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Above: Winter sun along the avenue at Park Lodge
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- Working Party progress - More in Penpole Wood
- Iron Bridge protests gather momentum
- Some short updates
- Walled garden renovations
- Police at the house
Working Party Reminder - Saturday 10th February
Reminder: February's working party will take place this Saturday 10th. 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 Jan/Dec 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 - More in Penpole Wood
In January our working party carried on tackling laurels in the upper part of Penpole Wood. The results have been mixed. We have removed just a single species here, one that has been choking the natural development of the woodland, and that stranglehold is witnessed in the very poor quality trees now exposed.
We had another great turnout from volunteers again last month and work progressed quickly through the area between the cricket pitch and the former Jubilee Clearing. To the surprise of the Bristol City Council rangers we are limited to the use of hand tools, but it would be an understatement to say that they were impressed by the progress we made.
Now the laurel has been removed the remainder is a sad sight having been left unmanaged for so long. Native trees that have managed to grow through the now-removed evergreen canopy are spindly, stunted, or diseased, many leaning over trying to reach the sun. There are, of course, better, long-established specimens that never had to fight their way to the light before the laurel overtook, but these trees are well dispersed and many are, themselves, in a less than terrific state.
Above: looking east across the working party area from one of the informal woodland paths
Below: The thick canopy of laurels yields to natural light hitting the woodland floor.
It is our plan, over the next couple of months to reinforce native tree planting in the area as we have done in other areas of the wood. A few Black Pines will also be in the mix and hopefully complement some of the Victorian planting within the former woodland garden. Hopefully these will go on to thrive and fill in the gaps in the canopy of the Ancient Woodland in years to come.
Below: The barren wastes below the laurel are testament to the damage they've caused
Iron Bridge protests gather momentum
The ongoing saga of the damaged Iron Bridge has continued this month. The quickly-organised public meeting held on the 14th of last month attracted around 120 attendees including several councillors from several wards, and the local MP Darren Jones. Following an address from Councillor Donald Alexander, who tried to explain the process and progress in getting the bridge repaired, a number of questions were asked about the slow reactions of the city’s Highways department and the ongoing costs to the public purse of the scaffolding. The press were also in attendance and the event got a good deal of attention in the papers.
Above: Over 120 protesters were photographed by The Bristol Post
We are hugely grateful to local resident Dan Linstead for having taken the initiative in setting up the meeting and taking on a leading role in spearheading the campaign. Dan also met with Mhairi Threlfall, the Bristol councillor with cabinet responsibility for transport the following day and she provided a full response which we give below; we are, however, frustrated that this contradicts information previously circulated by the council and councillors
"Thanks for your email - wonderful to see so many people turn up to your event! I have some responses to your supplementary questions.
In terms of phases 1-4:
Progress is being made with phase 1 and many elements of phases 2 and 3. It would appear these are delayed but we are expecting to bring these phases into realization in February. This means we are approximately 6 to 8 weeks delayed. This has partly been attributed to unforeseen delays on having to get listed consent for simple elements e.g. undertaking core samples of the rock face supporting the bridge. Therefore, moving in to phase 4 in March/April which is dependent on the outcomes of the previous phases.
Officers will continue to put pressure on the consultant undertaking the brief. This will then present itself with a final cost. I think Don said, that there is no identified budget to undertake phase 5 at the moment (partially due to not knowing the cost/results of the previous phases) for delivery and completion.
1) Is it really necessary to close the walkway over the bridge with scaffolding?
The bridge strike has hit one the primary structural arch members which actual hold the bridge in place. If we were to remove the scaffold the bridge is liable to immediate failure. This is why when this was initially reported the bridge and road was closed immediately and the emergency scaffold put in place. like any arch it is only as strong as its complete structure. If you remove a section of any arch the whole arch is liable to collapse. The scaffold across the top is designed to carry the weight of the bridge and secure the bridge in place to stop it from falling on to the road. The only alternative <to make the bridge accessible by pedestrians> I am afraid would be to build a bigger structural scaffold directly under the bridge and close the road. At the moment it is not safe to cross: the scaffolding is there to prevent the bridge collapsing onto the road, it does not provide safe crossing, only below scaffolding could do that.
2) Is the proposed solution (to raise the height of the bridge) due to siloed thinking (i.e. the structures crew are looking for a structures solution)? Wouldn’t it be cheaper and better to lower the road?
No, this has been considered by all the Highways maintenance group team managers. This is the agreed the most suitable and economic solution to repair and mitigate further damage to the bridge . We are already aware the lower layers of the road are contaminated therefore it would be extremely expensive to remove, and all utilities in the road e.g. gas mains, water pipes will all require lowering which would also be at significant cost.
3) Given the development of the new M49 junction at Easter Compton is there scope to take up the issue of trucks from the fuel depot at Hallen passing through the estates of Bristol?
My understanding is that there are environmental weight limits around the depot to encourage the trucks to take a more suitable route. Unfortunately this can only be enforced by the police and therefore it might be prudent for the local councillors to consider using their influence to obtain some police enforcement or speak with the depot.
The depot and the junction are both in South Gloucester so I will pick this up with my counterpart in SG to see if the travel planning or traffic team can assist in working with the depot in getting the message out as must affect the Hallen Village in their area, although I have been informed the junction is some way from completion
In terms of question three - I've added a bit of homework for myself, to follow up with my equivalent in south Glos
I'll keep your councillors updated as we know more, but please do email me anytime,
It is difficult to see how decisions about raising the bridge, or reducing the road can have been costed when the survey work required to undertake that study has not yet been undertaken. In fact it remains overdue since October 2017 when the privately contracted company were supposed to be beginning work for the city highways department. It is also untrue that the issues of the bridge being Grade II Listed were unforeseen as this has been pointed out repeatedly to all involved from the time the bridge was damaged.
Above: Messages of hope pinned to the fences
Above: Crowds gathered on the east side of the bridge to listen to Councillor Doug Alexander
Further digging from Dan has uncovered that the current bill for temporary scaffolding from November 2015 to December 2017 is £19,315. It is not inconceivable that that sum could have paid for the reinstatement of the two cast iron sections already cast, and will continue rising by now.
Above: Click on the above image to view the plan in detail
Finally, on the 1st February, the city highways department lodged a planning application for a “Certificate of Lawfulness” to undertake invasive investigations into the abutments, some paint removal from ironwork, and take three core-samples of the road surface to establish its make-up. The application will be dealt with as quickly as possible by the conservation officers to ensure no further delays are incurred. To view the full application you can visit the city’s planning web site and search for application number 18/00507/CPLB .
If progress again stalls KWAG intends to serve notice under section 56 of the Highways Act which will involve the courts in ensuring that the footway across the bridge will be reinstated within an enforceable timescale. We are, however, keen to avoid this measure unless entirely necessary.
Below: crowds at the bridge
Philip Miles’ portrait.
The portrait of Philip Miles, owner of Kings Weston House between 1832 and 1845 that we reported on last month sold for a modest £5400 at auction at Lawrence’s of Crewkerne. If anyone knows who purchased it we would be interested in keeping track of it for the future.
We’ve recently met with both the Parks North ranger and the city’s Arboriculture experts on-site. We’re glad to hear that parks will be looking to incorporate the whole of The Circle into their mowing regime this year following KWAG’s efforts in keeping the brambles down. We were also complemented on the good progress we’ve made with the laurel clearance and confirmation that parks rangers would follow-through the area to remove and poison stumps. The tree officer has given us good feedback on how to replace lime trees along the Lime Avenue, and has also given a clean bill of health to a magnificent beech tree we had concerns about.
Home Guard at Penpole
We were delighted to find that the Bristol Times supplement in the Bristol Post covered our uncovering of the activities of the Home Guard in Penpole Woods. Thank you to Eugene Byrne who asked to include it in his weekly publication.You can view the article here: https://gallery.mailchimp.com/d6754e0d3b18e9a31be2d62e5/files/c8d71c42-3b5e-446a-8a72-cbe553c8ac58/P_8_9511585.pdf
More benches planned this month
We have received the next batch of benches to finish off the current backlog of donations. A team of volunteers will be heading out later this month to install them in the agreed locations. If you have been waiting for your bench to go in we apologise for the delays in this project.
Walled garden renovations
In June 2016 KWAG’s volunteers undertook clearance around one of the walled garden compartments to the west of the old stables on Napier Miles Road. The target was to uncover the remains of an Eighteenth Century glasshouse and attempt to prevent it from succumbing to the undergrowth.
This month some of the owners of the houses now within the former stables have clubbed together to get consent from the council to have some of the larger trees removed. Had these not been taken down they would continue to have undermined the historic structure.
Above: The wall before KWAG's work in 2016.
Below: The same view after volunteer work and the tree removal by local neighbours.
Now, with the trunks carefully removed, and with the work KWAG had previously done, the wall is fear easier to view. A more detailed inspection of the fabric has identified a few new intriguing details. On the south side (shown here) there are marked differences in the colour of the mortar holding the wall together that show that the arched opening was a later addition to the original glasshouse of 1772. The older, buff-coloured mortar is far softer than the white lime-rich mortar used in the masonry around the opening. This suggests that the glasshouse was altered in the early C19th and possibly reduced in length from its original 54 feet.
The removal of ivy from the north side has also uncovered the roof ridge line from the former potting-sheds and stores along the back of the glasshouse. Some of the clay tiles can still be seen clinging on half way up the wall.
We are hoping that the walled gardens can form one element of a Heritage Lottery Fund bid that can look at the restoration and enhancement of a number of elements of the historic landscape.
Above: The north side of the glasshouse wall. The roofline can clearly be seen along the length of the wall just above arch height.
Police at the house
For the duration of the 1970s and 1980s Kings Weston house was home to the Avon and Somerset Constabulary headquarters and training centre. It’s a recent part of the history we’re less familiar with though we know many people have fond memories of their time working there.
Below: Annual inspection on the lawns in front of the house (Date unknown). Inspector Grace Caple in the foreground. (Bristol Constabulary)
In conjunction with sleeping accommodation in the former stables on Napier Miles Road the centre saw thousands of recruits pass through its doors even though over-ambitious development plans were refused in 1978. Instead of developing the grounds around the house the police chose to move their focus to new offices in Portishead leaving the house empty after 1998.
These photos were found online and show some of the staff and activities during the tenure of the police at Kings Weston. If you have any memories of the house at this time we would love for you to get in touch and pass them on to us. Perhaps you remember someone in these photos, or you yourself slept in the house as a cadet. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with your reminiscences.
Above: Drugs training course attendees on the steps of the house, March 1973. (Bristol Constabulary)
Below: Detective training course posing on the steps of the house, March 1974. (Bristol Constabulary)