Letters April 2018

March 29 2018

THE half a million pounds conservation work being undertaken at Stoke Park/Duchess Park estate will be welcomed by the honeybees I keep in the garden of our family home which overlooks the estate (Fishponds Voice, February 2018)

I previously kept bees on land managed by The Brandon Trust through Elmtree Farm, which lay between the estate and Frenchay Park Road. Repeated vandalism by trespassers with the resulting loss of all the bees brought that arrangement to an end, however. Eventually the hives were re-stocked and relocated to the safety and security of office rooftops in central Bristol, where happily they now thrive.

Many residents in Stapleton and Frenchay refer to the estate as Duchess Park, which is the name I recall being in use when I visited this country on holidays as a small child. It was a proud reflection of the noble history of the estate as it once formed part of the land owned by the Dukes of Beaufort.

Earlier residents of the area may have had the pleasure of hearing hounds speak as Dukes of the past managed the estate through hunting. Today the only noise constantly filling the air is that of traffic on the M32, Stoke Lane and Frenchay Park Road.

Local legend has it that a monument on the estate marks the spot where a former Duchess fell from her horse while out riding from the Dower House. More recently Her Grace The Duchess, Amanda Beaufort, sent her compliments for the wonderful taste of a jar of honey I sent to Badminton.

My own best memory of the estate from those holiday visits is of cooking potatoes in fires made from dead wood deep in the woodlands; a sort of junior version of Ray Mears. It was fun and exciting and I always stank of smoke. I also published a magazine about the area, which received generous support from local businesses when I canvassed for advertising.  All proceeds were donated to Stapleton Baptist Church. A copy of the magazine was sent to the 10th Duke, himself an accomplished huntsman, and he replied with a further donation.

One cannot, however, help but smile at the plans for future grazing of the estate and the benefits anticipated to be derived from it.

As recently as three years ago a ten minute walk up Stoke Lane would have taken you past three herds of grazing cattle, some pigs and goats, and sometimes one would even have sight of foxes and badgers. Since Metrobus, house building and an expanded UWE the only thing now left is one token herd of cattle.

Conservation management is indeed a costly business.


Dr Stephen Buston