Will it be a welcome for that hillside?

News that the National Trust may take over the management and maintenance of Bath’s picturesque Beechen Cliffs site is further evidence of the organisation’s influence in the city. To begin with over 18,000 people are card carrying members of the National Trust – the highest proportion of population anywhere in the country. Coupled with that, the National Trust’s landholdings in Bath already comprise almost ten per cent of the city.

Beechen Cliff from Southgate Street.
Beechen Cliff behind Southgate Street.

It’s enabled a ‘green ring’ around the surrounding hills to be established and already the Trust’s ‘Skyline walk’ – six-miles of way-marked footpaths with outstanding views of the city – has proved to be one of Bath’s most popular attractions. It is the most downloaded walk of all on the NT’s national website.

The proposal will now be looked at in great detail by the Trust – including ways of paying for land maintenance and consulting with local people.

Wendy Stott, the Trust’s General Manager for Bath, said : ‘This is an exciting opportunity and important for the Trust because of the land’s position as a green backdrop to the views south from the city centre and its position close to land we own at the Bath Skyline and at Prior Park.’

Jane Austen described Beechen Cliff in Northanger Abbey as the ‘noble hill whose beautiful verdure and hanging coppice render it so striking an object from almost every opening in Bath.’ Its name was for many years assumed to refer to the now mature beech trees on its upper slopes, but recent research suggests it’s more likely to refer to a beach at the base of the cliff beside the river, before that was over-run by the development of the city.

Says Wendy: ‘We know many people in Bath are keen for the National Trust to take on the management of Beechen Cliffs. With the 25th anniversary of Bath’s designation as a World Heritage Site, this is a a chance to highlight the qualities that make the city special and, if the details are right and we can raise the money, we would hope to be able to look after these special places forever, to further enhance the green setting of the historic city centre.’

Did you know Sir Roger Bannister used to run up the Cliff each day on his way to Beechen Cliff School, thereby developing the talent which led to the first four minute mile.