Toll house repairs begin this week.

Toll house repairs begin this week.

Monday, April 23rd. St George’s Day, Shakespeare’s birthday is also the day work will finally begin to repair Bath’s historic Cleveland Bridge Toll House which was damaged in an incident last year.

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The damaged toll house.

The specialist repair works are expected to last two weeks, with two-way temporary traffic signals operating 24/7.

Signals will be manually operated from 7am to 8pm weekdays and from 8am to 7pm over the weekend, in order to be as reactive to traffic conditions as possible and minimise delays.

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Prepare for hold-ups .

The work had to be rescheduled from March due to severe cold weather affecting specialist building materials. Historic England – which is overseeing the works – advised that the lime mortar would not set properly due to the temperatures being below five degrees centigrade.

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The last repair job to do at this busy junction,

Councillor Mark Shelford (Conservative, Lyncombe) Cabinet member for Transport and Environment, said: “These are essential works and unfortunately there will be delays but we ask drivers to be patient with us while the work is carried out. Extended working hours will be in operation in order that the works can be completed as quickly as possible and to minimise disruption.”

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Prepare for hold-ups .

The council has co-ordinated a series of roadworks in the London Road areas over recent weeks to minimise disruption. The main resurfacing works on London Road have been completed. The new loading bay works on London Road should be completed by the end of this week; with only yellow boxes and line markings left to do – this will involve only a partial closure of the A4 London Road West of the main traffic signals.  The A36 and East of the traffic signals will remain open under two way traffic control; these overnight works will start at 8pm and be completed before 6am.

Gas works have also been completed to avoid further disruption again later in the year.

The council’s Variable Message Signs located across various routes into Bath will display the latest information to drivers.

Water disappointment.

Water disappointment.

Once every week l join other volunteers who gather to show our visitors – and some locals – around this great city of Bath.

We’re officially members of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides – about 85 people who turn out in all weathers, throughout the year and accept no fee or tip.

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Our Tuesday morning gathering – outside the Pump Room at 10.30 am.

Our Tueasday morning group of five – in high season – can divide up to one hundred people between us for a two-hour tour – on foot – of this World Heritage status city.

It follows that many have a keen interest in local history and some have developed that in print. Fellow guide and local historian Colin Fisher is one of them.

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Colin Fisher’s book on Stefano Pieroni – published by Akeman Press in 2014.

Back in 2014, he published a book about an Italian immigrant to Bath called Signor Stefano Vallerio Pieroni who lived here from 1848 until his death in 1900.

Never heard of him? That must be true for most people. There’s plenty of architectural evidence remaining of the work of celebrity locals like John Wood and son but little to show for the efforts of this itinerant seller of plaster figures who set up shop in his adopted home.

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What remains of Pieroni’s fountain alongside Bog Island.

Most people getting off the coaches around Terrace Walk will spare little more than a glance at the modest little fountain alongside the abandoned underground loos that have given the Bog Island nickname to this location. Indeed – l am sure there are many arriving who wished they were still working – but that’s another story.

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Pieroni’s re-modelled fountain in Stall Street with Prince Bladud on top. © Christopher Wheeler

This was originally located at the Roman Bath’s end of Bath Street and – though topped now with an urn – was originally crowned with a statue of King Bladud, the legendary Celtic founder of Bath. That statue is now in Parade Gardens – keeping company with a stone pig.

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Prince Bladud is now in Parade Gardens.

If you don’t know the story already – a thousand years before the Romans came to Bath Prince Bladud – thrown out of his father’s kingdom as he’d caught leprosy on a trip to Greece –  was sitting on a local hillside feeding acorns to his flock of pigs.

Suddenly the animals broke away – only to run down the slopes and discover the thermal waters. They had caught leprosy off their royal swine herdsman minder and the waters cured it – after a bit of rolling in the hot mud. They did the same for the prince’s affliction.

Those health-giving qualities have been promoted ever since – whether you were a Roman soldier, medieval merchant, Georgian aristocrat or Victorian visiting professional.

Signor Pieroni was called in to re-model a controversial fountain that had only been commissioned three years previously at its original Stall Street location.

From time to time Bath develops a ‘yearning’ for fountain building. I can see why – l have a bee in my own bonnet today – about the lack of public ways of celebrating our natural gift of gushing springs – both hot and cold.

In the 1850’s you could describe the urge to do something grand as fountain mania. One proposal wanted a series of fountains cascading down from Lansdown, with fountains in St James’s Square, in front of the Royal Crescent and near the obelisk in Royal Victoria Park.

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Royal Crescent

This got whittled down to putting something in the city centre that would dispense and promote Bath’s famous ‘health-giving’ hot mineral waters.

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The original Tite Mineral Water Fountain in Stall Street. © BathinTime http://www.bathintime.co.uk

I rather like the look of the Tite Mineral Water Fountain of 1856 but the ‘powers that be’ did not and Signor Pieroni was called in to help remodel it.

Putting King Bladud on top went down well with most Bathonians. When you’re ‘pushing’ the many delights of a Georgian-dressed spa town a little fable – viewed through the mists of time (and the steam from the hot water) – goes a long way.

Pieroni’s Stall Street fountain was – and still is – part of the city’s dilemma about fountains. It cannot make its mind up about whether they should be promoted or not.

Though – in its original location – it was one of the city’s most iconic landmarks – problems with the supply of mineral water and maintenance costs condemned it to a dry and ivy-covered future.

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A postcard view of the ivy-covered fountain in Stall Street in 1915.

The fountain enclosure was filled with potted plants, Bladud removed to a private garden and an urn put in his place. A jump in time to 1989 and finally the fountain was dismantled, repaired, cleaned and re-erected on its present site on Bog Island – between Terrace Walk and Parade Gardens.

The statue was moved to Parade Gardens where the legend lives on – beside the fast flowing waters of the Celtic-named River Avon (Afon).

I have recently been down to look at what is left of Pieroni’s original celebration-in-stone of Bath’s sparkling waters and am sorry to say it is starting to crumble.

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More crumbling stonework about to fall?

There was fallen masonry lying near the modest fountain enclosure and its condition must raise concern within our currently cash-strapped council.

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I took author Colin Fisher to have a look and asked him what he thought.

 

Meanwhile, another of Bath’s underwhelming fountains continues to languish and disintegrate. The Laura Place  ‘ashtray’ was recently filled for its seasonal start-up but no water has flowed since.

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Filled but not functioning?

Has the pump broken down again? The fountain basin bears more chips and evidence that a screw and raw plug may have contributed to one loss of masonry.

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Looks like the screw and raw plug may have contributed to this disintegration.

Is this another fountain bowl destined to be filled with flowers?

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More chipping on the Laura Place fountain.

We’re never going to see a Trevi fountain in Bath l know, but l still feel developers should be encouraged to include water in their commercial endeavours.

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A day in the ‘life-cycle’ of a much-abused fountain.

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Nothing original about this vandalism. It wrecks havoc with the pump which the ratepayer has to pay to repair or replace.

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Another Laura Place fountain re-interpretation.

Why no fountain in Southgate or no feature in the re-modelled Saw Close – or even down at Riverside?

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The Saw Close re-modelling.

Who will save Pieroni’s Fountain and rescue the poor specimen in Laura Place? When will Bath wake up to its watery heritage?

In the meantime, while Bishop King had visions of a ladder to Heaven while asleep in the city – l will dream of more earthly matters. A little water-filled reminder of Signor Pieroni’s homeland.

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The Trevi Fountain in Rome. © ItalyGuides.It

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pools Trust is​ back in the swim.

Pools Trust is​ back in the swim.

It wasn’t the best of presents to receive just before Christmas. Cleveland Pools Trust and their many supporters ended 2017 on a real downer after hearing that their application for Heritage Lottery funding to restore these unique pools had been rejected.

However, the HLF held out a glimmer of hope when – at a meeting with the Trust in January this year – officials confirmed that they considered the approved plans set out a really strong foundation for the future of the pools – but there were outstanding issues that needed managing first.

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Cleveland Pools © Cleveland Pools Trust

Buoyed on by this the Trust has just submitted another application to the HLF.

A spokesperson told Bath Newseum:

“Since the New Year, the trustees have been working hard to address these issues. Councillors and senior officers of Bath and North East Somerset have committed support and work by Curo to repair the retaining wall on the site is about to start.
On Thursday 15 March the Trust submitted another application to the HLF. This application is the first round and will enable the Trust to prepare and submit a second-round application which, if successful, will release funds to carry out the restoration of the pools.

If successful with the new submission the programme is as follows:
Achieve HLF approval; December 2018
Confirm project funding; spring 2019
Issue tender documents; autumn 2019
Commence works on site; spring 2020
Open the Pools to the public; summer 2021.
The trustees are extremely grateful for the enthusiasm expressed by supporters and will continue to work with them to achieve a very special facility for local people and visitors. A liaison group of key stakeholders including close neighbours will be established under an independent chair, to work with the Trust and contractors to ensure that the construction period goes as smoothly as possible.
Chair of the Trust, Paul Simons, said: “The Cleveland Pools Trust has been delighted with the re-affirmation of support for the project from its many hundreds of enthusiasts: local residents and volunteers, swimmers, families and schools, heritage campaigners, and those who have pledged to support the project financially. We are determined to work with them to achieve a truly remarkable and unique facility”.
For your further information:

The Cleveland Pools Trust has been running a campaign to save the 200-year-old riverside pools on the eastern edge of Bath in Somerset for 13 years.
The Cleveland Pools are the oldest surviving open-air public swimming pools in the UK. Their rich social history dates back to the Regency period during King George III’s reign. ‘The Cleveland Pleasure Baths’ – as they were known for many years – were opened originally in 1817 to gentlemen bathers only, funded with private subscriptions from ‘the great and the good’ of Bath.
The Cleveland Pools site is listed Grade 2-star by Historic England and is one of only two buildings situated in the World Heritage Site of the City of Bath that appear on the national ‘Buildings at Risk’ register.
Plans are to include a 25-metre pool and a smaller children’s pool which would both be heated during the summer months. A Kiosk cafe and terrace are also proposed, along with full access for those with impaired mobility. On-site works would have been due to commence in November 2018 for an Easter 2020 completion.
The scheme has received overwhelming public support which demonstrates the huge demand for outdoor swimming to be restored to the citizens of Bath and North East Somerset.
The scheme for restoration has been granted full planning permission and listed building consent by Bath & North East Somerset Council. The council is also the owner of the site.
Look up their website – www.clevelandpools.org.uk. 

 

 

Rails-way station

Rails-way station

I am naturally curious. Don’t know whether it’s journalistic training – or that l came ‘ready-wired’ for being nosey – but l like to explore unusual avenues in search of stories for Bath Newseum.

Our local authority publishes a weekly list of planning applications and l enjoy a scroll through in search of material.

Here’s a good example. More than 17,000 people pass in and out of Bath Spa station every day and – l am sure – many may have noticed the work carried out on preparing this stopping point on the Bristol to London line for the new ten-carriage trains now coming into service.

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Bath Spa Station – looking back towards Bristol.

Putting the electrification of the line saga to one side – whether it’s an overhead pylon or an onboard alternative diesel engine – these new riders-of-the-rails offer greater capacity in a more up-to-date environment.

The new rolling stock has meant extending platforms. That’s after they were also built out towards the tracks so that the intended overhead electric power supply wouldn’t mean demolishing listed canopies.

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Bit of platform lengthening from a few weeks ago.

There was also space to move the tracks closer together – thanks to Brunel’s original ‘broad gauge’ layout.

The electrification programme has slowed to nothing following government criticism of costs but there are still little station improvements to be done that have nothing to do with the mega-bucks being spent elsewhere on the Great Western Electrification Project.

A point in question concerns a short section of parapet wall adjacent to the main buildings of Platform 1 on the Bristol end of the station which – according to a letter sent to B&NES Planning Department by Mr Ian Wheaton of Network Rail – ‘has been identified as below-height for compliance with minimum recommended suicide prevention mitigation.’

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The low wall can be seen on the far right of the picture. This one taken before the platforms were extended.

Putting it more simply – there is a danger people might – accidentally or deliberately – fall over it! There is a fair drop on the other side.

Originally Network Rail wanted to build the wall up and had been given planning permission to do this. However, they now want the Council to approve a change of plan.

In his letter, Ian Wheaton says: ‘ Having undertaken structural assessments of the existing wall, it was found that the structure would not be able to maintain the new loads associated with using stone to match the existing.

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The length of wall in question.

Following discussion with the Council and Historic England, it was agreed the appropriate solution would see the installation of railings of a similar design to that used elsewhere within the station, specifically those which surround the dining terrace of the Graze restaurant on Platform 2.’

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Existing railings around Graze.

Can’t see that this is going to be much of a problem – in terms of objections – but the public has the right to comment on the application via

https://isharemaps.bathnes.gov.uk/data.aspx?requesttype=parsetemplate&template=DevelopmentControlApplication.tmplt&basepage=data.aspx&Filter=^refval^=%2718/00908/VAR%27&history=2ac49d445942498b963ed535b119c49a&SearchLayer=DCApplications

If you would like a nose through the whole current list of planning applications click onto https://isharemaps.bathnes.gov.uk/data.aspx?requesttype=parsetemplate&template=DevelopmentControlSearchWeeklyList.tmplt

Ring my bell!

Ring my bell!

Bath Abbey’s historic Tower was the site of 38 marriage proposals last year as individuals climbed 212 steps to the top of the city landmark to pop the question to their loved ones.

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Bath Abbey

The Abbey has been offering visitors tours of its Tower for nearly ten years but only launched its Romantic Tower Tours a few years ago. Since its first Romantic Tower Tour in 2012, over 180 couples have enjoyed this experience. The couples range from those who live locally to as far afield as Australia and the United States with reasons for taking the tour including being on honeymoon or wanting to celebrate a wedding anniversary. Increasingly, the Abbey’s Tower Tour Guides have reported a trend in visitors surprising their partners with marriage proposals while on a Romantic Tower Tour.

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Looking down on the Christmas Market and Roman Baths

Holly Doughty, Events and Tower Tour Lead, said: “We usually get special requests from one of the couples, so we tend to know in advance but we of course never give the surprise away. Usually, we’re hidden around the corner waiting for the “Yes!” before we appear with a bottle of champagne to congratulate the happy couple.

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Looking across to the Rec and Bath Rugby ground.

We’ve been running Romantic Tower Tours for more than five years now and usually get a couple of proposals each month but it’s always still really fun for us. The best part is that we can claim a 100% success rate. All proposals made up here have ended up with a happy engagement! At 49 metres high, surrounded by stunning 360-degree views of Bath, love definitely must be in the air up here!”

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Bath Abbey – the lantern of the west!

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, why not book a Tower Tour for two for a fun and imaginative way to celebrate the day? Tailored for two, couples will get to spend quality time together at the top of the tower enjoying glasses of champagne surrounded by spectacular views of the city. Other highlights include sitting behind the Abbey clock-face, chiming the Abbey bells and standing on top of the famous vaulted ceiling.

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A view from the top of the tower – looking towards the Guildhall.

To book a Romantic Tower Tour, contact Holly Doughty, Bath Abbey’s Tower Tour and Events Lead, today on: 01225 422462 ortowertours@bathabbey.org. Prices start from £100 (per couple) depending on timings and availability.

Bath Abbey also offers Tower Tours for individual visitors and groups. Tickets cost £8 per adult, £4 per child. The fully guided tour takes 45 – 50 minutes and tickets can be purchased from the Abbey shop on the day only. Group bookings need to be booked in advance.

For more information, please see www.bathabbey.org/towertours

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The Bath Abbey bellringers.

Top 7 facts about the Bath Abbey Tower

  1. The Abbey Tower is 49 metres tall and there is a total of 212 steps to climb before reaching to the top.
  2. Bells have been rung at the Abbey since before the 16th century, and this tradition is carried on to this day.
  3. There are ten bells in total. If an Abbey ringer from the 18th century entered the tower today, he would feel quite at home. Not much has changed: eight of the ten bells date from 1700, two smaller bells were added in 1774 to make the present ring of ten, and they still hang in the original timber frame.
  4. The heaviest bell – called the tenor – weighs about 1.7 tonnes (1,688kg) the equivalent of a 4 x 4 vehicle.
  5. In 1869, the Tenor bell unexpectedly cracked during ringing practice one night, and had to be recast. The replacement was examined by the Abbey organist, and given the go-ahead. However, when it was hauled up and reinstalled, it proved to be out of tune, so it had to be recast a second time!
  6. The Tenor bell bears the inscription: ‘All you of Bathe that hear me sound Thank Lady Hopton’s hundred pound’. What many people don’t know is that Lady Hopton only paid us £20 for the bell herself and her family were made to pay the remaining sum! But it’s her name that’s on the bell not theirs, what a clever lady!
  7. The bells are arranged in descending scale in an anti-clockwise direction and this is unusual, most towers have bells hung in a clockwise direction. This can be a little confusing for visiting bell ringers!

 

 

Uncovering history while you watch!

Uncovering history while you watch!

Archaeologists have just begun the largest excavations seen at the Roman Baths for thirty years and residents and visitors are being given the chance to watch them at work!

The 20-minute tours will run at regular intervals throughout February and will give people access to the excavations taking place in vaults which are not normally open to the public.

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The archaeological investigation underway.

 

The work is taking place as part of the Archway Project, which will create a new Clore Learning Centre for the Roman Baths (romanbaths.co.uk/archway).

The tours are free with admission to the Roman Baths, however, visitors can give a small, optional donation to the Roman Baths Foundation (charity number 1163044) to support the excavations.

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Seems at least part of this Roman town was painted red!

Highlights of the new tours will include:

  • A Roman exercise area, which will be part of a new Investigation Zone, in which schoolchildren will be able to carry out research in and amongst Roman remains when it opens in 2019.
  • An in-situ stylobate – a collonaded walkway which contains a Roman doorway leading through to a possible row of shops, where traders might have sold memorabilia to visitors, oil for the sauna, or food and drink.
  • The other side of the south wall of the Great Bath, behind the curved alcoves (exedra) where people relaxed.
  • A Roman culvert, and pipework and drains from Georgian and Victorian times.
  • A wall where you can see archaeological deposits (stratigraphy) dating back 2,000 years.

Councillor Paul Myers, Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “The tours are a great chance for visitors to go behind the scenes, meet archaeologists and possibly watch them at work discovering even more about the history of our treasured Roman Baths. It’s also great for any Bath and North East Somerset residents with a Discovery Card because these archaeology tours are free with the card.”

 

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 Claudia Jorge is an archaeologist with Cotswold Archaeology.

 

Although modest in scale, this will be the most significant archaeological work to have taken place on the site since Sir Barry Cunliffe’s investigations in the 1970s and 1980s.

Professional archaeologists will lead the excavations, supported by local volunteers from the Bath & Camerton Archaeological Society.

They will begin by carrying out ground radar and resistivity surveys, before opening up a number of trenches and re-excavating some 19th and 20th century drains. This will allow them to investigate the deposits through which the drains were dug.

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Archaeologist, Nathan Chinchen will also be working on the Roman Baths site.

A small programme of archaeological works took place in September 2017 and unearthed some exciting finds: three Roman coins and a Roman nail cleaner with a rare peacock design.

The Archway Project is supported by National Lottery players through a £3.4m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

For more information go to www.romanbaths.co.uk

www.bathnes.gov.uk/discoverycard

 

 

Working on water.

Working on water.

If you are a regular user of the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath through Bath you may have noticed a group of people busy cutting back the overgrowth, painting railings and shifting tons of accumulated soil from the offside abutments.

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Some of the volunteers at work on the Sydney Gardens stretch of the K & A.

They are unpaid volunteers – working under the auspices of the Canal and River Trust – and currently concentrating activity on the canal as it runs through Sydney Gardens.

Historically, this was an area created to be a Georgian ‘Vauxhall’ – a pleasure garden – opened in 1795 –  for grown-ups! Which offered everything from outside dining to adult swings in the middle of a thrill-on-every-dead-end labyrinth.

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The shape of the canal through Sydney Gardens.

The Kennet and Avon Canal Company paid a fair sum to be allowed to dig out a route through the park and charged with ensuring that what was created looked good too.

John Rennie was the engineer who linked the Severn with the Thames and London with excavations between 1799 and 1810.

These days the narrowboats aren’t carrying coal, stone or foodstuffs but carrying pleasure seekers taking advantage of what has been a massive and expensive restoration of the route.

The Sydney Gardens bit is well-used but was getting just as run down as the parkland around it.

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The canal through Sydney Gardens.

Whilst the Gardens apply for HLF funding to spruce things up, this section of the canal below relies upon the skills and muscle power of its volunteer men and women.

This section is being led by Ian Herve who – when not on canal business – is a volunteer Mayor’s Guide like me.

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Volunteer, Ian Herve who is leading the group currently working wonders along the canal through Sydney Gardens.

I met him down on the towpath to hear more of the group’s plans for ‘enhanced improvement’ of this stretch of well-used and much-loved canal.

 

 

Find out more about how you could join the team as a volunteer by clicking on https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/volunteerhttps://canalrivertrust.org.uk/volunteer