KWAG's April newsletter
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As KWAG gears-up for its 5th anniversary the park is looking as good as it ever has done.  

Above: The walled gardens will be open on the morning of June 1st
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This month:

  • Working party progress in Penpole Wood
  • Events reminder
  • Walled garden open morning details
  • Trees coming down: the good, the bad and the ugly
  • Spring at Kings Weston
  • Scouting out the past

Don't Forget! - Working Party Reminder

Reminder:  April's working party will take place next week, on Sat 16th. Meet at Shirehampton Road public car park at 10am. This month we'll complete our laurel clearance task within Penpole Wood, and we'll be working close to where previous month's events have taken place.

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

March saw another major onslaught into the cherry laurel in Penpole Wood. We've now pushed the boundary of this invasive evergreen back from the alignment of the lime avenue. The Council have been extremely supportive in these efforts by felling those laurels that have been too large for us to cope with, and returning to plug the stumps to prevent future regrowth. This work, and the natural spacing we undertook earlier this year as part of the same project, is having real benefits already with the host of naturally growing bluebells and celandines filling the recently opened areas.

Following criticism that the laurel clearance is leaving the woods barren, and the discovery that the woodland beneath their suffocating canopy is in much worse condition than previously thought, we've returned to begin the task of replanting the areas with new native trees. Thanks to Celia Ellis, one of our regular members, we've been in receipt of about fifty saplings so far, and we hope to be able  to plant more soon. These, a mix of oak, holly, lime, hazel, and others,  have gone to fill the area left by February's work.


Events reminder

Bird walk:
There's the Kings Weston Dawn Chorus walk with Ed Drewitt to look forward to later this month, on Sunday the 29th April. It starts at 8am, but you will need to book in advance. As this is the last newsletter before then please get in touch if you'd like a place. The walk begins at and will finish at approx 9.30am. You can either e-mail or telephone 07811 666671 if you would like to reserve a place/places. The event will cost £5, payable on the day, and is open to everyone. Please wear appropriate clothing and footwear.
Meet at the Shirehampton Road car park, by the KWAG interpretation board, at 7.45 am.

Bristol Walk Fest.
Announced in last month's newsletter there's now a poster advertising details of our two walks for the Bristol Walking Festival in May. To download a copy please head here, or access it via the events page on our website:

A full list of all of the Walking Festival events, including those at Kings Weston, can be found here

Walled gardens open morning

Details are now being finalised for a rare opportunity to enjoy the former walled gardens of Kings Weston house. Located on Napier Miles Road, and incorporating Grade II* Listed buildings, walls, and lily pond, it's currently in the stewardship of Kingsweston School. The School have kindly opened their doors for the morning of Wednesday 1st June for visitors to look around the historic complex and see how they're enjoying a new life today as part of outdoors learning programmes. 

Above: The walled gardens in 1954
Below: The walled garden complex in 1772 by Isaac Taylor (Bristol Record Office)

When completed in 1763 the gardens contained vast greenhouses and hothouses in which exotic plants were grown. Designed by the eminent architect Robert Mylne they were part of an ambitious plan to replace outdated service buildings clinging to the back of the Kings Weston house itself. The French diplomat Malesherbes wrote of them in 1785: “Here you must see the kitchen gardens, the vast hothouses, and a house made entirely of glass, both walls and roofs, which is 54 feet long by 30 wide. The exotic plants think they are in the natural earth, and I have never seen such beautiful bamboos or  Bengal figs anywhere. In the greenhouses  there are three espalier peaches, one  planted in a bed outside and growing along the frame.”

Highlights in June will be the wild flower meadow, Forest Schools area, the Secret garden, Medieval Bewy's Cross, and, of course, the Georgian lily pond. Tours will be given throughout the morning between 10am and noon by members of KWAG. We'll be providing a free map guide to help visitors get the most out of the grounds and highlighting some of the historical and other points of interest. 

The open morning will be entirely free, though donations will be welcomed for future KWAG projects. Car Parking will be available in the main school car park until closing time. A poster for the event with more details appears below or can be downloaded as a
PDF here. 


Trees coming down:
The good, the bad and the ugly

Whilst our working parties have been focused on removing the "bad" wood in the form of cherry laurel there has been much more happening with trees coming down recently.

Inevitability we've now seen the loss of four of the condemned but treasured ancient lime trees from the avenue in front of the house. After delays caused by bad weather the Council's contractors have begun the work of removing them following identification of serious fungal disease. A glance at the felled trunks illustrated how badly affected the trees had been; the bracket fungus on the outside being just the indicator of the fungal spread internally. The heartwood of the trees, which should be hard and unyielding, is soft and spongy, easily squashed between the fingers. Other parts easily split and disintegrated when pulled apart.

We are still intending to replace these trees as soon as possible. KWAG's committee has agreed to prioritise this work, but we need to wait until we know what condition the ground will be left by the contractors before we can finalise the project. We're hoping that there will be opportunity of individual tree sponsorship as well as collected donations for the project, but we'll keep you posted on developments.

Above: One of the lime trees being felled (Images courtesy of Bob Pitchford)
Finally we've an update following the successful planning approval of the removal of trees around Kings Weston house by Norman Routledge and his team. Consent was given for the removal of trees, mostly self-seeded ash and sycamore, that had grown up within the ruins of the building site fro QEH school since 1938. These were all considered to be of very low habitat value by the Council arboriculture officers.  This initial phase of work will enable the future expansion of the woodland car park, following a full planning application for the wider grounds , something that's currently under development.

Signs explaining the works have been put up close to the site and public feedback on the design proposals will be sought soon. During the current works the woodland car park will be closed, but there limited spaces remain immediately behind the house.

Below: Kings Weston house reappears beyond the woodland car park.


Spring at Kings Weston

It's always great to be able to share some of the natural developments within the estate. Spring this year has seen the return of frog spawn to the pond below the Echo after our reintroduction of it last year. This illustrates how successful KWAG's work here has been, returning the pond to life from the black mudpool it had become. We've also planted more water-loving plants in the margins, lilies and other native species. The lower pond is, unfortunately, popular with dogs, so it's not as far forward as the upper one - something we may need to resolve in the future.

Wild flowers have also appeared in proliferation this year. Natural primroses, celandine, and violets have all sprung up to replace the daffodils and narcissus bulbs we planted last year. The bluebells from the previous two years of our Big Bulb plant are also catching up the natives already in flower. In a couple of weeks they should all be in bloom. 
Above Right: The ponds last month
Below: Wild violets in Penpole Wood

Scouting out the past


A terrific find this month: a series of photographs of Penpole Wood when it was used by the Scouts of Bristol as a District camp site.

Although it began as part of the ornamental grounds around Kings Weston house Penpole Wood, along with much of the Kings Weston Estate, was progressively sold off by the executors of the last private owner of Kings Weston, Philip Napier Miles, after his death in 1935. The woods, including Penpole and Wood Lodges, and two fields below the woods, was sold to the Scouts of Bristol in 1937.

These images, all from 1938, show Jubilee camp site. The camp was set up in a clearing in the woods that had been part of the Victorian landscaped grounds. Visible in these images you can see the rare ornamental fir and evergreen trees that formed a small pinetum around an open glade. The Scouts are the Owl Patrol of the 1st Penpole Scout troop and were amongst the first to enjoy the new facility when it opened in the Spring of 38.

Visiting the site of the camp today it is difficult to imagine it in its heyday. The trees and undergrowth have taken over, and, even after last year's clearance by volunteers from The Noise, it's far from being a sunlit clearing in the woods. However, some of the trees, like the Coastal Redwood and rare Morinda Spruce, have grown to maturity and still cling on in the wild.

To find it's location, and discover more about the woods take a look at our entries on the city's Know Your Place website. Find out more about the trees of Kings Weston with our tree-trail guide accessible on our own website. Do you recognise anyone, or do you remember the woods from this time? We'd love to hear of any reminiscences from any scouts who remember their time here, so please get in touch if you can help us. 

Below: The same scene of Jubilee Camp in 1938, and today

Copyright © 2016 Kings Weston Action Group, All rights reserved.

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