Rail closure over Easter.

Rail closure over Easter.

Easter problems ahead on our railway link with Bristol it seems.

Bath & North East Somerset Council is asking visitors and commuters to the city to be patient while works are carried out to improve the route over the holiday period.

Passengers are being asked to plan their journeys as services are suspended between Bristol Temple Meads and Bath Spa from Friday 30 March and Tuesday 3 April (inclusive).

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The line is being closed to enable Network Rail to upgrade signalling

in preparation an increase in trains – including more services between the West and London from 2019, and will result in improved reliability.

GWR will be providing replacement bus services between Bristol Temple Meads and Bath Spa, as well as other stations affected on the route.

While Bath Spa station remains open, passengers travelling to and from London need to be aware that the frequency of services will be affected.

Cllr Mark Shelford (Conservative, Lyncombe) Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment, said: “Bath remains very much open for business throughout this period. We are working closely with Network Rail and GWR to try to minimise disruption to travellers, but would ask passengers to remain patient. This work will eventually result in improved rail services to and from the city and more frequent trains”.

Passengers are advised to plan their journey carefully and allow extra time – particularly if commuting to work after the bank holiday weekend, on Tuesday 3 April.

For more information visit:  www.nationalrail.co.uk/easter, www.gwr.com/bristol2018 or www.networkrail.co.uk/bristol-upgrades.

Turning the pages on Georgian Bath.

Turning the pages on Georgian Bath.

It’s amazing where life takes you. Years ago l well remember how much money HTV West invested in ensuring it had a major annual presence at the Bath and West agricultural show – still held on its permanent showground just outside Shepton Mallet and something which celebrates all aspects of farming and rural life.
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Can only find one image taken at the Bath and West. An exhibition of photographs in the HTV West Pavilion and that’s Alison Holloway with me. She doesn’t have paper in her hair. The picture is slightly damaged!

I had no real idea that the whole sheep-shearing, furrow ploughing, cheese making caboodle originated with a man who moved to the Georgian city of Bath back in 1775. I settled here more recently. A modest seven years ago!
Edmund-Rack

Portrait of Edmund Rack by Lewis Vaslet, copyright Royal Bath and West of England Society

Edmund Rack was a Quaker from Norfolk who made his home here and straight away decided to keep a diary of what he saw and heard. It turned out to be a lively account too. His journal covered everything from the fashion boo-boos of ‘polite’ society, to duels, gambling and dancing.
Edmund was also soon deeply immersed in the intellectual life of the city and writes about his involvement with fellow Bathonian William Herschel, the astronomer, and Joseph Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen.
In 1777 he became the founder and first secretary of the Bath and West of England Society – an organsation for improving agricultural practice – and a body that would hold agricultural shows in Bristol and Bath – before settling onto its 240 acre
site in Somerset for its annual 4-day show.
Edmund Rack followed that up  by becoming joint founder and secretary of a lively scientific club known to posterity as the first Bath Philosophical Society.
Wow – what a man! His original journal is kept at Bath Record Office and was trabscribed by local historian and writer Trevor Fawcett.
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Cartoon by Sally Artz.

However, for the first time, it will be available in print as ‘The Journal of Edmund Rack – An Enlightenment Gentleman’s Observations of Georgian Bath.’
 It’s being published by Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution next Saturday the 24th of March. Edited and designed by Jude Harris – and fully illustrated with many unusual images from the historic library books at BRLSI and other local sources – it will cost £10.
Flier for 24 March
 To mark its launch the BRLSI is hosting three talks by local historians under the title ‘Science, Scandal and Society in Georgian Bath.’ That’s between 10 am and 1pm at number 16 Queen Square.
 The three talks are:

• ‘Inspir’d by Freedom’ – Catharine Macaulay by Dr Andrew Swift, author and local historian. Catharine Macaulay was one of the most remarkable women of her age ­— an eminent historian and avowed republican who inspired and influenced both the American and French Revolutions. She shocked Bath society by running off with ‘a stout brawny Scotsman of 21’.

• Experimental Roots: Edmund Rack and the Origins of the Bath & West by Stuart Burroughs, Director at Museum of Bath at Work. Edmund Rack, a Quaker and the son of a Norfolk labouring weaver, moved to Bath in 1775. Dismayed by the poor farming practice in the West Country, he proposed an Agricultural Society to investigate ways of improving the agricultural resources of the country.

• Bath in the 1780s: Quakers, Quacks & Quadrilles by Mike Rendell, writer on 18th century social history. A look at everyday life in the Georgian ‘City of Fun’ — its diversions and eccentricities.

Should this be City Hall?

Should this be City Hall?

Should Bath get back its city council status and the North East Somerset part of B&NES merge with North Somerset?

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Should this be City Hall?

That’s a suggestion being put forward in an article from guest contributor and journalist Simon Hancock – which l am happy to print in full. Do have your say.

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Journalist, Simon Hancock.

“Making councils smaller is nothing new. Aside from the fact that local authorities, including Bath and North East Somerset, have, and are still, seeing their budgets slashed year after year, in the past, council wards have not altogether been very equal when it comes to the number of constituents.

It’s no-one’s fault, but a councilor in one ward may have hundreds, even thousands more constituents, than others in the council chamber. So every now and then, there is the need for a boundary review, to try to make the wards more evenly distributed. And now it’s the turn of Bath and North East Somerset.

“Slimmed Down Council” was how http://www.Bathnewseum.com headlined the latest story about the Boundary Commission which is asking for the views of those who live in the district, before they make any recommendations.

Let’s be clear, this is something that the council has no control over. A boundary review is separate to the running of the council, but a “slimmed down council” got me thinking.

We all know what happened in the autumn of 2010, but for those who need reminding, it was the much talked about Comprehensive Spending Review. Remember, when the government announced that all councils were to have their budgets slashed to the tune of millions. The then Chancellor, George Osborne, was going to reduce the country’s deficit, so that by 2015, the country was not over-spending.

I don’t really need to remind you of what has happened since then, apart from the fact; the country is still spending more than it receives in taxes.

Since the financial crash of 2008, more and more people have had to access council services, for a whole host of reasons, but since April 2011, the very same councils have had to cut back on services, lay-off staff, ask the voluntary sector to pick up some of the slack, and do “more with less”.

A “slimmed down council” I hear you say. Well yes, less money, more people needing help, and running along in the background, boundary commission reviews into the number of councillors.

Bristol went through a review a couple of years ago. It managed to retain the number of councillors. North Somerset was not so fortunate in its last boundary review, when it lost 11 councillors.

We know that councillors are usually the first port of call for many people who find themselves in financial or welfare difficulties, and as we know, councillors give of their time without much financial reward. Yes, they receive some expenses, but on the whole, they do it because they want to make a difference, campaign for change, and make the lives of their constituents, better.

Some would argue that a council that has to do “more with less” needs more councillors, not fewer of them.

Of course, a boundary review is not to save money.  Professor Colin Mellors, Chair of the Boundary Commission, said the review aimed to “deliver electoral equality for local voters” and that the Commission wants to ensure that their “proposals reflect the interests and identities of local communities” in B&NES.

That said, a reduction in the number of councillors at the Guildhall would save some money, obviously. The proposal is for six members to leave the chamber.

And if you are going to redraw the council map of Bath and North East Somerset, then why not redraw an even larger map. The, dare I say it, old Avon area. After more than two decades, perhaps it’s time to have another look at the region.

Local authorities could be slimmed down, top-down, rather than bottom-up. There could be the return of Bath City Council, and the North East Somerset part of the district, the old Wansdyke, merged with neighbouring North Somerset.

Back in 1996, when Avon was carved up into four unitary authorities, the proposal was for a North West Somerset council (Woodspring) and Wansdyke joining Bath. North (West) Somerset never saw the light of day, with the new authority deciding to rename itself “North”.

So, let east meet west, and become a super-council. A truly geographical “North” Somerset unitary authority. Why have two chief executives, when you can have one. Or two chief financial officers, when there is only the need for one. It’s a numbers game. And they understand numbers.

I have always had some sympathy for the residents of North East Somerset. They used to have their own district council. Their very own identity; Wansdyke. Then in 1996, all that changed when it was effectively tagged-on to Bath. And of course, Bath lost its right to call itself a City Council. While just down the A4, Bristol not only kept its right to call itself a City Council, but it was also handed back its county status.

Slimmed down. More with less. Cut your cloth accordingly. Whatever you call it. However you see it. Is this the time for a radical re-think and shake-up of the political map of the Georgian City of Bath and the surrounding towns and villages?”

Photo on 06-12-2017 at 11.19

Local journalist, Simon Hancock.

Simon sent his own CV:

“Simon Hancock has been a journalist for 14 years, and worked as a freelance newsreader and reporter at Bath FM

Brought up between Bath and Bristol, he had a keen interest in politics and local government from an early age. His mother would take him to district council meetings when he was younger.

Born a year before the ill-fated Avon County Council was created, Simon can remember the disdain that people accorded to that local government structure, and their relief when, in 1996, it was abolished.

You can find Simon tweeting as @newsmansimon”

Choosing a site to remember.

Choosing a site to remember.

Well, it’s not a statue in our city – but we helped raise the money for its creation – so you may be interested to know that Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) is seeking the views of staff and local people on where a much-loved firefighter memorial statue should be moved to.

Statue at Headquarters

The memorial to firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty has stood at the Avon Fire & Rescue Service Headquarters at Temple Back in Bristol since 2003.

The statue was commissioned following a fundraising campaign in the wake of 9/11 attack in New York in 2001 in which 343 firefighters died. More than £19,000 was donated by staff, businesses and members of the public across the four unitary authorities served by Avon Fire Authority.

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Since 2003 it has been a focal point for significant dates of remembrance during the year including Firefighters’ Memorial Day and Armistice Day.

In September 2017 the Avon Fire & Rescue Service Headquarters was relocated from Temple Back to the Police and Fire Headquarters in Portishead. With the former site due to be sold, there is a risk the statue could be lost if it remains in its current location. As a result the Fire Authority plans to move the memorial to a new home where it can continue to serve as a reminder of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

In recognition of the importance of the statue to the Authority, one option being considered is moving it to the new Headquarters where it would remain at the heart of the organisation.

As the statue was funded by donations by people from Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset AF&RS is also asking for the views of others before making a final decision.

To access the survey visit https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/FMRRTBN

Bath Spa’s platform extensions

Bath Spa’s platform extensions

Well the Government may have slowed things down on the electrification front but that hasn’t stopped Network Rail engineers getting on with the job of lengthening and re-building platforms at Bath Spa station.

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Work underway to extend the up platform out over the Skew Bridge.

Regardless of absent pylons and overhead wires, the new Hitachi bi-mode trains GWR have bought for their fleet upgrade will be coming into action in a month or so.

They can switch from electricity to diesel – so can still come into service. The trains are due to run with up to ten carriages – so Bath Spa needs longer platforms.

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A closer view of the work underway.

 

A spokesperson for Network Rail told Bath Newseum: ‘ We are undertaking an 80m extension on the up platform and 4m on the down platform will be demolished and reconstructed; hoping to complete both by the end of the year.’

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What the new trains will look like.

If the new ten-carriage trains pass through Bath before the work on the up line is finished they will no doubt have to lock the the doors on the last two!

Meanwhile travellers going towards Bristol will know there has been no cafe facility at all.

GWR’s press office spokesperson told me: ‘It’s my understanding is that the vendor has decided to close this facility, not us, and we will be offering the opportunity for other businesses.’

 

Stepping up to the flag

Stepping up to the flag

Don’t worry. Bath Abbey wasn’t in the process of installing an aerial for a mobile ‘phone company.

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The scaffolding was in place to enable the flagpole – on top of the tower – to be repaired.

Though l didn’t envy conservators from Sally Strachey Conservation being on that platform. At 49 meters, this is the tallest structure of its kind in Bath.

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The tower of Bath Abbey

The Abbey flag is now flying again after an unofficial flag-raising ceremony took place at the top of the Tower earlier today.

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The flag bears the arms of the Diocese of Bath & Wells shown in the top left-hand canton of the St George flag. If you’re a history fan, here’s a fun fact…In 1938, the Earl Marshal of England laid down that the proper flag to be flown on any church in England is the Cross of St George with the arms of the see in the first quarter.

The Bath & Wells Diocesan flag is flown from the top of the Abbey Tower every day come wind, rain or shine.

Scaffold Tower flag pole 11 July

An Abbey spokesperson told Bath Newseum: ‘Unfortunately our flagpole takes quite a bit of battering from Mother Nature so has been out of action for a while.

Thank you to Sally Strachey Historic Conservation who did a great job of fixing the broken finial and rope on our flagpole and allowing us to proudly fly our flag once more!’

It’s effort enough for me climbing the 212 on a tower tour without then having to go on to the finial at the top of the flagpole! You would certainly need a head for heights!

Joking aside, l do know some churches with spires do make a little extra income renting out space to mobile ‘phone companies.

I remember seeing an aerial inside the spire of St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol. It’s not so bad when you can hide the mast inside.

Down to business for new Metro Mayor.

Down to business for new Metro Mayor.

The region’s newly elected Metro Mayor doesn’t intend spending much time behind a desk following his ‘swearing in’ at Bristol’s Engine Shed today (Monday, May 8th).

Metro Mayor 1 - CB Bristol Design 2017.

Tim Bowles said he was very proud to be elected as the very first West of England Mayor: “This is an exciting time for our region as the West of England Combined Authority takes on new powers, funding and responsibilities from central Government.

“This means that as a region we can be much more ambitious – we can make decisions here in the West of England about things that affect our residents every day – decisions about homes, transport, skills for jobs and how we support business to ensure our economy continues to grow.

“Over the coming weeks and months I’ll be going out and about to meet as many people as I can. I’ll be talking to businesses of all sizes, transport operators, our local colleges and universities and community groups, to talk about the challenges we face and how we can work together to benefit everyone across our region.

Metro Mayor 8 - CB Bristol Design 2017.

L to R. Cllr Matthew Riddle, Leader of South Gloucestershire Council; Metro Mayor, Tim Bowles; Cllr Tim Warren, Leader of B&NES; and Mervyn Rees who is the Mayor of Bristol.

Mayor Bowles said he would work collaboratively and constructively with his colleagues in the Combined Authority: Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, Cllr Tim Warren, Leader of  B&NES and Cllr Matthew Riddle, Leader of South Gloucestershire Council.

“I know the three councils have worked together very successfully over many years – I want to build on that track record. Together we will make decisions about what is best for our region, cutting across the divides of council boundaries.

Whilst we appreciate that North Somerset Council is not part of the Combined Authority at this stage, we will continue to work closely with them to ensure we can deliver economic growth for the wider region.

I will (also) work closely with the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership LEP’s new interim chair, Steve West, and look forward to him attending the Combined Authority meetings to represent the views of the Local Enterprise Partnership and its members”.