National Libraries Day

National Libraries Day

Bath & North East Somerset Council will be marking National Libraries Day on Saturday February 7.

Local libraries will be running a Find the Book Character Treasure Hunt for children and a literary quiz for adults – sheets will be available at all local libraries.

Bath Central Library

Bath Central Library

Library visitors will also be able to rent DVDs at half price, and reserve two items on the LibrariesWest catalogue free of charge. Those who borrow at least three physical items (books, CDs, audio books, and DVDs) or join online at http://www.librarieswest.org.uk will also be entered into a prize draw with the chance to win a Samsung Galaxy tablet, a £25 Amazon voucher and a range of bestselling books.

Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, Cllr David Dixon, said: “National Libraries Day is a great day to celebrate everything our libraries can offer. The Council runs eight libraries and a mobile service and also supports four community libraries.”

Bath Central Library

Bath Central Library

Library members can benefit from a whole range of services including:
· Borrowing books, CDs, audio books, and DVDs.
· Online, there are free e-books and audio downloads as well as reference works, family history research material and more.
· Support for children and families including Bookstart packs, baby rhyme times and loans to pre-school groups.
· Information, advice, and courses for adult learners.
· Community activities including reading groups, writing competitions and After Hours events.

To find out more about the range of services provided by Bath & North East Somerset Council libraries visit http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/libraries-and-archives

Austen anniversary treat.

Austen anniversary treat.

Jane Austen fans are in for another anniversary treat this year. Hot on the successful heels of Pride and Prejudice’s bicentennial anniversary in 2013 comes that of Emma, the story of the young, genteel Emma Woodhouse setting herself up as a matchmaker. Published in December 1815, it’s a lively comedy of manners that looks at the concerns and trials of refined women in early 19th-century England.

The novel’s anniversary means it’s a good time for Austen fans to visit Jane Austen’s house, Chawton, near Alton in Hampshire, south England – around an hour by train from London. The charming house was where she spent the last eight years of her life and it’s where she did the majority of her mature writing. She wrote Emma here, as well as Mansfield Park and Persuasion, in addition to revising Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey.

Now called the Jane Austen’s House Museum, it runs a programme of events throughout the year to keep even the most ardent of Austen aficionados happy! Every year the museum celebrates the author’s birthday on 16 December with free entry, hot drinks and mince pies for visitors. And although the full programme for 2015 has yet to be announced, going on Austen’s birthday is a rather nice time to visit, especially for Emma fans, which itself was published in December. 2015 will see the museum running book-making workshops, historic food workshops and writing workshops. Since it’s 200 years since the publication of Emma, one of the workshops in May, ‘Building the Village of your Story’, will look at how the village of a story can help with plotting, managing a cast of characters, building tension and creating a sense of place – much like was done in Emma. www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk

Emma, like most heroines in Jane Austen novels, adored a ball. And what better way to celebrate the novel’s publication then donning your finest Regency outfit and heading to the beautiful city of Bath in west England for the Regency costumed Summer Ball. It plays a fun part in the city’s annual Jane Austen Festival.

In 2015, the festival will run between 11-20 September. Empire-line gowns and bonnets at the ready! www.janeaustenfestivalbath.co.uk

Filing into the Assembly Rooms

Filing into the Assembly Rooms

Bath is certainly the place to visit if you want to embroil yourself in all things Austen – the author lived there between 1801 and 1805, and features regularly in her writings. Head to the city’s Jane Austen Centre for exclusive films, costumes, temporary and permanent exhibits, maps and books all dedicated to the life and times of Austen. Plus you can channel your inner Emma as the centre offers visitors the chance to dress up in Regency bonnets, top hats, shawls, fans and parasols! Bath is around 90 minutes by train from London. www.janeausten.co.uk

A 'bronze' of Jane Austen.

A ‘bronze’ of Jane Austen in Bath.

The picturesque village of Evershot in Dorset, south-west England, a village of thatched cottages and charming 400-year old inns, played the role of Highbury Village in the film. Explore the area and then stay in the luxury country house hotel Summer Lodge, a Grade II-listed building set in four acres of land; it’s easy to imagine yourself stepping back in time in these atmospheric surroundings. (www.summerlodgehotel.co.uk).

Evershot is around 3.5 hours drive from London.

Claydon House.

Clayton House in Buckinghamshire.

And, if you loved the film’s elegant ball scenes, visit Claydon House in Buckinghamshire, where the Crown ball interiors scene was filmed. Cared for by the National Trust, this idyllic country estate, just under two hours’ drive from London, is packed with ornate and lavish 18th-century English interiors that the original owner Sir Ralph Verney intended to wow his neighbours and political rivals with. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/claydon

Parade Gardens to be new wedding venue

Parade Gardens to be new wedding venue

For couples looking to tie the knot in romantic Bath, a riverside location could help seal a perfect day now that Bath & North East Somerset Council-owned Parade Gardens has been added to the list of places licenced to host ceremonies.

While for those concerned that this would mean the whole of the Gardens being closed to the General Public – reassurances from Bath Parks that only the section involving the wedding would be out-of-bounds. The rest stays open.

Parade Gardens.

Parade Gardens.

The gardens were originally a private recreational space for the elite in the Georgian era. They have since been developed into an award-winning park that affords views of the historic Bath Abbey and the iconic Pulteney Bridge. Ceremonies can be held on the bandstand or on the colonnades overlooking the river.

Cllr Ben Stevens (Lib-Dem, Widcombe), Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development, said: “We have such wonderful settings in Bath and beyond that Bath & North East Somerset Council aims to make the best of what we can offer. We want to make sure that on that special day we can provide an experience for the bride and groom that they won’t forget.”

The Parade Gardens bandstand sits in the centre of a lawn that was once part of Bath Abbey’s orchard. It later became a private garden for the exclusive use of the fashionable visitors to Bath. The bandstand can hold up to 20 guests, but there is space for additional guests on the lawn.

The bandstand in Parade Gardens

The bandstand in Parade Gardens

The Colonnades were part of the developments to the gardens that were made in the late 1890s. Situated beneath North Parade, they offer stunning views of the river and the weir allowing for the feel of an open air ceremony with the guarantee of cover in wet weather.

There is space for up to 45 guests to sit underneath the colonnades, or more to sit outside looking in.

There is space in the gardens for a reception for up to 100 people and the gardens can be used for photos, drinks and nibbles as well.

Parade Gardens is already well-used as a wedding photo venue and, along with Royal Victoria Park, is also increasingly popular with hen parties as a setting for picnics and afternoon tea.

Looking down on Parade Gardens from the tower of Bath Abbey

Looking down on Parade Gardens from the tower of Bath Abbey

The site joins more than 30 venues which have successfully applied to the Council to become licenced premises. These include the council-owned Royal Victoria Park and Victoria Art Gallery.

Marianne and Ric got married in the Temple of Minerva in the Botanical Gardens in 2014. They said: “We had a truly fantastic wedding day, in no small part because of the location.” In July 2014 the bandstand in Royal Victoria Park hosted the first open air ceremony.

The wedding industry in Bath and North East Somerset is worth an estimated £15m annually. The Council offers advice and guidance on how businesses can make a success of their wedding offer.

Cindy Aze, Registration Services Manager at Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “Bath is extremely popular for Marriages and our Register Office prides itself in offering a top class experience to those couples who wish to have their ceremony with us. Parade Gardens will now offer couples another unique and picturesque option for their Marriage Ceremony.”

For more information on approved premises visit: http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/births-marriages-and-deaths/approved-premises/directory-approved-premises.

People are asking if a wedding ceremony will close the whole of Parade Gardens to everyone else. Bath Parks assure me that only the section for the wedding would be closed. The rest would remain open to the public.

Stepping up at Bath Abbey

Stepping up at Bath Abbey

 

Slowly does it. The narrow spiral staircase that leads to the top of the tower.

Slowly does it. The narrow spiral staircase that leads to the top of the tower.

Climbing 212 steps to the top of Bath Abbey’s 161 foot high tower is a bit of an undertaking but the view – once you are getting your breath back on top – has got to be worth the effort!

This Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul runs very successful tower tours throughout the year and special mulled-wine fuelled Christmas Market tours at this festive time in December.

Looking down on the nave from on top and across to Parade Gardens.

Looking down on the nave from on top and across to Parade Gardens.

You do get a break in the middle of the climb to admire the roof of the 211 foot long nave – which itself soars 75 feet into the air above the pews inside.

Stopping in the bell chamber with the ropes of the eight bells hanging above our heads.

Stopping in the bell chamber with the ropes of the eight bells hanging above our heads.

There’s also a stop in the ringing chamber to allow your guide to tell you more about how the eight bells are rung.

The old carillon in the ringing chamber.

The old carillon in the ringing chamber.

There’s also the Westminster chime they produce as time keepers to the city and how a simple little electronic mechanism has replaced the massive carillon that used to produce the tunes we sometimes hear coming from the tower as we go about our business beneath.

The little electronic box that does the trick now.

The little electronic box that does the trick now.

Continuing our climb – with a peep through a window at the bells themselves – we are out on the tower’s flat top and admiring the view of the rooftops of the beautiful city of Bath spread out on all sides beneath.

Looking down on the market and Roman Baths

Looking down on the market and Roman Baths

The present Abbey Church was built at the beginning of the 16th century and is one of the largest examples of Perpendicular Gothic in the West-Country.

Increasing more and more tours are ending with marriage proposals at the top end of that 212 step staircase as Holly Doughty explains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saying hello to the world.

Saying hello to the world.

Martin on duty as Mr Bennet outside the Jane Austen Centre in Gay Street.

Martin on duty as Mr Bennet outside the Jane Austen Centre in Gay Street.

He might be helping to celebrate the city’s links with the past but Martin Slater – the man who’s been greeting visitors to Bath’s Jane Austen Centre for the past eight years – has been making sure he’s bang-up-to-date when it comes to keeping up with tourism trends.

Martin greeting the late British novelist  PD James.

Martin greeting the late British novelist PD James.

Martin – who makes all his own costumes – is dressed as Mr Bennet – father of Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s popular novel Pride and Prejudice. It’s the one that features that dashing Mr Darcy.

Martin goes 'walkies' with comedian and impersonator Rory Bremner

Martin goes ‘walkies’ with comedian and impersonator Rory Bremner

Martin with writer and tv presenter Marcel Theroux

Martin with writer and tv presenter Marcel Theroux

Martin’s no stranger to dressing up and often on hand to greet celebrities to the Centre or help them with local events.

Sometimes that involves  appearing in television programmes about Bath too.

Whatever the weather, you’ll often see him on duty at the front of this Gay Street museum – dedicated to one of the most popular novelists in English literature.

Jane spent several years in Bath as she was still living with her parents when her father retired to the city.

Martin in disguise and helping out the Duchess of Cornwall at a Christmas light switch-on! Photo by Sam Farr

Martin in disguise and helping out the Duchess of Cornwall at a Christmas light switch-on! Photo © Sam Farr

Martin is there with a friendly welcome for Jane Austen fans. If he knows the tour operator on a coach outside – stuck in the traffic – he’ll even hop on board and ask for their passports!

Greeting such an international crowd of Austen fans means he’s had to pick up a little of many a foreign language and now – with visitors from much further afield  – his abilities are really being tested.

More on that in a moment but first – the Virtual Museum wanted to know how he came to end up on the doorstep of number 40 Gay Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Royal Victoria Park improvements underway this month.

Royal Victoria Park improvements underway this month.

Bath & North East Somerset Council’s plans to invest almost £500,000 in improvements to Bath’s Royal Victoria Park will get underway on January 19.

The park, which attracts many thousands of visitors every year, features Botanical Gardens, lakes, floral and historical features as well as one of the biggest children’s play areas in the South West.

An artist’s impression of the new kit which will have new steps to one side and a climbing net on the other as well as the bridge play unit with two slides, passing places and lookout spot.

An artist’s impression of the new kit which will have new steps to one side and a climbing net on the other as well as the bridge play unit with two slides, passing places and lookout spot.

Work to improve the play area starts next week, and will include installation of a new slide and tower unit replacing the triple slide.

This is part of a total investment of £255,000 into 11 play parks across the area.

The work should be completed by the end of January; the play area will remain open, although there will be some disruption at times which the Council will aim to keep to a minimum.

Improvements to the public toilets in the pavilion building at the play area will also start on Monday. Eight new unisex cubicles, all with baby-changing facilities, are being installed, including two that are disability-compliant. Temporary toilets will be put in place until the new toilets are completed. The work is expected to be completed by Easter.

Alongside this, space is being created for a new café concession which will offer refreshments for adults and children, including healthy options from local and sustainable sources.

The Council is currently advertising the three concession opportunities (café, children’s rides and ice cream van); details can be found on the Council’s website (http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/property/royal-victoria-park-play-area-concessions-opportunities)

CllrDavid Dixon (Lib-Dem, Oldfield), the Council’s Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “We’re very pleased to see these projects getting underway, and plan for them all to be ready for the spring. The Council is committed to improving facilities and the visitor experience for everyone who uses the park.”

A planning decision on the £300,000 refurbishment to modernise and improve the skate park at Royal Victoria Park is expected by the end of January.

 

Elected Mayor for Bath and North East Somerset?

Elected Mayor for Bath and North East Somerset?

The office of Mayor of Bath can be traced back to 557AD when the settlement became a Saxon Burgh and a Burgh-Reeve or Governor was appointed.

The current Mayor of Bath, Cllr Cherry Beath.

The current Mayor of Bath, Cllr Cherry Beath.

The title ‘Mayor’ was introduced in 1189 – the first year of the reign of Richard the First and derives from the French ‘Maire’.

These rulers were appointed by the Monarch to administer justice in urban areas.

Today’s Mayor has no real power but is kept busy each year representing the city and supporting the local community.

Ceremonials in Abbey Churchyard

Ceremonials in Abbey Churchyard

Back in Tudor times a charter from Elizabeth the First had confirmed Bath’s city status in its own right with a corporate body of Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens.

The city’s titles were in danger of being lost when local government was restructured in 1974 and Bath became a District within the new County of Avon.

Our present Queen Elizabeth granted new charters to confirm Bath’s status and re-instate the titles of City and Borough.

Not sure where we stand now – with Bath part of Bath and North East Somerset Council – but l do know that a group of citizens have started a campaign to give back real power to a civic leader and appoint an elected mayor.

Collecting signatures in Kingsmead Square

Collecting signatures in Kingsmead Square

Bath hasn’t far to look to see an elected mayor in action. Just down the road in Bristol, George Ferguson – former President of the Royal Institute of British Architects and the man who saved and regenerated part of the old Wills Factory in Bedminster –  governs as their first city boss.

Stephen Taylor is part of a group of nine politically unaffiliated local people out collecting signatures in Bath to a petition which will call upon B&NES to organise a referendum next October to let people decide if they want to change the way the area is governed. But what sort of difference would it make?

 

 

 

Be interested to know what Virtual Museum of Bath followers think about this. The website for those campaigning for a referendum is www.mayorforbanes.org