A sunshine tour.

A sunshine tour.

The hottest April day since 1949 and some good news amidst the sunshine.



Welcome back!


The fountain in Laura Place is back in action after the installation of a new pump. It’s the only real fountain the city has and – just like what is left of Mr Pieroni’s architectural offering on Bog Island – is in need of some long-term tender love and care.

Both fountains need real money spent on them or – long term – they will be lost.

Back to the good news. I have been gently chiding Garfunkel’s Restaurant – on the ground floor of the Empire Hotel – about their exterior planting troughs full of plastic flowers.

Somehow it seemed ironic to me that they should be there when just across the road was a riverside park which has constantly won awards for its living blooms.


Now you see them.

Bath seems to have more success in saying it with flowers – thanks to an overstretched and under-funded parks department – than it does with celebrating its waters.

IMG_7683 2

Now you don’t!

But back to the restaurant where – l am pleased to say – the artificial flowers are gone. The manager tells me he is looking to source some living plants to go outside his restaurant. At last! It will help make his business bloom!


The area between the two eight-storey​ buildings is gradually​​y being transformed into a​ riverside park.

Good to see the new riverside park taking shape as part of the Crest development down by Victoria Bridge.


Royal View with Sovereign Point – still under construction – beyond.

Whatever you think of the new eight-storey apartment blocks – taking shape on the riverbank – it’s fair to say Bath has not seen anything like them before.


The photography exhibition by David Molina Gadea in the Holburne Museum Garden.

Back into town and the Holburne Museum cafe-goers are sharing their garden space with an exhibition of photographs called The Long Way Home which reflects on the long journey that refugees across the world undertake when they decide to leave their homes in pursuit of a new place to call “home”.


These contemporary ‘monoliths’ are part of the photographic exhibition by David Molina Gadea who is a member of the Portuguese agency of photojournalism. They make a striking sight in the museum garden.

It’s a striking display with a strong message.


Who has set up camp in Sydney Gardens? The tepees are part of a ‘corporate event’ being held here on Friday, April 20th. B&NES is looking to get more revenue from its parks but – somehow – it’s a bit of an affront to the people who use this public space that part of it is being ‘denied’ to them. Even on a temporary basis.

Into Sydney Gardens, where three large tepees have been erected for what l was told, was a ‘corporate event’ today – Friday, April 20th. The cash-strapped Council is obviously out to extract more commercial value from its parks – and cannot be blamed for that. l just feel its a temporary denial of public space for the benefit of a private enterprise. I am not aware of any notices going up to warn of the event.


A bit of a tidy up

Onto the towpath and finally, the Canal and River Trust is removing the growing rubbish heap that had been created in and around a bag of grit that had been left on the grass verge by the path down to Grosvenor Bridge.

The Trust doesn’t provide proper rubbish bins and so – maybe – you can’t blame people for looking for somewhere to put litter. It’s one of the reasons we find so many discarded dog poo bags on the towpath too.


I am always full of admiration for the one-man team B&NES employs to keep the city clear of graffiti. Caught him at work on Grosvenor Bridge. The horrid concrete replacement for what was a fine suspension bridge that disappeared many years ago.

Finally – across Grosvenor Bridge – where the one-man-band that is the city’s Graffiti Unit was hard at work removing more evidence of this urban blight. It’s a spot from where l have often stopped to photograph a half-submerged tree up-river of the bridge on the Avon.


There’s life in that old river tree yet!

It’s bare branches look stark in the winter. I often wonder how long it will be before what is left of its roots gives way and the tree is carried off during the next rain-induced flood surge. Yet here – on this sunny morning – one of its branches was covered in new growth. Takes a lot to make Nature lose her grip.






What is it about all these ‘offerings’ being made to the “Dog Poo Fairy?”

I cycle through Sydney Gardens on a regular basis. Last week there was a bagged bundle just inside the  Sydney Road entrance. It disappeared in time but there was another one in its place today.


A little offering – just inside the park entrance.

It’s not as though the park doesn’t contain doggie poo bins – because it does and most dog owners use it.


Today’s ‘offering’ in roughly the same place.

I never blame a dog for misdemeanours. After all, it’s the owner who has to take responsibility.

It’s a shame some parts of Sydney Gardens have just become a playground for dogs off their leads. Even the poor old spring daffodils have been taking a battering from our four-legged friends running wild.

IMG_7377 2

Trampled daffs!

Here’s hoping this historic green lung gets its HLF money and its supporters are able to transform it into a revitalised playground with allocated space for all.

Sydney Gardens gives you access to the towpath of the Kennet and Avon Canal. Turn left towards open countryside and you are in for a real treat.


The snow has gone now and the canalside looks even worse!

Shame the Canal and River Trust has no real teeth to deal with some of those actually floating on the canal.

Not for me to say how you live your lives but when your rubbish despoils and destroys the canal verge – where others living in tents have also lit fires – it’s time to move on.


The grit bag is full of rubbish – and there’s a pile of black bags alongside it now!

Never mind the dog poo fairy, here’s a bag of towpath grit being used as a general rubbish dump!

l feel for the responsible users of this amazing heritage and for the volunteers who do all they can to maintain it.

Just what is living in the temple attic?

Just what is living in the temple attic?

There’s always something going on in historic Sydney Gardens. This time the action is within Minerva’s Temple – built to promote Bath at the Empire Exhibition held in the Crystal Palace in 1911 – and then re-erected here a few years later to commemorate the Bath Historical Pageant.

The landmark building has fallen on hard times – as has the rest of this former Georgian pleasure ground – but l chanced upon two people with a head for heights. They’d erected a ladder to get them up to the loft.

IMG_6911 2

The ladder into the loft!

The access cover disappeared many years ago and now that roof space appears to have become home to some rather interesting nocturnal flying mammals.

Working for Avon Wildlife – these enthusiastic naturalists have been installing a device to detect bat movements and get some idea of how much the space is being used throughout the year.

The Friends of Sydney Gardens are in the process of preparing an HLF submission – which will go in around August time – in the hope of getting funds to revitalise what has become little more than a dog park.

Obviously, the temple will feature in their plans.

Meanwhile, l am sure canal walker are familiar with what looks like a mini rockery to one side of the Kennet and Avon wall as it passes through Sydney Gardens.


Bath’s open-air stalagmite.

Knowling how ‘hard’ Bath spring water is you will not be surprised to hear that the water flowing into the canal is an overflow from a reservoir of natural spring water under the grounds above.

The rocky formation is Bath’s open-air stalagmite. A build-up of calcium deposits over many, many years!

While the environment around it is being enthusiastically ‘cleaned up’ by volunteers working for the Canal and River Trust – it’s good to know this little bit of geological history will NOt be touched.


Canal clean up – first phase completed!

Canal clean up – first phase completed!

If – like me – you are a regular user of Sydney Gardens you may have notice volunteers – working for the Canal and River Trust – have been busy removing tons of mud from abutments leading towards the ‘Sabrina head’ tunnel.

To be more precise they’ve  been out on the waters of the Kennet and Avon Canal with a massive floating grabber – and it’s made quite a difference.


The buckets removing tons of clay from where it had been tipped.

In a separate story – elsewhere on the site – volunteer Ian Herve explains how they are trying to return the stretch through the gardens to how it would have looked on its original completion.

But today – Wednesday, February 7th – he tells me:

“The first phase is over.
CRT work-boat, the “Chew Valley” with the enthusiastic support of the Bath volunteer group and their work-boat “HINTON” have removed, over the last 5 days, an estimated 90 tonnes of clay from in front of the “Sabrina” tunnel facade.

You can just see the cleared abutment to the left of the Sabrina Head tunnel.

Two yew stumps that have been cluttering the view near the southern footbridge for the last few years have also been taken from the site and left to decay in a less intrusive spot.
IMG_6917 2

The cleared abutment – alongside the footbridge – from which the two yew stumps have been removed.

Comparing the view as seen in Nash’s 1927 painting, which shows some deposits already in place, I think we can say that this wonderful facade has not been seen like this for at least 100 years.
We will now let the area dry out for a few months and then begin the recovery of the stonework.  This in consultation with CRT’s Heritage advisors.

The volunteers had to remove vegetation growing on top before attacking the mud pile.



How it looks now it has been cleared.


This is, I think, a great example of how CRT and their volunteers combine to take on work that would not be done otherwise.”

Most of the mud piles were left over from the restoration work done in the late 70’s and 80’s which re-opened John Rennie’s87-mile long waterway – originally built between 1794 and 1810.

Should we let the ‘ad men’ into Bath’s parks?

Should we let the ‘ad men’ into Bath’s parks?

Being driven through Bristol recently l was only able to get a quick snap of a protest sign that has gone up in Haymarket ‘bearpit’ which is trying to gain public support against a proposal to allow advertising in city parks.


Part of the protest board on the Haymarket in Bristol.

Would we entertain a similar scheme in Bath to try and raise much-needed revenue for our cash-strapped local authority? There’s already talk of sponsored litter-bins. I wouldn’t mind that if it means they get emptied on a more regular basis.

sydney gardens

MInerva’s Temple – brought from the Empire Exhibition at the Crystal Palace and re-erected here in 1913-14.


Big posters inside the Sydney Gardens temple might stop endless graffiti appearing on its ‘labouring’ walls. While canal side advertising might attract attention from boat people and walkers and help pay for maintenance work?

canal sydney gardens gate

The Kennet and Avon through Sydney Gardens.

Certainly, the litter bins could be sponsored by pet food manufacturers as dog owners are one of the biggest users of city parks.


A bin outside Hedgemead Park.

I am being deliberately provocative to spark discussion. Over to you!?


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.


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.

Screen Shot 2018-01-18 at 13.21.52

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.


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.


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



Buddleia versus Brunel.

Buddleia versus Brunel.

Elsewhere on Bath Newseum l have drawn attention to the state of the stone balustrade on the Grand Parade side of Pulteney Bridge.

It’s weed-infested – as this view through the bridge cafe window shows all to well.


Here’s the view – looking through the cafe window.

Richard Lucking has come through to remind me that there is another iconic site in the city where Nature is getting the better of  man-made things.


The ‘greening’ of Brunel’s retaining wall throuogh Sydney Gardens.

Pop into Sydney Gardens and look at Brunel’s magnificent railway cutting through the park.


A fine display of buddleia and other plants.

Richard says: “The “Network Rail” approach to these things? Wait for the roots to damage things so much you have to completely rebuild!”


The main line to London through Sydney Gardens.

It’s true to say parts of the stone retaining wall might feel at home within the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

A spokesperson for Network Rail has now told Bath Newseum:

“We are aware of the build-up of vegetation in Sydney Gardens and a staged approach will be delivered to clear it.

This work follows the recent timber deck renewal on the Brunel footbridge in the Gardens. Soon to also be completed will be the retaining walls, which will include de-vegetation works and minor stonework repairs.”