Memorial tree planting on Northern Slopes as tribute to local conservationist

Two trees were planted on a Knowle West nature reserve yesterday –  as a fitting tribute to a local conservationist who was passionate about preserving the area’s green spaces.

Bob Franks, who died last September at the age of 92, was Chair of the Northern Slopes Initiative (NSI) for 12 years – a volunteer group which looks after the reserve.

Local resident Bob Franks who was a dedicated Chair of the Northern Slopes Initiative. Image supplied by his family.

He passed away in Berkshire with his family and due to COVID-19 restrictions, many people in Bristol were unable to attend his funeral.

It was decided to plant two oaks on the Slopes in his memory – as a place where friends and family could visit. They were donated by the NSI and Bristol City Council and placed not far from Wedmore Vale where he lived.

The small ceremony took place on Thursday (25 February) with Bob’s partner of 24 years, Jennifer Mallett, planting the two trees, with help from his friends.

Friend and local resident Neville Smith and Bob’s partner Jennifer Mallett – with one of the newly planted oak trees.

His family, who could not be there for the planting, paid the following tribute:

“Bob Franks was passionate about conservation, particularly the protection of green spaces in urban areas and the right of the community to enjoy them.  

“A long-time, committed member of the Hotwells & District Allotment Association and the Bristol Northern Slopes Initiative, we’re delighted that his friends, colleagues, together with Bristol City Council, have chosen to honour his dedication and the legacy that he has helped to create in such a fitting way, by planting these oak trees in his memory.”

The Northern Slopes Initiative also paid tribute to Bob’s hard work and commitment to the natural environment in Knowle West – where he had lived since 2000.

In a statement they said: “Bob joined the NSI in 2001, and became chair between 2008 and 2020. However, lists of official posts and achievements do not truly reflect what he meant to us.

“He was not only passionate about the Slopes, but was able to combine energy, dogged determination and a practical sense of what could be done. He could inspire us to do new things, and solve problems which were in our way.

“When we published the news about his death, we had responses from locals, organisations and Bristol City Council officials and councillors.

“One word kept being repeated about him. He was a gentleman. Too true. It has been an honour for us to have worked with him and known him.”

The Northern Slopes nature reserve where the trees will remain as a memorial to Bob.

Bob joined the army at 15 where he became a bomb disposal expert for 20 years, travelling the world, often into war zones, before retiring and eventually settling in Bristol. 

He featured a number of times on BBC Radio Bristol – providing advice about allotments and gardening.

He received an award from the Hotwells & District Allotment Association, where he was Chair from 2000-2013, in honour of his service. 

Members there praised him for being “instrumental in turning around the fate of the Association” concluding: “…It is fitting that oak trees should be planted in memory of the stout-hearted Bob Franks.”

For more information about the Northern Slopes nature reserve and the NSI’s work there visit: https://www.northern-slopes-initiative.co.uk