Local MP Chris Skidmore was joined by Leader of South Gloucestershire Council Toby Savage in officially opening the refurbished pond and wildlife garden at Willsbridge Mill last week.
Over the past nine months the pond and garden have been transformed into a haven for wildlife by the Mill’s team of dedicated volunteers, led by Willsbridge Mill Community Refresh. It is hoped that this new major project will provide an excellent living environment for pond life such as frogs, toads, newts and a variety of invertebrates, as well as providing an opportunity for the discovery and appreciation of nature through activities such as pond-dipping, which has been a favourite pastime for decades for children and adults alike.
The Willsbridge Mill Community Refresh team explained to Chris how the creation of these new outdoor areas is being managed sustainably and with the aim of encouraging a wide range of people to connect with nature. The importance of Willsbridge Mill and its open spaces was never more evident than during the pandemic, they added, when the site played a vital role in supporting people’s mental wellbeing during lockdown.
The new pond and garden are not the only exciting changes which have taken place at Willsbridge Mill over the past year. The Mill opened a Forest School in October 2020, following a successful bid for Heritage Lottery Funding which Chris was pleased to support. In his letter of support, Chris commended the excellent education programmes and numerous walking trails the Mill provides for our community, in addition to emphasising how the Mill helps our children to enjoy nature and the natural environment in which it is set.
Michael Gray, Estate Director of Willsbridge Mill Community Refresh said:
“Willsbridge Mill Community Refresh is a voluntary, not-for-profit organisation set up in 2014 by local people. What we have always hoped to achieve is a difficult blend of conservation and ecology, and catering for the community’s needs, which are very varied. What we hope is that the garden achieves both objectives, whilst protecting the rich heritage of the site and improving environmental and social benefits for the community. We are also always on the look-out for new volunteers with varied skills and gardening experience.”
Sue Smith, Operational Director of Willsbridge Mill Community Refresh said:
“Like most organisations, 2019/2020 has been challenging but following the easing of covid-19 restrictions, we were delighted to welcome visitors back to the café from Fridays to Sundays with additional opening days planned from July.”
Toby Savage, Leader of South Gloucestershire Council said:
"It was great to be back again at the historic Willsbridge Mill to see the latest project completed by the team. These dedicated volunteers do such tremendous work to protect and preserve local wildlife and encourage nature recovery. As our local nature reserve, it has played such an important role in our community, particularly through Covid."
Local MP Chris said:
“It was a pleasure to formally open Willsbridge Mill’s new pond and wildlife garden. Having grown up locally, I have visited many times over the years and I have especially fond memories of volunteering here whilst completing my Bronze Duke of Edinburgh award, many years ago. I was therefore honoured to open the newly refurbished garden and pond, which will be an asset in furthering the already fantastic work that Willsbridge Mill does for the local community.”