Monday, 15 June 2015

It's past our Bath time

The ruined St Mary's Church at Bathwick
There are only so many ways you can walk into Bath from the canal and only so many things to see and do – unless you have the budget to visit the multiplicity of smart looking wine bars and restaurants. Which, sadly, we don't.
So after five days in and around the city it was time to move on. We haven't come far, geographically, just four miles up the canal to Claverton but we could be a hundred miles away.
The difference is extraordinary; we are buried deep in a steeply wooded valley through which run, closely bunched, the canal, railway and River Avon. It's sublimely rural; just the occasional toot of the train as it nears a pedestrian rail crossing and glimpses of pale stone houses among the trees. And yet, walk a mile up the steep hillside and there is the edge of the city for all we have done is loop round a long, long turn.
Carefully conserved with wild planting and subtle pathways
But there were a few last things to do and see before we left Bath. The most delightful was a complete surprise as we wandered round side streets on a haphazard alternative track to the usual route to the city centre.
The ruins of St Marys Church, Bathwick and its redundant graveyard have been turned into a carefully managed wilderness. A contradiction in terms perhaps but the wild flowers, grasses, bushes and trees that grow among the crumbling headstones are, if one wants to be poetic, a sort of heavenly vision of nature's ability to reclaim man's world – without the hell of brambles, nettles and rampant weeds. It's all been made possible thanks to Heritage Lottery money, skilled conservation and volunteer effort. There's a subtle footpath through between the graves, many of which have been identified and marked, and even a leaflet to guide you. Worth a visit if you find your way to Henrietta Road while wandering in or out of Bath.
Straight from East Berlin to Bath, the Hilton blockhouse
An utter contrast was the man-made hell that is the huge Hilton Hotel; a piece of Stalinist brutalism that would probably have been regarded as ugly even in East Germany. And to think that American tourists visiting Bath for the Georgian splendour stay at this abortion. Have they no taste? (Don't answer that!)
Eccentric ware and headwear at Green Park
Last port of call was Green Park Market, housed in the splendid arched structure that was the old Green Park station. A farmers' market and a miscellany of stall holders from eccentric to expensive kept us occupied on our final shopping visit.
Carefully conserved too, a wooden canal cruiser
And as we left Bathampton we passed another piece of careful conservation (though without the help of lottery funding), a wooden hulled narrow boat – an early example of a purpose made canal pleasure boat rather than a modified ex-working craft. It's a 40 footer, built by Dobsons of Shardlow in 1967.

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