I really want to say l am delighted with what they have done to the gated ‘park’ enclosure in the centre of Queen Square but – hand on heart – l have to be honest and admit l was disappointed when l first set foot in it – through one of the new gateways created in its boundary fencing – and after its costly refurbishment.
B&NES say they’ve spent £100,000 on new and improved pathways, two new gateways and a fresh coat of stain on the old benches.
They also had to pay tree surgeons to come and fell a perfectly healthy tree that happened to be in the wrong place.
I arrived on the morning after a ribbon had been cut during an after-dark opening ceremony the night before for some of those who live and work around the square.
All the old benches were back but they had been newly stained and were still covered in ‘don’t go there’ red and white tape. I watched a man still cheerfully bolting them into place.
The benches are not new and neither are the rubbish bins – back on duty in the same pre-refurbishment position.
All the paths have been re-edged and re-coated. The new layout is pleasing. I hope the surface hardens as it looks quite easy to scuff up.
The lawned areas have been tided with fresh areas of top soil. I don’t know if any re-turfing will take place in the spring.
Not everything lived to survive the refurb – as l said. A hornbeam tree was sacrificed for more light and creating an additional viewing point – in and out of the square.
It’s very obvious though – with due respect to the annual boules tournament – that with the tree out-of-the-way there is more room for marquees and people.
The ‘park’ has ceased to be a mini, tree-shrouded oasis of beauty and escape. Everything in this new age of civic austerity has to earn its keep.
I am sorry but l still cannot see where the £100,000 has gone and l am still waiting for news of the new saplings that will – in some small way – make up for the loss of the hornbeam. A tree condemned to die for being in the way.
Workmen have done what they were told to. The new path layout does look good. The new gateways should encourage more use – that’s if people brave the traffic in crossing to reach this inviting green island.
Stonework has been expertly tided around the new entrances but – overall – the refurbishment just doesn’t cry out – ‘look at me – l have had a complete makeover!!’
I am the first to agree that history and heritage lives on in the present but l am growing tired of the reasoning behind the argument that John Wood did not design the Square to contain trees.
It wasn’t constructed for the people of Bath but for its visitors. A speculative development to cash in on those flocking to the city for the ‘season’.
The central space was a huge paved corral for them to promenade in and be seen. A regular ‘meet’ market.
I think the traffic-choking noise and congestion created around this vehicular ‘square-about’ – which is now part of the main transport route through Bath – will have John the Elder spinning faster in his grave than any irritation with the trees we enjoy so much in the middle of a our Bath-stone urban jungle.
There are plans for an experimental closure of at least two sides of Queen Square during next year’s boules tournament.
Let us at least hope that arrangement will soon be permanent to enable a real reduction in traffic levels and noise.
I am also hearing there could be a complete dog ban introduced in Queen Square – instead of fines for dogs not being on a lead.
As has been shown by the pit bull terrier that has been knawing bark on many of the trees – even the present rule has not been enforced.
Go have a look readers and tell me what you think?