1915-30 – Abbots Pool, Abbots Leigh, Bristol

People and Places Discussed and Pictured in Chapter 38 of:

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Walter Melville Wills, the tobacco magnate from Bristol, was a very loyal patron of James Pulham and Son.   As well as engaging them to do a lot of work at his home at Bracken Hill – see Chapter 39 – and his ‘holiday house’ at ‘Rayne Thatch’ – discussed in Chapter 31 – he also got them to do some work for him at Abbots Pool – an area of public woodland in the small village of Abbots Leigh, just over two miles to the west of Bracken Hill – that he purchased c1915.

They converted the three original mediaeval fishponds into a lovely water feature for his new hunting lodge.   They made the ‘Top Pond’ bigger and deeper by raising the level of the dam, and added an island and boat cave.   They built a narrow causeway across the top of the 15-20ft dam, over which the water cascades over three falls into the ‘Middle Pool’ in the valley below.   It then flows through a narrow stream, under a small Pulham bridge, and into the ‘Lower Pool’ at the bottom.

1-5-38-1 - Abbots Pool Cascade

The Top waterfall at Abbots Pool   (Photo by Carl Jennings)

Walter Melville Wills died in 1941, and the land at Abbots Pool was offered to the local Council.   They had no need for it, so they leased most of it to the Forestry Commission.   The Abbots Leigh Civic Society, with the help of the North Somerset Council Rangers, worked tirelessly to restore and preserve the area with the help of a Local Heritage Initiative Grant.

Update – August 2016

People living nearby, and from a wide catchment area around Bristol, have long known Abbots Pool as a beauty spot.  North Somerset Council owns the majority of the woodland surrounding the Pool; the rest is leased to the Forestry Commission.  NSC is responsible for the maintenance of their area which they carry out with the help of the Abbots Pool Volunteers – a group that has been carrying out various jobs for over fifteen years, such as removal of laurel bushes, clearing of paths and the cascade, ensuring steps are safe and making sure the area is kept clear of litter.

160825 - Abvbots Pool - D Stewart July 046

The cascading stream at Abbots Pool

In recent years a Management Committee has been overseeing the responsibilities of NSC and the Volunteers, whose work has been recognised by the Green Flag judges.   I had a note from Diane Stewart in July 2016, who said:

‘At Abbots Pool we have just received our tenth consecutive Green Flag.  I was there when the judges inspected the Pool and surrounding area, and they were most impressed.

‘I helped to organise an ‘Insect Showtime’ event in June.  Most of the area around the Pool is now a local nature reserve, and members of our local Wildlife Group put on a display of insects.   Local children did some pond dipping, and a very rare water snail was discovered.  We also have a very rare spider living in the cave, as well as bats.  Luckily, the local authority – North Somerset Council, who own the site – are very keen to keep up the maintenance of the site, and fund improving steps and making sure litter bins are emptied etc.

‘I was tidying up the photos on my computer a few days ago, and found a photo of you, taken in 2005 I think, with the then Tree Officer, John Flannagan.  Your support for our application for a grant was essential to our success.’


An additional ‘Chapter’ was published each month over a period of five years on this website under the tag of ‘Where? / Site of the Month’, and these can now be accessed alphabetically under the comprehensive ‘Where? / Gazetteer’ tag, so don’t miss those.   Click on the link to see the complete list of Pulham sites described and illustrated by Claude Hitching.

Another link that you might like to refer to takes you to the ‘Press and Media / Book Reviews’ tag, where you can read all the reviews of ‘Rock Landscapes‘ written by professional critics in the National and Garden Press.

To check out the names of the People and Places featured and illustrated in any of the other Chapters, click the CONTENTS link to return to the main CONTENTS Page.   Click here to go direct to the ‘Book Shop’.   Happy Reading to all our followers


A full description of the work done by James Pulham and Son at Abbots Pool – together with a number of pictures – can be found in Chapter 38 of Rock Landscapes: The Pulham Legacy the critically-acclaimed and lavishly illustrated definitive story of the lives and work of James Pulham and Son.   Written by Claude Hitching, with featured photography by Jenny Lilly.   Published by Garden Art Press.

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