Blog: Celebrating Our Learnings From ‘Collect to Connect’

Throughout Summer/Autumn 2023 we have been working on ‘Collect to Connect’, a project which creatively explored nature connectedness in Knowle West’s green spaces as well as how to make green spaces more accessible for humans and more-than-humans (living creatures, plants, organisms). We also experimented with the process of ‘sensing into’ nature: using our minds and bodies to observe ourselves as part of living ecosystems.  

Does connecting to nature affect how we feel, think, see and treat the different living things in our neighbourhood? We believe that a more connected relationship with nature will lead to more positive climate action both locally and globally, supporting our mission of creating thriving green spaces together with the community through arts, tech, and care.  

This project was initiated by us (KWMC) in collaboration with local people that care for green spaces and biodiversity. Gratefully supported by Impetus Accelerator project funding. 

Our Approach 

Together with community gardeners and local ecologists, we first visited green spaces in Knowle West to understand what meaningful directions our research could take and how to support local green initiatives. We also hosted a Summer Nature Celebration event at Springfield Community Allotment alongside the team there and Avon Wildlife Trust. This was a chance to seed the project plus register interest and needs from the community. 

Then, with inputs from local ecologist Alex Morss and our artist in residence Tay Aziz, we trained up residents from Knowle West and South Bristol who signed up to become ‘neighbourhood scientists’. Collect to Connect aimed to demystify and ground the whole idea of ‘research’ into something that absolutely anyone can participate in. This way, research becomes more inclusive and centres the community.  

For us at KWMC it’s important to start any collaboration with a co-created agreement of how we want to be with each other. Together we set a Contract of Care, born from our past Creativity + Care project. This supported us to define how we’d like to be together while ensuring that everyone felt comfortable, safe and able to actively contribute. For this project, we extended the contract to reflect on how we as co-researchers can care for ourselves during the research process and how we can care for the ecosystem that we are researching.  

Our final Contract of Care included things like: ‘being kind to each other’, ‘staying connected to our bodies and responding to our needs’, and ‘improving our relationships with the subjects of our research’. 

Watch the video below to find out more about our neighbourhood science (also known as ‘citizen science’) approach: 

After training up our neighbourhood scientists and facilitating a Contract of Care, we provided various tools for collecting data together – from handmade diaries to WhatsApp groups. The diaries were all custom-designed and put together by hand using eco/recycled materials where possible. They were packed full of tools including an ‘Ever-Changing Dictionary’ with a glossary of new terminology, ‘Fieldnotes’ with creative activities for sensing into nature plus ‘Wild Knowledges’ with bits of local wisdom.  The neighbourhood scientists were encouraged to use this diary however they wanted to, allowing it to evolve to suit them. 

View a printable PDF of the original diary here

View a printable pdf of local Wild Knowledges here.

With their newfound tools and training, the neighbourhood scientists set off independently exploring their local area, gathering all sorts of data both physically and digitally: objects, drawings, photos, writings, sounds, nature camera recordings, and lots more. 

Alongside our neighbourhood scientists’ independent journeys, we also organised three different walks together through Knowle West. These were open for the wider public to attend for free, giving them the opportunity to be neighbourhood scientists for the day without committing to the full project.  

Each walk explored a different area and theme, led by local ecologist Alex Morss: 

Creatures of the Night  

Our first walk explored the green spaces around Inns Court and Hengrove in the dark. A highlight of the evening was spotting some bats! Alex introduced us to some technology which converts ultra-sonic sounds of bats into frequencies within the range of human hearing. The plug-in mobile microphone even identifies the species of bat.  

We also discussed the impact of light pollution on wildlife – for example, black birds can get confused by streetlights and sing at night.  

While reflecting on the walk, our artist in residence Tay Aziz said, “I enjoyed walking at night because it feels like your imagination can fill in the gaps.”  

Wild Shelters 

On our next walk, we explored ‘What shelter does local wildlife need to make it through the winter?’  
Ecologist Alex Morss taught us about what she terms ‘punk rebel plants’: resilient species such as dandelions, brambles and nettles which reclaim urban sites. They are very helpful for wildlife, supporting them in-between our green spaces and providing shelters. However, they are often seen as a nuisance or an eye-sore to humans.  

We thought about this while wandering down the Filwood Broadway, soon to be developed with the £14.5 million Levelling Up Fund. How can we make our urban spaces more beautiful to wildlife, not just to humans?  

The walk started/finished at Belfast Walk Community Gardens – a little nature-paradise in the middle of Knowle West (be sure to visit if you’re nearby!). 

Autumn Feasts 

On our final walk, we explored what wildlife like to eat throughout the year and how we can help them out by planting a variety of species around Knowle West.  

Due to climate change, we were experiencing unusually warm weather for Autumn. We spotted a confused hawthorn flowering as though it’s Spring. We also reflected on native versus invasive species, for example overfed garden birds can push out rarer or shyer birds. To counter this, it is important that we prioritise more wild food such as nettles, brambles and seeds.  

Along our walk we collected colourful items for a nature mandala afterwards at Springfield Community Allotment, which we left for local creatures to feast on! We made sure to only forage items from places of abundance, leaving plenty around for our other-than-human companions. 

“This was like a micro safari, just focussing on looking at what is around you and finding beauty in small things.” -Neighbourhood Scientist 

“This project made me look at the world around me differently.” -Neighbourhood Scientist 

“The act of engaging together as a family in community was very important for our wellbeing.” –Neighbourhood Scientist 


After attending group walks and researching independently, we all regrouped in November (2023) for a ‘sense-making’ session. This involved pooling together all our different data then curating it and working out what stories we wanted to tell from our findings.  

‘Clear Up’ pages were included in everyone’s diaries to support this process of understanding their data throughout their journey. Then the sense-making workshop was a chance to ‘cross-pollinate’ findings by joining together and sharing research. Everyone created large collages of data, all compiling drawings, photos and writings.

Several neighbourhood scientists recorded audio of themselves describing their findings too, you can listen to these below: 

Artist Residency 

Our artist in residence, Tay Aziz, worked with neighbourhood scientists from Collect to Connect as well as local growers/gardeners to find and spotlight some of our wild neighbours and how they navigate through a world that has been changed by humans. She used her research to create a map bringing together stories and wisdoms from our more-than-human neighbours that live alongside us in Knowle West. 

Over the next few months (Winter 2023-24), Tay will continue to collect and add stories from local people who have worked to protect and cultivate nature in Knowle West so that we may learn how we can co-exist and thrive in harmony together. 


We gathered all our findings from Collect to Connect into an exhibition as a mixture of ongoing maps, collages, wild knowledges, accessible technology experiments and embroidered stories. The exhibition included our Grounding Technologies project ‘Garden Lab Whispers Grow’ which ran alongside Collect to Connect and covered similar themes, diving deeper into how humans can better access green spaces. Outcomes of this project included DIY technologies: a robotic snail camera, macroscope mobility aid, and a mud battery bed. 

We invited visitors to treat the space as a living laboratory, encouraging them to play with our prototypes, add their thoughts to our findings, and join us in future growing a thriving neighbourhood together with arts, tech and care.  

Thank you 

A big thank you to: 

  • Local community gardeners and local change makers from green initiatives: Heather and all at Inns Court Garden, Simon and Carol at Belfast Walk Gardens, Jasmine, Nina, Ben, Steve, RE:work at Springfield Allotments, Caroline and Len from the Northern Slopes Initiative. Find out more about their activities and how to support them by clicking the hyperlinks. 
  • Collect to Connect neighbourhood scientists: Kate, Caroline, Marie, Frank, Jim, Mariateresa, Christopher, Kevin, Alisha, Rebecca, Ed, Oliver, Julian, Luke, Ruth and Julia  
  • Ecologists: Alex who guided our walks and supported our collective sense making and Esther and Alex from Avon Wildlife Trust  
  • Artists: Tay, Ruth, Paul, Daisy and Oliver   
  • The Knowle West Alliance, Bristol City Council and their team around Liveable Neighbourhoods and the Knowle West Media Collective. 
  • Impetus who funded the project and provided mentoring. 

What’s next  

Here at KWMC we are committed to continuing creative approaches to making thriving green spaces. We will be programming more green and climate action activities next year (2024). 

We are in partnership with the Knowle West Alliance to embark on a project to co-design a Community Climate Action Plan for Knowle West. This plan will help us to bring together into one strategy all the great work people are already doing plus identify priorities to improve resident’s lives as well as our environment and supporting Bristol to become a carbon neutral city. What do you think are the priorities when you think about green spaces and taking care of nature in Knowle West?  

If you would like to be involved in the co-development of this plan, we would love to hear from you. Please email: 

Contact Us

Knowle West Media Centre
Leinster Avenue
Knowle West
+44 (0) 117 903 0444

Share This Follow us
Join In
Sign up for our monthly e-bulletin and receive the latest news and events