This chapter started with a little email from the council on the 26th July 2022, it read: “We have discussed the Disc Golf course, and have decided to remove the course. It will be removed in early September, after the summer holidays, and we will keep the baskets and mats etc in the wood yard for you to collect.”
Up until this point, our relationship with the council had been reasonable, but sometimes there were tensions, at times due to failings on our side. On receiving this email I was quietly devastated but accepted that it was time to give up.
However, the Bristol Disc Golf community, although small was rapidly growing. We pulled together, knowing the immense value of what we were about to lose. Here’s a quick run down of who did what – it’s really been a team effort:
Paul ‘Larry’ Larkin, Wayne Davey and Alan Sweetman stepped up to the daunting roles of Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary of the newly formed Bristol Disc Golf Club – a not for profit organisation with the specific goal of keeping a course available in Bristol. Filling out the committee were Dan Green, Paul Waite, Duncan Fraser and myself.
Duncan Fraser set up a petition that got over 1,400 signatures over the course of a few days. Reading some of the testimonies people wrote provided a lot of inspiration for what followed.
The Bristol Post waded in with an article that was more critical of the council than we would have liked, but they were followed by the local BBC and Bristol24/7, all of which added pressure.
Finally the council wanted to talk! They set up a meeting between ourselves, Councillor Ellie King, and the Ashton Court Estate management. We were incredibly lucky in having Ellie there, as not only is she a Councillor, but she’s very invested in the role of city parks in improving the mental health of the people of Bristol – this played right into our wheelhouse – many of the testimonies on the petition were about exactly this.
Our second stroke of luck was that we had a secret weapon: Dan Green. Not only does Dan works on environmental issues for Wessex Water, he’s also incredibly good to have on your side in a meeting. We had a small clue when he started sending out agendas before the meeting. Not only did he turn up in a suit and tie, he then took over and absolutely nailed it, leaving us all speechless (which was probably a good thing). Councillor King was duly impressed, and the Estate management agreed to tow the line. Not only could the course stay (with certain conditions), but we were allowed to expand!
The conditions were that we moved certain baskets away from veteran trees, and paid an annual fee of £1,000. Since this agreement, the Estate have been true to their word, and helped us every step of the way.
🌳 Updates to the course design will prevent damage to trees + disturbance to wildlife, protecting the surrounding Site of Special Scientific Interest pic.twitter.com/rSvGoMIUZX
— Marvin Rees (@MarvinJRees) December 22, 2022
Our next big breakthrough was a gofundme campaign set up by Jonny Dick. This has raised an incredible £2,870 so far (and still collecting) – allowing us to purchase 10 ‘nearly new’ baskets from Mat Cutler, as well as tee matts, postcrete, bolts and all the other things needed to install them. Special thanks to Evan Allen, Fran Johnson, WhaleSac and Druid City who each stumped up a princely sum to sponsor a basket.
We got lucky again when the Clarke brothers joined the community, not only do they have landscaping skills, but they somehow sourced 18 rubber matts, saving us approximately £360!
Our final name checks go to Ben March, Ben Seaman and Dan Shelton, who did a lot of work designing and playing the new holes, getting them fine tuned to a point where we could install them, and Rob Firey for his gentle tinkering and maintenance on the course.
Lastly, we had two coursework days, both of which saw a dozen club members turning up to actually dig the holes and carry things around. It was hard work – but totally worth it.
On the 15th July 2023, almost a year after the email that started this crazy adventure, we planted the final new baskets. For a short time, we actually have 20 permanent baskets installed – although two will have to be removed at some point. It’s an end to this chapter of a course that was initially installed in 2009, and I just hope that the next chapter is just as successful but maybe a bit less stressful!
This has all been made possible by the incredible generosity of our players and other members of the community who have consistently stumped up cash for nothing in return to keep us going in this journey. We cannot thank them enough and are excited about the next steps for the expanding Bristol Disc Golf community.
Future plans include installing some of our old baskets in a course suitable for young people in Bristol – giving something back, and investing in the next generation of Disc Golfers.