Bees, Butterflies and Play- adapting 1960s design to a 21st century city

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Watching the boats by Anna Wilson

Sylvia Crowe designed the Cumberland Piazza as part of a much bigger landscaped scheme covering all the Ashton and Hotwells flyover. She explored many ideas about play and leisure that were cutting edge in the 1960s. One of the ideas for the Piazza was that people could sit and watch the boats coming in and out of Bristol Harbour. there were so many things she couldn't have known about that have arisen as major concerns in the intervening years. Although we can still watch the boats come and go from our new pocket park, we often watch through a haze of speeding cars- who knew in the 1960s that traffic levels would quadruple within 50 years?


The priorities for the Piazza since 2010 have been more greening and more community space, especially for younger generations. Since we painted the pillars, built our first planters and created a small smooth spot for skating in 2015, use of the Piazza has doubled.


pocket park launch
Concrete Community- Pocket Park  Launch by Tom Sale

The pocket park has encouraged more play- the little ones like to play away from the sanitised 'playpark' environment, and older kids are enjoying experimenting with the shapes and forms. Skaters are moving some of the structures about the site, and we have had some lovely responses from BMXers, parents and bees. There's still alot to do. We will make the concrete sculptures smoother and more beautiful, plant more pallets and paint pots and we still hope to move the pocket park under cover for winter.

charlie in a box
Sitting in goal by Tom Sale


So, what can we do to both preserve and adapt ideas about children's play and community space to address the issues of our times, of climate change adaptation and space for communities to express the needs of all ages?

  • Resurface more spaces and create more facilities for ball and wheels sports
  • Create 'Swales' where Sylvia Crow's aggregate tiled 'sun dial' sits
  • Produce beautiful information boards about the past, present and future
  • Host community events and activities, including the Peaceful Portway & the West Bristol Arts Trail, creating stages, market stalls and temporary cafes.
Swlaes image
impression of Swales planted in the Sun Dial by Zoe Smith

With the support of Hotwells & Cliftonwood Community Association, working with historians, landscape architects, designers, artists, flood risk specialists and locals, our next steps are:

  • To produce a new master plan, embracing the original design, and adapting it to create a 'climate ready park'
  • To understand hydrology of the site and work with the council's resilience officer
  • To explore safe routes to and from the site for cyclists and pedestrians, using ideas from the Hotwells & Cliftonwood Community Traffic Strategy
  • To develop more creative ideas, helping young people to enjoy outdoor play
  • To apply for funding to achieve all this!
glad pp
Concrete Community- a place for bees, butterflies and play

We are always looking for more people to come and help, so if you are interested in any of the above, or even just like pulling up a few weeds and doing a bit of watering- don't forget this is about encouraging more bees and butterflies too- please contact Anna at [email protected]