CHIS Newsletter, March 2015

Letter from the Chairman

We replaced the January talk with what turned out to be an exceptionally bright idea. RoseMary Musgrave realised that previous attempts to provide a pre Christmas Lunch had not worked and that it would be better to offer a Winter Lunch in the dog-days of January. The result was a triumph. Tickets sold out within days and a forlorn waiting list ensued for the bargain of the town – a superb three-course meal cooked by Linda Edwards, Olwen Laszlo, Jenny Sparkes and RoseMary Musgrave. Add to the menu two demanding local quizzes, one of tantalizing photographs taken by Will Musgrave (also our bartender) and the result is five-star.

The warmth of the Apostle Room was reproduced in early February by our hosts at 11 Percival Road, where they generously laid on a reception for the dedication of the plaque to Dr William Burch. The unveiling itself of course took place in the cold weather yet metaphorical warmth in the many tributes and recollections (see later in the Newsletter).

For details of our NEW PLAQUE, to recognize buildings of interests not people, see later in these pages.

Still in celebratory mode, we are delighted to congratulate Committee Member Richard Bland on his Bristol Green Volunteer Award, an especially deserved appreciation of all he has done in Bristol – and beyond – for ornithology and the natural world in general.

The final talk of 2014, Lessons from the Wild by Jeff Wilson, drew a large audience. Failure of the technical aids turned out to be a benefit since the listeners enjoyed the address even more. The speaker said “It is the first time for me that the equipment hasn’t worked but somehow it felt easier to talk without it. I do apologise, though”. Far from needing to do that, Jeff beguiled us as an instructive raconteur and penguin mime-artist. Should you want to see some of his film clips go to jjwilsonphoto.com

During the December – January saturnalia we felt that May Gurney’s handling of the complicated dates and demands deserved congratulation, though some residents made life difficult by covering pavements with sizeable Christmas trees for days. Alas the slum-city aspect of Alma Vale Road bins prevails, whatever the season.

By the time of the next Newsletter most of us will have seen the Residents’ Parking arrangements in place. Whatever the arguments in principle, it is not diplomatic for Bristol City Council to ignore the requirements in a conservation area that lines should be primrose not yellow and be narrow. In the Village broad and brash lines glare out and bus stops look almost floodlit. Astonishingly, in that not notable conservation area, the Horsefair, may be found narrow primrose lines!

On the site suggested ten years ago by CHIS, has opened the Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre; handsome and informative, it is appropriate at the 150th Anniversary of Brunel’s Bridge. We were glad to attend the splendid Fireworks Display and the lively ceremonies on the Bridge the following day.

Preceding that remarkable structure by nearly 3,000 years, the nearby Iron Age Fort at Clifton Camp is undergoing its fifth and final year of clearance of scrub, a significant improvement in our being able to see its structure and marvel at the effort to make it. How it will be maintained however, is not known. CHIS has paid for the planting of a replacement tree on Sion Hill. In Victoria Square much of the undergrowth is being removed and new trees planted. Paths in the Mall Gardens have been re-laid and bushes and trees pruned.

CHIS has sent a letter to English Heritage in enthusiastic support of the bid by Clifton Hill House for funding of their ingenious and fully researched plan to restore its impressive garden (which contains two towers that are almost certainly the oldest undeveloped structures in Clifton). The garden would be more open to the public; many of us were stimulated by touring it at the Green Squares and Secret Gardens weekend last year – a delight which is to be repeated and extended this summer.

Two churches, one very active religiously, the other musically, are to be given much desired developments. Christ Church has produced a greatly improved project to refurbish the undercroft for its many community uses. Plans for the church itself are still in some respects worrisome: a proposed interior pod or gallery, and a new disabled access at the West Front and the possible removal of the original ironwork lamp there. A special glory of this building is that it rises from the grass mound, a semi-rural impression and a continuation of the Green opposite. It must not be spoilt.

At St George’s great care has been employed to produce a solution to the urgent need for extra facilities – box office, dressing and rehearsal rooms, reception rooms etc. The plan to create a modern, glazed annexe on the Park Street side of the Georgian building is welcome. It should be as confidently displayed (not grassed over) as, for example the successful additions to Dulwich Gallery in London and the Holbourne Museum in Bath.

It is good to see the progress of the long-planned link between the two villas of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. However, Clifton Down Road (ex W.H.Smith) still looks worse than forlorn now that the popular ice rink is no more and the demolition is a quarter complete. On a site so hidden away as to be scarcely noticeable, the former St Mary’s Hospital awaits development, on which we have been regularly consulted. The future is at present unclear.

Behind 64-66 Oakfield Road is another site hidden from view. CHIS and other groups are most disturbed by an application to build flats (probably for student use) in an inappropriate space. So too, on a very large scale, are many of us opposed to the plan for a student block behind Clifton Down Shopping Centre and Alma Road.

To end on a quaint note. At the top of Blackboy Hill are the Victorian iron work urinals and cab stand. The former have been listed (though we wish that Sir James Dyson might be commissioned to design a period basin and hand-dryer). The latter needs to be preserved and listed as well and we are pushing for that.

Brian Worthington