The beginning of the next chapter at The Ranch!

October 7, 2021

Known by residents as The Ranch because of its original huge wooden structure, the Southmead Adventure Playground was one of the first of its kind in the City and is rooted firmly in the community.  In the 1950s Southmead Residents built the first structure, and since then have fought to save it many times, especially after it was destroyed by fire in 2015 and rebuilt in its current form.

The playground is beautifully located; nestled beside Southmead’s nature reserve, woodland and wildlife spill over on to the site and the River Trym runs right through it.  There’s a sports pitch, an art room, soft play, a communal room, as well as outdoor play equipment.

Yet despite its massive potential and the enormous effort from volunteers and organisations to keep The Ranch open and running, the continued national cut backs to play funding have seen it fall in to a sorry state of disrepair.  In 2018 its future was once again in serious danger.

So in 2019 the Southmead Development Trust agreed to take the enormous risk to rent the site from the Council with the aim to improve it and ensure activities and play could continue for Southmead’s families.  It was a massive step for us but there seemed to be no alternative but to find a way to hang on to the place so needed and loved by our community.

We set about making plans to raise money to run The Ranch, then began with essential improvements – installing a new heating and security system.  We asked for volunteers to help and set up a working team of residents.  A massive group of locals who had ‘grown up’ at The Ranch, ‘1970s Southmead’, rallied donations and planned a big funding raising event for May 2020.

But all of a sudden the pandemic hit and halted the project.  Buildings closed across communities and events and plans were put on hold.  Our play team did an incredible job to keep local children engaged throughout lockdown with online storytelling, dance sessions, cooking and crafts, but we know that the loss of face-to-face play at the closed playground was a huge blow to many families; this time gave us extra insight in to how wanted and needed The Ranch is.

At the beginning of this year our Trustees agreed that supporting our young people would be the Trust’s priority and as soon as restrictions began to lift we resumed our exciting mission to bring The Ranch in to full use and to get as many residents involved as possible.  We recruited more volunteers for the working group and talked to young people about what they want.  We reached out to organisations, funders and community groups to support us.

We’ve been overwhelmed by just how many people and groups want to support the Ranch: local volunteers, childminders, forest school workers, bike mechanics and local parents have all come forward with ideas, but we could never have imagined what happened next.

Holly, a resident from our project group, reached out to Mark Miller from BBC DIYSOS to see if he would consider joining the project group to offer his experience, support and advice.  However, to our complete delight, we quickly found ourselves as THE next project for the actual show!  We are over the moon and can’t wait for Southmead to be on national television so everyone can see what a welcoming, strong, determined and hardworking community we are.

The TV show is just the beginning of the latest chapter in The Ranch’s long story and a great lift to our plans to develop the site as the fantastic community resource it has the potential to be; to reconnect young people of all ages after lockdown and offer top class, fully accessible facilities for learning, play, adventure and sports.

  • If you’d like to contact the BBC to offer help with renovating The Ranch please email: diysosbristol@bbc.co.uk
  • If you can to volunteer with Southmead Development Trust to help run sessions, get involved in our project group, or put us in touch with anyone who would like to offer activities and services for families, please email: info@southmead.org