Not sure what to make a beeline for as Bristol & Bath’s Festival of Nature returns from 8 – 25 June? The Bristol Magazine has got it covered…

Practical magic

Festival of Nature is jam-packed with hands-on fun for the whole family – whether you’re interested in dinosaur fossils or brand new tech such as nocturnal cameras and sound recorders. Throughout the day you can meet live animals including owls, hedgehogs and insects, while Avon Wildlife Trust will return with its nature table focusing on the weird and wonderful side of nature, and Severn Wildlife Carvers help you to make your own birdbox to take home. The Really Reptile Show will have a number of creatures on site for handling, or you can hold an earthworm with Earthwatch before getting your hands dirty at the Marine Conservation Society’s table-top beach. Alternatively, join the University of Bristol for the ultimate game of ‘BAT-tleships’ and find out how moths and bats hide from each other in the dark; or drop by to see the pliosaur model in Bristol Museum’s tent, and ‘Theco’ the dinosaur in Bristol Zoo’s tent. Bristol’s Astronomical Society will have solar telescopes on site – an ever-popular attraction – where anyone can have a go at looking for sunspots and other solar phenomena. Make your way to the Amphitheatre by the harbour to get the best views.

Festival of NatureImage © Rosemary Despres

Birthday fun

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol, the team will be showcasing a selection of amazing wildlife filmmaking from over decades. Visitors can also get to grips with the latest technology, meet wildlife presenters and hear from the people behind their favourite TV shows, or learn how to make a great wildlife film on a smartphone and have a go at being a wildlife presenter. The Natural History Unit was one of the founding members of the charity that produces the festival, and the BBC tent is a firm favourite at the event, so head on down to join the fun on Millennium Square, and watch some of the unit’s best films on the BBC Big Screen, alongside locally made wildlife films by university students, schools and volunteers. There’s a ‘cabaret’ programme of talks, workshops and screenings on the top floor of the At-Bristol Science Centre too, which is free to attend – just drop in between 10am and 1pm on each day of the festival. The programme features past and present Natural History Unit staff and presenters, as well as some unexpected surprises… (Slice of really wild birthday cake, anyone?)

Festival of NatureImage © Rosemary Despres

Natural-born heroes

Festival of Nature features over 150 organisations across the three-week programme – which sails over to Keynsham and Bath after the big opening weekend in Bristol. It’s a great opportunity to meet the passionate volunteers behind so many of the projects that make Bristol a wildlife-friendly city, and organisers will be encouraging everyone to take an ‘action for nature’ during the event – it could be helping to build a habitat, or simply helping spot one of the city’s popular species. On site, you can also become a polar explorer with Wicked Weather Watch, or think and act like a bat (the dream) for a while with Natural England. Join in the debate and have your say about green spaces in the city, or throw on your lab coat and find out how diseases spread in the natural world after exploring the world of optics and lenses in nature. Worried about waste? Try your hand at a recycling challenge with Bristol Waste. Bird lover? Find out why the team at Wildfowl and Wetland Trust took a ‘Flight with the Swans!’ And if you like, you can sign up to a course, a walk, a community event – or even become a volunteer at next year’s festival.

Festival of NatureImage © Nicola Shale

Green scene

Festival of Nature turns the Harbourside green with pop-up gardens, wildlife plant sales, and flower markets, and visitors love how quickly the birds, bees and other invertebrates show up to see what all the fuss is about! This year there’ll be the chance to find out how to create a wildlife-friendly garden and take care of the bugs and beasties that call it home; explore a giant ancient tree growing out of Woodland Trust’s tent; or join the University of Bath in using orange peels to create amazing new bio-plastic material to help nature. Families can discover how their schools and communities can run their own tree-planting proect with One Tree Per Child; and we love the sound of making our own bug hotel with Natural England, or a home for nature with the team from RSPB. Avon Wildlife Trust will be inviting green-fingered visitors to create a garden over the weekend of the festival and help transform Millennium Square into a verdant oasis. If you’re really serious, take part in Harbourside surveying and ‘BioBlitz’ activities to help track the health of species along the water on one of the guided Festival walks, and pick up gardening equipment, books and seeds in the Festival market.

Be a thinker, not a stinker

Festival of Nature has been running since 2003, and every year there is something new to explore – on foot and with our brains. This time, keep an eye out for special events on chemistry, outer space, dinosaurs and our rivers. Tumble the ‘Ecosystem Tower’ with researchers from UWE, and find out about new places to walk, learn and play including Bath’s skyline. If you’ve always wanted to work with nature, you could join in with the brand-new ‘training and networking’ programme which is packed with free events to help develop connections and content for next year’s festival. Once you’ve been around the free activities, stop by the festival market, undercover at the Waterfront Square area for 2017 – where you’ll find plenty of shelter from the sun or summer rain, as well as fresh produce, hot food and local ale from over 30 traders, being sold to a soundtrack of local bands and performers on the Harbourside. The team are still dreaming up wonderful wildlife ideas – so drop them a note on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram if you have a great nature-inspired idea. See you there!

To find out more about Bristol and Bath’s Festival of Nature visit bnhc.org.uk/festival-of-nature

Featured image © Rosemary Despres