Pandemic working party restrictions relaxed
Above: Buttercups carpet the ground near Penpole Point last month.
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Working Party update - conserving Penpole Point II
National Grid Money confirmed
More on the Iron Bridge
Ash die-back hits harder
Enigmatic sculptures spotted
1973 - the park under threat
Working Party Reminder - Planned working party event Saturday June 12th
Reminder: June’s working party will take place this Saturday 12th. At last! We can work without any restriction on numbers again. This month ANYONE who would like to help out can come along throughout the day and we are no longer restricted to teams of 6.
This month we intend to return to cherry laurel clearance that allows us shaded working during the summer months and prevents conflicts with bird nesting season. Work will involve felling cherry laurel within parts of Penpole Wood we’ve not dealt with before. PLEASE NOTE this Month we meet at the same place on Penpole Lane, opposite the school, at 10am. We will be working 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 though this month it will be principally focused on trimming regrowth, with some felling vegetation. 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 update - Conserving Penpole Point II
Above: the main path along Penpole Point looking south before and after volunteer work.
Still running two working groups of fewer than 6 volunteers each we worked around several areas in May, building on the previous month’s success stretching back from the ruins of Penpole Lodge. The areas we tackled were again those that have gradually succumbed to self-seeded saplings over the years, and whose trees had begun to grow over paths and encroaching onto grassland. Volunteers efforts sought to “naturally space” the native woodland to promote its health.
Natural spacing involves felling weaker, less healthy, trees and allowing more successful specimens the room to grow and mature. Our task along the Point was given added complication through the number of Ash and Elm that are in the area, both of which species have ongoing health problems. The additional light now reaching through the woodland edge should also promote the growth of more ground cover plants.
Above: Removal of self-seeded elm that threatened to encroach onto the important grassland of Penpole Point.
The work was really successful in opening up lines of sight onto the open grassland from Penpole Lane, and from the wood, as well as giving a less claustrophobic walk on one of the most used paths to the Point. There is better visual connection from the main path into the woods and the historic estate boundary wall below; The sense of the Point being high up above the adjacent area is again palpable.
Below: Before and after work looking from the estate boundary wall up to the grassland on Penpole Point.
National Grid money confirmed
Great news this month that finally a sum of money agreed as part of planning obligations has arrived! The figure of £11,000 was agreed as a condition of the Hinkley Point pylons and the impact that they would have on protected views from Kings Weston. The money, from the National Grid, is to be used specifically to further the objectives of the 2014 Kings Weston estate conservation plan. It will be made available to KWAG or the City Council only for those projects and can’t be spent on elements outside of that scope, so, for example, could not be used on general maintenance or on the repair of the Iron Bridge.
Below. National Grid impression of the new pylons in the landscape near Portbury
The money can be used as match-funding to attract other grants, and in this way could seed much higher sums for larger projects. There is no immediate plan to use the money immediately, as long as it’s spent before 2026 and we will work closely with the Council to seek appropriate projects. Some that have been suggested include the consolidation and restoration of some of the historic structures, the restoration of historic paths as accessible routes, and works towards the restoration of the pond and lodges at the walled garden. If you have any thoughts or suggestions on projects that we can prioritise please write to us. To give you some ideas of what can be considered the Conservation Management Plan is available on our website.
Money has also been allocated to tree planting across the area of north Bristol impacted by the new network of pylons. KWAG have applied for grants for larger specimen trees to replace those lost along various avenues of the estate.
More on the Iron Bridge
As you’ll have read in our last newsletter KWAG has been party to a new application in for the restoration of the historic Grade II Listed iron bridge over Kings Weston Road, and the erection of two protective steel height restrictors either side of it. Thanks to everyone who has submitted comments supporting the applications. There are now 66 emails or letters of support for the proposal, including that of the national organisations, The Georgian Group, Ancient Monument’s Society, and The Avon Garden’s Trust on behalf of the national Gardens Trust who protect historic landscaped gardens. We are expecting the support of Historic England shortly, though we’ve had no feedback from the Council’s own internal teams in conservation or highways. We’ve also had the local support of two of the three ward councillors, and they have called the planning application in to be heard by the planning committee and allow for local voices to be heard.
Below: An impression of a height restrictor at the junction of Kings Weston Road and Lane.
We’ve also approached the Mayor, Marvin Rees, to begin the task of getting his support for the proposals should they get planning consent. We reminded him of the Council’s obligations to protect historic buildings in its care, and to ensure Public Rights of Way (PROW) such as the one that crosses the bridge are kept maintained and open; on this point we consider that the council are in contravention of their legal requirements to ensure this. We also sought to correct some of the misunderstandings that have appeared in the press over the Council’s responsibilities and where the obstructions restoring the bridge were occurring. So far we’ve received no reply from the mayor’s office.
Ash die-back hits harder
This year has sadly seen some of the more advanced stages of Ash Die Back develop in trees at Kings Weston. In previous years other parks in the city have suffered badly from this air-borne fungus whose spores are spread easily by the wind, but signs of it at Kings Weston have been slight. Now the trees around the estate are in full leaf it has become clear that the majority of larger mature ash trees have some degree of loss of foliage to their crowns. This was apparent particularly on Penpole Point during our working parties where there are large numbers that have self-seeded over decades.
Below: Signs of ash die back in Penpole Wood.
Ash die back attacks all ages of tree and saplings across the parkland have also died in large numbers. The most recognisable effect of the disease is the sudden wilting and death of the new growth of leaves, and this is the first time we’ve seen this symptom on the estate.
There seems to be little future for ash trees, and there’s no cure for the current epidemic. It is likely that the huge majority of ash trees across the UK will be lost, with only some resilient trees surviving. At present it’s too early to tell if there are any at Kings Weston and we are sadly resolved to lose most from the woodland. The Council will be monitoring the issue and, where trees pose a threat to health and safety by falling over paths, will fell selectively. We will continue monitoring the situation and identify particular trees that might threaten public safety. Please help us by keeping your eyes open and reporting them to us or the Council.
Enigmatic sculptures spotted
Ever get that feeling you’re being watched? Well if you’ve had that feeling walking through Penpole Woods you’re not alone. These curious sculptures have popped up recently filling holed in trees around the woods. So far there have been four individual locations identified, mainly along the main path. Each one is unique to the tree it sits in, incorporating blackened faces crammed into the bare space where a knot has formed in the bark. The faces are carefully incorporated into the natural scars of the trees and look as if they were grown as part of the wood. The first sightings were apparently a month ago, but some of the sculptures look like they’ve been with us for longer. No one has yet owned up to having created them, or suggested who the artist is, but they’re a fascinating, if haunting, addition to the woodland. Keep an eye out when you next pass through the historic woods and you might encounter one.
Right and below: some of the mysterious sculpture hidden in the trunks of trees.
1973 - The park under threat
The view looking up towards the Echo is startlingly different here in 1974.A series of images taken in 1973 by Bristol City Council planning department around the time when a new police training college was being proposed in the grounds. Very few of the trees are recognisable as today's woodland walk and the winter adds to the bleak feel af a parkland still recovering from wartime tree felling. Find more in this series of historic photos on our website.