Readers’ letters - September 14

Passing places

UNTIL the closure of the Portishead to Bristol line, there were three double-track passing places between Portishead and Parson Street junction.

These were: one at Pill Station with its two platforms, another between Ashton Gate Halt and Clifton Bridge Station, both of which likewise had two platforms, and another approximately midway, near Ham Green Halt, the last having the signal box controlling the line from there to Portishead.

The rest of the track was single, although built initially for the broad gauge.

The curved Pill tunnel was only capable of taking a single track.

It might not be necessary to go to the extent of complete physical signalling, as in the present time many of the long and remote lines in the Highlands of Scotland are signalled by radio, and not by the physical and mechanical equipment in the past.

So the great expense of the old style signalling with its intensive equipment and manpower - and maintenance, isn’t necessary for modern traffic.

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The airy talk by some recently of trains ripping along through the Gorge at 60 plus mph is rather a fantasy - they never travelled at those speeds in the past.

There is hardly enough distance between stations for that turn of speed to be reached, let alone stopping again for the next station!


Lower Down Road, Portishead


I WAS delighted to read about in the Times the fight to save shops in the ‘Small Change for Big Change’ campaign to take place in the week of September 19-25.

Right in the middle of this, on September 22 at 7.30pm, there will be a public meeting at the Baptist Church Hall in Queen Square Clevedon to launch the new Clevedon Community Bookshop which will take over the Copse Road premises ensuring that the town’s only secondhand bookshop will continue and thrive

The public meeting will initiate a share offer for anyone living and working in Clevedon to join us in co-owning a bookshop which we hope will make a contribution to the economic life of the community as well as offering an opportunity for educational, social and cultural events.

The Clevedon Community Bookshop Co-operative will be offering the chance to own shares from a minimum investment of �10.

Please come and join us in preserving and growing trading and community involvement in the town.


Chair, Clevedon Community Bookshop

Copse Road, Clevedon


I READ your article about the new elephant enclosure at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm with some scepticism.

Calling the development a ‘sanctuary’ and ‘Eden’ does not overcome the general objections to the keeping of elephants expressed by the RSPCA, the Born Free Foundation and many other relevant bodies.

In your article much is made of the standards of the site ‘going beyond the basic guidelines set out by the Coalition for Captive Elephant Wellbeing (CCEW)’. I took the trouble to look up their detailed paper on the subject. I will highlight just two fundamental recommendations; minimum herd size and the recommended area of the enclosure.

The CCEW paper says: “African savanna elephants shall be held in groups no smaller than 10 adults; African woodland and Asian elephants shall be held in groups no smaller than five adults.” How does a proposed initial herd of four elephants ‘go beyond the basic guidelines?’ Hoping for a larger herd through breeding does not negate the fact that, from the outset, the herd is below the size recommended by the CCEW.

Elephant herds of any size need to roam and forage if they are to be content and healthy. David Hancocks, a former zoo director and contributor to the CCEW paper, says: “Space is a critical issue, although that’s denied by zoos. My view is that eight hectares could be an acceptable minimum, if properly designed.”

According to your article, the elephants will have just six hectares of grazing land.

Another zoo elephant expert, Michael Schmidt suggests that 1,280 acres would allow space for natural movement and allow for regeneration of the necessary green pasture.

Is Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm going ‘beyond basic guidelines’ and recommendations? I fear not.


Hillside Road, Portishead

Noah’s Ark

RE: ANN Widdecombe launches elephant sanctuary project. I am director of an animal protection charity which works on issues such as those covered by this story.

We strongly oppose the plans at Noah’s Ark to introduce elephants and, in light of the fact this article highlights the plans as a sanctuary (as opposed to a zoo) and that it is seeking public funding to establish this exhibit we felt it necessary to complain about comments made by the zoo owner in the article, which are misleading and, in our opinion, untrue.

The assertions in question are: Anthony Bush, the owner of Noah’s Ark Farm Zoo said he hopes the sanctuary will encourage natural herd migration, feeding and social behaviours to keep the elephants active; and Mr Bush said plans for Elephant Eden followed best practice recommendations made by the Coalition for Captive Elephant Wellbeing. The best practice recommendations referred to were co-authored by Lisa Kane and David Hancocks (amongst others).

Mr Hancocks and Ms Kane have formally demanded that the zoo withdraw any reference to compliance with the best practice standards as they cannot be met by this establishment under the proposed plans. We will be contacting the zoo directly to clarify the authors’ stance.


Director Captive Animals Protection Society