Preserving the past
Expanding the water recycling centre at Avonmouth will help the city of Bristol meet the challenges of the future, but Wessex Water is also determined to safeguard the past.
Close to our site near Kings Weston Lane in Avonmouth is the Mere Bank Scheduled Monument, a medieval flood defence which is included on the National Heritage List for England and a rare feature both nationally and within the Avon and North Somerset Levels.
Within Avonmouth’s industrial area, to the north-west of the M5 motorway, the 1.15 km feature and its flanking ditches are thought to have Roman origins, although the present Mere Bank likely relates to 12th or 13th century attempts to protect an area of land from sea and river flooding.
Previous excavation revealed the bank to have been constructed of a series of layers of clay loam and silty clay, below which lie regular silt deposits from flooding.
Pottery from the 12th-13th centuries has previously been found beneath the bank, that was a barrier to reclaim part of the wetlands of the Avon levels, which saw increased industrial development in the 19th century.
How can Wessex Water help?
As part of our water recycling centre extension plans, we want to bring the Mere Bank into better condition and improve public access to it and will be seeking permission from Historic England to do so.
We'll follow a Heritage Management Plan, which has also been written to benefit the protected species that use these ditches.
This plan includes:
- Selective coppicing (trimming back trees or shrubs to allow them to regenerate) which will reduce future risk to the stability of the monument and its underlying archaeology;
- Controlling vegetation within the area by cutting back – but not removing the roots;
- Protecting the area during water recycling centre operations
- Litter picking
- Enhancing understanding of the local archaeology, including through updates such as this.
A 15 metre-wide environmental corridor would also be retained between Mere Bank and the proposed extension to help to protect it.
What else are we proposing to do?
We have already completed archaeological fieldwork across the proposed development field, which included taking borehole samples to establish historical land use in the area.
In addition, a proposed diversion of the nearby public right of way would move the path so it begins from Kings Weston Lane further south before heading north-east, crossing the Mere Bank and continuing north-east.
This diversion would allow for a safer and more accessible route to the Scheduled Monument.
Further details about the plans to help preserve the Mere Bank and revitalise public rights of way around the water recycling centre will be revealed during the planning and proposed construction phases of the expansion.