Nature lovers of more than one kind are heating up over the issue of the Downs, which has become a popular social spot for local gays, who claim that the city's plans to clear the area of undergrowth in an effort to cut down on the accessibility of the area as being a "hot spot" for gay lovers to meet. Their claim in effect, is that bush trimming is discrimination against the local gay community.
Bristol City Council wants to prune bushes and remove cover from an area known as the Downs to improve the landscape and encourage rare wildlife.
But its own gay rights group has opposed the move, claiming that cutting back the bushes was "discriminating" to homosexual men who used the area for late night outdoor sex known as dogging.
Work on the beauty spot has been temporarily delayed while talks with gay rights groups take place to try and break the deadlock.
The Downs is located along the top of the Avon Gorge, in the Clifton suburb of Bristol, and is the home to various species of wildlife and plant life. Over the past twenty years, the area has become overgrown with thick brush that covers an area along Circular Road, and has become a hot spot for gay men and couples seeking an outdoor area for sex.
The area hit the headlines within the last year after four firemen were fined for shining lights into the brush on couples engaged in sexual activities.
Personally, I'm not sure that the city council's reasoning for attracting wildlife will stand up to close scrutiny. Wildlife tend to flourish in areas undisturbed by human clearing, and it's quite possible that if one looked closely, abundant nocturnal wildlife could be found, such as certain varieties of lizards and quite possibly, though I must admit I'm not familiar with the local fauna, the occasional beaver, perhaps seeking to partake of the local wood. I'm sure that there is probably an abundance of squirrels and a great many birds, likely several Great Tits
flashing about from tree to tree, which I'm sure include, possibly white oak, Dutch elm, and perhaps pussy willows.
A few lines from Bob Seger's Horizontal Bop
come to mind:
If we cant find a house
Then someone better find a field
Grass is good as carpet
Anyplace is fine
Its time to get to rockin
Babe its time to make it shine
It's sure to be an interesting debate as it unfolds, but perhaps, in retrospect, the city council might have taken a more honest direction with their announcement to clean out the area, simply by saying that they wished to remove the undergrowth to discourage illicit behavior outdoors. But it remains to be seen if neatly trimmed bush will indeed be a discouragement, or will only make for a smoother access to an area that has already become a hot spot.