CHIS Newsletter, August 2017

Letter from the Chairman

Given this generally hot and dry Spring and early Summer, the gardens and squares of Clifton and Hotwells have not always been as green as was the case on June 10th and 11th. Then our Green Squares and Secret Gardens offered a large number of people the chance to enjoy the staggering variety of gardens within a quarter-mile walk of the “ticket office” by the Arch House Deli. More venues than ever joined the scheme, which was another in the cap for the GSSG committee and the gardens themselves.

Further away but still in BS8 is the excellent Bristol University modern garden at the Royal Fort and Earth Sciences Building. We gave it our rare Award for Excellence in 2015; since then it has matured splendidly, with a new feature in an old style. The Annual Meadow of more than eleven species is a delight of shape and colour – a miniature Highgrove. The ground staff and student volunteers have fulfilled what is a notoriously challenging task. The University must be proud of its Green Flag Award for the gardens. Quaintly enough the Meadow is part of a national “Wild Universities” Scheme – not the kind of “wildness” that comes to mind when the presence of students is mentioned.

A more general Green-ness was evident when we recently toured Horizon House, the local Environmental Agency Government Office, in Deanery Road. The Facilities Officer expertly discussed ingenious systems that have earned the building a major environmental award. Airy and relaxed in atmosphere from basement to roof, the effect is topped off by wild gardens and panoramic views of the city and beyond.

The May outing to Herefordshire included cheese-making in action at Monkland Tree Farm, lunch in Leominster and a tour of Burton Court led by its cordial owner and enthusiastic guides. Cream teas rounded off the day, all thanks to the Secretary’s organization.

A treat of a different sort is the visit to Cardiff on 23rd August, devised by Linda Edwards. A programme that includes the fine National Art Collection and the Gothic-revival castle of the Marquess of Bute is not to be missed, so book now.

We completed the Apostle Room Talks in April when a number of members watched Gordon Young’s latest films: an “ABC of Bristol” and “Bristol Revisited”. The later splices views of the city in 1956 (narrated by Alvar Lidell) with contemporary colour film of the same sites, all with a personal commentary from the Director.

We regularly commemorate interesting people with a plaque (Green for CHIS, not Blue) and include an appreciative speech and small reception. The notable car engineer Jem Marsh, co-creator of Marcos Cars, lived in Richmond Park Road. There his widow arranged an exhilarating novelty, when a gleaming 007-like sports car was driven up for us to see and test (as passenger not driver).

On August 12th the dedicatee was William Clayfield. Report in the December Newsletter.

Somerset House Appeal (Canynge Road).

Considerable time and skilled persistence have helped residents and CHIS to defeat the Appeal by developers against Bristol City Council’s refusal to give planning permission to replace offices with houses and flats. Such action was needed when the Council’s Development Committee refused to defend the appeal. The planning inspector’s rejection of the developer’s scheme, welcome as it is, was based on practical matters of light and intrusion but not alas on heritage or quality of design matters in a Conservation Area. The expert advice and tireless work of Michael Woodman-Smith were of invaluable help.

Mortimer House

Work on that fine mansion, mostly internal, is underway. The issue of staff parking, with its likely impact on the back and front of the house and gardens, remains unsettled.

W.H. Smith site

Adjacent to the classical house are the half-demolished remains that look like bombed buildings in a war zone. However, Councillor Paula O’Rourke gave the CHIS committee hints of a more satisfactory new design for the site. Previous plans failed to impress residents and CHIS, to put it mildly.

Barbed wire, put up to deter intruders, makes for even greater ugliness.

Wrangles old and new include the regular request by the Zoo for six weeks’ visitors’ car parking on The Downs. A new twist is that a City Councillor compared the current charges with those for other hirers and suggested the Zoo’s should rise.

Along with many other organizations we are alarmed by proposals from Bristol City Council on cost saving:

  • The closure of toilets by the Suspension Bridge, at Seawalls and at the top of Blackboy Hill.
  • The closure of Clifton Library and Redland Library.
  • Major cuts in provision for Parks and Gardens. On this last there is hope for less drastic savings and we are keeping an eye on developments.

We urge members to make their views known to the Council as soon as possible. See the article further on in the Newsletter.

Finally, Streetscape

The handsome lamp-standard on Pembroke Road near Clifton Cathedral was nearly demolished by a vehicle. Its replacement is essential – Bristol being second only to London for its richness of lamp posts.

The Mayor is admirably keen to clean up the City’s streets of rubbish but it has had no effect on Alma VILE Road. The numerous waste bins and boxes continue to be a stain on the area. Now, black bin bags have inevitably burst open and the squalor has increased.

Some businesses are said to be leaving Bristol in order to cut costs. Customers of VegFest may well be sad to see the firm go but there’s some relief in our being spared the posters which plastered many a site.

Brian Worthington