Took a cruise up the River Avon from Pulteney Weir to Bathampton Mill weir and back again today to see and hear how one boating company is doing its bit to promote the restoration of Bath‘s – and the country’s – last remaining Georgian lido.
The derelict remains of the open air pool at Bathwick is passed by the boats as they journey up river.
On board there was a large poster on the cabin door inviting people to join the campaign to restore the Grade 2** listed complex to its former glory and pointing out that the lido will be celebrating its bicentenary in 2015.
The boat l was on is one of the Pulteney Cruisers operated between Easter and October by the Bath Boating Company who also have a genuine Edwardian boating station further up river.
Here you can hire punts, Thames skiffs and canoes. Many of the boats there are over one hundred years old.
My skipper was Will Clark and – on a very hot and sunny day – this is where we neared the location of the lido – also known at the Cleveland Pools.
Strong summer leaf growth is not helping here and a concentrated programme of thinning trees and undergrowth is due to start this Friday!
A trust has been formed to run a restoration campaign and in a week or so there is to be a major sponsorship launch to get the ball rolling amongst local businesses.
With the additional hope of applying for Heritage Lottery money, there is also going to be a community launch for the people of Bath in the autumn.
The trip up river and back was amazing. A real hidden asset. Obviously enjoyed by holidaymakers but l think more Bathonians should get on to their beautiful waterway and see the city in a way perhaps they never have before.
The Avon is a gem. Will told me with little rain in recent days the river level has dropped. A sustained dry period might prevent them docking at Bathampton Mill before too long.
At the other extreme – periods of heavy rainfall can make it impossible to operate boats struggling to fight against increased water volumes and flow. The river can often rise a foot in an hour.
We passed friendly people in smaller craft who waved to us and admired open countryside and the greenness of all the backside trees.
The weir at Bathampton is amazing. It is as far as you can go on this stretch. You can see where the water wheel would have been positioned. There is of course a good pub beside the river at this point.
Earlier in our journey l enjoyed seeing the Grade 2* listed Cleveland Bridge from a different angle. Designed by Henry Goodridge it was built in 1826 to further open up the Bathwick Estate.
It was named after the Duke of Cleveland and designed for horse drawn vehicles and pedestrians. Four toll houses were erected at each corner – although only one was actually manned by someone collecting the money.
The bridge became toll-free in 1927 and was also strengthened with an integrated concrete frame and restored.
You can find out more about the cruisers timetables, fares and information about facilities and hiring rates at the Boating Station, via www.bathboating.com
Find out more about the restoration of the Cleveland Pools via www.clevelandpools.org.uk