Sunday, 17 January 2010
The history's a mystery! Only reference I've yet found to salt wells is a mention of the Salt Well spring, just south of Whitchurch close by the A37. So maybe the brook should be known as the Saltwell brook. Old maps don't name it, though, and modern ones just suggest that it's the upstream section of the Brislington Brook.
The council (through its overstretched Wildlife Officer) is hoping to arrange some work here during what's left of the winter, to protect the 'neutral grassland' to the south and east of the brook against further scrub encroachment. This means cutting back the brambles, blackthorn etc.
Apparently the neutral grassland is the main value of this SNCI. The tussocks are anthills, and are valued as an indicator of the sites history, i.e. it hasn't been cultivated for a long time. They also serve as a food source for various insectivorous species. Really it needs light grazing to keep it in condition - not by cows, which would trample it, but by sheep, goats, or even a dexter herd. However, graziers are increasingly rare.
All of which adds yet another dimension to the future enjoyment of this attractive valley.
It's already finding plenty of informal uses: play, exploration, dog-walking, and recently tobogganing.
Cycling City are planning to add interpretive boards, seats, etc, at the top of the bank by the railway path. They're also preparing plans for a new cycle path dropping from the Whitchurch Railway Path into the valley, then under the viaduct, and on to Whitchurch Park.
The Area Green Space Plan, due out in July, could suggest more investment to improve access and public amenity. (That in turn could provide a through link from the Stockwood side through to Wells Road and Gilda Parade). All in all, we can expect a few changes here.
If grazing's compatible with nature conservation, why not see the site as a potential local food project too, teaching livestock care and management? It could complement similar habitat around the Craydon Road entrance to the railway path.
Although that, of course, could provoke more Tory '#kerryout' twitters about Bristol East being all Mogadishu and goat curry.