A penny for your thoughts?

A penny for your thoughts?

B&NES has big plans for making historic Sydney Gardens more ’21st century’ friendly. That’s if the council is successful in attracting Heritage Lottery funding to pay for a sensitive make-over that acknowledges the past as well as the present.

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Sydney Gardens became a municipal park in 1909.

The gardens were opened in 1795 as a Georgian ‘Vauxhall’ or pleasure grounds which offered  – for those who paid to come in – such adult delights as swings, a grotto and labrynth, waterfalls, bowling greens and public outdoor breakfasts with music!

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The Kennet and Avon through Sydney Gardens.

Both John Rennie’s canal and Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s railway were later to criss-cross these pleasure grounds of picnics and promenading. Private grounds turned into a public space when they became a municipal park in 1909.

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The central driveway.

There’s not much left of the original design – apart from the central driveway (and maybe some mature trees?)  – but of course history continues to be ‘laid down’ on the landscape.

Tennis courts and a bowling green have been added over the years.


The bowling green.

However, following the decision by the bowling club to end their lease at the end of 2016 bowling season – due to a falling membership – the plan is to will the pavilion into a new café and the former bowling green will provide a venue for informal play and activities such as yoga, tai chi and salsa.


The bottom tennis courts.

The latest design also includes a multi-use ball game area within the footprint of the current bottom courts – creating space where a wide range of informal and other ball games can be played; such as basketball, football, volleyball and table tennis.

Ultimately this would provide a more flexible space for a wider range of different types of active play than can currently be accommodated by six permanent tennis courts.


The newly refurbished loos

Just recently the public toilets were ‘upgraded’ and are now operated via a 20 p piece in the slot. 


Ancient and modern

But alongside the block stands the remains of a gentlemen’s public lavatories – erected in 1910 – and an unusual survival of a once common type made by the Star Works of Birmingham.


There’s the remains of a Victorian ladies loo in there somewhere!

I had never stopped to wonder where the ladies version of this ornamental restroom would have stood but came across it tucked away behind the gents and completely overgrown and fenced off.


The Victorian gents!

I hear on the grapevine, that the intention might be to used portions of the much more dilapidated ladies loo to restore the more complete gents.


The ornamental structure is Grade 11 listed!

These are Grade 11 listed structures – so such plans will have to be well considered.

Long term B&NES are looking to the public for ideas as to how the restored feature could be used. A novel and useful way to enhance and ensure its survival. A relic from an age when spending a penny meant just that!

Park gate now open at the Holburne

Park gate now open at the Holburne

Bath’s Holburne Museum has unveiled its new look for the cafe terrace and  surrounding garden leading into Sydney Gardens behind this historic building.


The steps down into the Holburne from Sydney Gardens.

The rear gate is now open and the new steps able to be used. The museum has still to lay the remains of a special surface to enable the disabled to use the rear entrance.


The special reinforced grass surface being prepared for wheelchair and pushchair users.

This will enable grass to grow through its patterned surface but provide a tough enough membrane for wheelchair users and pushchairs.


Looking towards the new steps. The garden furniture is to be replaced.

The cafe’s garden furniture is also going to be replaced very soon!


Must end June 5th !Making a real impression – Holburne’s ‘block-buster’ show.

Must end June 5th !Making a real impression – Holburne’s ‘block-buster’ show.

Following on from the record figures Bath’s Victoria Art Gallery enjoyed during its Grayson Perry tapestry exhibition – it’s good to be able to report that the art establishment at the other end of Great Pulteney Street has something to shout about too.

Holburne Museum

The Holburne Museum at the Sydney Gardens end of Great Pulteney Street.

The Holburne Museum is currently in the middle of a run with a special exhibition called ‘Impressionism:Capturing Life‘ – which ends June 5th – and seems to have got it’s own ‘Bath blockbuster’ too!IMG_7887

That’s according to Holburne Museum Director Jennifer Scott who spoke to Bath Newseum today. She also had some news about landscaping work currently underway around the building.


Jennifer has written a booklet to accompany the Impressionism exhibition and l spotted it on sale just outside the entrance to the gallery.P1150444

Had to chuckle because – alongside a display of them – are give-away paint charts from the specialist paint company who supplied the hues used in the gallery as a background to the art work.

Seems a lot of people like the colours so much they want to know where they can buy them for their own homes!



Holburne access unlimited.

Holburne access unlimited.

Seems the reordering and  subsequent landscaping work being carried out in the garden behind the Holburne Museum extension has left some people unclear as to how accessible it will be for those with disabilities.


Looking towards the new steps leading into Sydney Gardens.

There is also concern about whether there will be access to and from Sydney Gardens beyond the museum gate for those with special needs.

The work is being carried out because of the excessive wear and tear being exerted on the grassed area which was becoming both worn and muddy. The job is due to be completed around April 15th.


The white line marks one of the side paths that will be installed.

It is true that a small flight of steps is being constructed leading out into Sydney Gardens but paths will run from either side of the gated entrance – following the line of a pathway that has been determined by footfall over the last couple of years.


An area to the left of the new steps will also be made accessible.

The step up to the gate will also be made accessible on its left-hand side.

A spokesperson for the Holburne told the Virtual Museum: ‘The garden and Museum will be fully accessible for all visitors.

Building work will be finished on site by 15 April after which time we will need to protect new planting so we will need to restrict access to some areas of the garden so it has time to establish itself.

We hope that our visitors will agree that the wait will be worthwhile and we are grateful for their patience while work is completed.’



That sinking feeling.

That sinking feeling.

Back from a week’s holiday and surprised to see Network Rail contractors are still busy doing repairs to the rail bridge over the way up to the Kennet and Avon canal from Grosvenor Bridge.


Can’t have been very pleasant working here in all the recent bad weather.

That’s not to say they are not making a good job of it but it is one indication of why – with so much to do prior to electrification – that things are a little behind.


Contractors still working on the rail bridge beside the canal.

The track up to the towpath is a quagmire and – from what l hear – is on the end of the list of ‘improvements’ being planned for this vital way into town for pedestrians, dog walkers and cyclists.


The state of the path up to the canal is unbelievable!

I was nearly knocked off my bike on the London Road yesterday and want to see safer and more direct ways to get into Bath that don’t involve sitting in a car.


The new layout at the rear of the museum is gradually taking shape.

The weather is making things difficult for landscape contractors working on the garden at the back of the Holburne Museum but the new layout is taking shape.


The Sydney Gardens sink hole. Maybe it would make an additional ‘feature’ on the lawn?

PS. See the Sydney Gardens sink hole is still with us. Stopping to look in – it seems to be much deeper than the original hole that was filled in. Surely this has to have something to do with the natural springs running down the hill in this part of Bath?


Close up of the sink hole and it’s a deep one!


First impressions

First impressions

A portrait of Nina Lopez – one of Renoir’s favourite professional models – has been chosen to represent the Holburne Museum’s new Spring and early Summer exhibition.


Not only does it appear on exterior banners and show publicity and literature but some of the colours used to paint it have been adopted as background hues to set off the works. A bit of help here from Farrow and Ball.


‘A Young Woman Seated’ was originally known as La Pensee or Thought. It was painted at the time of the second and third impressionist exhibitions in 1876 and 1877 to which Renoir was a major contributor.


It’s one of the 28 masterpieces from British public collections brought together to celebrate the Impressionists’ observation of humanity in an exhibition entitled ‘Impressionism Capturing Life.’
The show centres on figurative paintings by some of the artists that exhibited at the first Impressionist exhibition of 1874, including Edgar Degas, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley. Significant loans from, among others, Tate, The National Gallery, London and The Scottish National Gallery feature alongside the Holburne’s works on paper by the important but often overlooked British Impressionist Sir George Clausen, founder-member of the New English Art Club

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It’s been curated by the Bath-based museum’s Director, Jennifer Scott, and l caught up with her while she was taking some of the Holburne’s 300 volunteers helpers on a tour of the exhibition.

She’s pleased and excited to let the public see what has been brought together in this show.


Ticket price includes complimentary audio guide voiced over by Jennifer Scott and eminent artist Stephen Farthing. Young people aged 16 and under get in free! There are concessions for Discovery Card holders.

The exhibition runs from February 13, 2016 – June 5, 2016 all-day. Tickets
£10/ £9 (£8.50/ £7.50 without voluntary contribution)

For more information on all exhibitions http://www.holburne.org


Underneath the arches.

Underneath the arches.


Bridge repairs viewed from the Grosvenor Bridge end.

While we are waiting for work to start on surfacing the path from Grosvenor Bridge onto the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath, there’s plenty of activity involving Network Rail contractors in making repairs to the railway bridge over the pathway and in installing robust fencing alongside the line from this point to the footbridge crossing towards Cleveland Pools.


Repairs underway on the railway bridge over the path leading to the canal.

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Contractors having to wheel fence supports to where the new barrier is being erected.

I also noticed an appeal for volunteers to help with the planting of a new hazel coppice in a paddock beside the newly-fenced railway line.


The rail-side paddock where the hazel coppice will be planted.

It’s all happening on Saturday, February 13th from 9 am. Coppicing is a traditional method of cutting certain tree species on a cycle, thereby obtaining the wood and allowing the stems to re-grown from the base. It apparently promotes bio-diversity and obtains a yield from the woodland without damaging the ecosystem.

Volunteers are needed to help plant 105 hazel saplings to provide a sustainable source of wood in the future. Teas, coffee and food will be provided!
For more information you are asked to contact Nat on 07749984408.


Can you see the white balls along the parapet? All part of the 3D mapping underway in Sydney Gardens.

There’s more Network Rail work going on into Sydney Gardens with contractors mapping out a 3-D image of the Bath-stone wall cladding through this heritage area.

It will help engineers decide where repairs are needed and probably where to hang the pylons for when the high voltage power line finally gets put through this sensitive area.


The grassy area where the bulbs have been planted.

Just an observation to finish this piece with. It was great that so many spring bulbs were planted in Sydney Gardens for early spring flowering, but a shame so many were embedded in the large grass lawn between the railway line and the Holburne Museum.


Broken and crushed daffodils litter the grass.

Free running dogs ( or children?) have broken off many of the emerging flowers.


More broken spring flowers.

Finally, work continues on a new outdoor seating area and pathways to the rear of the Holburne Museum where quite a deep excavation has been made.


It’s quite a major excavation at the back of the Holburne Museum.

The whole rear area has suffered from excessive wear and tear and drainage issues.