Our first working party of 2015 is just days away
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Happy New Year to you, and welcome to the first Kings Weston Action Group update of 2015

This month:

  • Step Building - a call to arms
  • Working Party projects for 2015
  • Cafe up to full strength
  • New history resources come to light
  • WWII Photo and an appeal for help

WANTED! Volunteers to help construct steps!

A vital link to be restored

Our first Working Party for 2015 is something a little different. This month we are running a two-day working party event on Friday 16th and Saturday the 17th of January and we will be tutored in constructing timber steps with Claire Dinsdale of The Conservation Volunteers organisation. The steps are funded by a Forestry Commission Grant secured by Bristol City Council and supported by KWAG and will improve access through Penpole Wood by reinstating an historic route that has fallen out of use.

The path links the ancient and well known top path through the woods with the lower path introduced as a pleasure walk in the middle of the Eighteenth Century. At the top end it begins very close to the ruin of Penpole Lodge and descends along a ramp below it before doubling-back to meet the lower path and complete a circuit from Kings Weston House. For many years the path has been blocked by a large tree, laurels and the the surface degraded. Bristol City Council rangers recently cut the tree for us and our working parties will build new steps that will repair the missing link through the woods.

This weekend we made some light preparation for the step building and ensured that the way was clear for volunteers to make a start this Saturday. If you would like to come along we will be starting at 10am from Penpole Lane opposite the Oasis Academy School on both days until about 3:30pm. If you would like to join us later in the day then you will need to find us and this interactive map will show you where to meet, and where we will be working in relation to some of the better known landmarks at that end of the estate. Tools will be provided by The Conservation Volunteers and materials by the City Council. After we have been trained it will be down to KWAG to complete the task over the following months.

Preparation work for the steps. Top left: a block from the ruins of Penpole Lodge now marks the start of the path from below. Top right: Laurels that blocked the way are now gone and the steps will begin here. Bottom: The newly cleared section ready for steps on the left, and the ramped path up to Penpole Lodge on the right.


Working Party Projects for 2015

The next twelve months will see more progress made

We toured the park early in the new year to come up with priorities for our working parties and we've got some interesting challenges in mind. The steps will keep us busy for the first part of the year, but before Spring gets under way we hope to start thinning out the saplings and undergrowth along the north side of the South Walk leading towards the Echo from the Circle. This will complement the clearance we began last year at the head of the new avenue and open up new panoramas  towards the house.

Another of the paths radiating out from the Circle will be our next focus when we neaten up the avenue leading into Penpole Wood towards the Cricket ground. Ash saplings and some laurel growth are beginning to compete with the established lime trees and our intention is to prevent the problem getting out of control. This will only take us one working party, as will another plan to improve visibility between the main path through Penpole Wood and the Scouts Chapel. The chapel, a tight formation of lime trees on an Eighteenth Century viewing mound, is presently invisible from the path and we hope that clearance work will create a new gateway to it, and the lower parts of the woodland.

The area below the ancient avenue, where there was once meadow will be our planned target in the Summer. There are a lot of saplings here that threaten to turn the meadow into scrub land and we hope that in clearing this area a new strategy to improve the biodiversity of the whole of the northern slopes below the house can be developed with Bristol City Council. October will see out third annual bulb planting event and there is certainly no shortage of open space around the Echo now that we've completed clearance of laurels in that area in December. Further laurel clearance is planned to round-off 2015 and continue the opening up the woodland under storey in Echo Wood to allow more native species to thrive.

Whilst we hope to run these projects consecutively there may be other priorities that come up during the year that mean we have to change plan and we will keep you abreast of where we are meeting in advance of the working party dates. If we need to alter any dates we will let you know in good time, but we really hope that you, or perhaps someone you know who might be interested, can join us to make a real impact in restoration and conservation efforts in 2015 - Bristol's Green Capital Year.

If you have any ideas, or suggestions for working party activities please let us know. We are always keen to look for new projects and we'd happily consider adding to this year's programme if people have projects in mind that we could tackle.

The full programme of next years Working Party events for your diary is as follows:
Fri/Sat Jan 16th/17th
Sat FEB 14th 

Sat MARCH 14th 
Sat APRIL 18th
Sat MAY 16th 
Sat JUNE 13th 
Sat JULY 18th  
Sat AUGUST 15th
Sat SEPT 12th 
Sat OCT  17th 
Sat DEC   12th 

Cafe up to full strength

Full food menu will be a boon to estate visitors

After a short period of closure the cafe an the vaulted basement of Kings Weston House made a welcome return in November last year and is now up to full strength with a great food menu that should appeal to everyone. The cafe is a real focus for the estate and it attracts people from across the city to enjoy the wider appeal of the park so we really hope it does well in its new guise. You can view and download a sample menu here.

A log burning fire, a new dog-friendly policy in some areas, and the development of other parts of the basement for more tables are all innovations to look out for this year as well as the new layout and décor. KWAG have made sure that the cafe is well stocked with our free estate guides and we've been delighted to see so many being snapped up and used since they went out.

The cafe is open daily between 9am and 4pm


New history resources come to light

Bristol Record Office releases new material on Kings Weston

With the weather outside less than perfect winter is always a good time to do a bit of research, and Bristol Record Office have conveniently released a new archive of material relating to the house and Estate. Some of you might know that last year we secured the transfer to Bristol of the archives of the present Lord de Clifford, whose family once lived at Kings Weston. Well these are still being catalogued, but the archives of his brother, Edward, the 26th Lord de Clifford had already been lodged there and form the bulk of this new material.

Amongst the new archives are a full set of auction catalogues dating from 1833 and 1834 when the entire contents of Kings Weston House were sold in a glittering series of auctions that took fourteen days to complete. Edward Southwell IV, 21st Baron de Clifford had died without an heir and he willed that all his property and belongings at Kings Weston were sold to be divided between his nieces. They form an incredible record of exactly what the house contained including the furniture, artworks, and library - everything accumulated by one family over more than a century of collecting. The auction of the library alone took a full six days to complete, and the total number of books stood at almost five thousand volumes! 

KWAG has been able to make copies of these catalogues and, along with many other original documents, can be accessed through our web pages for free by following this Link. Anyone interested in accessing all of the newly released information should begin their search by way of the Bristol Record Office's on-line catalogue where all of the documents forming the 26th Lord de Clifford's collection are now detailed.

WWII Photo and an appeal for help

A family ask for any information on a precious photo.

We were contacted recently By Tony and Doreen Thornhill who came to us with a family photo with some interest to Kings Weston. They have kindly given us a copy of the photo to share and would like to know if anyone has any further information about it. The photo dates from the Second World War and is a group portrait of some of the men of the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps, later the Royal Pioneer Corps. The men are posed outside Penpole Lodge with the gates into Penpole Wood behind them. Also of interest in the photo is the pair of carved oval plaques on the gates identifying the woods beyond as part of the Bristol District Scout camp.

Tony's father, Sargent Thornhill is the figure on the back row, third from the right and they are interested to know more about what the Corps were doing at Kings Weston and what part they played during the War. One of the activities they were involved in was the Avonmouth Smoke Screen. This was the ambitious plan to hide the strategically important docks from enemy bombing by obscuring it behind a carpet of thick smoke using a series of smoke generators fuelled by pool diesel oil. A Smoke Company was formed from troops of the Pioneer Corps and began work at Avonmouth in June 1941. The Avonmouth Smoke Screen was first used early on the morning in July 5th.

With large barracks scattered around the park it is possible that the huts closest to the house, and separated from Shirehampton East and West Camps by Shirehampton Road and Penpole Lane might have been the home of the Pioneers. Before now someone recalled that vehicle repairs were carried out in in the area close to the Circle, which might not be unrelated to the activities of the Corps, but does anyone have any more information?

Tony and Doreen would be really interested to know if anyone has any reminiscences about the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps, remembers Sergent Thornhill, or has any more information about the connection with Kings Weston. If you could get in touch with KWAG we will gladly pass on anything you might know.

A larger copy of the photo can be safely downloaded here as a PDF.


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