England's Glory: Steve England's column
TROOPERS Hill nature reserve – what a fantastic place! Last Sunday I had the chance to attend a geology walk put on by the friends of the hill group.
It's a place I've wanted to visit for many years and really never got around to going there and, as much as I love to present things, it was a nice change to be a guest and not the presenter.
The geologist Andrew Mathieson explained that the hill was the remnant of a tropical swamp dating back more than 300 million years and that the sandstone soils were acidic and therefore attracted a completely different type of plant life such as heathers and Yellow Broom. These in turn will attract wildlife such as the common lizard and the tiny mining bee.
The soil is very different to Stoke Park, which has an alkaline soil due to the Limestone rock, so if we swapped plants from Troopers Hill to Stoke Park they would not survive well and vice versa.
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The friends of Troopers Hill group led by Susan and Rob Acton-Campbell have done a magnificent job over the last ten years turning an old quarry site where coal and clay was once mined into one of the most biologically diverse nature reserves in Bristol. During the walk Rob Acton-Campbell told us about the history of the copper works that once went on there and, although I've seen the huge tower on the hill I've always wondered what it was for.
Rob explained that it was the remains of a ventilation tower which dates back to the early 18th century.
I asked Susan Acton-Campbell if they did any wild food walks there as that's one subject I'm very keen on. The prompt answer was 'no' and, in fact, they discouraged that activity there.
The reason being, I was told, was simply because the total area that is Troopers Hill nature reserve is 20 acres and therefore collecting plants for human consumption would remove it from the wildlife.
Which, of course, makes perfect sense to leave it.
Now I have to admit to one thing: Back in the autumn I looked on their website, (which is www.troopers-hill.org.uk) and I was very envious of one species of fungus that grows there and not Stoke Park – the Fly agric. That's the red and white one in fairytale books.
I would like to say many thanks to the Friends of Troopers Hill for a great event and to Rob and Susan Acton-Campbell for their invitation to a great place in Bristol.