Kicking Bath into the 21st century – the men from the Ministry.

Kicking Bath into the 21st century – the men from the Ministry.

Aerial view of Foxhill site

Aerial view of Foxhill site

Work will start soon on the demolition of the two-storey red brick buildings  formerly occupied by the Ministry of Defence at Foxhill.

It is a 46 acre site that played a major role in re-building our Royal Navy after the war and in the design of Trident and Polaris missile systems during the Cold War.

The Admiralty came to Bath early in the war  but it was a few years before staff were able to move into purpose-built sites like Foxhill, Warminster Road and Ensleigh.

All three abandoned complexes have now been sold for housing.springfield farm 1

Foxhill was just agricultural land in the 1930’s – an area occupied by Springfield Farm.

Naval architects at Foxhill

Naval architects at Foxhill

The arrival of the Admiralty from London eventually bringing about  a major transformation.

Indeed Stuart Burroughs – who is Curator at the Museum of Bath at Work – says it was these incomers who ‘kicked Bath into the 21st Century’ in terms of the effect they had on a rather sedate and comfortable West Country community.

He has been speaking to the Virtual Museum of Bath.

Error
This video doesn’t exist
Demolition at Foxhill to start soon!

Demolition at Foxhill to start soon!

Curo's Project Director, Ian Jones.

Curo’s Project Director, Ian Jones.

The man behind the regeneration of the former Admiralty site at Foxhill – the largest of three former MoD sites in Bath – has been talking to the Virtual Museum about his visions for its redevelopment.

Aerial view of Foxhill site

Aerial view of Foxhill site

He is also hoping the local community who live around the complex can not only contribute their own ideas for the design of the new scheme but benefit from it as well.

Ian Jones who is Project Director for Curo – the company who have bought the 46 acre site for residential development – says they are looking towards devising a master plan for the whole of the Foxhill area.

He told the Virtual Museum that demolition work would be starting soon but Curo would not be putting in its formal planning application until October – and that would be after extensive consultation. They hoped to start building in 2016 with the first properties ready for occupation in 2017.

Here’s Ian’s interview with the Virtual Museum of Bath.


An onion view of history.

An onion view of history.

Your Director is also giving some of his time each week to helping visitors to Bath get a quick, informative but entertaining look around the city. He is a member of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides and – along with nearly one hundred other volunteers – is proud to show off this World Heritage city!

The West Front of Bath Abbey.

The West Front of Bath Abbey.

One thing many tourists find hard to come to terms with is the fact that history has physical layers. Roman Bath lies fifteen to twenty feet under the paving stones they stand on in Abbey Churchyard. Go into the two thousand-year old bathing complex and the first thing you will do is go down stairs – which kind of proves my point.

The old boundary marker

The old boundary marker

I had a bit of a self-teaching lesson myself the other day. Walking along the London Road l cam upon an old boundary marker from 1912. The City of Bath on one side and Somerset County Council on the other.

The status of both sides has changed since that metal marker was installed  but the most obvious change for me was how half the post was already buried by subsequent resurfacing of the pavement.

History in layers – like the skin of the onion – and a real visual indication of just that! Incidently, you can find out more about the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides via www.bathguides.org.uk/

Out of sight?

Out of sight?

Bath's hidden 'litter bin'

Bath’s hidden ‘litter bin’

Not the easiest of places to keep clean l suppose but having a basement area exposed to the elements – to enable light to reach down to the lower windows – does have its drawbacks.

Pear over the balustrade and you'll see where the dropped litter is hiding!

Peer over the balustrade and you’ll see where the dropped litter is hiding!

I am talking about Bath’s imposing Georgian Guildhall where I couldn’t help but notice that the Victorian extensions appear to have become a bit of a ‘dropping zone’.

The basement areas are hidden from general view – unless you lean over the stone balustrade and peer down into them.

This is probably why that particular architecture detail seems to have created an ideal place to toss a bit of litter without anyone pulling you up for just dropping it on the pavement.

Time for a clear up maybe?

Have Your Say on Saltford Station

Have Your Say on Saltford Station

Today’s the day Saltford residents can have their say about plans to re-open the local station.

The drop-in event, which is open to all local residents, is taking place today (Tuesday the 25th February) from 4pm to 8pm in the Avon Room of Saltford Hall.

Saltford Station c1920 Courtesy Akeman Press

Saltford Station c1920
Courtesy Akeman Press

The event is taking place following pressure from the village’s two Conservative councillors for the Council to hold a village-wide consultation on the idea of rebuilding and reopening Saltford’s railway station, which has been closed since 1970.

Council transport officers will be at the event to answer questions from residents about the proposals.  Some of the issues which residents will be able to quiz the officers on include:

-          The cost of reopening the station and how it could be funded;

-          The impact a new station would have on parking on local roads and possible parking restrictions;

-          The potential impact on traffic on the A4;

-          The overall feasibility of the project and timeframes for any reopening.

Saltford Councillors Francine Haeberling and Mathew Blankley are encouraging residents to attend the event to gather more information about the proposals and give their views on the plans.

Some residents have already raised concerns over the impact the station could have on parking on local roads and the parking restrictions that would be required to address this.  Francine and Mathew have said it is important for residents to get their say on the idea at an early stage of the process so that these and any other concerns can be taken on board by the Council.

Cllr Francine Haeberling (Cons, Saltford) commented:

“We welcome the fact that B&NES is holding a consultation on the idea of reopening Saltford’s railway station, something we first called for over a year ago.

Unknown“Reopening a closed train station is a complex and lengthy process, so it’s vital that residents have a say in the matter at the earliest possible stage.

“I would therefore urge local residents to come along to this event, gather information about the plans and give their views. It will also be an opportunity for the Council to ascertain what the level of usage would be and take on board any local concerns.

“The Council’s feasibility study was based on the assumption that a significant number of passengers would drive to the station to catch the train, so clearly the issue of parking is something which needs to be looked into carefully.”

Putting Chew Valley on the map.

Putting Chew Valley on the map.

Residents in the Chew Valley are being asked to contribute their ideas on what local attractions should feature in a new tourist map of the area.

Cllr Liz Richardson

Cllr Liz Richardson

Local councillor Liz Richardson is asking residents to get in touch with their favourite places and activities in the Chew Valley, including scenic walks, picturesque views, and places to visit.

The ideas will then be considered and form part of a new leaflet, aimed at both residents and visitors, which will include a map of the Chew Valley and give details of the best local attractions in the area.

The information leaflet is being created as a result of a campaign by Conservative Councillor Liz Richardson (Chew Valley North), who first mooted the idea after discovering that the Chew Valley currently had no dedicated visitor information literature.

Chew Valley Lake ©Wikipedia

Chew Valley Lake ©Wikipedia

The leaflet is being funded using a donation from Councillor Richardson’s individual ward councillors’ budget, known as the Councillors Initiative scheme.

Now, Councillor Richardson says that local input is needed to decide what ought to be include when the leaflet is printed in the spring.

Residents and businesses can send their ideas by email to liz_richardson@bathnes.gov.uk.

Cllr Liz Richardson said:

“When the Bath and North East Somerset Visitor Guide was published last year, I realised that the Chew Valley barely got a mention. This is despite the fact our area has numerous picturesque walks, as well as rural and village pubs, and not to mention the lakes themselves. It seemed perverse that places in Wiltshire were being advertised, but not our part of Somerset.

“I have therefore liaised with local printers to get a dedicated leaflet produced for the Chew Valley. This leisure guide will available to pick up locally and the idea is for it to be useful for both visitors and residents, and will include a map of local attractions and places to go.

“In order to ensure we get the content of the leaflet right, I want to hear from local residents and businesses in the Chew Valley what they think ought to be included. I would therefore like to urge everyone to give their input and email me with your ideas.”

The sad view from Alice Park.

The sad view from Alice Park.

The boarded-up pub on the Gloucester Road

The boarded-up pub on the Gloucester Road. Click on images to enlarge them.

I have been getting upset by the growing dereliction you can see on the old Harvester Inn site – at the junction of the London and Gloucester Roads – and it seems a lot of Virtual Museum visitors have too!

The pub/restaurant complex was built in 1998 and – l am told – was very popular with families. It enjoyed a busy corner near the junction of the old A46 and A4.

It closed in 2007/8 – a victim it would seem of dwindling custom when the new Batheaston Swainswick Bypass moved all the passing trade further up the London Road.

Ever since then it has been boarded up and is gradually but inexorably sinking further and further into dereliction.  A far cry from it’s glory days – as illustrated in this photo (below) l found on http://www.bathpubs.co.uk.

A photo of the Harvester from the website of www.bathpubs.co.uk

A photo of the Harvester from the website of http://www.bathpubs.co.uk

Where there was just litter and ugly graffiti you can now see how the ravages of time and weather has pulled down guttering, blown off and smashed roof tiles and even caused external canopy collapse with insulation spilling out onto the wet concrete.

The old Harvester now minus graffiti.

The old Harvester now minus graffiti.

So imagine my surprise early this Friday morning (January 31st) when l passed the site and immediately noticed that the graffiti had been washed off the building and all that insulation stuffing cleared away!

The insulation stiffing - that was scattered everywhere - has also been removed.

The insulation stuffing – that was scattered everywhere – has also been removed.

Seems the powers that be read visit the Virtual Museum too!

The large and empty car park at the rear.

The large and empty car park at the rear.

Locals will know more about its history than me but l understand there was once a working water-mill  on or near this site. This complex was deliberately designed to reflect the fact that there was a real mill nearby some years ago.

Insulation scattered on the floor.

Insulation scattered on the floor.

It is sad to see a substantial and not unattractive contemporary building rot away.

Behind the property – which sits in once-pretty landscaped gardens beside the Lam Brook – a large and empty car park.

Now followers of the VMB tell me there were plans for a nursing home here and then – when that came to nothing – it was earmarked for housing.

However, its proximity to the Lambrook – which flows beside it and down to the nearby River Avon – may be holding up any redevelopment. There is a risk of flooding on at least part of the site.

The empty property is currently owned by Crosby Lend Lease – the British Residential Division of Lend Lease – a global property developer based in Australia!

No doubt – as part of their massive international ‘land-bank’ any stall on development is a minor matter but it DOES matter to us – the people making up the community who live around the old Harvester.

Alice Park is just across the road.

Alice Park is just across the road.

Meanwhile, with ever-popular Alice Park just across the road – and parking facilities unable to cope with the large number of families who often descend upon it – what a shame that this adjacent empty parking lot  couldn’t be opened up for Park users.

It would take parked cars off the road and make things safer for motorists and pedestrians at this point – even if  it was only on a temporary basis.

Shame on you B&NES for not insisting that some positive movement to halt this dereliction – or make a decision on the land’s future – is made sooner rather than later.

The site is currently listed in the Council’s Forward Development Plan as being earmarked for highways work in association with the housing development. Sounds like a roundabout in the offing?!

I would welcome any other thoughts or memories on the subject. The Virtual Museum loves your contributions and  photographs too.

My thanks to VMB viewer Ina Harris for the following:

‘I remember this lovely building being built as it was a field away from the bottom of my garden at the time in Larkhall.  It was built as a Harvester restaurant and seemed to be very popular, particularly with families. We were very surprised when it was closed.
It is on the site of an old mill and the good people of the Larkhall History Society know a great deal about it.  I also went to a public meeting several years ago when a developer wanted to knock the current building down and build a Nursing Home.
It was turned down because it would have been too high.  More recently, there has been talk of building between 30-50 homes on the site which would be a disaster in traffic management.
No doubt some developer is sitting on this and awaiting his chance to make a small fortune.  It is in a lovely part of town and I share Richard’s view that they could at least open up the site for parking for Alice Park.
It is only a matter of time before a small child is killed or injured on the Gloucester Road.  As someone who uses that road on a daily basis I hate driving along it on a weekend or school holiday when cars are double parked.
Good on  Richard in highlighting this issue.’

 

 

Spring brides.

Spring brides.

Walcot Street

Walcot Street. Click on images to enlarge.

Walcot Street has got to be one of Bath’s most fascinating shopping thoroughfares. An ancient suburb and still a bustling district of trades and speciality shops. Just like it was back in Roman times!

Until the 19th century this was the main road into the city but in the 1960’s the street was blighted – and almost obliterated – by being chosen as the site for the entrance to a proposed traffic tunnel under part of the centre.

The tunnel was never built and the street continues to celebrate its colourful assortment of shops and traders.

Postcard celebrating the Walcot Heads!

Postcard celebrating the Walcot Heads!

It’s a favourite walk for me. l love the new ‘heads’ – little personal artistic statements paid for by individual traders – that have appeared on the wall helping to support The Paragon.

walcot street Now l have been stopped in my tracks at the London Road end by a new arrival – a couture wedding dress business operated by Jessica Charleston.

She gets ten out of ten for her simple but stunning shop window display.

Wedding gowns and spring bulbs.

Wedding gowns and spring bulbs.

A couple of her hand-made gowns are featured in a bed of real spring bulbs. So every day you can watch them grow and flower.

Blooms for Spring brides.

Blooms for Spring brides.

It’s uplifting while we turn our collars to this January weather and cleverly linked to Spring weddings and romantic thoughts. Let’s hope you are here to stay Jessica.

Captain Wade’s going home!

Captain Wade’s going home!

Out doing my Mayor of Bath’s Honorary guiding today (Tuesday) and a chance to show some visitors to the city the wonders of the ballroom at the Assembly Rooms.

We were not able to get right in because the amazing 18th century London-made cut-glass chandeliers were being lowered – one by one – so experts from Brotheridge Chandeliers of Skelmersdale could start carrying out their twice-yearly cleaning and maintenance routines.

Two of the chandeliers in the ballroom lowered for cleaning.

Two of the chandeliers in the ballroom lowered for cleaning.

Originally the chandeliers carried  the so-called ‘eleven-hour candles- which gave a seven hour burn for a ball and left four hours for a concert! These are not the originals in place when the Rooms opened in 1771. Those were made by a Mr Jonathan Collett who quoted £400 for supplying five cut-glass chandeliers for the ballroom.

However a month after the building opened, and while Thomas Gainsborough was dancing below, one of the arms of a chandelier broke away and crashed to the ground narrowly missing the artist! What could be salvaged from the set was made up into a single chandelier, which now hangs in the Octagon.

New chandeliers for the ballroom were then supplied by William Parker of Fleet Street in London who had already supplied the light fittings for the Tea Room.

Captain William Wade - Master of Ceremonies 1769-1777. Panted by Thomas Gainsborough

Captain William Wade – Master of Ceremonies 1769-1777. Panted by Thomas Gainsborough

Something else that always had pride of place was a portrait of Captain William Wade who was Master of Ceremonies in Bath at the time the Upper Assembly Rooms opened. He held office from 1769 to 1777 and was painted by Thomas Gainsborough in 1771.

The portrait was taken away for restoration and has since been hanging at the Victoria Art Gallery near Pulteney Bridge. Now l am told it is about to make the journey home and should be back on the wall at the Assembly Rooms in March!

Getting bikes off the London Road.

Getting bikes off the London Road.

Once upon a time the Bath extension to the Somerset and Dorset joint railway connected this city with Bournemouth and the seaside. It was a railway packed with excursions and happy holidaymakers.

So its good to know that at least a small section of the now abandoned route – axed like so many other ‘uneconomic lines during Dr Beeching’s  mid-1960’s cull – has been brought back into use for pleasure seekers.

I am talking about the track bed of the railway between East Twerton and Midford which was re-opened last year as the Two Tunnels Circuit.  It now forms part of a thirteen mile circular cycle and pedestrian route which links Bath with the National Cycle Route 24.

Though it’s pedal power and not steam doing the propelling – you can still enjoy the views and experience of following that line from East Twerton up through Oldfield and the Devonshire Tunnel into Lyncombe Vale, then through the oh-so-long Combe Down Tunnel and out across the Tucking Mill Viaduct into Midford. That last tunnel – at 1,672 metres – is now the longest cycle tunnel in Britain!

You can then drop down through Monkton Combe – onto the tow path of the Kennet and Avon Canal and back into town. It is that last section of the route that l want to talk about because – apart from week-end pleasure and fitness seekers – that section of the tow path between the George Inn at Bathampton and Sydney Gardens is used by a lot of cyclists during the week to go to work.

Here's the start of that unofficial cycle route across the 1929 concrete replacement for Grosvenor Bridge.

Here’s the start of that unofficial cycle route across the 1929 concrete replacement for Grosvenor Bridge. Click on these images to enlarge them.

I join the tow path via an unmarked link taking me off the London Road – just past the Lambridge training ground – down Grosvenor Bridge Road to the banks of the River Avon.

At this point – and up to 1929 – a fine suspension bridge linked both banks of the river and was heavily used by  people out for country walks and visits to the pub and tea garden that lay at the bottom of the canal embankment.

The path over Grosvenor Bridge extending towards the archway under the London line.

The path over Grosvenor Bridge extending towards the archway under the London line.

The bridge was replaced with the current ugly concrete structure but it still provides a link for cyclists and dog walkers across the Avon and then under the Great Western Railway ( as l still like to call the London line) through the archway of a railway bridge and up via a gentle slopping track onto the canal towpath.

Look at the state of this route going under the London line!

Look at the state of this route going under the London line!

At this time of year the track is in a dreadful state. It is muddy and wet with the appearance of a rain-sodden ploughed field in places.

Yet – with minimal cost – at least compared to the millions spent on the Two Tunnel Route – this could be re-surfaced and opened up as an all-year-round route into town which takes people and bikes off the dreadful London Road.

Here's where cyclists turn to the right but dog walker scramble up the side of the canal embankment. This route being terribly eroded too.

Here’s where cyclists turn to the right but dog walker scramble up the side of the canal embankment. This route being terribly eroded too.

It would only need a new surface. It’s a wild and still wonderful way to avoid traffic and get close to nature.

I would not want it ruined for the bird and animal life sharing that part of the city’s immediate countryside.

Near the top of the track the route divides. On the right leading off to a rail bridge that cross over the line to Cleveland Row and the old Georgian Lido - now known as Cleveland Pools.

Near the top of the track the route divides. On the right leading off to a rail bridge that cross over the line to Cleveland Row and the old Georgian Lido – now known as Cleveland Pools.

The following information was gleaned from the minutes of a meeting last September of the Two Tunnels/BathNES Council/Sustrans Steering Group.

Looking back down the track from almost the top. Somone seems to have built their own homestead nearby too!

Looking back down the track from almost the top. Somone seems to have built their own homestead nearby too!

It reads as follows:

‘Sustrans was looking to surface the canal towpath from the city centre to the George pub in the next financial year if matched funding was available fro, the Council and the Canals and Rivers Trust.

This would compliment the Council scheme from Batheaston to the Bathampton, and improve the Two Tunnels/Canal Towpath circular route, now proving very popular with locals and visitors, and would be a most welcome development.’

Here we are at the top of the track and where it joins the canal towpath.

Here we are at the top of the track and where it joins the canal towpath.

Indeed it would. With a bit of that new surface extending down the pathway l have mentioned to help take bikes off the London Road!

So who – with authority and funding – is going to take this up and run – or should l say cycle – with it?