KWAG's May 2016 news update
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Don't forget the walled gardens will be open to the public on the 1st June from 10am to noon. Check our website for full details.

Above: Walkers take in the spectacular view above Horseshoe Bend during KWAG's first Walkfest event

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This month:

  • Last assault on invasive laurels
  • First Walkfest event report
  • News round-up from across the estate
  • Round the Back Front - History of a forgotten part of the landscape

Don't Forget! - Working Party Reminder

Reminder:  May's working party will take place this week, on Sat 14th. Please note the change of meeting location. We'll be working on Napier Miles Road, behind Kings Weston House, and we will meet by the lily pond opposite the old stables at 10am. With the cherry laurels behind us we've taken on a less daunting challenge and hope to clear the undergrowth from the edge of the historic walled garden areas in preparation for the open morning on the 1st June.

There will be tasks to suit most abilities including ivy clearance, and removing self-seeded saplings. 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.


Our last assault on the invasive laurels.

Last month we finished this year’s work on the Cherry Laurels in Penpole Wood. We are committed to continue the project to meet next year’s targets with the Forestry Commission project, but for the duration of the Summer we’ll focus on new projects.

April’s target was to liberate one of the wood’s most majestic trees from the undergrowth. A monumental beech tree stands close to the paths, but had been otherwise overlooked and isolated by the laurel. Our work pushed back the laurel to enable the tree to breathe and allow the roots to draw up water without competition from the invasive shrubbery.

We hoped that the tree would be able to thrive, but having reached the trunk we’re concerned that we’re too late, and the unventilated, dark and damp conditions under the laurel have enabled a canker to develop. We’ll be working with the Council to try and assess the health of the tree and hopefully find ways to conserve it if we can.

As always we’re incredibly grateful to all our volunteers who come out to drive these events and over the last five years have made such a positive impact on the historic estate. We usually see about ten regulars attend, but we’re always looking for new members to take an active role in this work. If you’d like to get involved in conserving the parkland, or know someone who might, please get in touch. 

First Walkfest event report .

Last Saturday saw the first of our walking events laid-on as part of Bristol Walkfest. We had a great turnout with numbers in excess of what we were expecting for the 2.5 mile walk tracing one of our published map routes. Walkfest advertising worked in our benefit and encouraged new visitors from around the city to explore the parkland; It's always rewarding to be able to show the landscape off to people who might not even have been familiar where Kings Weston even was.

The route passed through Penpole Wood with a couple of short talking points at the ruins of Penpole Lodge and the Dial before crossing over to the National Trust owned portion on Shirehampton Park. Perhaps the highlight was the view out across Horseshoe Bend; a panorama that seldom fails to impress.

The wildflowers were out in abundance too, with buttercups thick on Penpole Point and dense crops of bluebells a hidden surprise on the fringes of the golf course. The walkers ascended the steep gradient up to the Echo before heading back down to the house and, for many, a welcome stop in the coffee shop and an opportunity to take in the hazy view across the Severn to Wales. 

We had some great feedback on the event, and we were grateful for the interest expressed in KWAG and some kind donations towards our work.

There are still some places left on our second Walkfest event on 28th May - one of our well-received history walking tours around the park. Get in touch with us if you'd like to reserve a place. Further details on times and location can be found here:


News round-up from across the estate

We're grateful to volunteers from The Noise who returned to Penpole Wood this year, on the 2nd May, and undertook a herculean rubbish collection. A truck-load of detritus was picked up from Mancroft Avenue entrance to the woods and taken away with anything usable finding a new home.

We've had confirmation from Historic England that the War Memorial at the top of Park Hill has now been registered as a Grade II Listed building. We're still waiting to hear about the possible upgrade in protection for the stone dial on Penpole Point. Historic England stated the following reasons for Listing:
  • Historic interest: as an eloquent witness to the tragic impacts of world events on this community, and the sacrifices it has made during the First World War;
  • Architectural interest: a well-crafted cross design in dressed stone to the design of Ernest Newton;
  • Intactness: the structure is largely unaltered;
  • Group value: it provides an additional feature of note within the Kingsweston Estate  dating from the ownership of the philanthropist Philip Napier Miles.

Fifty beech saplings were planted out below the Echo where the laurel was cleared by our volunteers in 2014. The beech trees will complement the woodland here which is mainly of low-quality ash and sycamore, and provide the perfect environment for our bluebell planting. Another 200 saplings have been secured by our members Jim and Celia Ellis who've kindly given them temporary heeling-in before they can be planted out from the autumn onwards.

The remains of the felled lime trees from the avenue have now been removed. There remains one further tree that is condemned, but it's unlikely that this will be done during bird nesting season. The issue of the stumps needs to be addressed before we look to replant, and we're liaising with Bristol City Council tree officers to do this. 

One of the very few benches on the estate has been replaced by Council parks department. The two stone piers of the seat overlooking Shirehampton Park near the Iron Bridge had become unsafe and a new, fully timber, bench has been installed. The bench was a memorial to one of the former members of the old Kingsweston Preservation Society and we've made sure that the brass plaque has been carefully reinstated.


Round the Back Front: History of a forgotten part of the estate.

Many people’s first impression of Kings Weston house is marred by the slightly mangled and despoiled rear of the building. There have been some real improvements recently under Norman Routledge, but it’s a far cry from the original intentions of the architect Sir John Vanbrugh who designed the house with four individual facades of near-equal importance. We are fortunate that there are a wealth of estate maps, and drawings for the Kings Weston estate, but with so many differing styles, scales and detail it’s sometimes difficult to interpret how the setting of the house once appeared.

Recent research and interpretation of this forgotten side, the “Back Front” as it was built, has revealed how this part of the estate has evolved. A new set of reconstruction images, presented here for the first time, seeks to show how this are developed over time. Click on  each image to view it at larger size.

When Sir Robert Southwell bought Kings Weston in 1679 it was centered on a late Tudor mansion, in front of which were formal open courts and scattered service buildings. By 1710 his son, Edward, had ornamented the grounds with a brick-faced banqueting house and a long raised terrace, perhaps for bowling.
By 1720 Vanbrugh had completed the new house and with Edward they'd added new kitchens, brewhouse and a huge new terrace overlooking the Severn terminated by an ornamental loggia attached to the side of the Banqueting House. A pond and fountain were added symmetrical to the "Back Front"

Edward Southwell III had deformalised the gardens by 1772. A new kitchen range closed off the back of the house for the first time and a service court was created. This, and its access drive, cut through the old Banqueting House terrace. An ice house was sited to take advantage of the shade below the bank down to Kingsweston Lane.

The Victorian era saw substantial changes under the Miles family. A large replacement  kitchen block was added in the 1840s and the former Banqueting House was reused as a laundry and wash house. The remnants of the terrace was a drying yard. An ash tip was hidden out of site behind a timber fence and yew hedge.

The kitchens were demolished in 1938/9 before plans to turn the house into a school faltered in WWII. After the war the estate entered institutional use, and the gardens and buildings were neglected and went to ruin. By 1980 the back of the building was in use as a car park, and little sense of the historic setting remained. 
Copyright © 2016 Kings Weston Action Group, All rights reserved.

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