Wishing Everyone a Happy, Healthy, Hopeful New Year from Hotwells

With so much hope pinned on 2021 being a better year than the covid catastrophe of 2020, life in our local communities is ever more important. We made a new mural to help people express their hopes. We have begun with colours and words around Amy’s beautiful herons. The lettering is by graphic artists, Julia and Rosie, and swirls and colours by Mhari and Anna.

The idea is to add positive statements and ideas of what we’d like to change in the world and in our city in the coming year. We’ll do this by drawing characters holding placards like with the ‘Sun will Rise and So Will We’ created by myself, Lauren and Katya using designs by Shelby X Studios. This artwork is the second in the Hotwells Voices series.

On the old cafe base next to this wall I will rebuild Unlocking Bristol and chalk the 300 plus messages I have already from residents all over Bristol. These artworks are temporary and vandal proof & created by volunteers although we have applied for funding for some additional painting and planting.

At the end of 2020 the Hotwells and Cliftonwood Community Association carried out an extensive community survey, which included some questions about people’s aspirations for the piazza. Thanks so much for all your responses which were overwhelmingly positive and aligned well with the previous survey in 2014. The priorities back then were for more green areas, facilities for young people and artworks. This time artwork was lower down the list and extra seating was higher up along with community events and ideas for a regular market.

We recognise concerns when it comes to untidiness and nostalgia and love of Dame Sylvia Crowe’s original public space design with the play park and the paddling pool and pristine concrete. The cost of returning the Piazza to its former glory is beyond the capacity of H&CCA. With the possibility of ‘Western Harbour’ developments, the whole area could change over the coming years- another great reason to communicate, share and amplify our voices.

People seem to appreciate the attempts we have made over the years to minimise unpopular graffiti and repaint when people deface the pillars and walls. We are aware that tagging really upsets many people, so I thought it would be useful to explain how we currently manage this. If the graffiti is obscene you can call the council and the Bristol Waste Street Cleansing team will paint over it as soon as possible. If you also contact me or the community association we have many more colours and can restore the original artworks. Otherwise, I tend to keep an eye out and make time to paint over what I think people consider to be ugly when time allows and on a voluntary basis.

I have compiled a list of FAQs responding more thoroughly to the H&CCA survey. I hope they help explain who takes responsibility for maintaining & improving the piazza and outline how you can get involved.

We really, really hope 2021 is a better year for everyone.

Anna Haydock-Wilson 5th Jan 2021

Lockdown gardening in the Hotwells community

Sadly we have had to postpone planned community gardening days at the piazza due to the government announcement of national lockdown, but the planters at the piazza don’t know that and they still need some TLC. Mindful of the isolation lockdown can bring, we are happy to facilitate some covid-safe community gardening.

The Piazza was used as an example of good practice in a recent talk at the Centre of Gravity exhibition at the old Gardiner Haskins building that ended yesterday. Alternative Approaches to Architecture- working with students & communities was organised by local residents Rachel Sara, Professor of Architecture at Birmingham School of Architecture and Design and Anna Haydock-Wilson with guest speaker Thomas Sale, currently furloughed from his job as Project Manager for Don Eain, a participatory design practice in Myanmar. It was presented by Bristol Artist-Led Forum, a growing network of artists working with communities for social change, environmental improvement and increase in well-being.

Here are the presentations and documentation from the event.

Rachel’s presentation

Thomas’s presentation

Video of the event

Please contact anna@artwithinthecracks.org

Thanks to all our young artists!

As the school summer holidays draw to a close and the rainfall & XR focus our attention on climate change, let’s celebrate our local young people. This summer, led by local artist and teaching assistant, Mhairi Stuart, nearly 30 kids have adorned the piazza with their pavement art.

These activities offered local children the chance to focus on some detailed drawing but also an opportunity for lots of running around and freer expression.

We have photographed all the artwork and over the next couple of months Anna & Mhairi will carefully paint some of the images to form a winding trail through the piazza. The concrete blocks have long been in need of decorating so we’ll be using some of the design ideas the children have created for those too.

If you would like to help paint, please contact anna@artwithinthecracks.org

supported our summer art activities

Kids Summer Art Activities

Here’s a little timelapse of the lovely work they did in July

We recognise that children have had a tough time recently, so we’re offering some mindful art for local families. Led by Mhairi Stuart with Anna Haydock-Wilson and Amy Hutchings, pavement pastel and chalking will be on the following dates:

August 18, 19 & 20th 11am-12pm

Please bring an old cushion or towel for the children to kneel on and dress code is scruffy! We are fully insured and trained to work with children but we can’t take responsibility for infection spreading so please attend with your children. Bring a cuppa and relax or help with some gardening!

We will selct our favorite artworks and paint them in to create a permanant trail with some signage

The Hotwells Piazza is opposite the Rose of Denmark pub BS8 4QL and is an open public space.

Contact: anna@artwithinthecracks.org  https://www.facebook.com/FOHPArtUndertheFlyover

Community Gardening Guidelines

We would love some help on the Piazza with weeding and watering, particularly through the summer months

On our notice board opposite the Rose of Denmark pub we have put up guidelines on how you can help. Here they are in this blog post

There are a few weeds that are particularly invasive and you can pull these up wherever you see them. Other self-seeding or wild-flower plants are great to leave as they attract bees and butterflies. If in doubt it’s best to leave them.

Over the years we have been learning which plants cope best in our urban climate and we very rarely need to water out planters, rockeries, sedum beds or rain beds, but during prolonged hot, dry spells we use the rainwater butts and occasionally put a local call out for people to bring water to the piazza

This map, by Zoe Smith, shows the garden areas that the local community, supported by Hotwells and Cliftonwood Community Association have created since 2014. The other areas are cared for by Bristol City Council.

If you would like to help with gardening, watering and litter picking we ask you to be responsible for your health in terms of protecting against the corona virus or skin allergies by wearing gloves or using hand sanitiser. Once you have pulled up weeds, please put them in our garden waste bins here. Water is available for plants from the rain butts. This is not safe for hand washing or for dogs to drink.

Here are some of the plants we have added over the years.

Many of our plants have been bought from the Riverside Garden Centre, supporting this wonderful local business. Others have been donated and scattered by locals or have self-seeded.

If you would like to plant something you are welcome. You can use an empty area of one of the planters or put something in the beds or rockeries we have created. Please be mindful that there are bulbs in the planters that need space to grow in the spring.

If you need tools to help or have any questions, please contact admin@hotwellscliftonwood.org.uk or anna@artwithinthecracks.org

Community Gardening- Physically Distant, Socially Close

The Piazza is a big space and, although the planters are largely self maintaining, there is a bit of weeding, digging and watering that we’d love your help with. Throughout most of the year we have no need to water the plants, and when we do the rain butt is usually full. However, occasionally weeks can go by with no significant rain- like July 2018 and May 2020!

During these times your help is vital and I’d like to thank Lilia & Bori, Alex, Bob, Carol, Shilpi & Faruk, Julia, Marcia & Kean (for weeding) and everyone else who has rescued a few plants for us this week by bringing water down in a variety of whatever containers!

There is finally a bit of rain in the forecast and the temperature is cooling, but as the world warms, we can expect these dry periods to be more frequent. To make sure our plants (aka pollinators and carbon emitters) can survive dry periods we are installing another rain water butt, donated by the Whale family in Southville and HCCA are looking installing an emergency water supply. We are also paying close attention to the types of plants that thrive in dry weather and planting more of them.

But local volunteers are vital to keeping the Piazza green and tidy. We’ve created some basic watering and weeding guidelines so that anyone can join in. We will put these on our new noticeboard.

If you like sociability, or need some gardening tools, or don’t feel confident to garden alone, do contact us on our Facebook page or email Anna and she will arrange company.

Guidelines for Piazza Gardening


If we have very dry periods or you notice the plants looking parched can you help water?

There is a rain butt located behind the wall pictured here- please bring a watering can or a bottle to fill, or bring water from your home if the rain butts are empty.

It is best to water plants when the sun is not on them. This is tricky at the Piazza, so early morning or late evening are the best times.

The areas that the community is responsible for are:

  • The Maple grove and sedum beds
  • The rain garden
  • The rockery
  • The planters


We will be asking for help with weeding over the summer and Autumn once we have sorted out our garden waste

Litter picking

Unless you have a litter picker or some gloves we are not advising the public to help with this until further notice. If you do pick up litter the bins by the mural above are regularly emptied by Bristol Waste Street Cleansing team, who deserve a big thanks for all the gritty cleaning jobs in our city (below, picking up food as a thanks from Chai Shai)


Your Ideas

We welcome ideas for improving the space and making it work for everyone. These could be painting, planting, events or enhancing children’s play. Please get in touch admin@hotwellscliftonwood.org.uk

We will be posting more activities over the next couple of weeks.

Adapting to a Changing World

Remember just before COVID-19 struck our shores? The climate crisis was finally beginning to ride a media wave and Greta came to Bristol. Now we can be grateful to have seen traffic drop to 1950s levels and images of clear skies in Delhi and Bejing, but cars will return and the skies will thicken again as people want to return to ‘normal’ life.

Back at the Cumberland Piazza we’re doing our best to maintain an attractive environment for people to safely enjoy while we all adapt to restrictions on our movements and difficulties within our lives. Just before lockdown myself and other local volunteers, most notably third year Fine Art Students from UWE, refreshed the paint work on the pillars. Katya, Josie and Clara began a new mural inspired by fungi and plants on the Hotwells Voices wall, inviting people to join- we were lucky to have artist Luke Palmer turn up with his boys


Katya and Josie are part of a growing group of students and staff at UWE who are interrogating the sustainability of materials and projects. We have been meeting regularly over the past few months to talk about art and climate change and develop initiatives to further our community aims of increasing planting, especially new trees. Our challenges are that we have minimum water and need plants to thrive with minimum maintenance. At the moment, most of our planters are doing really well and some of the sedum even survived the 2019 weed killer episode.

Keen to work with the Hotwells community that they are part of and encourage their successors to do the same, we began to make plans to create more planting opportunities. Our aim is to involve as many people as possible by spreading the word through HCCA and city wide through arts, sustainability and gardening networks and organisations.

Inspired by Bricking-it Bristol, the Bristol based organisation making eco-bricks, we want to create an activity that everyone can participate in. Katya has managed to receive a donation of apple saplings and Josie has been experimenting with cob. Meanwhile, I am working out how we make the new planters move so that we can dry the cob and how we care for the apple trees until they are strong enough to live independently. I’m hoping to entice some local creative talents to write and direct our Travelling Apple Grove Festival idea in spring 2021.

Bricking-it staff wanted to come and do a demonstration. Planters are an ideal way to use those eco-bricks that might not conform to building regs (see here for more information) and obviously a great way to use plastic that is not easy to recycle.

Back to the reality of our ever changing world and physical distancing has made it more difficult for us to realise our ideas, but we’re going to persevere as restrictions lessen and degree work is complete. We will let you know on our Facebook page. In the meantime I have been doing some safe distancing maintenance work and continue to do what volunteering I can

Why do more when the Cumberland Basin could all be developed and the very flyovers we are under could disappear? The work we have been doing since we learned of the council’s ‘Western Harbour’ proposals is all ‘light touch’ and moveable. If we don’t make an effort, then we will see the piazza revert to the grey state state it was in before we started cheering it up. And by showing a space is loved we can maybe persuade the authorities to talk to us about their plans, and maybe even adapt them for our changing world. Remember when Greta came to Bristol?

Stay well and keep growing stuff


See also

examples of planters made with eco bricks




Hotwells Voices

Since 2010 we have been asking local people what they want to see happen in this space and the three top priorities have been greening, art and facilities and activities for kids, families and especially teenagers.

Our programme has continued in 2019 with legacy funding from Ray Smith, who instigated changes to the piazza in partnership with his daughter, Zoe, a landscape designer and artist Anna Haydock-Wilson, who manages the piazza projects.

New mobile planters for Hotwell Road railings & sociable bench planters

We designed & commissioned Bristol Wood Recycling Project to make 10 mobile planters for the Hotwells Road ‘entrance. Planted by locals at the Community Gardening day on 19th May, these are now flourishing with pollution absorbing pollinators which should flower year round.

Modular bench planters were also designed and built with BWRP and installed in September. We had help from locals to plant them. Six year old Bori loves gardening and she did most of the work.

New Artworks

In June Luke Palmer fulfilled his long held ambition to paint his beautiful view of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, for which we are all very grateful!

In September Anna devised an engagement activity with Amy Hutchings to coordinate with the BOB 170 celebrations. This giant game of scrabbled involved over 50 passers by of all ages who were invited to contribute positive words about Hotwells. This initiative was in response to some really unpleasant tagging that had recently occurred and negative words being slung around the world more widely.

Friends of Hotwells Piazza

We are developing a ‘Friends of’ group to help with the maintenance and develop future plans for the site. We’re looking for people who like gardening, especially communally, people who are interested in urban greening and re-wilding, artists, community sports coaches and anyone else with ideas of improving the largest public open space in Hotwells. We have a facebook group if you would like to get involved. We are proud that the flora on the piazza needs so little maintenance and delighted to announce that we have only had to water the plants a handful of times this year and only once emptied out rain water butt.

Looking forward to 2020

Plans for the year ahead will focus on keeping the piazza as climate friendly as possible and reaching out to the community with events and activities. We’re partnering with some local UWE art students who are part of the Climate Research Group to celebrate Earth Day at the end of April. We’d like to build a sculpture, some planters and some seating from ‘eco-bricks’ and experiment with other re-use ideas

All piazza work is funded by HCCA via the council’s Neighbourhood Partnership programme, the DCLG, private donations and funding for arts. Over the years and with huge amounts of volunteers’ time we have been able to plant trees, create new planters and planted areas, paint the pillars, commission murals by Bristol artists, make a skate spot and some play sculptures and organise events for the Peaceful Portway, the West Bristol Arts Trail and recently 170 years celebration of Brunel’s Other Bridge.
Massive thanks to all the volunteers and artists who have helped garden and paint over the years, to Ray Smith for his legacy money which is supporting the works this year and to Zoe Smith for her landscape design and sustainable planting support.

Summer is here! What’s new on the Piazza?


We are delighted to have a beautiful new painting by artist and founder of Collaborative Painting UK, Luke Palmer, aka Acerone. Funded by Hotwells & Cliftonwood Community Association, Luke painted this stunner in less than two days. Martin Booth, a journalist for Bristol 24/7 happened along while Luke was painting and wrote this article.

Aisiatic lily 2019

Art under the Flyover Facebook page has changed to Friends of Hotwells Piazza & Art under the Flyover. We’re really keen to get more people involved in helping make the piazza more of a community space and while Hotwells’ largest open public space is officially called Cumberland Piazza, not many locals relate to that name. It’s lovely the way people passing by appreciate all the work we’ve been doing, but it would be even more lovely to have a bit of help. Our next Community Gardening Day is Monday 15th July 2-6pm only a couple of days before we get judged by the Royal Horticultural Society South West in Bloom team. If you have ideas or expertise to share, it’s a great opportunity to have your say!

Welcome to the Piazza 2019.JPG

HCCA has also commissioned Bristol Wood Recycling Project to build some new planters co-designed with Anna Haydock-Wilson which locals helped us fill in our last community gardening day on May 19th and Alex from LiveGraft has been back on site to help us with some more greening of the Piazza.

Sadly, in early May, weed-killer was sprayed all over the Piazza, destroying nearly £2000 worth of plants and labour. The sedum beds and chinese poppies were about to burst into flower but were almost completely destroyed along with several hebes, ferns, heuchera and others. We have had to put energy and resources into restoring the beds and we have once again requested that the council does not use weed killer on the Piazza. With climate change causing ever extreme weather around the globe we need as much carbon absorption and as many pollinators as possible.

On that note, we’re in for a prolonged spell without rain and we were unable to expand out rain water harvesting capacity during an extremely wet June as someone had dumped a motorbike in front of the water butt and store-room. Can you help? Waste water is welcome- it can be as little as encouraging kids to water the planters using their water bottle on the way home from school or a more regular offer. Contact Anna by email if you’re able to bring water to site in times of low rainfall.


7/8th September- Brunel’s Other Bridge group are hosting activities in the Cumberland Basin to demonstrate our local heritage and amazing engineering. Over that weekend we’ll provide some arts activities on the Piazza for everyone to join in

New trees and new ideas for 2019

new trees

Former fountain with spring growth along original tile pattern

The council have planted a few more trees and HCCA have agreed plans and budget for more planters and benches. To help us with more designs and ideas for helping the space to thrive we’re setting up a Friends of the Hotwells Piazza group so that we can bring together locals, artists, skaters, gardeners, historians, environmentalists, women who love parkour and anyone else who fancies a natter and some tea and cake.

women love parkour

Last year we added sedum beds, a fern garden and a couple of rockeries by taking up the old Sun Ray tiles designed by Sylvia Crowe and we’ll continue to plant into the cracks to create more green areas on the site. For more details visit HCCA community projects

planting ferns

Sadly some places are bare and boring and close to the roads, so for these we’re adding new planters. We’ve been designing some that can be moved around and we’re also designing some ‘sociable seating’ with hexagonal planters in sunny spaces looking out to the lock gates and the river.

site for new planters

We have plans for the former children’s play area too. The concrete blocks will move so they work better for children, trial bikers and the kinds of kids who like to experiment with their scooter.

tagged with rabbits

As well as re-painting the floor games and marking route ways and play lines we’re hoping to commission more street art before the rabbits take over!

rosemary flowering