KWAG's March Newsletter and working party reminder
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Accelerating into Spring

This month is our deadline for completing the steps through Penpole Wood and we've been flat-out to get this done, but we've also been busy formulating a new events plan for this year and applying for grant support on several projects designed to improve the parkland.

This month:

  • Working party progress and reminder
  • Bulb explosion!
  • New ways to help and support us.
  • Events for 2015
  • To conserve, enhance and inspire; KWAG's recent grant applications
  • Scattered finds; fragments from Penpole Point

Working Party Progress

and reminder for 14th March working party

Reminder:  March's working party will take place next week, on Sat 14th and we aim to near completion with the steps in Penpole Wood we started in January. We'll meet again at 10am on Penpole Lane, opposite the Oasis Academy School and walk over to the site, or you can join us later in the day. To find us please check the location details on this map. As always, please make sure you come with suitable clothing and footwear for the conditions on the day. We will be able to supply most tools with the help of Bristol City Council but please bring any that you might be able to spare for the event. This month we will need: mattocks to help terrace the slope, a fence-post maul to help set the steps, and trowels and a rake to create the pitched-stone surface of each step and smooth the gravel surface to ramped sections. In the unlikely event you have a long wrecking bar that would also be terrific! Everything else we hope to provide.

The steps through Penpole Wood are certainly the biggest physical challenge our volunteers have undertaken since KWAG began. The steeply sloping site has proved far more challenging than initially thought, with mud, bedrock, and roots slowing our work considerably. However, we have achieved an incredible amount considering. We managed to complete another eleven steps at last week's extra working party, breaking our previous record by one. We've now installed just over forty making a big difference re-linking the main top path through the woods (laid out in the Seventeenth Century), and the lower Eighteenth Century pleasure walk. In total the Council has grant funding for sixty steps, so we have some way to go yet to complete the project before the grant deadline of the end of March. We plan to run another supplemental working party event on 28th March, but we'll confirm this closer to the time.

Above: Before and After last week's session on the central section.

We have now completed the lower section of the and the shorter top section is also just one step (literally!) away from completion. We've terraced the whole length of the middle section of the route, and working from the bottom we've made good progress on the long climb here.

We have had some really positive comments from visitors about this project, complementing KWAG on its work, and the Council have been impressed with the quality of the work we've done so far. Huge thanks are due to all KWAG volunteers who've helped in this project, and we hope to be able to move on to easier projects next month!

Below: The lower section completed.

Bulb explosion!

A dividend returned from October's activity

For everyone who helped out on our big bulb plant in October last year you'll be delighted to know that everything we planted seems to have survived the winter! Your efforts were certainly not wasted, as the area below the Echo is already full with bluebell shoots, and earlier this month we had a really good showing of snowdrops.

This was  followed by crops of crocus we planted in the grassland below the Georgian Viewing Terrace and overlooking Shirehampton Road. You can still catch these now if you hurry, or glance up from the road as you're passing. There's been a bit of badger action that's seen some bulbs lost, but the survivors will continue to multiply and flourish..

It doesn't stop here though, as there are swathes of bluebells ready to explode into action in a few weeks and native daffodils will be supplementing the action. Although not part of our own planting programme the daffodils planted about twenty years ago in the copses below the Viewing Terrace are promising to set the slopes alight this year with a show perhaps even better than last year. If you're a keen photographer we'd love to see any shots of this year's display. You can see a gallery of our bulb planting project on our web site, and this will grow and develop as the season continues, so keep an eye out HERE.

Below: snowdrops with the Echo beyond.


New ways to help and support us

Since foundation in 2011 KWAG has always been keen to ensure that we don’t charge members for supporting us, but we do need to carry on operating and being able to realise our plans to conserve and enhance the estate. We are entirely dependant on volunteer donations and grants, but we need to raise funds to make sure we can still carry on benefiting the 300 acre estate.

We do have regular fund-raising events, but now we are asking if you are able to help support us further by considering giving us a donation. To enable this we have created a new and easy way to get donations to us via credit or debit card, or direct through Paypal.

You can donate any time you want through our website You'll find a yellow Donate button on most of the main pages. Please help us keep membership of KWAG free and help us continue to conserve, enhance and inspire.

If our work in the estate has impressed you and you'd like to see it continue, if you’ve enjoyed one of our free guides and would like to see more in the future, or would like to see more bulb planting, bins, or any number of infrastructure works extended then please, please lend us your support. We promise to put your donation to the best use we can.

Thank you

Please click on the button below, or follow THIS LINK to donate towards KWAG's work safely and securely

Developing events programme
A preliminary list of events for 2015

As in previous years KWAG will be putting on a series of events throughout 2015. We are still developing a programme, but rest assured we'll make sure everyone is given good notice of what's happening, when, and where. To avoid confusion we won't be taking bookings just yet, but we hope to be able to bring you the following, and more, subject to confirmation:

April, Saturday 18th, Bid walk with bird Expert Ed Drewitt. Come along and discover the incredible bird life around the park in the expert hands of respected ornithologist Ed Drewitt. The walk will take place at 8:30am. Full details and booking will be available shortly.

April, Sunday 26th: Guided estate history walk 10am-1pm

May, Saturday 9th: Wild Food Forage with Steve England

July, Saturday 11th: National Archaeology festival Guided estate history walk 10am-1pm

September, Saturday 12th: Doors open day and Art sale in conjunction with Kings Weston House

September, Tuesday 22nd: Capability Brown Tercentenary Event, in association with Avon Gardens Trust.

October, Saturday 3rd; Guided estate history walk 10am-1pm

We also hope to organise a Guided Tree Walk, Family Nature walk, Bat walk with the Avon Bat Group, and our first excursion to another nearby house and garden with Kings Weston connections! More on all this soon!

To conserve, enhance, and inspire:

KWAG's recent grant application work

Not disheartened by the rejection of our grant application to the Green Capital Strategic Grants fund we've been busy through February putting together new appeals for projects we hope to run. We've applied for Green Capital funds again, but this time the Small Grants scheme with a project in partnership with Oasis Academy Brightstowe, one of the estate's close neighbours on Penpole Lane. Our project hopes to develop new attitudes to litter in the park and provide an improved network of litter and dog waste bins. We've also put in a grant bid to the Neighbourhood Partnerships Green Capital scheme to support an enhanced programme of nature walks and guides, and re-run our hugely popular schools nature events. If successful this grant will enable us to put on these events free to everyone.

Finally, we've begun putting together our most ambitious application to date, for £50k from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) 'Our Heritage' grant scheme. This is intended to support a full restoration of the Georgian Viewing Terrace overlooking Shirehampton Park; the last unspoiled park panorama that can be enjoyed from its original designed prospect point. Since KWAG uncovered the terrace and parapet wall in late 2012 it has been clear that the condition of the original Eighteenth Century structure is very poor. Several sections have suffered further damage since then and working with its owner, Bristol City Council, we need to find ways of making it safe and saving it for future generations to enjoy.

As well as saving the 250-year old terrace structure the project will ensure that there will be the opportunity for volunteers and the unemployed to get involved and develop new skills during the restoration work. New panels will interpret the historic structure and make sense of the panorama overlooking the Avon, across the distant bank and to Somerset beyond. As part of the development of this bid we have drafted a short brochure to help explain the terrace, and set out the case for its salvation.View a full copy of the document here (6.4MB)

We'll keep you posted on the outcome of all these applications.

Below: A sample page form our Viewing Terrace document


Scattered finds;

fragments from Penpole Point

One of the added advantages of our step-building project has been the ability to reassess the significance of one of the estates historic features through physical exploration. The path is likely to have been one reflected in an early Eighteenth Century estate map and its location immediately below the ruins of Penpole Lodge highlights it as an important part of the private grounds secured within the Home Park walls.
Excavating the steps and re-grading the site has thrown up some interesting results. In January our first challenge was to clear a way through a rubble-strewn debris field. This represented the demolition material from Penpole Lodge thrown here from above in 1952. Amongst it were about two dozen large worked stones with a textured surface matching that of Kings Weston House itself, clearly representing the facing blocks of Vanbrugh's belvedere tower above. It's clear that the rubble pile contains insufficient material to have constituted the whole of the building, and much more must have been carried away. The majority of the material in the area is loose rubble, mostly with traces of mortar that would have formed the core of the Lodge Walls.
The debris field was curiously localised around the western end of the steps area, and in a limited distance from the lodge above. The area between was largely barren of material and it appears that the stones encountered represent the peak rolling distance before momentum was lost and their continued journey down the slope was halted by the growing rubble pile.

Below: Context plan showing the location of finds along the restored path .
The structure of the path itself was different from what had been expected. From initial exploration it had been assumed that it had been formed by cutting into the hill on the south side and with a low retaining wall on the north. What we found was that, although there was evidence that the path had been quarried into the slope, there was no evidence of a corresponding supporting structure on the down-slope side. During excavation a rough gravel surface was encountered only infrequently, and no evidence of previous steps has been identified. Although clearly a designed feature laid out on a linear course with a gradual descent its construction suggests a less substantial intervention that originally assumed.
About half way up the path we started finding large quantities of pottery sherds and broken glass. Again this represented a relatively localised distribution; these fragments had been absent from excavation lower down the slope. Coming from the layer of overburden washed down the slope, and over the top of the original path surface these finds are unstratified and of limited archaeological significance, but they do give an insight into the location as a whole.
For centuries Penpole Point was for popular recreational site for both the Families who owned Kings Weston House and whom would have enjoyed Penpole Lodge as a garden retreat, and visitors to the Common Land stretching along the Point. Continuing in use into the Twentieth Century the north pier of Penpole Lodge was a small tied cottage for the estate workers. The fragments of pottery and glass found during the path works are likely to have come from these contexts and probably represent the remains of discarded picnics, or the general waste thrown out by the residents of the Lodge.

Fragments illustrated here would support that theory. Amongst the late C19th domestic wares, and utilitarian containers and preserve pots there is a selection of earlier and potentially more interesting material. The most interesting item is the neck and base of a hand-blown Onion Bottle probably of the early/mid C18th (H). The surface of the dark green glass wine bottle has degraded over time leaving an iridescent finish where the glass has begun de-laminating.
Also found close by was one of the late Georgian fragments of slipware with a feathered pattern in the slip and a pie-crust edge; evidently from a wide dish of about 14 inches in diameter (F). As well as another fragment of slipware there was a single sherd of tin-glazed earthenware, or ‘delft’ ware (G). Undecorated it is the rimmed foot of a plate or dish, and typically the opaque white glaze has flaked off with wear. It is an attractive notion to link these fragments with Penpole Lodge and it's use by the Southwell family for the entertainment of guests.

If you think you can help identify any of the other fragments in this image please get in touch!
KEY to finds:
A) Late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century domestic wares
B) Glazed and unglazed late Victorian utilitarian wares
C) Stem of a clay tobacco pipe (The first we've yet discovered in the grounds!)
D) Glazed Victorian pots, the kind used for gentleman's relish, potted shrimps, tooth powder, and cosmetics etc.
E) Fragments of high quality cut glass wares. A foot of a wine glass or small bowl, and the side of a bottle, perhaps a decanter. Both between c.1800 and 1840.
F) Fragment of slipware dish with a feathered pattern and pie-crust edge, circa 1780-1820. Originally about 14 inches in diameter
G) Sherd of Eighteenth Century tin-glazed earthenware (Delft).
H) Neck of of an Early Eighteenth Century Onion Bottle and one other fragment.

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