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Avon Valley Woodlands nature reserve

The Avon Valley Woodlands local nature reserve is situated within the beautiful setting of the River Avon near Hanham. The maturing broadleaved woodlands are home to a wide variety of wildlife and are an ideal location for people of all abilities to enjoy getting closer to nature.

The series of woodlands owned by the council include Conham River Park, Hencliff Wood and Bickley Wood and help make up the 31.5 hectare reserve. The woodlands are accessible through a network of paths including the River Avon trail.

Access for all

Improvements have been made to the Conham River Park to allow easier access to the River Avon. A 750 metre stone surface path – with oak seats along its way, has been created to allow people to walk, cycle or ride along the historic towpath between the car park and the ferry crossing at Beeses tea gardens. This towpath and the River Avon and Kennet and Avon Canal make an important link between the River Severn, Bristol and Bath. A popular long distance footpath called River Avon trail follows this important trade link.

Picnic benches have been installed and accessible parking bays and toilets are available in the car park, which is situated at the bottom of Conham Hill, near Hanham.

A rich heritage

As you walk through the woodlands you will quickly discover some clues to the site’s past. Much of the area was quarried, with twelve small quarries operating between Conham River Park and Hanham Mills. The nearby Hanham Colliery mined coal from the Bristol coalfields and like the pennant sandstone was brought down to the riverside and transported by horse-drawn barges to Bristol and Bath.

There are a number of derelict buildings within the site, including a powder house at the bottom of Hencliff Wood, which housed the dynamite for the quarries and nearby railway. The thick walls of the old smelter works near Conham River Park are still standing, along with the boundary wall of Conham Hall. The hall itself was demolished in 1971 and made way for a sewage works and later a refuse tip. The site has now been landscaped and its small thickets provide a good habitat for small birds and mammals.

Become a friend

The woodlands are cared for by local people who have recently set up a friends group to assist us in managing the reserve. The group organises a range of events and practical workdays to help raise awareness of the nature reserve and to enhance its biodiversity.

Join in the fun

A programme of events and activities when organised on this local nature reserve is listed on the 1BigDatabase and BBC Things to Do website. The area is also visited on a number of Walking to Health walks, which has produced a heritage walks leaflet.

Audio guide

A bat audio trail guide relating to Conham River Park, its history and the bats you’ll likely find there is available from local libraries. The guide is one of four specially created to assist people, including those who are visually impaired, to visit the site at dusk and discover the magic of bat detecting. Whilst you’re there look out for

  • the red pennant sandstone quarries of Bickley Woods
  • the flash of blue of a kingfisher darting up the River Avon
  • the berries of the ‘wild service’ trees in Hencliff Wood, once commonly known as ‘Chequers’
  • the monkey puzzle tree that marked the entrance to Conham Hall, near Conham River Park
  • the ruins of the old smelter works below the 100 steps, halfway up near Conham Hill
  • the triangular-shaped coping stones on the walls on Ferry Lane

Getting there

On foot: There are a number of public rights of way that link up to the reserve.

By bicycle: The reserve is accessible by bicycle from Bristol by using the River Avon trail.

Bus: Bus services are available along Memorial Road, where there are a number of footpaths leading to the woodlands.

Car: Car parks are available at Castle Farm Road for walks around Bickley Wood and Hencliff Wood. For walks around Conham and the panorama walk please use the car park at Conham River Park. Both sites are signposted along the Memorial Road.

  • Site status – Local nature reserve, site of conservation interest, site of special scientific interest (Bickley Wood), regionally important geological site
  • Local nature reserve declaration – 31 March 2005
  • Site owner – South Gloucestershire Council
  • Local planning authority – South Gloucestershire Council
  • Area – 31.5 hectares
  • Grid reference – ST 628720
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