There's an awful lot of news and updates to squeeze into this month. Naturally the first days of Spring have seen the park burst into life, and the daffodils, including those planted last year, are blooming.
Above: Looking over Shirehampton Road right now hints Spring is on its way!
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- Working party progress in Penpole Wood
- Police Mutual volunteer award
- Bridge update
- Bird walk and Bristol Walk Fest
- House opening
- Listed status recommended for War Memorial
- Historic Ethel Thomas Collection now available
Don't Forget! - Working Party Reminder
Reminder: March's working party will take place next week, on Sat 12th. Meet at Shirehampton Road public car park at 10am. This month we'll continue dealing with cherry laurel along the avenue into Penpole Wood from the Circle (turn left from Shirehampton Road car park into the woods). We'll be working close to the main path. Come with bow-saw, loppers, sheers etc if you have them. Find us on the red pin at the centre of the map here:
Our ongoing work will involve the removal of laurel bushes that are choking the grounds, but 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 in Penpole Wood
Please be reassured...
KWAG appreciates that there is some concern locally about the felling of laurel in Penpole Wood. We do understand that the degree of change can be challenging, but we’d like to assure everyone that the work KWAG are doing is necessary for the future protection of the Ancient Woodland.
KWAG's recent project,directed by the Forestry Commission, is the removal of Cherry Laurel. Cherry Laurel is an invasive foreign plant, and has serious implications for the health of natural woodland; it suffocates all other competing native species by preventing light from reaching the forest floor. It also decays slowly leaving a cocktail of toxins in the soil that retard the growth of other trees and ground cover. It's also on the Dogs Trust list of poisonous plants for dogs.
Although laurel's been present at Kings Weston for centuries, introduced as an ornamental shrub, it’s now run wild, threatening the nature, fabric, and diversity of the Ancient Woodland; as such it needs to be removed
It will look bare for a short time, especially now in winter, but the removal of the laurel will allow the forest floor to regenerate naturally with native trees and undergrowth; That it looks so bare right now is largely because the laurel has already suffocated everything at ground level. The process will ensure the survival of the Ancient Woodland for future generations, ultimately increasing the diversity of woodland habitat and species.
The majority of the feedback we’ve had has been resoundingly positive, but we appreciate the loss of familiar thickets will upset some people. Please be assured that KWAG are working to a brief defined by the Forestry Commission, and supported by Bristol City Council, and that the work is designed to save Penpole Wood from permanent decay, not to damage it.
You can read more about Bristol's Biodiversity Action Plan for woodlands, and the benefits of re-opening the forest floor to native growth here.
Above: The laurels were originally intended to be maintained like this garden at Rousham in Oxfordshire
Below: Clearance of a laurel thicket from February's working party.
Police Mutual volunteer award
We were delighted to discover one of our members, Lydia Sheehan, had nominated KWAG for an award from the Police Mutual Community Fund. The Force for Good initiative is designed to help community groups or projects to provide things like tools, equipment, and plants. Although KWAG didn’t win a major grant we were presented with a voucher for B&Q. We’ve now invested this in new tools to support our regular working party events.
We have some good news from the City Council! Thanks to one of our followers on Facebook the moulding patterns for the Grade II Listed Iron Bridge have been uncovered by the Council in storage at Underfall Yard. They're presently undergoing “fettling and repair” before replacement parts for the footbridge can be recast in iron to match the originals.
The arched spandrels that support the bridge from below were completely broken in the impact from a lorry at the end of last year. It is likely that the new casting will be completed by the end of March, with the view that the re-installation on the footbridge will be programmed into the new financial year 2016/2017. Once the complete repair programme has been agreed we’ll be kept up to date, but works won’t begin before April. We hope that it will reopened by early summer, but watch this space!
(photo courtesy of Bob Pitchford)
Bird walk and Bristol Walk Fest
Over the next couple of months we’ve got some great opportunities to help you get the most out of the Kings Weston Estate.
Following the popularity of previous year’s events the fantastic Ed Drewitt will be back leading a Bird Walk around Kings Weston on Sunday 24th April. It will start at 8am from the Shirehampton Road car park and last approximately an hour. The walk will take you through Penpole Wood and in Ed’s expert hands you’ll learn first-hand about the bird, their calls, and the habitat. These events are always popular and we’ve got limited numbers, so early booking is recommended! The event will cost £5, payable on the day and to book a place please get in touch via this email address, KWAG@theweasels.plus.com or call 07811 666671.
KWAG is participating in Bristol Walk Fest this year with two walks. Walk Fest is the UK’s largest urban walking Festival and runs throughout May.
The first of our walks will be a free group walk exploring the historic estate taking in Penpole Wood, the spectacular views from Shirehampton Park, and return through the Home Park around Kings Weston house. The walk will be 2.5 miles in extent and suitable for most abilities with some steeper sections.
It’ll take place on Saturday 7th May, and start at 2pm at Shirehampton Road car park. We estimate the walk will take approximately one and a half hours, and it’ll end at the coffee shop at Kings Weston house. Dogs are welcome to come along, but must be kept on leads on sections of the route.
On Saturday 28th we’ll be reprising our popular guided History Walking Tour around the park in the company of KWAG’s David Martyn. David will take us round the hidden highlights of the historic grounds and give an insight into how they evolved and the people who created them.
The walk will start at 10:30am at Shirehampton Road car park, and take approximately two and a half hours, finishing at the coffee shop at Kings Weston house at lunch time. A fee of £4, payable on the day, will go towards supporting KWAG’s projects. Under 16s fee and well behaved dogs on leads are welcome.
Both of these walks should be booked in advance as numbers are limited. If you’re interested in joining us please get in touch via this email address, KWAG@theweasels.plus.com or call 07811 666671.
Norman Routledge, owner of Kings Weston house, is aiming to open the property up for one weekend a month (to start with). Historian and tour guide Jon Cunningham has offered to help out with tours of the house and Norman is asking for any additional volunteers from KWAG who’d like to get involved. We know that there were some of you who came forward when we raised the idea a while ago, but We’re keen to ask again now that there are definite dates. It’s proposed that the house will be open on the following Sunday's (subject to change):
10th September (Saturday for Doors Open Day)
If you are interested in lending a hand and some of your time to help get one of Bristol’s most important buildings open for the public please let us know and we can pass on your details.
(photo courtesy of Bob Pitchford)
Listed status recommended for Shirehamton War Memorial
After work by KWAG volunteers to compile a report the Shirehampton war memorial has been recommended to the Secretary of State to receive Listed Building status. Land for the war memorial, at the top of Park Hill on the estate, was given by the estate's owner, Philip Napier Miles and the memorial was designed by by Ernest Newton CBE RA FRIBA. Newton had undertaken work on the Kings Weston estate and in Avonmouth before, and his company went on to design the House in the Garden in 1938.
Napier Miles attended the dedication ceremony on 4th September 1921. The unveiling was undertaken by General C.E. Bruce CMG and dedicated by the Archdeacon of Bristol. The memorial, in the form of a wayside cross, suffered the loss of it's original bronze cross in 2006. This was restored in stone shortly after.
KWAG have also been successful in amending the Listing description of the stone dial on Penpole Point, and we hope that the new information we've provided will see it upgraded from a Grade II "Victorian sundial" to Grade II*. The stone dial dates from at least the Seventeenth Century and was used as a navigation marker for ships entering the Avon.
Above: The dedication ceremony of Shirehampton War Memorial - The Ethel Thomas collection, Bristol Record Office.
Historic Ethel Thomas Collection now available
From the caption in the above photo you'll see that it came from the Ethel Thomas Collection of historic photos, research, and documents relating to Kings Weston, Shirehampton and Avonmouth. This collection, donated to the Bristol Record office on Ethel Thomas's death in 2008, but remained boxed and unavailable through want of cataloguing. This challenging task has now been completed after a three-year process by volunteers, and everything is now available for public access. Particular thanks goes to Terry Rees who came forward in 2012 after KWAG appealed for help to get the collection made public.
There's a lot within the collection relevant to Kings Weston. Dozens of images and documents cover the house and Parkland throughout it's history. Perhaps the most valuable new material covers the modern history of the estate including the controversy of the 1970s when the Avon and Somerset Constabulary sought a massive development in the park. This resulted in the formation of KWAG's predecessor - the Kingsweston Preservation Society - for which there is also a new trove of material in Mrs Thomas's collection.
We hope that, now it's been made public, that researchers and the public will enjoy new access to this significant local history resource. To see more about the collection, and explore its contents, check out the Bristol Record Office online catalogue
Above left: The model of the proposed Police training Centre from February 1978.
Below: The scene looking down from the Echo towards the house in about 1916.