What future for the​ meadows?

A new signpost on the path into Kensington Meadows.

Whitehall cut-backs in local government funding – and the increased demands on social services from us all living longer – have left B&NES a bit short of cash.

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The Bath Guildhall

I suppose looking after needy kids and the old must take priority over the care of things like the city’s many parks so its no surprise the Council is looking at new and less-expensive ways of caring for them.

We’re hearing a lot more about the formation of “Friends of…” bodies. It means people volunteering their time to do some jobs in parks – like picking up litter – that don’t involve wage-earning council employees.

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A Monday morning view of a weekend of activity in one part of Sydney Gardens!

The Council’s also cutting back on grass cutting – preferring meadow-like areas – and park keepers are a thing of the past.

However, it still has formal responsibility for managing and maintain 50 hectares of formal parkland – as well as 200 hectares of public open space, and highway verges. Included within this are 10 formal parks, as well as recreation grounds and public open spaces, floral displays, allotments and woodland.

 

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A recent floral display in Parade Gardens

 

We’ve heard in the last couple of days about a formal application – to the Heritage Lottery Fund – for more than three million pounds worth of lottery money to help with improvements to Sydney Gardens.

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Sydney Gardens.

It’s another good way of trying to get another body to help pay for serious improvements and renovations to an inner-city green space first transformed by the Georgians into pay-as-you-enter pleasure gardens for the wealthy.

A little way up river – and behind the grand Georgian terraces of the London Road – lies all that is left of another pleasure ground that was laid out beside the River Avon in the 1790’s.

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This illustration is taken from Mike Chapman’s historical assessment. It’s the land that was developed for grand terraced housing and a pleasure garden.

I have been reading a historical assessment of the area – produced by Mike Chapman in 2010 – and available to read on a Council website.

http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/sites/default/files/sitedocuments/Sport-Leisure-and-Parks/Parks-opening-times-and-Locations/kensington_meadows_historical_study_copyright_bnes_and_mike_chapman2.pdf

The reason l went searching for information is that l am a regular user of the path that runs near to the Grosvenor Bridge Road l use to get me up onto the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath.

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The Kennet and Avon Canal is still very much a popular tourist destination.

I couldn’t help but notice the Council has put up a new noticeboard and signpost by the entrance to what is now the Kensington Meadows Playing Fields. On the board is a notice informing those who use the area of an ‘Improvement Project’ and the fact B&NES has found £55,000 of Section 106 developer contributions to spend on improvements to the grounds.

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he new Kensington Meadows noticeboard.

The Council wants to hear from you! The notice says:

“As part of an ongoing plan to improve parks and green spaces across B&NES we want to better understand how Kensington Meadows is used and hear your views on how it could be improved for people and wildlife. We want this to be the start of a long-term programme of improvements for the site.”

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Have Your Say!

There is an on-line survey you can log into via http://www.bathnes.org.uk/kensingtonmeadows and on Saturday, September 8th – between 10 am and 12 noon – members of the Council will be down on the Meadows to hear peoples’ views and hand out consultation survey forms to those that want to fill them in.

 

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The area in question.

 

Completed surveys have to be in by 5pm on Sunday, September 30th and then – by the end of November – B&NES is aiming to present a future plan at a Kensington Meadows Forum. Detailed designs will then be offered to the Forum to comment upon in January with site improvements carried out between February and May 2019.

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A plan showing the original Grosvenor Gardens Vauxhall. It comes from Mike Chapman’s report. © B&NES

It is a valuable green space with quite a history. This waterside space was laid out at the Grosvenor Gardens Vauxhall by architect John Eveleigh at the time he started building a terrace of houses called Grosvenor Place between the pleasure grounds and the London Road. There was to be a centre-piece hotel granting access to the green space beyond.

Much of Eveleigh’s grand plans were lost in bankruptcy but the pleasure grounds were in use – almost to 1820. River mists and flooding put paid to the attraction which also could not compete with the grander Sydney Gardens Vauxhall down river.

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The River Avon from Grosvenor Bridge.

Some of the Kensington Meadows scheme has since been built upon – domestic housing and a tramway centre nibbled into the amenity at either end. Playing fields have occupied much of what is left for some years.

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Another illustration from Mike Chapman’s historical assessment. The red area is the current Kensington Meadows. Only about a third of the original Vauxhall lies underneath it.

The area was raised – to limit flooding – by tipping. This included rubble from some of Bath’s wartime blitz damage in 1942.

While it is good to hear the Council has no plans to build on this green space – an impoirtant part of the city’s riverside wildlife corridor – it will be good to hear what ideas people living in the area might have to further enhance its recreational and natural importance.

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Kensington Meadows

One final point from Mike Chapman’s historical assessment. I have often wondered why the horrible concrete Grosvenor Bridge was installed in 1929 to replace the original suspension bridge put in across the Avon at this point in 1830.

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A little bit of historical information – set amongst the horrid concrete of the replacement structure. Why did the original suspension bridge have to come down?

It would seem the idea of pleasure grounds had continued to be popular in this area. Which is why one Mr Thomas Shew  Esqr., designed and built a suspended bridge to open up the woodland beside the recently opened Kennet and Avon Canal.

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Grosvenor Bridge – probably my least favourite of all the city’s river crossings.

Thomas was an amateur artist who used the bridge as a commercial enterprise in charging a toll of a halfpenny to cross. The money was used to improve the value of his property at the eastern end of Grosvenor Place – now Grosvenor Villa, sometimes known as The Picture Gallery – by attracting walkers to the pleasure walks on each side of the river.

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Mr Shew’s end property. I think the second house is was his gallery. The end one is now an up-market bed and breakfast establishment.with an original Georgian altarpiece originally bought by Mr Shew from Bath Abbey.

Mike doesnt say why the suspension bridge was replaced. Maybe a Bath Newseum follower can answer that question for me.