Little booklet giving gulls the bird!

Little booklet giving gulls the bird!

With so much local debate about the ‘seagull menace’ l was interested to pick up and read a booklet Bath and North East Somerset Council has produced called ‘Urban Gulls: How to stop them nesting on your roof’. It is freely available from the Council’s ‘one-stop shop’ in Manvers Street.

I do not live in the centre of the city and my roof – on the edge of the Woolley Valley – is not a nesting ground for gulls. However, l do feel for residents and businesses who have to deal with the mess from birds setting up home on their rooftops.

Photographs © Peter Rock

Photographs © Peter Rock

The booklet describes how spikes, wires and netting can be used to stop the gulls from settling in – and dummy eggs to fool them if they do –  but it was the general information about our resident gull population that l found most interesting.

The booklet has been produced in partnership with the Gloucestershire Gull Action Group – so l assume a lot of the information has come from them – but did you know it is reckoned that there are over 1,000 breeding pairs of seagulls within the B&NES area.

The booklet says there was a 5.8% increase in the gull population between 2011 and 2012 in the district – with the main increases seen in the suburbs. However the central wards of Abbey, Kingsmead and Widcombe, still have the highest concentration.

While they might just be gulls to you and me, the two species making Bath their home are actually called the Herring gull (Larus argentatus) and the Lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus).

Apparently there are a number of reasons why gulls are attracted to urban areas but , in the case of our two varieties, they are here to breed.

Photographs © Peter Rock

Photographs © Peter Rock

Rooftops provide excellent nesting sites with protection from the elements and – of course –  is well out of the way of predators likes foxes and rodents. The availability of food in the surrounding countryside and from landfill sites means that the survival rate of young chicks is very high.

I was surprised to read the next bit of information. I quote: ‘Although they will take food from discarded rubbish in streets and parks, this is not considered to be a significant factor for their success within urban areas.’

Now l find that one difficult to believe as everywhere l seem to have witnessed gulls pecking their way through flimsy rubbish sacks, but can only pass onto you what l read.

Photographs © Peter Rock

Photographs © Peter Rock

It seems adult birds – 3 years and older – having once bred in a town or city will generally return to the same colony year after year and often to the same nesting site.

‘New recruits (those breeding for the first time) will find a new site and come to the district from as far away as South Wales and Devon,’ says the booklet.

Mating activity starts in February when birds start identifying nesting sites. Courting takes care of March and then April sees nest-building and egg laying.  All of this happening above our heads with little impact on us.

It all changes in June when the eggs start to hatch and the parents get down to constant feeding demands. Worse is to come in July and August when the chicks become wandering fledglings. Concerned and protective parents turn aggressive with young chicks falling out of nests and roaming the streets.

Photographs © Peter Rock

Photographs © Peter Rock

By the end of the summer the colony begins to disperse and things quieten down until the next breeding season.

Seems we must understand these gulls are colonial by nature and find it easier to breed in a large group. Birds on the outer limits of this concentrated nursery – or those in satellite colonies – are highly vulnerable and will tend to be those nesting for the first time.

It’s here when preventative measures in making life difficult for the newcomers can pay real dividends.

‘If they are left and become established on your roof, it will become almost impossible to move them on,’ says the booklet. ‘A little forethought in designing-out obvious nesting sites or installing preventative measures can pay significant dividends in later years.’

The booklet goes into detail in suggesting ways of deterring a roof-top gull invasion and you will have to pick up a copy to read the detail. I just wanted to add that it is explained that generally it is illegal to capture, injure or destroy any wid bird or interfere with its nest or eggs.

‘However, general licences issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) allow measures to be taken against certain species of birds on grounds which include the preservation of public health or public safety.’

There is always an opt-out clause in English Law?! Of course public health and safety would benefit from sorting out our rubbish problem within the city centre. More covered litter bins and regular and  effective ‘joined-up’ refuse collections  might reduce the amount of ‘pavement food’ on display.IMG_4028

Businesses can benefit apparently from a seagull egg replacement scheme operated by the Pest Control Service in Lewis House, Manvers Street. Ring 01225 477563 or 477551. You can email via

New – but temporary – Bath Abbey screen

New – but temporary – Bath Abbey screen

IMG_4419 Work on lifting a section of the floor within Bath Abbey has moved on a pace.

A proper wooden screen has now been erected but with a viewing panel and explanatory signage to let visitors know what is happening. IMG_4423

This is a trial area to see how well under floor heating – using the city’s thermal waters – might work.

First a whole section of memorial tablets have had to be cleared – having been carefully recorded and then lifted.

Seems the Victorians had already disturbed some of the burials when large water pipes were laid for central heating in the 19th century.IMG_4425

The Abbey is ensuring any remains found in this already intruded upon floor will be carefully collected for a respectful re-burial afterwards.

Find out more about Bath Abbey’s exciting plans at the top of today’s page.


Green flag flying over Bath

A  Bath cemetery is one of 42 parks and open spaces across the West to have qualified for coveted Green Flag awards.

Haycombe cemetery, administered by Bath and North East Somerset, is one of six winners in the council’s administration. The other sites are Alexandra, Royal Victoria, Springfield and Keynsham Memorial Parks – plus the Silver Street local nature reserve.

Royal Victoria Park, Bath

Royal Victoria Park, Bath

Across the country, Keep Britain Tidy has awarded the accolade to more than 1,400 spaces.

From Cheltenham to Swindon, Dorset to Gloucester, North Somerset to the Vale of the White Horse, South Somerset to Stroud there are spaces that are providing beauty to the eye and havens for wildlife.

Keep Britain Tidy’s Green Flag Awards programme manager Paul Todd said: “It’s another record-breaking year for the Green Flag Awards and this is something well worth celebrating.

“The parks sector is facing some tough challenges, particularly with the cuts, so it is heartening to see that they are committed to maintaining and improving standards in our nation’s green space.”

Get together for gear makers



 A reunion for employees of the famous Bath engineering firm of Hygate is being held at the Museum of Bath at Work in Julian Road, Bath. It’s on Friday, August the 9th.

10015Hygate closed down in 2000 after manufacturing in the city, under various names since 1914. Following the closure, the former Technical Director, John Hobbs, became the collection point for company memorabilia.10020

During a recent social get together with other employees, it was decided that the best home for the records was the Museum of Bath at Work, in order that photographs, works plans, former employee lists, company bulletins and various bits of hardware could be viewed by future generations.10060

John Hobbs commented ‘It will be a wonderful opportunity for a re-union, talking over old times whilst reminiscing about colleagues from the past and shared experiences, if anyone can add to the collection and could bring something along on the evening, that would be appreciated.’

A selection of archive and artifacts will be on display at the Museum from 7 p.m on August 9th and for more details about the event please contact Stuart Burroughs at the Museum of Bath at Work on 01225 318348.

The day that the rains came down!

The day that the rains came down!

The lawns at the Holbourne Museum under water!

The lawns at the Holburne Museum under water!

My partner took this while sheltering under the entrance to the Holburne Museum at the far end of Great Pulteney Street during a thunderstorm today!

Earlier this morning  l had joined fellow Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides and members of the public on a special walk given by Training Committee member Sue Trude during which we looked at public sculptures and reliefs.IMG_4404

Other specials are being offered this week – aside from the normal daily tours – and more information is available on‎ Do remember – all tours are free!

The normal Abbey entrance is closed.

The normal Abbey entrance is closed.

Also bear in mind with work starting on lifting a section of floor within Bath Abbey that the entrance has been moved to ensure the safety of visitors. Look out for signs.IMG_4399

Also look out for wet paint and pity the painters doing the Abbey drainpipes in weather like like we are experiencing today!

Fun runs but the route marking left-overs are not amusing.

Fun runs but the route marking left-overs are not amusing.

Dodging the showers tonight – with friends – for a walk out to Bathampton and a drink at the Mill before heading back to Larkhall.

IMG_4379Now l know a lot of people put an awful amount of effort into organising and competing in so-called charity runs but l do wish people would clear up afterwards.IMG_4380

Everywhere through the village is evidence of lengths of tied tape, plastic road signs and – even worse – arrows that appear to have been sprayed on pavements using a substance the rain is not washing away.

IMG_4378 It’s  almost vandalism folks.

Also noticed a large number of horse chestnut trees with leaves discoloured by brown blotchy markings.IMG_4396

Looks as if autumn has arrived early.

Was concerned this might be the tree-threatening bleeding canker which is spreading around the country.

Quick trip to Royal Horticultural Society web site reassures me its ‘leaf blotch’ and – although a fungal infection – is unsightly but not fatal to  the trees.IMG_4390


City Library gets in the Georgian swim!

City Library gets in the Georgian swim!

After last week’s successful corporate launch – at which former Olympic champion Sharron Davies gave her support – the campaign to raise £3 million to restore the country’s last remaining Georgian Lido – moves to a new location to plead for public backing.

Edward Holland (PRT), Sally Helvey (CPT Marketing Co-ordinator), trustees Linda Watts & Ann Dunlop (Chair), Sharron Davies MBE, trustees Ina Harris & Ainslie Ensom, and Manuela Belle (PRT). Jeni Meade Photography

Edward Holland (PRT), Sally Helvey (CPT Marketing Co-ordinator), trustees Linda Watts & Ann Dunlop (Chair), Sharron Davies MBE, trustees Ina Harris & Ainslie Ensom, and Manuela Belle (PRT).
Jeni Meade Photography

Swimmer Sharron was at the Bath Spa Hotel to throw her weight behind an appeal being mounted by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust – in collaboration with the Cleveland Pool Trust – to raise the money needed to transform the Grade 2 listed pools complex at Bathwick, which closed to the public in 1984.

It’s hoped the money would provide a sports facility – within a heritage site – and sponsorship packages are available from £250 to £25,000 to help fund the different parts of the project. Anything from restoring the Georgian changing cubicles to providing a bike stand!P1050604

Trustees Ainslie Esom and Ina Harris beside one of the Pools boards at Bath Central Library

Trustees Ainslie Ensom and Ina Harris beside one of the Pools boards at Bath Central Library

Now this week people are being asked to come along and show their support for the scheme with a special display at Bath’s Central Library.

© Wessex Water archives

© Wessex Water archives

That’s Monday to Saturday but excluding Wednesday.IMG_4407

Cleveland Pools volunteer Sally Helvey tells me: ‘We want to attract all generations. The older to recognise swimmers in our historical photos and the youngsters to get excited about swimming at the Pools in the future.

© Wessex Water archives

© Wessex Water archives

Trustee Ina Harris will be running a little competition which will ask children to help re-write the original Rules of the Pools. They can also draw themselves swimming in them to win some sweeties.’

For more information on the campaign visit 

The Cleveland Pools will be organising limited opening to the public in September during the city’s annual Heritage Open Days.

© Wessex Water archives

© Wessex Water archives

That will be on Friday, September 13th, Saturday the 14th, and Sunday the 15th. Opening hours are between 2pm and 5pm on each day.

More information on this and other local venues involved via

Book art!

Book art workshops at Radstock and Bath Libraries 

16th August 11:00 – 13:00 and 14:00 – 16:00 @ Radstock Library led by Jessica Palmer 

17th August 11:00 – 13:00 and 14:00 – 16:00 @ Bath Library led by Funky Art House 

  • Get Creative and give an old book a new life as ornaments, origami decorations and more !
  • All ages welcome . All children must be accompanied and supervised by a parent or guardian throughout the workshop.
  • Places are limited so come in to Radstock Library or Bath Library to buy your ticket now.
  • Tickets available from Radstock Library and Bath Library @ £3 each

The Central Library in Bath has a display featuring some 'book-art' examples!

The Central Library in Bath has a display featuring some ‘book-art’ examples!

Recycle an ex-library book into a work of art and win a prize 

Library members of all ages are being encouraged by Bath & North East Somerset Council to get creative and turn old books into works of art. 

If you would like to take part just visit any of Bath & North East Somerset Council’s libraries to choose an ex-library book and pick up an entry form. You have until 31 August to remake the book into anything you like. 

To take part you must be a member of a LibrariesWest library and you have to use ex-library books supplied by Bath and North East Somerset Council’s Library Service. Apart from that you are free to remake your book in any way. 

Enquiries email: 

More information and full terms and conditions are available 

Rail relics recognised

Rail relics recognised

English Heritage has been making headlines just recently helping to do its bit for England‘s railway history. In a joint project with Network Rail they’ve been surveying the country’s dwindling number of signal boxes and twenty-six of the rarest and best preserved have been given Grade 11 listed status by the Department for Culture Media and Sport.

The listings come as Network Rail decommission many mechanical signal boxes to consolidate signalling into 12 regional centres – as part of a ’30 year plan to modernise the system and provide a better value railway for Britain.’

The Heritage Minister, Ed Vaizey said: ‘Our interest in everything to do with trains and railways – and the ‘golden age’ of steam in particular – is one of our most endearing and enduring national preoccupations. Signal boxes are a big part of this, and so l am very pleased indeed to be able to list these lovely examples of the type. It is greatly to Network Rail’s credit that they have worked so constructively with English Heritage to bring this project to such a successful outcome.’

Signal boxes were installed from the mid-19th century onwards and numbered around ten thousand at the peak of their use in the 1940′s. Today fewer than 500 are still in use by Network Rail.images-3

Amongst the listings is one for the large signal box at Totnes station in Devon. It was built to the Great Western Railway’s standard design used between 1896 and the 1920′s and – stripped of its original operating equipment – is now a successful station cafe where – while l was living in the town – l have enjoyed many a hearty Sunday brunch!

Totnes shows that, although there can be issues with access and location, decommissioned signal boxes can sometimes be rejuvenated. They have been re-used as cafes, museums or holiday lets and – in some cases – moved to new locations, often on heritage railways.

One very close example is at Wellow to the south of Bath. This was a station on the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway – perhaps the most famous cross-country railway line in England and one that inspired an extraordinary number of books on its history.

images-2Only one of its distinctive signal boxes survives. It also now has a Grade 11 listing!  The box was built as part of the Wellow station complex which opened on July 20th 1874 and consisted of two platforms, a goods yard and sidings, controlled from an 18 lever signal box.

The station closed to goods in 1963 and passenger services were withdrawn when the Somerset and Dorset closed on March 7th, 1966.images-1

The station building was converted into a house by the artist Peter Blake and his then wife Jann Haworth in the mid-1970′s. It was during their Brotherhood of Ruralists period and the signal box was used as Peter’s studio. It has now been converted for residential use.

imagesOne final signal-box note of interest to me as a man born at Weston-super-Mare. The sad and sorry-looking signal box there is also Grade 11 listed. The structure which dates from 1866 is the oldest surviving signal box in the country! It could do with some help if it is to have a future.

It’s in the bag – and staying there!

It’s in the bag – and staying there!

Over 400 more homes will receiving gull and animal proof reusable rubbish bag from Bath & North East Somerset Council in the next phase of a roll out which already covers 1,850 homes close to Bath city centre.

The Council says the aim is to reduce the mess caused by birds and animals when they scavenge for food in normal rubbish sacks. The reusable bags proved very popular– 86% of those residents want to continue to use the bags.

IMG_4028Councillor David Dixon (Lib-Dem, Oldfield), Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said, “We need people to play their part in tackling the gull and animal menace. These reusable rubbish bags will help people to do so. The bags prevent these creatures from ripping open domestic waste and causing litter. Bath & North East Somerset Council is doing everything it can to encourage residents to use these bags.

“Although the Council has no responsibility to control the gull and animal population, we recognise the nuisances they cause so are using all means at our disposal to tackle this nationwide problem starting with helping residents to limit the supply of their food source.”

The streets being covered in the next stage of the rollout are as follows: Argyle Street, Bottom of Wells Road, Edgar Buildings, Henrietta Street, Kingston Buildings, Laura Place, Lorne Road, Old Orchard Street, Pierrepont Place, Raby Place, Sydenham Buildings (Lower Bristol Road), Terrace Walk, Westmoreland Street, and York Street. The total number of bags in operation will be 2,276.

Do you want to know more?

A full list of the streets in Bath that will be receiving a bag is available on the Council website. People can also email or call 01225 39 40 41. The Council Waste Team will also be door knocking to promote awareness from July 25th 2013 and detailing their progress on the ‘Recycle for Bathnes’ Facebook page. The bags will be delivered the day after the door knock.

I also hear a  full summary of what is being done to tackle the problems caused by gulls is available on the Council website.


There is no need to trial these things. Let everyone have one and make sure they are used. A quick telephone call to other towns like Totnes in Devon who already have ensured all residents have such bags will show B&NES they work!

Now sort out your commercial rubbish collections and ensure refuse does not lie about over night. If London can work around the clock to ensure it keeps its streets fit for residents and tourists – so can Bath!