Walk to the View!
What are you doing in the next 1½ hours? Our short walk has stunning views, hidden waterways and Georgian history – all in a short walk that you can fit into a busy itinerary.
Walk with the Georgians
Attending balls, ‘taking the waters’, visiting neighbours – in the 18th century, Bath was at its most fashionable. The men and women of high society often felt the need to escape the hectic demands of the city to ‘take the air’ in the pleasure of its tranquil surroundings. When the Georgian story began, Bath consisted of a couple of hundred houses and was still largely confined within its medieval city walls (see illustration below) but over the next 100 years it was transformed. Today you can follow in the footsteps of the Georgians – through grand streets, public gardens, along the canal and on to the meadows of Bathwick Fields where you will be rewarded with a stunning view back to the city. Take in the vistas that revived the spirits of Jane Austen and her companions. This harmony of countryside and city has been recognised today by Bath’s designation as a World Heritage Site.
Bath Abbey, Kingston Parade
From Bath Abbey, Kingston Parade, turn left into York St. Turn left at the end of York St, then soon after turn right over two pedestrian crossings to the stone balustrade above Parade Gardens.
The start of something special
The start of something special Behind Marshfield’s Ice Cream Parlour stands Ralph Allen’s Palladian-style town house, designed by John Wood the Elder. It was the first step in Wood’s vision to restore Bath to its former Roman grandeur and where Allen began his meteoric rise from postmaster to one of the richest men in the country. He achieved his wealth, in part, through his industrial-scale quarrying of the characteristic Bath stone. The influence of these two men on Bath’s success is unrivalled.
Turn L along Grand Parade then R over Pulteney Bridge.
The river and the rise of enterprise
The weir marks the head of the River Avon’s navigation, another of Allen’s enterprises. By building locks between Bath and Bristol, stone, timber and slate could be transported by boat, a cheaper option than going by road. The first cargo arrived in 1727 and marked the start of an economic boom for the city. In front of you are Parade Gardens, once an orchard tended by medieval monks from the Abbey, and in 1737 they became formal gardens, popular with Georgian walkers. Look up and you will see a picturesque green backdrop of fields and woods, much of which is owned and cared for by the National Trust. The unusual shop-lined Pulteney bridge was the first step in the spread of Bath east of the river. William Pulteney was the driving force behind the development. In order to gain permission to build, he had to provide a water supply for the city from springs on his estate in Bathwick – some of which originate in the meadows you will soon be walking in.
Continue straight on to the end of Great Pulteney Street. Cross the main road at the pedestrian crossings into Sydney Place with the Holburne Museum (free museum with excellent Georgian art collection and pavilion style café) on your L and in 40 m turn L into Sydney Gardens. Note: during museum opening times, you can enter Sydney Gardens through the museum grounds.
The Holburne Museum - Remnants of Pulteney's 'New Town'
Pulteney’s ambitions did not stop with the bridge, he planned a scheme for a ‘New Town’ and the Sydney Hotel was to be the centrepiece. However, in 1793 Bath City Bank failed so Pulteney’s vision had to be abandoned. The hotel is now the Holburne Museum and the land that had been earmarked for development remained as green spaces, still in use as sports grounds and parks to this day.
Follow the tarmac path towards a stone ‘temple’ to meet a wide tarmac path and turn R, over railway bridge. Immediately before the next bridge (canal) turn R beneath a large plane tree and after 10 m go through a white iron gateway on the L onto the canal towpath and turn R. Follow the towpath through the tunnel, up a ramp to cross the canal (on L see Cleveland House, the former canal HQ built over the water) and turn R to continue on towpath. At the boat basin go up cobbled ramp and cross road (Bathwick Hill). Turn R, over bridge then sharp L by supermarket, down steep steps to continue R along towpath.
Sydney Gardens - a Georgian pleasure ground
A succession of royal visits had elevated Bath to the height of fashion and after time spent in the healthgiving spa waters, men and women of high society would spend time ‘taking the air’. Sydney Gardens proved a popular destination for promenades and concerts and was a favoured place of Jane Austen. It is now one of England’s few remaining Georgian public gardens.
At lock 13 cross canal footbridge, then go up slope / steps to Sydney Buildings. Cross the road, walk up two flights of steps and continue 300 m on the path beside Bathwick Fields past two KGs until you reach the end of the black railings and a wooden bench in the field on your R and a magnificent view to reward your efforts!
The Kennet and Avon Canal - a lifetime of commerce
The Kennet and Avon Canal – a lifeline of commerce The completion of the canal further boosted the city’s economy, extending the river navigation between Bristol and Bath beyond, to London. Fashionable residents had concerns about the impact of a working canal on the local character. The elegant wrought iron bridges were built as a response, to mollify local feeling.
Just past the end of the field turn R down narrow footpath with hedge on R. Kennet and Avon Canal, Bath Pass gateway on the R; shortly after, turn R over small footbridge and stile in hedgerow.
The rural and peaceful character of this secluded valley provides a welcome contrast to the pace of the busy city. Pass gateway on the R; shortly after, turn R over small footbridge and stile in hedgerow. Note the hedge on R that was laid in 2014/15 in a traditional way. This is part of our sensitive management of these farmed meadows that is sympathetic to wildlife and promotes wildflowers. The National Trust acquired Bathwick Fields in 1984 with funds raised by the Council and local people keen to see this wonderful aspect of Bath preserved.
Walk straight across field and through two KGs in close succession (into and out of Richens Orchard). After second KG turn L keeping field boundary on L and then go through KG adjacent to wide gateway.
VIEW: As you approach the gateway, the city centre is slowly revealed: The Abbey and Empire Hotel dominate and surrounding churches indicate ancient parishes.
From the gateway continue straight ahead for 90 m to a dip in the field, and then L downhill to KG, onto Sydney Buildings road and turn R. Shortly after turn L retracing route back to canal tow path and turn R, (or, for Pump Shed refreshments turn L for 140 m). After 80 m turn L onto footpath going downhill. Continue straight, past end of cul-de-sac, until reaching Pulteney Road beneath railway bridge. Cross straight over at pedestrian crossing onto North Parade
North Parade Bridge - a view of Ralph Allen and John Wood's legacy
Half way over the bridge, look up to the hills on your left to see Allen’s country mansion, designed by Wood, a symbol of the success of these two men with whom we started this journey. Their influence on the rise of Bath from modest medieval town to opulent Georgian city is admired worldwide to this day. The house is now Prior Park College and the gardens are managed by the National Trust. After the bridge are North Parade Buildings on your left and Parade Gardens to your right, more of Wood’s great legacy.
Continue along North Parade until the junction with Pierrepoint Street. Cross straight over onto Terrace Walk and shortly after turn L into York Street, which leads you back to Bath Abbey. Please share your walk highlights with us @NTBathSkyline.
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