Caterpillar tracks

Caterpillar tracks

One of Bath's best known features.

One of Bath’s best known features. Click on images to enlarge.

It’s got to one of the most iconic shapes on the skyline – viewed to one side of the A46 heading out – or back into – Bath on your way to or from the M4.

People around here seem to know this landmark as the Caterpillar. It’s a defined line of fifty plus beech trees that continues to make a visual statement on the horizon – whatever the season.

I remember when l moved to Bath three years ago that l was calling this long-standing feature ‘the soldiers’ until corrected by a local in-the-know!

However, in an effort to look deeper into the origins of these trees, l have discovered that ‘caterpillar’ supporters may not necessarily be on the right track.

The trees stand on the top of Freezing Hill – a great name for a high point with a grand view but one that offers little shelter from winter chill. However, whatever the weather, it’s a vantage point that has been used by man for thousands of years.

Looking down upon one end of the ditch and bank earthwork feature

Looking down upon one end of the ditch and bank earthwork feature

To one end of the line of beeches is an escarpment topped by an Iron Age linear earthwork – a bank with a ditch on either side.

It’s been suggested that this formed part of a civil boundary connected with the earthworks on nearby Tog Hill. It is called the Old Dyke in Saxon charters and appears as Royal Camp on Isaac Taylor map of 1777.

I read on-line that a Neolithic sandstone axe head from Freezing Hill is now in the collection of Kingswood School?

Approaching the caterpillar feature

Approaching the caterpillar feature

Royal Camp is a bit of a clue to a more recent event played out within this  area. during the English Civil War. The Battle of Lansdown in 1643 saw a major confrontation between Parliamentary forces and Royalists troops.

Lansdown Hill, Tog Hill and Freezing Hill were all part of that engagement.

The Mysterious Britain and Ireland website – – tells me that its been suggested that apparitions of 17th century figures have been seen on the hill.

It was all too much for me. I wanted to get up there. With my partner at the wheel, we circled the hill top.

Driving up Freezing Hill Lane – and turning to follow the old Bath Road past the Tracy Park Gold and Country Hotel – but still no obvious way to the top of the hill.

Tracy Park golf course seen through a gap in the beech trees

Tracy Park golf course seen through a gap in the beech trees

We called into Tracy Park where James Tuck – the Head PGA Advanced Professional at the Club – was kind enough to drive me around both courses – looking for a way through to the top of Freezing Hill.

We had no luck but it was quite a trip around the two 18 hold championship courses set in over 240 acres. Echoes of that Civil War battle live on in their names. The more challenging is the Crown Course and the less taxing – the Cromwell.

Driving around the hill again we spotted a farmer manoeuvring his tractor through an open farm gate. Pulling in, we stopped and l went over to ask if we could gain access across his land.

The man l talked to turned out to be Matt Kinder whose family – over the years – can claim four generations of family farming on this land.

Yes we could go through to the trees and no he didn’t know much about them – but maybe his dad Simon could help. He wasn’t around so we walked up to them and took in the amazing view from the top of Freezing Hill.

The view from the top - looking towards Bath

The view from the top – looking towards Bath

It’s a commanding spot with a great sense of history. A special place for others too it would seem as the family – this is land belonging to Tracy Cottage Farm  – have allowed several people to scatter ashes at the foot of several of the beech trees.

Another view from the escarpment of Freezing Hill

Another view from the escarpment of Freezing Hill

There have also been finds of  ‘Anglo-Saxon straps and buckles’ from one of two people allowed onto the land with metal detectors.

We viewed the feature from both sides and managed to get some clear images of the earthwork and take in the view from what has been such a clear vantage point for centuries.

Back home l managed to speak on the telephone with Mr Simon Kidner who told me his family had farmed in the area for four generations – going back to his great-grandfather.

He did not know anything about the origins of the trees but could remember seeing a photograph – taken in the 1920’s – that showed them in situ.

Simon put me onto his dad’s cousin – Mrs Elsie Fishlock – who now lives in nearby Doynton. She is an energetic lady in her early 80’s who clearly remembers playing hide and seek amongst the trees as a little girl.

Elsie told me she knows the landmark ‘ as the toothbrush’ – an image that became more obvious in the early 1990’s when winter gales blew down four giant beeches –  at one end – that have since been replanted.

A makeshift shrine where ashes have been scattered

A makeshift shrine where ashes have been scattered

The land around the trees has changed hands several times in the last couple of hundred years.  The original Tracy Park estate owes its name to a small park formed in the Middle Ages by the Tracy family who were lords of the manor of Doynton from 1246.

Caterpillar and cattle at Tracy Cottage Farm

Caterpillar and cattle at Tracy Cottage Farm

The park – which occupied about 100 acres at the bottom of Freezing Hill – was sold by the Tracys in 1595. The house was built shortly after the sale in the early 17th century.

During the 18th century the property – now 200 acres – was held by a succession of prosperous Bristol tradesmen. In 1856 the Rev Charles Raikes Davy inherited it, bought more land and further enlarged the house.

This was done between 1858 and 1871 when most of the estate walls and buildings were erected.

Until around 1914 the Davy family lived at Tracey Park and at that time it was let to Charles S Clarke who bought the freehold in 1926. His descendants kept the house until 1973 since when it has been a golf and country club and an hotel.

Elsie Fishlock told me she had seen the Tracy Park deeds and those for Tracy Cottage Farm and neither of them show the line of beech trees as a feature on the maps enclosed with them.

According to Elsie the trees were due to come down and be sold for timber at the end of the Second World War but her mother had fought hard to get the then landowner to change his mind.

Nick's studio at the London Road end of Walcot Street.

Nick’s studio at the London Road end of Walcot Street.

So l am still no nearer to knowing who planted the beeches and why. Maybe it is just an accident of fate that a line of trees has just naturally grown into such a landmark feature.

Nick Cudworth

Nick Cudworth

It is certainly one that has captured the imagination of Bath artist Nick Cudworth – who has his studio in Walcot Street.

Nick enjoys international acclaim with paintings and drawing in countless private and public collections around the world.

He is equally well-known for landscapes, still life and portraiture and – locally – for painting the Caterpillar!

Indeed Elsie Fishlock had told me that her family bought her a Cudworth painting of the trees for her 80th birthday!

I went along to Nick’s studio to talk to him about how he first came to notice the beeches on Freezing Hill.












Concern grows for future of the “Min”.

One of Bath’s best-loved Georgian buildings could be about to shut up shop.

With a personal view of developments, Professor George Odam, who was Patient Governor of the RNHRD for nine years until his resignation in August last year, raises his concerns for the building’s future and has his own ideas about how the Min could still play a useful role to enhance the city’s reputation as a health spa.

In 1988 there was a move to relocate The Min to the RUH site in Combe Park and the plans and rationale can be viewed at the Guildhall Archive. Merging the administration of the two hospitals makes good sense, but the identity and mission of both are very different and both need preservation so that they can continue to function. This has been achieved in many other English cities.

However, in 1988 the proposal was to sell The Min and make it into a shopping mall, with a Plan B of a hotel. Since the rebuild of Southgate, the loss of The Podium and the new hotel development in Beau Street, the most likely outcome of the sale of The Min would be a boarded up site that would deteriorate and be subject to vandalism.

But money <strong>is</strong> a central issue and a new campaign to save, recondition and modernise the interior of The Min and restore the Grade 2 exterior would have to be found. There are local, national and private funds for this sort of thing once a case has been well made, and I am certain that many patients, families and friends would wish to support such a venture.

Bath is the only significant and active European Spa City without its own Spa Hospital. In the 1960s and 70s The Min’s hydrotherapy pool was fed by the Roman Spring until the amoeba stopped it all. The conduits still lie beneath the streets.”


<strong>EDITOR</strong> Professor Odam mentioned the launch of Dr Roger Roll’s new book describing the rise of mineral water as a therapy and how treatments in Rheumatology have changed. It will be launched in the Chapel at The Min on Monday, November 26th. It’s a ticket only presentation which is complemented by an exhibition of original 18th century patient records and historical medical artefacts.

<a href=”; rel=”attachment wp-att-481″><img title=”chapel” alt=”” src=”; height=”168″ width=”224″ /></a> The chapel at The Min

Kate Lane and her helpers at the hospital have been putting it  together and l know she wants to develop the display further and hopefully be able to let school groups in to visit. I have asked her to do her own Virtual Museum piece on the subject in the not too distant future!

However, l have been lucky enough to have a sneak preview of some of the exhibits. I love signatures and have had the fantastic opportunity of gazing down at the names of some of the city’s historical ‘greats’ in their own hand writing – including Richard Nash, William Oliver, Ralph Allen and John Wood the Elder. Also some of the earliest patients records in very clear handwriting.

<a href=”; rel=”attachment wp-att-485″><img title=”ralph allen signature” alt=”” src=”; height=”210″ width=”280″ /></a> Clearly ‘Ralph Allen’

<a href=”; rel=”attachment wp-att-486″><img title=”richard nash” alt=”” src=”; height=”168″ width=”224″ /></a> Look down the list for ‘Jo Wood’

<a href=”; rel=”attachment wp-att-483″><img title=”patients report” alt=”” src=”; height=”260″ width=”195″ /></a> Patient records from 1749!

Remember this was a hospital serving the poor of all England and many of them stayed here for many weeks. At the bottom of each entry is a clear indication of whether they had benefitted from their treatment or died!

I loved the collection of badges which had to be worn by patients to identify them as such. One entry records the fact that a patient was turned out for being caught in a local public house. Landlords could be fined for serving patients from the hospital.

<a href=”; rel=”attachment wp-att-482″><img title=”hospital badges” alt=”” src=”; height=”260″ width=”195″ /></a> Collection of ward and patient badges

There is much here that truly deserves to be seen by a wider audience. This ancient institution – England’s first national hospital – is an important part of this city’s history. 2012.

First few steps for Bath Abbey Footprint Project

First few steps for Bath Abbey Footprint Project

Bath Abbey has made two new appointments in the roles of Interpretation Officer and Cataloguing Archivist. Both are newly created positions which will prove key to the Abbey’s Footprint project and have been made possible by funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) as part of their initial support for the Bath Abbey ‘Footprint’ project.

Left to right - Anna Riggs and Oliver Taylor

Left to right – Anna Riggs and Oliver Taylor

Oliver Taylor joins the Abbey full time as the Interpretation Officer. He will be developing and managing the Abbey’s interpretation programme which includes exhibitions, education and learning, as well as activities for visitors.

He will also be working with volunteers to understand how visitors engage with the Abbey and help develop these areas. This work will form an essential part of the Abbey’s Footprint project.

One of Footprint’s key objectives is to provide a new interpretation centre which will inspire and encourage visitors to explore the church building, as well as to help people make connections with the Abbey’s present day activities.

Prior to this, Oliver had been managing the Abbey’s successful Oral History Project: ‘Creating Voices’ over the past 18 months, which captures and records the memories of the many craftsmen and women who have helped care for and restore the Abbey since 1945. Oliver had also previously worked at Gloucestershire archives which tells the story of Gloucester’s pioneering engineering firm Fielding and Platt, manufacturers of Britain’s first vacuum cleaner and the paving slab machines that helped to pave most of the country.

Speaking about his appointment, Oliver, said: “The Abbey has a rich and fascinating history spanning over 1,200 years and remains very much a living church today. The architecture, archives and people, including the stained glass windows, memorial stones and thriving community, are a rich source of inspiration. I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to develop the learning and interpretation programmes that will enable us to tell the story of the Abbey in new and interesting ways in order to engage and inspire others for many years to come.”

The Abbey’s second new appointment which is also being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund is Anna Riggs who takes on the new role of Cataloguing Archivist. Anna will be working on the Abbey’s extensive archives using new collections management software to ensure it is all catalogued to industry standards. Anna’s work will also support the Abbey Archivist’s role and provide research and material that will feed into the interpretation programme being developed by the Interpretation Officer.

Anna brings over 15 years experience in the field. She had previously worked at the University of Bristol on the digitisation of the Brunel Collection and cataloguing and reorganising many other collections, particularly the University’s institutional archives and papers relating to the history of music. She has also worked at Birmingham City Archives on a project called ‘Connecting Histories’, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which explored the history of multicultural Britain through an extensive programme of archive cataloguing, research, and community outreach.

Speaking about her appointment Anna Riggs said: “I’m delighted to be joining the Abbey at such an exciting time. Although I have just started my role, I am already realising the sheer number of records the Abbey holds, and how important these are to the hundreds of thousands of people connected to the Abbey. They can be used to tell really interesting stories about individuals who at some point were part of the Abbey’s community, from being baptised to being buried here, or whether they were a member of clergy or sung in the Choir.”

Charles Curnock, Footprint Project Director at Bath Abbey, said: “I’m delighted to welcome both Oliver and Anna to the team at Bath Abbey in these new posts, and grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for their support which has enabled us to take another step forward in the Footprint project. We are really looking forward to the next 12 months in particular and seeing the results of Anna and Oliver’s hard work. ”

A word in your ear

A word in your ear

Thousands of people take stories out of Bath & North East Somerset Council libraries – now the library wants residents to bring stories to them.

Bath Central Library

Bath Central Library

Bath Central Library

Bath Central Library

This year the Library Service is teaming up with A Word in Your Ear and Kilter for its annual writing competition. Once again it is kindly sponsored by The Bath Chronicle.

The theme is noir. That could be a classic story; sinister, moody, perhaps with a twisting narrative and set in shadowy underworlds. Or it could be influenced by contemporary Scandinavian Noir.

The competition is free to enter and open to all adults. It is now open and you can submit your story as soon as you like. The winning stories will be read at the Story Fridays event on 7 November at Burdall’s Yard, Bath. There are book token prizes of £20 and £10.

Cllr David Dixon, Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods (Lib Dem, Oldfield), said: “The annual short story competition from Bath & North East Somerset Council’s library service has always proved popular.

“We all know how popular Scandinavian Noir is – perhaps this will kickstart some Somerset Noir.”

There is a maximum word count of 2,000 words and remember that this competition is for stories written for reading out so bear this in mind when you are writing. The closing date for entries is Wednesday 22 October.

Hand in your entry at any Bath & North East Somerset Council library attaching an entry form, these are available at all libraries, or submit it on the Word in Your Ear website at

There is also information on the library events web page at

Don’t fade away.

Don’t fade away.

The former Strada restaurant - now changing hands.

The former Strada restaurant – now changing hands. Click on any image to enlarge.

This Georgian building – alongside Bath’s Theatre Royal, was the place where the city’s famous Master of Ceremonies Beau Nash was living at the time of his death in 1761.

He had been in very reduced circumstances for some years after Parliament outlawed the gambling games which had provided his income. He had also been in the care of his mistress Juliana Popjoy.

The weather-worn board telling the story of Beau Nash and Juliana Popjoy

The weather-worn board telling the story of Beau Nash and Juliana Popjoy

You can read all about it on a sign-written board outside – which l assume was put there by Popjoy’s Restaurant – a more recent occupant.

It’s a feature tourists stop to take in but time and weather has taken its toll and – unless the board is re-done – its information is going to be lost.

The building has currently been home to a branch of the Strada chain of Italian-style restaurants but that is closing from Monday, September 1st.

A spokesman from Tragus, the parent company that owns the chain, said the closure was part of a company restructure.

Raphael bar and restaurant

Raphael bar and restaurant

He said the restaurant had been sold to an independent operator but was unable to confirm how many jobs would be lost.

In June Zolfo Cooper was appointed to act as advisors to Tragus for the restructure. Tragus owns 56 Strada restaurants across the country. It also owns the chains Café Rouge and Bella Italia.

Well l can update the story because it is my understanding the new owner is Bath businessman and restauranteur Kambiz Shayegan who happens to also own the Raphael restaurant and bar – just across the Sawclose.

I have been told he’s re-employing Strada staff too.

I am trying to ask Mr Sahyegan if he might consider getting the Beau Nash board re-done.

I am hoping he might think it a nice gesture as part of whatever re-fit he carries out. The Virtual Museum wishes him luck with his new venture. Watch this space.


Out to dazzle at Bath’s Victoria Gallery

Out to dazzle at Bath’s Victoria Gallery

Bath based artist John Eaves has a new exhibition at Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Victoria Art Gallery from Saturday, September 6th. John Eaves: Small Beginnings will run until until 23 November 2014.
Jon Benington, Manager at the Council-run gallery commented: “These vibrant compositions in paint, crayon and collage will dazzle the viewer in this show by one of our most distinguished local artists.” This exhibition mounted by Bath & North East Somerset Council demonstrates Eaves’ continuing concerns with landscape sources, from geological strata and trees to glowing sunsets. These ‘beginnings’ formed the basis for larger studio improvisations.

John Eaves, Split Decision, oil on canvas, 2011

John Eaves, Split Decision, oil on canvas, 2011

Eaves is well known locally as an artist and musician and the rhythms and colours of his paintings reflect his love of jazz, which is always playing in his studio.
He was born in 1929 and trained at the Bath Academy of Art between 1949 and 1952 and went on to work as Course Director for part-time courses in the visual arts at Bath College of Higher Education between 1958 and 1985.

He is a member of the Royal West of England Academy.
The theme linking all works in the show is that of vivid, boldly applied colour. As the artist has commented: “The images I make now run parallel to nature rather than rely on direct observations or reminiscences. Echoes and sonorities of landscape will inevitably persist, but above all, if the paintings succeed, I hope they breathe optimism.”
John Eaves’ work reminds us that our relationship to colour is primal: an original and constant sympathy. There is no concerted effort to represent; but the desire to express formal arrangements is striking. He takes inspiration from Emil Nolde’s mythically-inflected North German landscapes with their elemental paradoxes of colour, and Paul Cezanne for the relationship between forms.
John Eaves has exhibited throughout Great Britain and Germany. His paintings are in both national and private collections, notably the Arts Council, Bristol City Art Gallery and the city of Braunschweig, Germany. In 1966 he was awarded the first Churchill Fellowship as a painter and received a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship in 1986.
In 1985 Eaves produced a painting called ‘Blue Spreading’ which Ikea turned into a best-selling poster in 1991 and more than 45,000 copies were sold. In this new exhibition, all exhibits are for sale.

Modern Masters in Print

Modern Masters in Print

This autumn Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Victoria Art Gallery will be hosting an exhibition of prints from some of the most famous artists from the 20th century.

Modern Masters in Print runs from Saturday September 6 – Sunday November 23, 2014, and will explore the printed work of four of the 20th century’s greatest artists: Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol.


Andy Warhol, Untitled from Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn), screen-print on paper, 1967. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Victoria and Albert Museum, London and DACS, 2014

Andy Warhol, Untitled from Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn), screen-print on paper, 1967. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Victoria and Albert Museum, London and DACS, 2014

The touring exhibition has been curated by the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Gill Saunders, Senior Curator of Prints at the V&A.
Each artist used the print in his own way.

For Matisse and Picasso, printmaking was one of the many artistic media they employed. They used it to explore themes and motifs from other areas of their work.
For Dalí, printmaking was an exercise in experimentation, and through it he developed many imaginative new processes. Warhol’s prints were his primary means of expression and central to his body of work. His screen-prints based on mass-produced images challenged the concept of the ‘original’ print.

Together these four artists spanned a 75-year period that saw the birth of the modern age. They covered a wide range of techniques, and their work represents one of the most creative and diverse periods of printmaking in the history of western art.

Councillor Ben Stevens, Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development, said: “We’re proud to be hosting such a prestigious exhibition which brings together four of the greats of modern art. This is a show for all those interested in 20th century art and an opportunity to compare and contrast their achievements.”

Tickets cost £3.50 with concessions. There will be a lunchtime talk every Thursday from 12.30-1.10pm which will be free to ticket holders.

The Victoria Art Gallery is open from Tuesday – Saturday from 10am – 5pm and Sundays 1.30pm – 5pm. It is closed on Mondays.

New Director for Holburne Museum

New Director for Holburne Museum

The Trustees of Bath’s Holburne Museum have announced the appointment of Jennifer Scott to succeed Alexander (Xa) Sturgis as Director.

The Holburne's new Director Jennifer Scott, Photograph Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

The Holburne’s new Director
Jennifer Scott, Photograph Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Jennifer comes from Royal Collection Trust where she has been a curator since 2004. Prior to this she worked at the National Gallery, London and National Museums, Liverpool. Jennifer has curated a number of major exhibitions for The Queen’s Galleries in London and Edinburgh, The Bowes Museum County Durham and The Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels.
Jennifer gained her BA and MA at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Her publications include books on Royal Portraiture and Dutch and Flemish Art. Jennifer became a welcome and familiar face when she worked with the Holburne team on one of the Museum’s most popular exhibitions ‘Rembrandt and his Contemporaries: Paintings from the Royal Collection’ in 2013.

Richard Fleck, Chairman of the Holburne Trustees said: ‘We are delighted to announce Jennifer’s appointment as Director of the Holburne Museum. Jennifer has the energy, imagination and leadership to succeed Xa Sturgis and ensure the continued success of the Museum as it moves to the next stage of its development.’

Jennifer Scott said: ‘After ten happy years at Royal Collection Trust, I am excited to be appointed as Director of the Holburne Museum. Xa Sturgis has led the museum with ambition and flair through its spectacular renovation. I look forward to working with the team of staff, volunteers and trustees to continue this momentum, building on the Holburne’s reputation for cultural excellence.’