Bristol-Bath Railway Path (Bristol section)-Analysis of Existing Ecological Data


This is a brief analysis of existing ecological and other records for the Bristol section of the Bristol-Bath Railway Path, taken from Bristol Environmental Records Centre records and other available reports.

The Bristol and Bath Railway Path, a former railway corridor now heavily utilised as a footpath and cycleway, forms a linear mosaic of habitat types, including broadleaved woodland, scrub and tall ruderal areas, species poor hedgerows and grassland areas ranging from unimproved neutral to calcareous grassland. Adjacent land uses range from residential, commercial and industrial land use to a range of semi natural habitats including woodland, neutral to acidic grassland and landscaped flowerbeds and parkland. The Coombe Brook passes adjacent to the site.
The southern section of the route is predominantly urban in nature, as it continues towards its termination point at Bristol Temple Meads railway station.

1.      Habitats/Designated Sites

The Path has a number of statutory and non-statutory designated sites along its length.   The reasons sites are designated differ depending on the designation and Sites of Nature Conservation Interest and Local Nature Reserves are seen as important for access by the public.  The importance of the Path for contribution access is outlined in the guidance for Local Sites adopted by Bristol City Council and the other authorities in the West of England area.

Statutory Designated Sites

Royate Hill Local Nature Reserve- unimproved neutral grassland and mixed scrub.  BRT proposal to run directly through site according to proposals.

Troopers Hill Local Nature Reserve - acidic grassland and heathland.  1.7km SW of proposed alignment of route.

Non Statutory within 500 m of site:

Coombe Brook Valley Site of Nature Conservation Interest- within 50 m of site.

Easton-Staple Hill Disused Railway SNCI- grassland, scrub, etc.  BRT proposal to run directly through site.

The Lido SNCI- adjacent to site.

Regionally Important Geological Sites

Castle Park SNCI.

Stoke Park SNCI.

Biodiversity Action Plan Habitats

BAP habitats within the Avon BAP include lowland calcareous grassland  and lowland meadows. Coombe Brook Valley has two meadows, one of which is semi-improved neutral to calcareous grassland.

2.      Protected Species

The species in the following table are legally protected. 

Legally Protected Species

Habitat and features likely to support species


Badger (Meles meles)

Gardens, woodland, scrub, rough grassland and road/ railway embankments and cuttings.

Otter (Lutra lutra)

Will be affected where alterations to watercourses (such as bridging and culverting) will be undertaken.

White Clawed Crayfish (Austropotamobius  pallipes)

Will be affected where alterations to watercourses (such as bridging and culverting) will be undertaken.

Bats including:

pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)

brown long eared (Plecotus auritus)

noctule (Nyctalus noctula),

Leislers(Nyctalus leislei)

Daubentons’ (Myotis daubentoni)

Bats roost in structures such as buildings and mature trees and will utilise habitat such as woodland, hedgerows, grassland and scrub for foraging.

Reptiles including;

Slow worm (Anguis fragilis)

Grass snake (Natrix natrix)

Viviparous lizard (Lacerta vivipara)

Adder (Vipera berus)

Reptiles utilise habitat such as rough grassland, hedge banks, railway embankments and woodland edge.

Great crested newts (Triturus cristatus)

Ponds or other water bodies to breed in addition to adjacent terrestrial habitat typically rough grassland, hedgerows woodland etc. with suitable refuges up to 500m from a breeding pond.

Birds including:

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)

Peregrine falcon(Falco prergrinus)

Hobby (Falco subbuteo)

Black redstart (Phoenicurus achruros).


Kingfishers utilise riverine habitat; black redstart relict disused industrial habitat; peregrine require tall buildings, cliffs or quarries to nest; hobbys utilise trees and typically forage near open water and open ground.


Scrub, woodland and other dense vegetation along the route is likely to support a range of common breeding birds (see below).


The species identified in records for the Railway Path include badgers (9 badger setts are within 500m of the Path, with 3 being located very close to the path); slow worms, a noctule bat, an adder and a great crested newt.  Other wildlife include toads, frogs and smooth newts and hedgehogs.

Notable Plant Species (SNCI Information, 2000)

The Path has a wide variety of plants growing along its length and many have been identified in the various surveys undertaken.  The following are rarer, notable species:

Common Cornsalad (Valerianella locusta), Fern-Grass (Catapodium rigidum), Grass Vetchling (Lathyrus nissolia), Greater Lettuce (Lactusa virosa), Rat's Tail Fescue (Vulpis myuros), Round-Leaved Dog Rose (Rosa obtusifolia), Small Toadflax (Chaenorhinum minus), Squirrel-Tail Fescue (Vulpia bromoides), Wood Meadow-Grass (Poa nemoralis), Narrow-Leaved Everlasting Pea (Lathyrus sylvestris), Perennial Wall Rocket (Diplotaxis Tenuifolia) and Short-Fruited Willowherb (Epilobium obscurum).

Breeding Birds (Various Surveys)

The wooded and scrub habitat along stretches of the path support numerous species of breeding birds, including the following which have been identified as birds of conservation concern nationally, i.e. moderate (amber) or severe/rapid (red) declines in Britain's breeding population over the last 25 years. 

Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)

Amber List, Birds of Conservation Concern

House Martin (Delichon urbica)

Amber List, Birds of Conservation Concern

Dunnock (Prunella modularis)

Amber List, Birds of Conservation Concern

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Red List, Birds of Conservation Concern

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

Red List, Birds of Conservation Concern

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)

Red List, Birds of Conservation Concern


The Path supports a number of invertebrates, e.g. Brown Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) and Southern Hawker (Aeshna grandis) dragonflies, Green Veined White (Pieris napi), Grayling (Hipparchia semele) and Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus) butterflies, Field Grasshopper (Chorthippus brunneus) and Vapourer Moth (Orgyia antiqua).

Information taken from:

  • Atkins, West of England Partnership BRT Line Two Environmental Assessment Scoping Report, 2008.
  • Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre Data Search, April 2008.
  • Bristol to Bath Railway Path, Survey on Behalf of Avon Valley Partnership, 2002.
  • GBNCS Survey, 1993.
  • The Population Status of Birds in the UK, 2002-2007.


Summary by Sian Parry, Avon Wildlife Trust

For further detailed information contact Fraser Bridgeford of the Railway Path Campaign