Happy new year to all our members
Above: Winter sun across Shirehampton Road
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- Working Party dates for 2018
- Working Party Progress - Return to Penpole Wood
- A 'lot' of Kings Weton interest under the hammer
- Home Guard in the Home Park
Working Party Reminder - Saturday 13th January
Reminder: January's working party will take place this Saturday 13th. PLEASE NOTE this Month we meet again at SHIREHAMPTON ROAD CAR PARK at 10am. We will continue clearing laurel and natural spacing within Penpole Wood. This is part of the City Council's Forestry Commission supported works. We will be working approximately in the same location as December HERE.
Please feel free to come along any time during the day, but we do prefer to be able to do health and safety briefings as a group at 10am if possible. There will be tasks to suit most abilities. 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. Please keep an eye on our Facebook Page in case of any change of location, or call 07811 666671 on the day to find us.
Working party Progress - Return to Penpole Wood
Apologies to everyone for the late publication of the working party dates for 2018. Our planned dates for the following 12 months are as follows:
We have also attached a poster to this email. If you have anywhere to post one please print it off and spread the word. We can provide hard copies of the poster on request. A PDF can be downloaded here.
Working party Progress - Return to Penpole Wood
As in previous years KWAG has supported the City Council in their commitment to undertake woodland conservation work for the Forestry Commission. The major part of this work is the clearance of the rampant cherry laurel from the Ancient Woodland, however the work is also closely aligned with the ambition to reinstate some of the historic woodland garden features.
We had one of our biggest turnouts for December’s event, fourteen volunteers in total, and we are really grateful to all the new faces we’ve seen coming along. Although the winter was well advanced everyone kept warm with the activity of laurel felling.
Above: A huge beech tree becomes visible from the footpath near the sports ground
The area we cleared in December stretched between the two historic paths through the woods. Both routes existed as early as 1720 when they were shown on an estate plan and with careful investigation some of the other routes marked on it can now be traced. With the laurel now cleared the relationship between the paths can be better understood.
Above: A 1720 plan of Penpole Wood with modern features marked on it.
Of particular interest is a route that led uphill through the wood to a level terrace from which views might once have been enjoyed towards the Severn and Wales. The easternmost arm of this feature has now been fully revealed and we hope it will become much better used now it appears to lead somewhere more than into the undergrowth! Work over the next few months should help reveal the rest of the terrace feature.
Left: Aerial view of the area just cleared.
Releasing the native trees from the suffocating blanket of laurel was, of course, our main goal, and another massive beech tree has now been revealed near the upper path as well as other fine specimens. However the generally poor condition of the wood in this area can be seen from the severe angle of growth and spindly trunks of the self-seeded saplings trying to reach the sun from beneath the clothes of the overshadowing laurel.
Above: Looking west along the main path adjacent to the sports field
Below: Looking east, in the direction of Kings Weston house along the main path. Sports pitch to the right.
A 'lot' of Kings Weston interest under the hammer
If you are looking for something interesting to liven up your walls and you have a penchant for Bristol then a recent auction lot might take your fancy. A portrait is shortly to be sold by Lawrences in Crewkerne, Somerset that has a strong connection with Kings Weston. The sitter is Philip Miles, who bought the estate in 1833 for the princely sum of £206,000; an extraordinary sum for the time. It will perhaps come as little surprise that Miles was Bristol’s wealthiest person and, when he died, the city’s first recorded millionaire.
When he bought Kings Weston he already owned the palatial Leigh Court on the other side of the Avon in Somerset, and had filled it full of famous Old Master paintings. For his own portrait he commissioned Sir Thomas Lawrence, the most famous portraitist of his time; this may not have just been purely for the prestige, but Lawrence was a Bristol-born artist who had made good in the capital.
Above: Philip John Miles by Sir Thomas Lawrence, currently up for auction on the 19th Jan
The Miles’s founded their fortune as merchants, bankers, and ship owners, and owning plantations in the colonies. As might be expected for the period his business interests were heavily dependent on slavery right up to 1833, the year he bought kings Weston, and the Slavery Abolition Act. He was also MP for Bristol between 1835 and 1837.
Below: Philip Miles's memorial in Abbots Leigh church, by E H Baily
The painting up for sale is likely to have been painted before Miles moved to Kings Weston, and it is not documented as having hung in the house, but it is an important record of a man who played an important role in the history of the city and the estate.
After Philip Miles’s death his family went to the foremost sculptor of the age to have his memorial carved. Again, perhaps not be coincidence, the artist, Edward Hodges Baily, was Bristol-born. It is known that the family were keen benefactors of the Bristol Arts scene and it is likely that their patronage of Bristol artists was intentional. The monument stands today, pale and magnificent, on the north wall of the tower of Abbots Leigh church; a pair of pensive figures stare up towards a draped classical urn bathed in carved stone rays of heavenly light.
The portrait of Philip Miles sells at Lawrences auction rooms on the 19th of January with an estimate of £4000-£6000. For further information, or perhaps even to make a bid, go here.
Home Guard in the Home Park
Another foray into the Bristol Archives has uncovered a new photo. The image shows the Home Guard in an official photograph, lined up at Penpole Point close to the end of the Second World War in 1944. These men were part of “C” Company of the 14th Battalion of the Home Guard.
Below: The Home Guard at Penpole Point in 1944. Part of the Ethel thomas Collection at Bristol Archives.
During the war the Home guard used Penpole Woods and the Home Park at Kings Weston, at that time the District Scout Camp, for training purposes. In 1940 they even requisitioned the tower of Penpole Lodge. The Scouts, who still owned the building observed “some concern the activities of the home guard when they took over the tower” and their site warden recalls in his diary of the time that “In the autumn of this year the Home Guard, or the LDV’s as they were then called, took over the tower as an observation post. They stayed until the Spring. Poor old tower – it bears its scars from friend and foe now. Still we won’t say too much about that; but it’s another job to be attended to after the war.” The journal now also forms part of the Bristol Archives collection.
It is not clear exactly what damage the Home Guard might have inflicted on the tower, but this, and further vandalism by “Local toughs” in the years following the war, led to the building being ruinous by the 1950s.
The Home Guard trained in the woodland and camouflage skills were practiced amongst the trees and undergrowth. The warden’s journal for the war years includes some humorous sketches of their activities!
Right: The ruinous condition of Penpole Lodge in about 1950
Below: Humorous sketches abound in MR W Webber's journal of the Scout's district campsite (Bristol Archives ref: 45305/1)