Team behind The Ardagh plans big expansion

Volunteers who run the café and gardens at Horfield Common have announced an ambitious expansion plan.

The Ardagh Community Trust took over running the Ardagh site in 2019, and rebuilt the café and some of the gardens.

Now they have agreed a deal with Bristol City Council to take over other parts of the site including the bowling green and ten tennis courts.

Chair Peter Walker told the Voice the move meant they could go ahead with a major fund-raising project to expand their activities, and open the site to more people.

He said: “The café has been very successful – and now we want to do more. 

“We can now make a better case for fund-raising to make the whole site accessible to everyone in the community. We have a company doing a survey for us looking at the best ways forward.

“It will be quite a challenge as many parts of the area have deteriorated over the past 20 years, as the City Council did not have the funds to maintain it fully.”

Currently the site includes a seven-day-a-week café, food bank, and gardens which provide fresh produce.  Activities include tai chi for older residents and new basketball hoops for teenagers, a regular repair shop, and mother and baby group.

Peter said the plan is to offer a range of sport, leisure and community activities – including a Changing Places facility, using some tennis courts for multi sports, and improved wheelchair access.

The café employs part-time staff, while unpaid trustees and volunteers help with garden maintenance and running events.

They hope many of the changes will be in place in time for the Ardagh’s 100th birthday in 2026 – the site on Kellaway Avenue was established as a bowling green in the 1920s.  It used to be maintained by Bristol City Council, but by the early 2000s had fallen into disrepair.

Peter has lived at the bottom of common for 40 years – and remembers playing there as a child when a council attendant was on hand to rent out tennis courts and a putting green.

“It became very dilapidated during all the council cutbacks, and local people wanted to restore it for use by everyone.”

Trustees hope the plans for expansion will help the Ardagh be financial sustainable for long term community benefit.

Local BCC Green Party councillor Emma Edwards, a supporter of the Trust, said: “The Ardagh is a much-loved and valued community space, and the trustees and volunteers work incredibly hard to keep it running – so I am so pleased that this community asset transfer is going ahead. 

“This measure will give the community trust more scope to develop and grow the space, while still allowing for the bowling club to carry on, a concern that some members have had. I am so pleased that a solution has been reached that works for everyone.”

• Read a history of Ardagh on the Friends of Horfield Common website

• There is more about the Ardagh Community Trust, events and how to become a volunteer on their website