KWAG's May Newsletter
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If you've walked through the historic estate recently you might have seen the explosion of bluebells and the speed at which the new avenue has come into leaf. Now is the perfect time to visit historic Kings Weston and see some of our restoration progress.

This month:

  • Forthcoming event - Join us on a FREE bat walk - 16th May
  • Working Party Progress
  • Incredible efforts in historic Jubilee Clearing
  • Recent nature walks
  • Bluebell riot
  • History update - New archive acquisition
  • A mystery solved

Don't Forget! - Working Party Reminder

Reminder:  May's working party will take place next week, on Sat 16th May. Meet at Shirehampton Road public car park at 10am. We are planning to carry out light clearance nearby along the South Walk between the Circle and the Echo, continuing the progress we made last month. This will involve the removal of self-seeded saplings and light undergrowth. Please come along with suitable clothing for the weather on the day, bring hand-tools if you have some suitable,  and we hope to see you there.


Event - Join us on a FREE bat walk
An evening bat hunt to be held on Friday 29th May

Come and find out about the wildlife of our historic estate after dark. Local expert, David Brown, and members of the Avon Bat Group will lead an expedition to find out about the different bat species living in the woodland. This is a wonderful chance to walk through the estate at night seeing and hearing some of its more elusive residents, and hopefully, a few owls, moths and other creatures too. This walk is free of charge, and supported by a Neighbourhood Partnership Green Capital Grant .

We will be starting from Shirehampton Road Car Park, on Friday 29th May
Please arrive at 8.45pm. The walk will commence at 9.00pm and finish around 10.30 pm.
Please make sure you have:

  • suitable footwear
  • jacket for when it gets cooler
  • a torch
  • water

This walk is free but you must book! Places are limited so book early. Accompanied children are very welcome.
E-mail or phone 07811 666671 to book your place

If you want to a larger copy of this poster, and have somewhere you could display it, please save and print  THIS PDF.

Working Party Progress
Lifting the curtain - Work on South Walk

KWAG working party volunteers continued efforts last month with the thinning of undergrowth along the South Walk. The intention is to undertake more work in the coming months; meeting the recommendations of the Conservation Management Plan for the historic estate.

April saw the lifting of the tree canopy along the edge of the parkland, and clearance of self-seeded saplings from an area close to the Circle. In doing so it has returned a sense of connection back towards Kings Weston House. Restoring these visual links with the historic Grade I Listed building is an important step in reunifying areas around the Home Park. We've left the strongest and healthiest trees in the area and hope to supplement them this winter with more specimen trees to accompany the Victorian planting along. A full set of before-and-after images can be found here.

Big thanks to everyone who came along last month and we hope more of you will be able to join us this month in what is always a hugely satisfying activity.

Incredible Efforts in Jubilee Clearing
The Noise turning back the clock in Jubilee Clearing

We know that many local members of KWAG recall with affection their time camping in Penpole Wood when it was used by Bristol Scout troops between 1937 and 1947. The accompanying, atmospheric, image of Penpole Wood (right) shows shows it in the final year of operation as the District camp. During the period we understand that 'Jubilee Clearing' in Penpole Wood offered the most choice location to pitch your tent. The area had, until recent efforts, almost vanished into the woodland.

On 2nd May this year a large group of The Noise volunteers from Christian groups around Bristol came to Penpole Woods and commenced on the clearance of the old camp area. As with much of Penpole Wood, since the Second World War it has become largely unmanaged and overgrown. The recent work has restored a sense of openness to the area once more, and the Victorian specimen conifers - Coastal Redwood and Morinda Spruce -  planted around its edges can now be seen to their full effect. (Find out more about these historic trees on our Tree Trail). It is hoped that the Clearing will offer different habitats to the main woodland area and that the clearing will add to the biodiversity of the estate. Volunteers also took up the challenge to clear dumped rubbish in the lower area of Penpole Wood behind Mancroft Avenue, making a huge impact on the amenity of the area.

We owe all the volunteers who made this project happen a huge debt of gratitude, and we're sure that everyone who remembers Jubilee Clearing in its former condition will join us in thanks to The Noise. It was also wonderful to see young people getting so involved in the restoration project and clearly having as much enjoyment from it as the Scouts would once have had.


Recent nature walks
Reports on this month's events

Thanks to funding from the European Green capital pot we are running free wildlife events again this year. So far we’ve had two very different events which have both been fully booked well before they took place.
In April we had our third early bird walk with local naturalist broadcaster and author,   Ed Drewitt, listening and looking at the avian life in Penpole Wood.  The list of birds seen and heard included blackbird, robin, dunnock, goldcrest, nuthatch, wren, chiff chaff, tree creeper, jackdaw, jay, black backed and herring gull,  two sparrowhawks being mobbed by crows, woodpecker and even a heron! Ed’s birding knowledge and identification skills are amazing and we all went home having learnt a lot - while having a great time.
May brought wild food forage with Steve England finding tasty treats to supplement and enhance our regular diet.  Steve showed us what is edible, and tastes good in the woods and grass land -and what isn’t! We collected plants and fungi for a fantastic buffet lunch of salad made up of crow garlic, cow parsley, lime and beech leaves, ground elder, hedge mustard, fennel and jelly-ear fungus, to mention a few, plus some more delicious fungi to take home and cook.*  Everything was washed down with a glass of birch sap! Not a scrap was left and one gentleman described it as’ the best salad he’d ever had’! Steve’s events are always entertaining, interesting and fun, and  a great time was had by all.

If you missed out on these two events you can still join us for free on the evening of Friday May 29th when we’ll be having another bat walk with the Avon Bat Group.

* Please don’t try this at home, go out with an expert first!

Bluebell Riot
Penpole Wood gives a classic display

Like the snowdrops, the bluebells we planted close to the Echo last October have flourished this spring, and those we planted the year before, on the other side of the Echo path, have started to mature too. But this Spring really belongs to the fantastic display in the lower parts of Penpole Wood. Once at the very edge of the woodland where it met the open parkland where Lawrence Weston estate now stand these plants have put on a classic display this year.

History update - New archive acquisition
Wood Lodge drawing adds to the records

A new image has just been acquired of one of the Kings Weston Estate's 23 individual Listed Buildings. Seen above, this is a pencil drawing of Wood Lodge dates to 1956 and was sketched by  local artist, and Bristol Savage, George Holloway. This view looks towards the Grade II Listed building from the east and shows a number of features that have since been lost including the blocked windows and the stone drip-mouldings above others.

The lodge owes much of its ornamental appearance to Philip Skinner Miles during the Victorian era. It was in the 1860s that Miles undertook the refurbishment of a number of the estate's buildings, including Wood Lodge, and added rustic wood work, decorative barge-boards and a clay pantile roof; Kingsweston Inn Sea Mills Farm, and Henbury Lodge also received similar alterations at this time. However, Wood Lodge has a much earlier origin.

The lodge has always had an important role on the estate; guarding the private parkland to the east from the publicly accessible common land on Penpole Point in the west. It is first depicted on an estate plan of 1772 and is seen in the smaller accompanying image here, by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm, in 1788 (Copyright of the British Library). This earlier view shows the front of the building as it would have appeared from the west. What is obvious is that the present building has very different proportions when viewed from the side, and appears to have shrunk from its original width. The projecting bay on the Penpole Lane side is likely to be the same one as seen today.

From the general appearance of the building, and some of the features shown in these two illustrations, it is possible to attribute this lodge to the architect, garden designer, and mathematician Thomas Wright. We know that Wright was working on designs with Edward Southwell III of Kings Weston House from 1761 and there are strong stylistic similarities between Wood Lodge and some of his other work on the Badminton Estate, Gloucestershire and Tollymore Park in Ireland. At what time the building was so drastically altered it's not known, and although the thatch has a far more picturesque effect, its present tiled roof must be far easier to maintain! 


A mystery solved
Carriage memories confirmed

We've had many people coming up to us recalling old horse-drawn carriages stored at Kings Weston shortly after the Second World War. It's been a bit of a puzzle as to what they were, and what happened to them, but this week the story came into sharp focus. A new on-line interface for the collections of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery Provided the answer.

While searching for Kings Weston related items an entry appeared for one of a collection of carriages in the City's ownership. This was an early Nineteenth Century carriage used by the Duke of Beaufort of Badminton. During the war it had been on display in the rear atrium of the museum when, in 1941, a bomb detonated on the roof, completely destroying a biplane hung from the ceiling, and badly damaging the carriages. They  were speedily removed to Kings Weston estate buildings for safe storage for the remainder of the war, where they must have stayed into the early 1950s when people recall seeing them. They reputedly received more damage from damp through the leaky roofs of the stables than they did in the initial blast! 

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