A sunshine tour.

A sunshine tour.

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

 

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

New pump for Laura Place​ fountain​

New pump for Laura Place​ fountain​

It’s official. The reason why the fountain in Laura Place is not operating. It needs a new pump.

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Filled but not functioning?

I bumped into the contractors filling the bowl as part of the fountain’s recommissioning after its winter isolation. Come time to flick the switch and nothing happened.

It needs a new pump. As far as Bath Newseum is concerned it needs a kind sponsor to spend some money on what is a slowly disintegrating poor excuse of a spectacle to help celebrate this city of waters.

I will try and let you know when the fountain is working again. In the meantime, a reminder of what it looks like in action!

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tap us up!

Tap us up!

About 50 Bath businesses have so far signed up for a water bottle refill scheme to help cut down on the use of single-use plastic bottles.

Refill is a national, practical tap water campaign that aims to make refilling your bottle as easy, convenient and cheap as possible by introducing refill points on every street.IMG_7319

Bath and North East Somerset Council is supporting the Refill scheme and its café at the One Stop shop in Lewis House, in Manvers Street, is the first council venue to be added as a refill station.

Meanwhile, stickers are appearing in the local shops and cafes promoting the scheme which also uses an app to help you find the Refill Stations and collect reward points every time you refill.

Refill Bath co-ordinator Vipul Patel, is working with volunteers to promote the campaign aimed at reducing plastic pollution and promoting health hydration by making refilling a bottle of water easy.

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Saw this poster in Rosarios in Northumberland Place .

Recycling your bottles is good but reducing the number you use is even better – here in the UK an estimated 800 plastic bottles a minute are either ending up in landfill or as litter, which too often makes its way into our waterways and out to sea.*

Councillor Bob Goodman (Conservative Combe Down) cabinet member for development and neighbourhoods, said: “We welcome this scheme because it is part of a commitment to discourage and hopefully eradicate single-use plastic bottles which we all know are a significant environmental issue. It is great that already around 50 Bath businesses have signed up to provide free tap water for anyone who wants to refill their bottles and I hope many more will join the Refill scheme.”

In the UK, we use a staggering 36 million plastic bottles every day – that’s 13 billion a year – enough to go around the world 31 times – but we recycle only 58% of them.

There are now more than 5,700 Refill points around the UK. For more information about the scheme and to find out about the app go to

https://www.refill.org.uk and as RefillBath on Twitter and Facebook

Find out more about plastic www.bathnes.gov.uk/plastic

What happened to Bath’s planned water fountains?

What happened to Bath’s planned water fountains?

A new network of drinking fountains and bottle-refill points is set to be rolled out across London – according to a report in the Guardian newspaper – in an effort to reduce the amount of waste created by single-use plastic.

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Part of the Guardian article.

Reminded me of a similar scheme launched in Bath back in 2012 – though we only managed one fountain across the road from Bath City College – and that was taken away.

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Th one and only water fountain to be installed back in 2012. It was later removed.

The Bath scheme –  l seem to remember – was a community-led project called Love Tap Water. It was set up by three women who thought this ‘city of waters’ should have drinking fountains so that tourists and residents alike could refresh themselves – without having to buy a plastic bottle full of water.

 

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What was planned for Bath back in 2012. It never happened?

 

They were going to install ten ‘watering holes’ through Wessex Water – with the support of Sir James Dyson who was going to design a reusable stainless steel drinking bottle.

It never happened? Why?

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

 

 

Sunshine, water & cycles!

Sunshine, water & cycles!

We’ll get to the water in a moment, but first let’s talk bikes.

What is it with the cycle hoops outside Bath’s Guildhall. Do the two bolts holding them in place snap or work free? We seem to have lost another two.

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A diminishing number of bike stands outside the Guildhall.

While they may be aesthetically pleasing, these two wheel parking ‘posts’ are not up to the job. When are they going to be replaced with something that is?

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Two missing bike hoops outside the Guildhall.

Meanwhile, with the spring sunshine we enjoyed over the week-end it was good to see our river cruisers out and doing great business on the River Avon.

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Looking down on a cruise boat from Grosvenor Bridge.

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Plenty of customers for the up river cruise.

While trips upstream from Pulteney Weir are well known to me, l was pleased to see you can now float downstream on a lunchtime cruise that’ll take you to the Boathouse pub and back.

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A cruise down river leaving from Bath Quays.

You climb on board from a riverside path – alongside the new Bath Quays development – where the bank has been re-shaped and re-planted as part of a new flood defence scheme that is also seeing new flood barrier walls on the other Lower Bristol Road bank.

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The new flood barrier wall being installed.

Check out www.RiverAdventures.co.uk for more information.

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Newly planted trees are already in leaf.

The new saplings they have planted at Bath Quays seem to have taken with fresh green foliage appearing as the new riverside ‘park’ takes shape – one which – hopefully – will  include the retention of an 18th century footbridge found during archaeological work on the site.

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The remains of the 18th century bridge lie under black plastic.

While on the subject of water, it’s great to see the humble little Laura Place fountain back in action and raising the spirits with it’s sparkling display of sunlight fused with cascading water. A quick clip snatched with an iPhone.

What a shame more recent developments like Southgate and Brunel Square – down by the rail station – had not thought of a water feature to help emphasise the fact that this city’s fortunes revolve around its waters – both hot and cold.

And – as we were also talking trees – this is a good place to end with an email from John Houghton.

“I don’t know if you have seen what has been done to the willows outside the old Herman Miller factory opposite Lidl (where I worked one summer in 1972 when it was the original Herman Miller factory) Someone has done a really good job of trimming and shaping the trees.’

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The pruned willows looking great on the riverbank.

He sent me an image he took from the nearby footbridge.

‘Definitely something to celebrate, I think?’, he says.

Always good to do that John.