. Beds are made by covering your growing ground in cardboard and placing nutrient rich compost on top - giving you a surface that’s ready to plant straight away!

2) Less weeding 

Weeds get suppressed by the layer of cardboard and compost, they then die off because of no sunlight! If soil stays undisturbed then weeds and their seeds are more likely to stay locked into the ground instead of sprouting when disturbed on a traditionally dug allotment.

3) Feeding the soil creates healthier plants

By building yearly layers of organic matter and not disturbing the soil’s ecosystem, you will increase the amount of good microbial activity. Good microbes help plants access nutrients and water, so the healthier your soil - the healthier your plants! 

4) You’ll do less watering!

No dig beds retain moisture better because you’re introducing organic matter, not taking it away. By keeping the soil’s ecosystem in-tact and encouraging bacteria, fungi and worms to do their thing will create better layers of soil that save water for when your plants need it - instead of bare dug ground that leaks moisture! Water is a precious resource and no dig helps us make the most of every drop!

5) Higher Yields Are Scientifically proven!

No dig has been proven to produce significantly higher yields by Charles Dowding over the last 9 years at his Homeacres Farm. He has been weighing the results of identically planted dug vs no dig beds and over that time the results are 100’s of kg’s greater.

6) Reduce Single-Use Plastic! <3 The Planet!

Every harvest throughout the seasons means you’ll be totally cutting out vast amounts of single use plastic that is used in supermarket produce! The supply chains we rely on use way too much making no dig a great way to start reducing personal consumption of single use plastic.

7) Experience Less pests & diseases

The result of great soil health by the no-dig method helps good bacteria, insects and animals thrive! Using natural methods of pest control we can learn to work with nature instead of against it - a single teaspoon of healthy rich soil can contain up to 1 billion bacteria!.

8) You’ll help fungal networks and they’ll help your plants grow

Fungi are a super important part of running a productive healthy patch. When soil is full of life and undisturbed there will be miles and miles of fungal networks beneath your feet trading nutrients with each other and your plants.

9) Save time and be 40% more productive by no dig!

When you don’t need to spend hours and hours digging, turning and prepping the soil for planting, you’ll be able to spend it doing the fun creative side of gardening - planning, planting, pruning your patch to create your own edible zen garden.

As a bonus you will also feel the mental and physical boost of growing your own

Gardening and feeding yourself with incredibly fresh nutrient dense food has amazing positive side effects for both people and the planet. As time goes by you’ll feel closer and more at one with nature.