If you are a regular user of the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath through Bath you may have noticed a group of people busy cutting back the overgrowth, painting railings and shifting tons of accumulated soil from the offside abutments.
They are unpaid volunteers – working under the auspices of the Canal and River Trust – and currently concentrating activity on the canal as it runs through Sydney Gardens.
Historically, this was an area created to be a Georgian ‘Vauxhall’ – a pleasure garden – opened in 1795 – for grown-ups! Which offered everything from outside dining to adult swings in the middle of a thrill-on-every-dead-end labyrinth.
The Kennet and Avon Canal Company paid a fair sum to be allowed to dig out a route through the park and charged with ensuring that what was created looked good too.
John Rennie was the engineer who linked the Severn with the Thames and London with excavations between 1799 and 1810.
These days the narrowboats aren’t carrying coal, stone or foodstuffs but carrying pleasure seekers taking advantage of what has been a massive and expensive restoration of the route.
The Sydney Gardens bit is well-used but was getting just as run down as the parkland around it.
Whilst the Gardens apply for HLF funding to spruce things up, this section of the canal below relies upon the skills and muscle power of its volunteer men and women.
This section is being led by Ian Herve who – when not on canal business – is a volunteer Mayor’s Guide like me.
I met him down on the towpath to hear more of the group’s plans for ‘enhanced improvement’ of this stretch of well-used and much-loved canal.