What’s this then?

It’s not just historic Sydney Gardens itself that’s going to be ‘revitalised’ in the next couple of years.

As part of the project, the Canal and River Trust have agreed to complement the total works by improving the long-neglected section of canal running through this late-Georgian ‘Vauxhall.’


Trust volunteer Ian Herve told Bath Newseum:

“You will no doubt notice work underway taking down the old, self-seeded, yews in Sydney Gardens this week.  I am sure there will be comment about felling trees.
> I thought I should fill you in on what’s happening.

One yew tree is down.

As part of the B&NES Sydney Gardens project, Canal and River Trust have agreed to complement the total works by improving the long neglected section of canal through Sydney Gardens.

In point of fact the only pictures of Sydney Gardens for many years have not been the gardens themselves but the famous views of the canal passing through; the footbridges and the original K & A Canal Company office building over the southern tunnel.

Looking towards the old Canal HQ and showing a cleared ledge to the left of the tunnel.

During the restoration works in the 1970s and early 2000s considerable piles of clay were deposited on the offside abutments.  This was an eyesore, causing long term damage to the stonework.

Another view of previously-cleared ledges.

Over the years the volunteers have climbed the piles of clay and kept the weeds and bramble growth under control.’

Screenshot 2019-12-12 at 14.39.35
Canal and River trust volunteer, Ian Herve.

Ian continued:
>’ You remember, I’m sure, that in February of 2018 we removed over 90 tonnes of clay and tilth from the three southern abutments after the trees had died and been removed.
> The final part of the clearance is now to remove the northern trees and dig out the clay and debris.  This will happen over this winter, I hope.

The unusual paddle-wheeled boat being used to transport the felled yew logs. Photo: Ian Herve

We will then lay wild flower turf on all of the clear offside abutments. The volunteers will be carrying out much of the work and continuing maintenance.

This is a welcome collaboration between B&NES and Canal and River Trust to greatly improve one of the most historic and picturesque sections of the entire canal system.’

It’s a great effort Ian, and well done to all the volunteers working in all weathers to protect and improve the Kennet and Avon Canal.

I can see how the volunteers are keen to return the canal to how it was when built but l think it’s a shame the yews could not have stayed. History is made up of layers and the trees were one of those.

Yew trees have long been associated with churchyards – an association with mythical beginnings.

The yew tree was sacred to Hecate, the Greek goddess associated with witchcraft, death, and necromancy. It was said to purify the dead as they entered Hades.

In a way they had become part of the romanticism of the canal through Sydney Gardens – standing guard before narrow boat and people entered the long dark tunnel leading out into open countryside.

Just my view of course!

Picture taken during the late summer.

It just remains for Network Rail to do something about the state of Brunel’s rail abutment wall through Sydney gardens.

There is a real danger – l would have thought – of stones being dislodged by shrub roots.