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10 nature reserves in Bristol to catch the first signs of spring

Blue tit in a tree Photo by Paul Levesley on Unsplash 4 min read

Blue tits are on the lookout for nesting material from the end of February Photo by Paul Levesley on Unsplash 

February is the perfect time to spend more time outdoors and spot the first signs of spring – days are getting longer, birds are more vocal and first wildflowers are popping out to catch the warm rays of the sun. Located around scenic Avon Gorge central Bristol has a unique natural vibe, but there are also many other natural sites scattered around the city. Bring a pair of binoculars for bird watching and take a magnifier to study buds, tree bark and fluffy moss and you’ll have more emerging experience. Here are 10 nature reserves to explore in February. 

Clifton Suspension Bridge from Leigh Woods Photo by Aldrich C on Unsplash 

National Trust – Leigh Woods

Leigh Woods is Bristol’s own National Nature Reserve right in the city and easily accessible from Ashton or Clifton via the iconic Brunel’s suspension bridge. Abundant with wildlife and flora, but probably still quieter in February, it’s one of the best places to go looking for the early signs of the spring. Follow the many forest tracks and keep an eye out for snow-drops, buds and birdlife. 
C3 on Bristol Greenground Map

Avon New Cut NR

One of the newest Bristol nature sites in the city, Avon New Cut is home to mallards, gulls and herons, if you’re lucky you may even spot a kingfisher. Some species of butterflies may already start appearing in early spring, so look out for peacocks or small tortoiseshells at the Butterfly Junction.
C3 on Bristol Greenground Map

Nightingale Valley

Nightingale Valley is a small secluded nature reserve running alongside Brislington Brook, a tributary of the Avon. See if you can spot early wildflowers who like to get their feet wet and often grow by streams – such as marsh marigolds, primroses and snow-drops.
C4 on Bristol Greenground Map

First snowdrops of the year Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash 

Narroways Nature Preserve

Narroways is a small nature reserve in North Bristol next to railway lines with a panoramic view over the city and rich wildlife habitat. Look out for common frogs & toads and slow worms and lizards that may be starting to appear on the sunny south-facing embankments from the end of February. 
C4 on Bristol Greenground Map

Northern Slopes Nature Reserve

Made of three green spaces Nothern Slopes is a large wildlife reserve based (actually) in South Bristol with stunning vistas over Bristol. On the way to Bristol South Skyline Walk, the area has meadows, hedgerows and woods with a stream running through and several lookout points.
D4 on Bristol Greenground Map

Troopers Hill

Another wildlife-rich hillside nature reserve with great views of Bristol is located in the east of the city. At the edge of the woodland and scrub look out for woodland birds such as blue tits who start preparing for nesting at the end of February and if you’re lucky you might even see the green woodpecker! 
C4 on Bristol Greenground Map

Halfpenny Bridge, Snuff Mills ©crabchick | Flickr

Frome Valley Walkway

Running from Cotswold Hills to North East Bristol river Frome is an important wildlife corridor, where nature and people meet. Wagtails, Dippers and Kingfishers have made Frome valley their home and in early spring you can spot wildflowers such as primroses, crocuses and snow-drops on its banks.
B5 on Bristol Greenground Map

Old Sneed Park NR

Old Sneed is a secluded local nature reserve in Sneyd Park, northwest Bristol with woodlands, meadows and a small lake. A butterfly haven, Brimstone and Peacock are one of the earliest to emerge from hibernation. With over 40 species of birds recorded you’ll probably hear a few of them including goldcrests, finches and tits. 
C3 on Bristol Greenground Map

Brandon Hill

Brandon Hill and Cabot Tower is not only a tourist site but also a recognised nature reserve right in the middle of the city with birds, amphibians and urban meadows. A fuelling station for migrating birds you may spot redwings and fieldfares on the way back to North Europe later in the spring.
C3 on Bristol Greenground Map

Kingfisher fishing on the pond Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash 

Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve

Portishead is known for its beach and lighthouse, but not everyone knows it also has a large wetland area and nature reserve. Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve is a 100-acre nature site with large pools, ponds, marshes and meadows and an abundance of water-loving birds, animals and plant species. In February look out for frogs and toads and fluffy catkins on the willow trees.

B1 on Bristol Greenground Map