Letting light into Sydney Gardens

The canal has been given a more 'open' feel.

The canal has been given a more ‘open’ feel. Click on images to enlarge.

Plenty of evidence in Bath’s historic Sydney Gardens of a new policy to open up areas of the parkland and reduce some of the undergrowth.

The laurel around the section of the Kennet and Avon Canal (John Rennie, excavated 1799-1810) that passes through the park has been heavily cut back. Two dead and dying fir trees have also been removed.

The gardens are the last remaining section of a Georgian Vauxhall or pleasure garden. It was laid out by Harcourt Masters and opened in 1795.

Once upon a time it offered waterfalls, pavilions, a sham castle, grotto, labyrinth and the means of al fresco dining.

Two dead and dying conifers beside the Coalbrookdale iron bridge have been taken down.

Two dead and dying conifers beside the Coalbrookdale iron bridge have been taken down.

The original features have all but disappeared but the central axis – in line with Great Pulteney Street on the other side of the Holburne Museum – remains.

This is now a huge wedge of tarmac the park could do without.

Meanwhile the other means of transport that cut across the greenery was Brunel’s Great Western Railway which was dug out in 1836-41.

Late night line workings looking up the line through Sydney Gardens.

Late night line workings looking up the line through Sydney Gardens.

Two bridges – designed by the great Victorian engineer – cross the line in the park. A stone bridge – with pierced balustrading – and a cast iron footbridge.

Both will be affected by Network Rail’s engineering works for the electrification of the main line between Bristol and London.

Late night line working towards Bath.

Late night line working towards Bath.

The stone bridge will have to have a new barrier and the iron bridge will be taken away for conservation and then be re-erected – again with some sort of new barrier added.

It is the only iron bridge – designed by Brunel – now on the line.

The engineering works that form part of the multi billion pound project are continuing 24-7 as l witnessed around 9.30 pm last night. The service to London now involves a bus journey to Chippenham but the line should be re-opened by the end of the month.