We’re visiting the gorgeous honey toned city of Bath, England’s first spa town, made popular in the 18th century when “taking the waters” was considered an important part of maintaining one’s health.
We stopped here breifly in 2013, but didn’t tour the Roman Baths, something I’ve regretted since. But with two days to enjoy this time, we’ll set that right.
Set in Sommerset lush greenery, Bath is a wonderful example of Georgian architecture, especially its love of symmetry. Built from the famous Bath stone and listed as a World Heritage site, the city is a picture of elegance.
It’s a later arrival: we’ll leave the Roman Baths for tomorrow, and instead take ourselves off a wander through the city. It’s a cool, grey, drizzly day, all the better to hike up Bath’s steep streets.
We start in the Guildhall, where markets have been held since the 1300s.
Set in a circle are trader stalls, including an excellent haberdashers – enough buttons, bows, ribbons, bits and bobs to keep one entertained for hours.
Set in the centre of the Guildhall is a 17th century pillar upon which deals were negotiated.
We tour Bath Abbey, built over an 8th century Benedictine monastery in the late 15th century. The Abbey enjoyed only a few decades of operation before it, along with all the other Catholic churches, was dissolved by Henry VIII. It wasn’t until late in the 16th century that the Abbey was repaired, becoming the Parish church for Bath.
Apart from its stunning 500 year old fan vaulted ceilings,
the Abbey’s most fascinating feature is its many memorials and ledgerstones – 635 of the former are mounted into the Abbey walls,
whilst a further 891 of the latter form the Abbey’s floor.
“More than Westminster Abbey” a guide proudly tells me. It’s the ledgerstones that are behind the current restoration project – the supporting structure under them is failing, causing the floor to collapse. Over a four year project the ledgerstones will be removed and repaired, and the supporting structures rebuilt. It’s a painstakingly slow process. As an added bonus, whilst the underfloor work is being completely, the team will take the opportunity to divert the million or so litres of hot springs running into next door’s Roman Baths to provide free underfloor heating to the Abbey. Ingenious.
On our way up hill we pass Parade Gardens, a favourite for secret liaisons between courting couples in the 18th century.
Further up hill, we see The Circus, an impressive circular “square” surrounding a small grove of ancient plane trees. These houses, built between 1705 – 1754 are an excellent example of the Georgian love of symmetry.
Further up hill yet, overlooking the old city, is Bath’s premiere address – Royal Cresent.
Forming an arc, thirty 18th century houses overlook a private garden, adjacent to Royal Victoria Park. It’s most fancy, as my sister would say.
We wander back into Bath though Royal Victoria Park
– it’s squirrel o’clock and right on schedule, they’re out, busily gathering nuts, frisking about, creating their winter store.
Back in the motorhome, the rain sets in as we battle our way across town, through Bath’s ancient streets, roadworks and double decker buses, jostling along for space.
None of that matters though – I’ve seen squirrels. A squirrel high lasts for ages.