Two different observations being made by regular followers of Bath Newseum concerning two iconic features within our Bath landscape.
The first is Bath Abbey where work has been underway removing the Victorian pews from the nave so that stabilising work on the floor can continue in the second phase of a multi-million pound project.
The pews are not going back. In their place will be a large multi-functional space in which stackable seating can be laid out in whatever formation is necessary for every event from regular religious services to exhibitions or even theatre in the round.
Whatever your point of view on the furniture – fixed or versatile – some regular church goers are pointing out a problem they are going to face.
Pews had a shelf for putting prayer and song books – plus your Bible – but because the chairs have to stack there is no box on the back for your books.
Some church goers may find it difficult reaching down to the floor to rest or retrieve them.
There was talk of people being able to follow services on big screens but l am not aware if such a system has been successfully tested.
Here’s the response from Alix Gilmer, who is Project Director for the Footprint Project:
“Bible holders which clip between the seats of the new chairs are available, although we haven’t purchased any yet, as we are waiting to gather feedback on the need for these.
We are ordering a number of chairs with arms for people who find it more difficult getting up and down, and these will arrive later in the month.
We are also currently confirming the number and type of screens we will have in the Abbey for use during services.”
Our second observation takes us out to the green horizons surrounding our city and the growing success of the Skyline Walk.
So many people are taking to the hills to enjoy fresh air – and fine views of the city – that their foot traffic is impacting on the land itself.
One keen Bath Newseum follower told me : ‘I and several others have growing concerns about the damage that is being done to Bathwick Fields and Smallcombe by footfall erosion & litter created by the SkylineWalk.
It is changing the character of the green setting, and this is going to get worse with “Bathscape”.’
And – just in case you don’t know:
Bathscape Landscape Partnership is a Heritage Lottery Fund supported project aimed at reconnecting people with the natural landscape surrounding Bath.
There are 25 projects across four themes – all part of a scheme to revitalise our landscape for people. communities and heritage.
According to the website – https://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/environment/green-infrastructure/bathscape – ‘The vision: The Bathscape scheme will ensure Bath and its setting is better recognised, managed and experienced as a landscape city, with the surrounding hills and valleys blending with the World Heritage Site and actively enjoyed by all.
A greater number and wider range of people will feel connected to their local landscape and inspired to explore the outstanding built and natural environments, improving health and wellbeing.”
It’s all very important for our mental and physical health but – it seems – everything comes at a price.
I approached Bathscape for comment and Dan Merrett – who is the Bathscape Manager told Bath Newseum:
“We are fortunate in Bath to be surrounded by outstanding countryside. The Bathscape Partnership Scheme seeks to celebrate our local landscape, working with landowners to help improve important habitats and heritage and encouraging people to enjoy walking on the existing network of paths.
Our area is criss-crossed by dozens of wonderful walks some lesser known and others, like the skyline walk, well-known and loved.
The Bathscape partnership includes the National Trust who own the fields referred to in the article and who recognise the area as a valuable resource, managed for conservation and access and available for the enjoyment of local communities and visitors. They not only monitor levels of usage but also manage litter with the help of dedicated volunteer teams.
We hope that people will be inspired to explore the landscape, enjoying the benefits that living in such a beautiful area affords, acting responsibly and also considering volunteering time, like those at the National Trust, to enhance the experience for us all.”