Chalk walls and A boards.

Chalk walls and A boards.

I suggested these boarded sections between the columns supporting Grand Parade – and to one side of Parade Gardens – should be handed over to local artists to do something with.

IMG_8674 (1)

A great and cheap way of brightening up one side of very well tended gardens beside the River Avon.

Today (Tuesday, May 31st) l see a very half-hearted attempt to do something with black boards erected for children to draw upon.

Not sure teaching kids to draw on walls is such a good idea. It looks dreadful and the park is not simply a playpen.

Meanwhile, a word of praise for the men and women of the Parks Department busy putting out bedding plants today. No doubt in time to catch the downpour we are promised for later.


Meanwhile works underway in Abbey Courtyard preparing for this year’s Forest of Imagination opening on Friday evening.


Bath Abbey and its environs are going to be the setting for this year’s event which – for the third year in a row – will offer people of all ages an alternative experience of nature in the city in which the contemporary arts come alive.

Headlining this year’s programme – coming up in June – will be a series of soundscapes created by Martyn Ware – a man who originally found fame as founding member of both The Human League and Heaven 17. Bands which rode the crest of the electronic and synthpop wave.

A couple more observations for today. Why is another cycle parking hoop being removed from outside the Guildhall. We are one down already.IMG_8686

It’s the end of May and – while we wait for B&NE’s ‘zero tolerance’ to take hold- the A boards hurdles remain lined up in Union Street.


Finally, business waste from outside The Corridor was picked up this morning but who is there to clear up the pavement ‘crap’ they leave behind. Bath is stuffed full of tourists – at least make more of an effort!IMG_8668


Towpath resurfacing going well!

Towpath resurfacing going well!

Let’s start this sunny Sunday (May 29th) off with some good news.

Kier – the  contractors working for the Canal and River Trust – seem to be making good progress with their resurfacing of the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath from the George Inn at Bathampton through to the first tunnel into Sydney Gardens


The direct route up to the towpath now has tarmac leading up to new steps.

Took my bike over Grosvenor Bridge for a  ‘nose’ and found a much-improved tarmac and stepped route straight up the side of the embankment.

The longer, inclined path has also been tarmacked with stone filled drainage channels running down part of one side. I

t’s going to naturalise very quickly and has not damaged the wild surroundings it passes through.


Looking up the incline and showing the drainage channel.

Up on the canal towpath – which is open this Bank Holiday weekend – contractors have marked out some of the pathway into town but not yet laid tarmac. The material seems to be moved around on a canal barge – which is a great idea.

kennet and avon canal

The newly-tarmacked pathway leading up to the towpath into Bath.

So the length of towpath from the top of the incline into town has still to be resurfaced. The original completion date – for the whole job – is given as mid-July.

Once all the tarmac is down contractors have to apply a surface chipping coat along the whole 2.2km length from Bathampton into Sydney Gardens.


Part of the towpath into town has edge moulds in place ready for more tarmac to be laid.

They are making good progress.

I have also noticed that the damaged section of the fountain in Laura Place – hit by a passing vehicle – has now be cleaned ready for a stone repair. That is encouraging. I just wish B&NES would let us know it’s being done.


The damaged section has been cleaned out ready for new stone.

Bath Newseum is always happy to promote good news and let people know the Council IS doing something. I have asked the Press Office for a statement but nothing as yet.


A close up of the damaged section which appears to have been prepared for new stone.


Let’s flag up our city shops.

Let’s flag up our city shops.

Bath’s Southgate shopping centre have come up with a street decoration for the summer that has gone down well with most people who have passed beneath the lines of coloured umbrellas strung across the street above them.

P1150696 (1)

Let’s hope the winds stay moderate!


Most people will also agree that the retail centre we have now is much better than the one it replaced but planning laws and the city’s World Heritage status ensures that this development follows classical lines and has a surface coating of Bath stone.

it’s often accused of being a bit sterile. Deckchairs, false grass and pop up pizza and curry eateries have been some of the ways the centre has tried to humanise the environment in the past.

P1150695 (1)

Southgate humour and colour.


They even tried sticking down circular stepping stones of artificial grass which added playful interaction and humour – until some of the patches started disappearing.

Now they have definitely decided to go in a direction of which many approve – using a company who specialise in Christmas street decorations to put in a summer display that adds humour with a recognition of the fact we have to contend with seasonal showers and thunderstorms too.

If a sudden heatwave comes along then they can add shade.

Such a display is not unique but certainly something different for Bath. It gives Southgate publicity and encourages extra footfall with many people walking down to see it for themselves.


A banner above Milsom Street


May it be the first of many such displays – both at Southgate and elsewhere in the city. I know there are rules and regulations about advertising banners but it’s time B&NES looked at some positive ways of helping traders.


This was the High Street in Corsham last year!


Just allowing red, white and blue bunting would brighten many of the streets and add a traditional air to a city so rich in history and heritage.

Now, from looking up to looking down. Something else this city has to sort out is its refuse collecting.

This was Grove Street yesterday. It’s obviously refuse collection day as everyone has black bags out. The ones ripped open would suggest they were put out the night before and have been attacked by gulls and foxes.IMG_8579 (1)

Why can’t B&NES leaflet the city about NOT doing this. Get it ready in advance but put it out on the day.

Even better – give everyone gull-proof bags into which they can put their black sacks.IMG_8581

Street after street is constantly strewn with litter and garbage. It’s so easy to shut your door on your litter bag and let someone else worry about it. However, that someone should be the person who decides when to put the rubbish outside.


Black plastic bags are no good on their own.

We also – with commercial waste – have so many different operators calling at so many different times. There’s a lot to be said for one firm doing it all. The fabric of the city suffers in the name of competition.

Protect the city you love.

Protect the city you love.

An awful lot of money was spent re-building Bath’s unique suspension bridge at Bath Riverside.P1150681

It is sad to see the spray can brigade have been adding their less than artistic touch to our beautiful Victoria Bridge.P1150680 (1)

Please Bathonians – if you value your surroundings – keep an eye out for this sort of thing. Protect the city you love.

Benedictine Bath – marking an ‘unknown’ history

Benedictine Bath – marking an ‘unknown’ history

Bath Abbey is often referred to as the last of the great medieval churches of England – and it was certainly one of the last Roman Catholic buildings of note before the Reformation.

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey – the lantern of the west!

Forty years after they started its construction – on the ruins of a much bigger Norman monastic complex –  Henry the Eighth ordered the dissolution of the monasteries and the establishment of the Church of England with himself at the head.

Many of the Benedictine monks in this country fled to Europe and – while the Catholic Church continued to operate here in a very secretive, almost invisible way – it was often subjected to violent persecution.

In the late 18th century a Catholic Relief Act was passed – allowing Catholics to own property, inherit land and join the army. Hardline Protestant mobs reacted in the Gordon Riots in 1780, attacking Catholic property in London AND in Bath.

Other reforms allowed the clergy to set up permanent missions in larger towns – bringing many of the Benedictines back to this country.

Come the French Revolution,  and virulent anti-Catholic persecution, the Priory of St Gregory  crossed the English Channel to became the first English Benedictine House to renew conventual life since the Reformation.

They came to Shropshire and then moved on to Mount Pleasant at Downside in Somerset in 1814. There, the monastery was completed in 1876 and the abbey church in 1925.

Downside 1-19

Downside Abbey

During the 19th century there was also a small monastic school – which grew substantially in 1912 with the addition of new buildings – and in 2005 became a fully co-educational school for boys and girls.

Last year Downside got together with Bath Abbey and St John’s Hospital charity to present a programme of events celebrating one thousand years of Benedictine influence in the city.


Downside Abbey

It all worked so well they are doing it again. Benedictine Bath will run from Friday, July 8th to Monday, July 18th.

Steve Parsons – who is Project Activity Manager for Downside told me :

Between 1606 and 1795 monks of St Gregory’s, among others from other communities, had been missionary priests in Bath, in secret. Bell Tree House, in Beau Street, was the Catholic HQ, if you like, until the mission was moved to the Mission Theatre on Corn Street.

This building was deemed too small and in 1809 the Catholics bought the Old Theatre Royal and converted it into a chapel which was in use until 1863. Then, the church at St John the Evangelist was opened.


St John the Evangelist Church in Bath.

This was run by Downside monks until 1932. Thus, since the Reformation, Bath has always been a Benedictine mission, run by monks of the order, mainly monks from St Gregory’s.

The Benedictine Bath project was started here at Downside as a way of tying in with our Heritage Lottery Funded Beacon of Learning Project, which refurbished the monastic archives and library here and enabled us to open access to the unique collections.

The project is an outreach project for us to get people aware of Downside as well as the wealth of Benedictine heritage in Bath. I approached our partners in Bath; Bath Abbey, St John’s Hospital, St John the Evangelist Church and the Mayor’s Guides.

These are all sites with a link to the Benedictine history of the city, apart from the guides.

The aim is to showcase the hidden history of Benedictine Bath from the foundation of the priory and cathedral to the Reformation. Then on from  the Gordon Riots of 1780 – where a man was executed for his part in the riots outside the Hobgoblin pub –  to the various missions around the city.

P1150673 (1)

John Butler – alleged ringleader of the Bath riot – was hanged in front of what is now the Hobgoblin pub. Be nice to have a plaque marking that!

It really is a fascinating and unique history which so many people know nothing about.”

I spoke to Steve in the courtyard of St John’s Hospital where the various bodies involved were meeting to discuss preparations.

Find out more about Benedictine Bath via

In the meantime – as part of Bath Festival Fringe – Downside Abbey Monastery Archives and Library are doing a special day regarding Bath’s connection with the Gordon Riots. The poster with details is below. Get your tickets from Bath Box Office.

Poster 2016 GR Final


Roman Baths spread the word.

Roman Baths spread the word.


Following an increase in international visitors in the past few years, the Roman Baths and Fashion Museum have introduced audio guides in four new languages: Dutch, Korean, Polish and Portuguese.

This brings the total number of audioguide languages available at the two museums to 12, plus a British Sign Language guide for deaf people and enhanced audio description for visually impaired people.audio_guides_21 med

The choice of Dutch, Korean, Polish and Portuguese is based on visitor take-up and feedback. 

Run by Bath & North East Somerset Council, the Roman Baths attracts more than 1 million visitors a year, making it one of the most visited heritage attractions in the United Kingdom. Approximately 40% of these visitors come from overseas, and 30% of the total speak a language other than English. 

Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones (Conservative, Lansdown), Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “It’s great news that even more visitors to the Roman Baths will now be able to hear information about the historic site in their own language. This is the latest move in our constant efforts to make the site fully accessible to as wide a range of people as possible.”

The biggest increase in recent years has been in the take-up of Mandarin audioguides at the Roman Baths, which has grown from 12,800 visitors in 2005, when they were first introduced, to 84,700 in 2015. 

Cllr Anketell-Jones added: “This represents more than 8% of total visitors, a remarkably high number for any museum, and more than most national museums in London. Our Mandarin-speaking visitors now outnumber French, which until seven years ago was the most widely spoken language.”

roman baths

The Roman Baths.

Dutch, Korean, Polish and Portuguese audioguides are being introduced at the Fashion Museum at the same time in order to give visitors to both sites a consistently high experience. More than 20% of Fashion Museum visitors ask for audioguides in languages other than English – Mandarin and French also being the most popular languages there.

Audio guides are included in the Roman Baths and Fashion Museum admission price. They are currently available in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Russian and British Sign Language. Visually impaired people can make use of enhanced audio description in English. There’s also a special children’s audioguide, and a light-hearted, conversational guide to the Roman Baths by author Bill Bryson.

The Roman Baths also offers information leaflets in more than 30 different languages, which helps to identify emerging overseas visitor trends. Russian was introduced in 2010 and Russian visitation peaked at 15,800 in 2013. 

Sunny side up for new development.

Sunny side up for new development.

Over 100 children from St Michael’s school, Whitchurch School and St Andrew’s schools in Bath have been busy in the greenhouses in Victoria Park, working with Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Parks team to plant hundreds of sunflowers in celebration of the new developments on Bath Quays.


St Andrews Primary School pupils and staff join the Council to plant their sunflowers in the car park

The plants have been quietly blooming in Victoria Park and Tuesday’s planting out day sees them finally out in their growing positions in Avon Street.

Bath Quays Sunflowers have been planted in otherwise unused corners of the newly laid out Avon Street Car Park.  In the longer term these areas will be used for landscaping around the proposed new buildings for Corn Street and Avon Street as part of the Council’s major Bath Quays project.

As budding gardeners, the children made a great effort to plant their giant seedlings very carefully and were ably assisted by Cllr Patrick Anketell-Jones (Conservative, Lansdown), Cabinet Member for Economic Development, who picked up a trowel to help out.

Cllr Anketell-Jones was pleased to get involved, He said: “It is crucial for our young people that the Council does everything it can to create new and exciting jobs in the city.  Having our smallest city residents involved in our major employment project on Bath Quays is a great way to show that we at Bath & North East Somerset Council are committed to making future Bath great for jobs, residents and visitors alike.

“We hope that people will come and take a look at the sunflowers once they are flowering, we will have a sunny outlook in Bath this summer, whatever the weather!”

Contractors Alun Griffiths have sponsored the project creating the beds and providing soil for the plants, and their team will help to keep them watered  – especially if the summer turns out to be a warm one.