KWAG's October 2016 news update
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Our 4th ANNUAL BIG BULB PLANT coming this week! 

Above: Looking down from Kings Weston at the sun setting over the Severn and Wales

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This month:

  • A Birthday invite - KWAG is 5!
  • Doors Open Day
  • Warning of forthcoming woodland work
  • Restored balustrade and gardens news
  • Spreading the word - Recent KWAG events promote Kings Weston
  • Iron Bridge update

Don't Forget! - 4th Annual Big Bulb Plant!

Reminder:  As usual, October's working party takes the form of our Big Bulb Plant. This will  take place next week, on Sat 15th. Meet at Shirehampton Road car park at  the slightly later time of 10:30am until 4pm. The event is FREE for anyone to join, with all bulbs provided, but please bring a spade or trowel if you can.

The bulb plant is always a great opportunity for families and supporters to get involved with some of the less arduous of our volunteer activities. It's also a great way to supplement the native species already growing on the estate. Our planting this year will be focussed on bluebells along the avenue into Penpole wood that we cleared of laurel last year, and around the Shirehampton Road car park area with fritillary.

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.


A Birthday Invite - KWAG is 5!

This year is KWAG's 5th anniversary, and we’re holding a celebratory event at The Lamplighters pub, Station Rd, Shirehampton on Sat 29 October  from 5.30pm onwards.
Whether you’ve been an active Working party volunteer or have simply cheered us on from the side-lines you’ve helped us to grow into one of Bristol’ most active and admired parks groups. To thank our supporters we are arranging an event at the end of the month to celebrate and reflect on the last five year’s achievements. We hope we’ll see many of our friends, old and new to raise a glass to our continued success into the future.

There will be a FREE buffet, but we ask you to buy your own drinks! We’d love everyone to join us, but places are limited, so if you are interested in coming, please email Jules at, or phone 07811 666671 by 24th October, so that we can sort out the numbers. We look forward to seeing as many of our members as possible to mark this special year.


Doors Open Day

Our newsletter last month was prelude to one of Kings Weston's big public events: Bristol Doors Open day. This year the house opened again courtesy of Norman Routledge and supported by KWAG through our exhibition and tours. The city-wide event unfortunately coincided with the Tour of Britain cycle race which closed the Downs and the Portway so it was only the more intrepid visitor who reached us from the south, and the damp start can't have been encouraging! 

However, come opening time at 10am there was already a small crowd gathered outside the house and a steady flow of visitors arrived throughout the day. As it turned out numbers matched last year, just over 460, and we we're very grateful for the £169 left in donations. Of course our thanks also go to our volunteers who staffed the event. 


Warning of forthcoming woodland work

Below: A before and after view from laurel clearance earlier this year 
Next month, November, we return to our traditional Working Party projects and, progressing the Forestry Commission supported work, we will continue clearing cherry laurel from Penpole Wood. Last year the abrupt loss of the laurel caused some concern locally, as familiar parts of the woodland were suddenly transformed. The laurel has been identified as strangling the ancient woodland by cutting off light and out-competing native trees for water and nutrients. Our, and the Forestry Commission's, intention is to reverse the loss of native species, re-open the woodland floor to regeneration, and, we hope, replant areas left barren by this invasive incomer.

This year we are keen to increase awareness of our work and the reasons for it. We are now in the second year of a four-year programme of removal, also supported by Bristol City Council who secured the original grant. We will be continuing laurel clearance where we finished in the spring and will tackle the first compartment of Penpole Wood adjacent to The Circle, and leading along the main path into the woods. The City Council will follow behind us and treat the stumps to prevent the laurel regenerating. We will make further details available closer to November.  

Below: The cleared area and adjacent proposed clearance zone. 

Restored balustrade and garden works update

Below: Contractors begin work on the balustrade
Over the last week the coffee shop terrace overlooking the Severn has been transformed. Thanks to Norman Routledge a reconstruction of the Victorian stone balustrade has been commissioned in reconstituted stone to match the original 1850s pattern. Now finished the impressive balustrade will redefine this side of the house and add much-needed protection from the sudden fall into the former bramble patch below!

We also thank Norman, and his architect, Quentin Alder, for allowing us to share the building record compiled of the former QEH ruins. A planning condition for landscaping the area this report is a permanent record of the abandoned ruins prior to their removal. An aspiration of the Conservation Management Plan the way is now clear to reintroduce a more fitting garden context to this side of the house. To see a full copy of the building record click here (2.3MG). It will be available on our website shortly. 

Below: The balustrade completed (courtesy of Bob Pitchford) 

Spreading the word: Recent KWAG events help promote Kings Weston

Below: Bristol &Glos Archaeology Soc. talk at Clifton Cathedral
KWAG's ambition has always been to conserve, enhance, and promote knowledge of the Kings Weston estate. One of the ways we seek to spread the word is through talks and tours, and this month has been an particularly busy one for these events! Over the last few weeks we've given lectures to the Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeology Society, and Bishopston, Horfield, and Ashley Down history group, as well as a prestigious study day for members of English Heritage, and a site visit for staff of Natural England. 

Some of these events have had an incredible reach, with visitors coming from as far afield as Northampton, Norfolk, and even York! It's fantastic to know that people across the UK are now increasingly aware of the National importance of the house and parkland. But it's also local people who attend, and for KWAG the knowledge and memories they bring can be mutually informative. We're grateful especially to Pauline Ewell who brought along this photo of Kings Weston when it was a Junior school in the early 1950s. Taken by one of her brothers it was made using a pinhole camera a teacher had taught them how to construct and it's a classic view of the house at this time. 

Below: Kings Weston house as a junior school in the early 1950s

These events are not just important in promoting understanding of the importance of the historic house and landscape, but are also an important source of revenue of us. KWAG  has never charged a membership fee, a principal to ensure we remained as inclusive as possible, and speakers fees and donations from these events forms a major component of the financial support we need to make our projects, such as the big bulb plant, possible.

Below, The Oak Room in Kings Weston house laid out for 35 visitors for an English Heritage study day.

Iron Bridge update.

It is almost a year since the historic Iron Bridge  across Kings Weston Road was hit by a lorry and damaged an severed an important footpath. At last we have some good news to report: Bristol City Council highways team have now started commissioning survey work of the Grade II Listed structure in advance of physical work being undertaken to reopen it.

A structural survey is just one element of the package of information needed to ensure the most sensitive approach is taken in making repairs; A Listed  building assessment and heritage report is also being undertaken by the city's conservation team to ensure that the significance of the structure is understood, and to inform best practice in dismantling and reinstating damaged elements.
Below: John Loudon McAdam (1735-1836)
The bridge was designed by the eminent highways engineer John Louden McAdam who, at the time, was the engineer tasked with improving the turnpike roads around Bristol. In 1819 the lane, a parish road between Kings Weston and Henbury, was turned into a turnpike road and work commenced to improve standards to justify the tolls levied on such routes.

It wasn't until 1821 that McAdam noted in his observations that labourers had begun lowering the hill and building walls at Kingsweston Hill. This would have formed the deep cutting through which the current road passes. In the following year he notes the formation of a new footpath in association with the same works which is likely to have been the track approaching the old inn from the Sea Mills direction. It's probable that the iron bridge was installed at the same time, as the completion of these ambitious works. 

Below: Title page of McAdam's 1825 Observations
The bridge was constructed of more than 130 individual components of both cast and wrought iron. More technically advanced than most similar structures of the period it used a closed-mould casting technique which allowed the incorporation of strengthening flanges to the structure. New work has been undertaken by KWAG, in cooperation with the Council's conservation team, that sheds light on the construction and fabrication of the bridge. Following a study of the structure a 3D model has been created which will now be used to inform the best approach to restoration. As you can see, for such a small structure, it's surprisingly complex! 

The city's highways officers are currently considering options to raise the bridge to remove the possibility of it being hit again in the future. There is also the potential that the whole of the bridge will need to be dismantled and removed before re-installation. As the project develops we hope to be able to report on progress, but physical work is unlikely to begin before spring 2017. 

Below: exploded diagram undertaken by KWAG showing the construction of the Iron Bridge
Copyright © 2016 Kings Weston Action Group, All rights reserved.

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