Riverside drama

Riverside drama

As Chair of ‘CycleBath’, Adam Reynolds is a campaigner for transport improvements and making more inner-city room – and providing safer routes – for those on two wheels.

However, just for a change, he’s been inspired to turn his visionary talents towards proposing an additional feature for the city’s ‘Bath Quay Waterside’ development.

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Adam Reynolds – pictured on the plot of land he would like to see developed as an open-air theatre.

This is where the riverbank of the Avon – near Churchill Bridge – is being reshaped, and new defence walls built to help reduce – and guard – against flooding.

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Flood defences on one side and a re-shaped – more people-friendly- bank on the other.

This will enable both banks at this point to be re-developed to provide new jobs and homes.

There’s lots of talk of re-connecting the city with its river – but Adam also wants to use the Avon as a backdrop for an open-air place of culture – as he explained to the Bath Newseum.

Catch up with Adam’s two-wheel campaigning via https://cyclebath.org.uk/

The ‘forgotten’ Bath bridge.

The ‘forgotten’ Bath bridge.

Plenty of new tree planting underway down at the newly named ‘Bath Quays’ site where a ‘re-defining’ of the river bank – as part of a scheme to reduce the risk of flooding – has created the opportunity for fashioning a new waterside park-type feature for people to eventually enjoy.

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Newly planted trees on the Broad Quays riverbank.

It follows a lot of archaeology in which the people of Bath were able to be reminded – in reports here on Bath Newseum and at a BRSLI lecture – about the ordinary lives of those former citizens who inhabited this flood-prone area.

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The new loom riverbank involves concrete shapes too.

Both their tenements and places of work were uncovered – along with several pubs and even a laundry/wash-house which substituted for the lack of facilities at home in the slums.

Properly recorded, it has all disappeared.

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In the middle of the picture – to the right of the yellow tripod – you can see the black plastic which covers the remains of that 17th century footbridge.

I say all but, under an anonymous black plastic sheet, lies one reminder of the past. The excavated remains of a stone bridge built to cross a ditch as part of 17th century improvements to an old riverside path.

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One end of the new pathway onto this newly sculptured riverbank has already been built. I hope these young saplings – lying across the tarmac – will still grown once planted?

While landscaping work gathers pace around it there is still no decision on how best to proceed with its preservation and incorporation into this new scheme.

At this rate they will have built the new pedestrian bridge across the river nearby before we discover the long-term fate of this rather smaller old one!

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Looking across the river towards the new concrete flood defence barrier being erected.

Across the river flood defence barriers are also being erected. I look forward to the new trees taking root and to some good news about this little relic of Bath’s humbler past.

 

 

A different Bath uncovered.

A different Bath uncovered.

Tourists flock to Bath in their millions to gaze upon our unique Georgian showpieces that – with the help of our well-preserved Roman remains – have helped earned the city its World Heritage status.

However, the homes and public spaces of many of the ordinary people of Bath – the men and women  who helped build and run these elegant homes erected to house the 18th century’s super-rich – have not been so well preserved.

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Archaeologists have uncovered the slipway end of Avon Street.

As part of the preparation work being undertaken to re-model a section of the Avon’s riverbank through the lower part of the city – archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology have been called in to sift through some of the top 18th and 19th century layers of an area that was home to crowded tenement houses, industry, beer houses and public baths.

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The bar floor of what was the Duke of York beer house.

An area of deprivation with a reputation for violence and prostitution – and one prone to major flooding.

The archaeology has to be completed before the winter and the chance of more swollen river waters overflowing.

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A stable block and an area that ended its working life as a scrap yard.

Ironically a job that has to be finished so that contractors Alun Griffiths Limited can start re-modelling the bank – as part of a flood alleviation scheme which will also open up the Broad Quays area for redevelopment.

According to the contractor’s website – http://community.alungriffiths.co.uk/works-in-your-area/bath-quays-waterside/ – the project is known as Bath Quays Waterside.

‘The Bath Quays Waterside Project will put in place essential flood mitigation and flood defence works to the north and south banks of the river between Churchill Bridge and Midland Bridge. In summary the plan will:

Provide the flood mitigation to enable the redevelopment of the Bath Quays and Manvers Street sites

Significantly widen the north bank to up to 15m wide at the lower tow-path level between Churchill Bridge and Green Park to move water through this area more quickly in flood conditions.

This would require that Green Park Road is diverted away from the riverside northwards to link up with Corn Street creating the major opportunity to open up the riverside to the city

Install new flood walls and raise existing river walls on the south side of the river between Churchill Bridge and Midland Bridge

Improving flood defences on existing buildings fronting onto the river along the Lower Bristol Road’.

There’s more detailed information on the Council’s website at http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/planning-and-building-control/major-projects/bath-quays-waterside-reconnecting-bath-its

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The top entrance to a well that must also be investigated.

Bath Newseum has been allowed in to see what has been uncovered so far in this archaeological ‘rescue dig’ and has been speaking to the Senior Project Officer for Wessex Archaeology – Cai Mason.

It’s hoped there might be some sort of public ‘open day’ of part of the site so that people can see for themselves what has been uncovered and before it is all swept away.

Many of the historic images used in this report come from the resources of Bath in Time – www.bathintime.co.uk – a site your Director is pleased to promote.

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Evidence of crowded housing blocks that must have flooded frequently over the years.

Dredging up the past.

Dredging up the past.

The work completed. IN time - new plantings will be made on a re-shaped riverbank.

The work completed. New plantings will be made on a re-shaped riverbank.

Councillors will be brought up to date with work on the Bath Flood Alleviation Scheme – which involves re-shaping the banks of the River Avon from

There's a bike coming up in the underwater grab!

There’s a bike coming up in the underwater grab!

Churchill Bridge and on down river – at a meeting of the Planning, Housing and Economic Development and Scrutiny Panel next Monday (July 20th).

The most obvious bits of the work to alleviate flooding and improve river flow has been the felling of trees in preparation for the re-shaping of the river bank – and a dredging operation carried out by the Environment Agency around the newly restored Victoria Bridge in late April this year.

The Agency will tell councillors  it removed  ‘350 trolleys, 40 bicycles, 2 motorbikes and 9 cars from the River Avon in Bath at Victoria Bridge. The debris was removed to improve navigation through the city.’

Bath residents ask – why are we forgotten?

Bath residents ask – why are we forgotten?

Whole swathes of Bath’s architectural history and heritage are at risk from flooding and nothing is being down to protect them.

Ian Herve, Secretary Henrietta Park Association

Ian Herve, Secretary
Henrietta Park Association

That’s the claim being made by one city resident who told the Virtual Museum he lives on the ‘forgotten’ side of Pulteney Bridge and upstream from the main section of the River Avon through Bath which, he says,  is the focus all the flood-prevention work because it’s passing through an area that’s being redeveloped.

Upstream of Pulteney Bridge

Upstream of Pulteney Bridge

Ian Herve is the secretary of the Henrietta Park Association and is co-ordinating a new campaign to get the authorities to take notice of the threat to their riverside district.

Such is the risk, says Ian, that his insurance premium has recently gone up by 80 per cent.

He spoke to the Virtual Museum.

 

A flood of memories

A flood of memories

Putting Bath‘s three thermal springs to one side, the main water feature in this city is the river that runs through it. Once the Avon played a pivotal role in supplying the energy required for local industry and  it also served as a waterway to transport materials and produce in and out of this bustling community at one end of the Cotswold Hills.

The Avon flooding its water meadows

The Avon flooding its water meadows

It’s a river that behaves like any other river. It tends to flood. Something that happened  more frequently as the area to the west of Bath became industrialised and the Avon’s water meadows – its natural overflow system – was built over.

Unable to release its swollen waters as nature intended the river poured instead through streets, factories and houses.

One of the worst floods in living memory occurred in 1960 when swans were able to glide up Southgate Street towards the city centre. It was also the final nail in the coffin of Bath’s Old Bridge which was fatally damaged and replaced by the present Churchill Bridge.

A radical programme was also brought in to rebuild and reshape the weir by Pulteney Bridge to increase river flow and also dredge and insert sheet piling walls along much of the central river bank to increase the volume of flood water the Avon could carry within its natural course.

The path under the Halfpenny Bridge

The path under the Halfpenny Bridge

One more great flood was to come in 1968 and you can see to what height the river rose that year by walking or cycling along the path which runs beside the Avon and under the Halfpenny pedestrian bridge – linking Widcombe and the city centre – which is currently being refurbished.IMG_3539

On the bank-side wall is recorded the dates and levels of floodwater levels going way back into the 19th century and 1968 is duly recorded too.

Flood levels recorded on the stone

Flood levels recorded on the stone

Our attention is being turned towards the River Avon again – but this time not only to try and keep flood waters under control.

Bath is being encouraged to see the river as a social and economic asset and to embrace and regenerate all of the environment it passes through.

More flood levels recorded

More flood levels recorded

A picture of Pulteney Bridge and – in the hoped-for summer – its sparkling weir, has normally been the only time anyone actually looks at the Avon. It is time to look again.