Posts Tagged ‘Gateway Sites’

The Ashton Gateway Site

The Ashton Vale Fields Site of Nature Conservation Interest, when taken in relation to Colliter’s Brook, has the potential to be a Forest Gateway Site.

In a sense, the Ashton Gateway is a subsidiary site, but it is essential to the proper functioning of the Primary Forest of Avon Gateway Site, based on Ashton Court and Leigh Woods.

From the point of view of the Friends of the Community Forest Path, Ashton Court is poorly linked to Leigh Woods, being divided from it by the busy A369. The only effective link is a gap in the estate wall onto the mountain bike trail near the miniature railway. We prefer to think in terms of a Clifton Suspension Bridge as the Gateway, because if you go over it, it makes a clear Gateway from the City into Somerset. (If you go under it, it is a Gateway to America – so that in two senses, the Bridge is a Gateway to the West.)

For a Gateway to work as an effective means of leading people out of the City into the Countryside, there has to be a convenient return route. Those who can keep going all the way round the Community Forest Path would be considered exceptional by most people. Less intimidating goals are required. The clockwise route from the Suspension Bridge via Leigh Woods is at least fifteen miles long and returns via the M5 bridge at Avonmouth – again too long for most. The shortest anticlockwise return is through the Burgh Walls section of the Avon Gorge SSSI, which is fine, but it doesn’t touch Ashton Court or Leigh Woods. The only practical route is a modified version of the Community Forest Path route along North Road (past Leigh Woods) and across the A369 to the hole in the wall near the miniature railway to the Green man in the Deer Park.

From the Green Man, the shortest return to Clifton is via Kennel Lodge Road and Clannage Road, and either the footbridge over the railway near the Police Kennels and Stables or Greville Smyth Park via a series of tunnels and bridges. Neither of these is particularly satisfactory due to the amount and speed of the traffic on Clannage Road and the fear that many people (especially women) feel using underpasses.

So, the only really satisfactory return route is via the Ashton Gateway.

On the City side, the Gateway links via Colliter’s Brook to Greville Smyth Park, which is close to Southville and Bedminster, and via the railway bridge over the Avon to Hotwells and Clifton Wood.

On the Country side, the Gateway links to the Community Forest Path at Bower Ashton and Long Ashton and via Colliter’s Brook to Dundry and beyond. It also provides an essential link to the Malago Greenway, which joins Bedminster, Windmill Hill, Headley Park and Bishopsworth to the Community Forest Path.

Key places linked to the Ashton Gateway are the Create Centre and the Riverside Garden Centre, together with pubs in Hotwells and Clifton Wood. If the New Stadium is built, that too could play a key role, especially if a path were dedicated alongside Colliter’s Brook through the old Ashton Gate site.

See www.bower-ashton.co.uk/colliters-brook.htm

And www.natureinthecity.org.uk/AshtonVale/Colliters2009 for some pictures etc.

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Forest Gateways and the CFP

The Forest Gateway Site is a useful concept introduced by the Community Forest initiative, but Gateway Sites have one meaning for the Forest of Avon and a slightly different meaning for the “Friends of the Community Forest Path,” which stems from a distinctly different idea of what is meant by a forest.

For the Forest of Avon, which is supported by the Forestry Commission, a forest is place where you plant trees. But this is the opposite of the original meaning of the word forest, which stems from the Latin foras, meaning “Out!” as in the answer to the question, “Where are you going dear?” Forest woodland is woodland that is outside the enclosure; hence the trees in a forest (and there do not have to be any trees in a forest) are not forestry plantations but wildwood.

Gateway Sites originated in the endless search by the Forestry Commission for a new use for the Forest Estate now that there is now longer a need for a strategic reserve of pit props. Thus, for them, a Gateway Site is associated with visitor centres, interpretive panels, picnic sites and so on. However, for a Path, with the avowed aim of leading people out of the city into the countryside, the meaning of a Forest Gateway Site is much simpler. It is the way out.

Obviously, we are not going to find any wildwood on the outskirts of Bristol. So our Gateways are going to lead people into areas that are only relatively wilder than the city and are not forests in a literal sense. This means that whether a particular place is a suitable Forest Gateway Site or not will always be a matter of opinion.

Gateways on the Community Forest Path

The opinions of those “Woodwoses” who have completed a continuous circuit of the Community Forest Path may be considered particularly relevant.

The majority chose to cross the Clifton Suspension Bridge either at the beginning or the end of their circuit. This probably reflects the proximity of the Bridge to the Green man in the Deer Park. Of these, approximately half started in Long Ashton, so that the countryside proper was encountered by crossing the A370. A start at the Suspension Bridge means that there is a stretch of road to be negotiated before entering the Ashton Court Estate, which is of course an enclosure. Nevertheless the Suspension Bridge has a lot to recommend it as the most prominent Gateway Site on the Community Forest Path, because when you cross towards the west, you are leaving the City of Bristol and entering North Somerset.

Two others started at the Blaise car park for an anticlockwise circuit and at Keysham for a clockwise circuit respectively. Both of these give the impression of setting out on a journey to another kind of space. From the Blaise car park, one sets out across the grass towards the distant woods and there is a fair bit of green open space to go through before you reach the Trym. Keynsham Memorial Park also leads to emphatic Gateways at either end.  The southern exit leads under an arch through  an old people’s home to emerge beside a weir and a riverside path into the open countryside.

There are doubtless other possible starting points on the Community Forest Path, from which one could head “Out!” such as the railway bridge off Meadowland Road in the Botany Bay area of Henbury and the Banana Bridge over the M5 leading out from Patchway via the Tumps.

Gateways to the Community Forest Path

However, Gateways that lead people out of the city to the Community Forest Path are, if anything, more important. The main attraction of the Community Forest Path stems from the fact that it does not go through more densely populated areas, which means it is less able to lead people out of the city. This is the raison d’être of the Crossing Boundaries Series of Books, but the books were written for a different purpose and cannot be used uncritically to construct Gateways to the Community Forest Path.

Three potential Gateways connected to the books are prime candidates for our attention: the St Andrew’s Gateway in Hartcliffe, the Lawrence Weston Community Farm Gateway and the Charlton Gateway at Cribbs Causeway, all of which have come to our attention because of associated problems.

The St Andrew’s Gateway needs severe bramble bashing and signage; the Lawrence Weston Gateway requires bramble bashing and the legal establishment of a couple of footpaths and the Charlton Gateway is threatened by the development of the “Concorde Museum.”

Of these, the Charlton Gateway is the most fully developed and has been funded by South Gloucestershire Council, the Countryside Agency and a landfill tax grant from South Gloucestershire Environment Body. A leaflet has been produced by the Patchway Conservation Group describing “Charlton Walk” which is a linear route around Filton Airfield, dedicated to the lost village of Charlton, which was flattened to lengthen the runway to accommodate the ill-fated Brabazon airliner in 1949. A page entitled “Links to Town and Country,” which details links to the Community Forest Path at Spaniorum Hill, Easter Compton, Pegwell brake and the Patchway Greenway, makes it clear why this is a potential Gateway Site. There are also wooden flower sculptures marking some of the entrances to the site. The problem is – the funding comes in the form of capital grants and there does not seem to be any allocation for maintenance, so parts of the path are overgrown with brambles.

The Charlton Walk leaflet, obtainable form Lucy Hamid at Patchway Town Hall, Callicroft House, Rodway Road, Patchway, South Gloucestershire, BS34 5DQ – 01454 868530, gives an object lesson on how to develop a Gateway Site. One route linking the Charlton Gateway to the Community Forest Path can be found in Crossing Boundaries 1: Out from the centre.