July 2021 Field Trip to Troopers Hill, Bristol

On 10th July a group of members were treated to a very enjoyable guided walk of Troopers Hill Wood and Nature Reserve by Rob Acton-Campbell. The name of the hill has changed over years, but one theory to the present name is that troops were camped there during the Civil War, as there was such a good view of Bristol.

The varied habitats are partly due to the industrial history of the site. Sandstone and clay were mined from the surface, coal from underneath, the chimney at the top is the remnant of iron and copper smelting on the river below and until the 1960’s the site was a dumping ground for rubble excavated from building works in Bristol.
Photo: Winner of Friends of Troopers Hill Photography competition 2007 - Mike A

Rob showed pictures of the south facing bank from years ago which show that this area has changed very little. Indeed it might be quite similar to when Elizabeth Emra wrote “Sit down with me amongst the beautiful purple heath, visited by the wild bees, and the blue butterflies; and breathe the fresh air of our rugged hill, and look on the fair extended prospect." in 1830.

In the woodland, which is created on what was the dump, you can see old bricks on the paths and some of the steps utilise the rods which were used to gauge if the tip was moving. Thankfully it is stable now.
At the edge of the woodland and by the boundary on Trooper’s Hill Road there is scrub which is a useful habitat, but the volunteers do work hard to contain it as well as the bracken, gorse and hornbeam so that the delicate heathland habitat is maintained.

A huge number of invertebrates thrive on the site, we saw many Marbled White butterflies, including one which was particularly subdued and sadly had wing damage. A staggering 83 species of bee have been recorded including the very rare Nomada guttulata which is a cleptoparasite (bees which lay their eggs inside nests constructed by other bee species and the larvae feed on pollen provided by the host) in this case Andrena labiata The Red Girdled Mining bee.
Photo: Marbled butterfly with damaged wing

Part of the Nature Reserve is particularly unique in the Bristol area as it has acid soil. This is due to the underlying pennant sandstone. The low nutrient acid soil is a perfect home for Bell heather, Ling, Broom and Gorse, St John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum), as well as European Golden Rod, otherwise known as Woundwort (Solidago virgaurea), which more delicate than the cultivated type and is quite rare.

Photo: Heather or Ling (Calluna vulgaris)

Rose Chafer beetle on hemlock water-dropwort
Bristol Onion seedheads
Perforate St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
Seed pods of Genista (Broom) which had covered the south-facing slopes with yellow flowers in the spring

Rob was wearing a teeshirt with a lovely design showing the wildlife that can be seen on the site, the picture was the winner of a competition that celebrated 25 years of Friend’s of Troopers Hill. The winning design as well as the entries are on their website www.troopers-hill.org.uk which is well worth checking out as it has much more about the history of the site and the wildlife that can be seen. The ecology of Troopers Hill changes quite dramatically as various groups of flowers bloom so a visit at any time of year is enjoyable.

Julia Shahin

Photos: Liz Wintle

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Avon Wildlife Trust
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Email: keynshamawt@gmail.com