News in May 2009

How well do you know this area?

It’s not often that I put a quiz on the website because they take too long to make.
But with not a lot of news to report lately, I thought I would put together a few questions to test people’s knowledge of South West Bath. Give this a go:

Somewhere on the website there’s another quiz that I made earlier this year… Ah yes, it’s on this page.

Joe, 25/05/09

Mystery grotto in Twerton

An old newspaper cutting from the Bath and Wilts Chronicle and Herald, describes the discovery of a grotto in the garden of a house in Twerton. It is dated the 11th September 1930 and the text reads as follows:
There is a mystery cave in the garden of a house in Twerton – the sort of grim cavern that would delight the hearts of little boys who have a taste for exploring the unknown.
I visited the cave (writes a Chronicle and Herald representative) and, expecting to find little more than a glorified grotto, I was amazed at its depth, darkness, winding passages, and the huge pieces of rock of which it is constructed.
It is in the garden of Woodlands, the residence of Mr Ford, and it was with his permission that we – the photographer and myself – were able to see under what is undoubtedly the most queer back garden in Bath.
Woodlands is a detached Georgian house, and contains a wing which was obviously built before the Georges. The garden is bounded on one side by the Avon, and on the other side by the Lower Bristol Road. And between the river and the road is this amazing cavern.
What was it intended for? When was it built? Who built it? These are questions which are difficult to answer. it is an eerie, uncanny place, the more so because one comes upon it so suddenly.
Walking in the garden I realised that underneath was a subterranean passage with tunnels just wide enough to walk along, branching off from it. Then, going down a sloping path, I saw the mouth of the cave yawning before me.

Left: 1930s photo of the grotto; right: Woodlands as it is seen today

The entrance is high enough to stand up in, and wide enough to park a couple of motors. Candle in hand, I explored the passages which branch off from the main cave.
The whole thing is composed entirely of dry stone work, beautifully keyed in. Some of the stones bear fossil impressions. And – shades of Cheddar – there were some stalactites and stalagmites, some of them seven or eight inches long.
If, as it is said, it takes a hundred years for a stalactite to grow one inch, the cave must have been in existence in the reign of Henry I! One of the passages leads up some steps and out into a higher part of the garden nearer the house.
It has been suggested that the place might have been used by smugglers at one time, and Mr Ford recounts – though he cannot vouch for it – the story that there is somewhere a tunnel connecting the cave with Little Hill, but was bricked in when the railway was built.
It is difficult to imagine that when driving along the high road, there is, but twenty yards away, a mysteriously relic of a bygone age.


What this reporter had discovered was a grotto built by the former Twerton mill owner Charles Wilkins.
In the 1840s, Wilkins built Wood House which once stood where the bungalows at Woodhouse Road are situated. With some leftover materials he built Woodlands and the stone grotto, which he combined with a stream and shrubs to make a public pleasure area.
Today, Woodlands is still very visible as one of the last buildings that you go past on the Lower Bristol Road, as you drive out of Bath. Now used by an organisation, staff knew nothing of any grotto when I called. It presumably lies beneath the modern car park, having long been filled in.

Joe, 21/05/09

Team cleans up Twerton wood

Judges will be visiting Twerton to see if our Carrs Woodland nature reserve can be given the Green Flag Award.

Green Flag status is awarded to quality parks and green areas and is a way of gaining public interest.
Carrs Woodland borders Walwyn Close and Redland Park in Twerton, and you can access it easily from Walwyn Close or Pennyquick Park at Newton Road.
On Saturday, a team of Council workers and volunteers met to clear the wood of fly tip and litter at the Walwyn Close and Redland Park ends, ahead of the judging.
Unfortunately Walwyn Close is an easy target for fly tipping. Last week at the Twerton PACT meeting some residents complained about litter in this area.
If they had come and helped us, we could have cleaned the place up in about 40 minutes! So why not join in with the next litter pick when it is advertised?

Joe, 16/05/09

The Bath City Farm marquis

Each year when the Bath Flower Show is held at Victoria Park, people from Bath City Farm set up their own tent alongside the other displays. When I visited on Sunday I somehow expected the Bath City Farm tent to be full of flowers…
Instead, there were lots of things to give you an idea of what the farm is all about. Laura the Farm Manager, and Kedric the Community Farmer were there, together will other familiar faces and some of the farm animals.
Room had been found for baby chicks, ducklings, hens, a ram and a couple of goats!


Bath City Farm is trying to raise £1000 to buy a saddle-back pig – an old breed that has a black patch across it’s back, so there was a display board telling you about that.
The information desk had some examples of eggs laid by the chickens and ducks on the farm. These come in different sizes and colours, depending on the variety of bird.
Teams from organisations that care for the environment were given space for their own displays in the Bath City Farm tent.
The organisation Transition Bath which is keen to lower our dependence on coal, oil and gas, set up a bicycle attached to a dynamo to demonstrate how much energy we each consume. And a council recycling team showed how you can recyle newspaper at home by turning it into seed pots.
I made a video clip of the display which you can see here.

Joe, 08/05/09

Twerton PACT meeting, 7th May

Last night’s PACT meeting in Twerton had the biggest attendance for a long time, with at least 40 residents turning up to discuss local issues.
A PACT begins with an overview of what action has been taken regarding priorities raised at the previous meeting. It was anounced that Clearsprings will no longer be using a property in Redland Park as a hostel for offenders. A neighbour to the property said that the hostel had been quiet lately.
There was some discussion of the derelict buildings at Pennyquick View (pictured). The demolition of these buildings has been hindered by bats that are roosting inside. As bats are protected species, Somer Housing has to negotiate with Natural England on how to move forward with the demolition.
A 2 metre hoarding is due to be constructed all around Pennyquick View on 12th May, to prevent further vandalism and to stop the raiding of materials. PC Adrian Secker assured residents that the police do patrol that area.

Some residents from Redland Park made complaints about refuse collectors not picking up spilled rubbish, as well as people putting out rubbish before the collection is due. We were told that when you see this happen you should ring Council Connect on 01225 477477. Enough people pressing for action can bring about change.
There were also complaints about fly tipping at Redland Park and it was suggested that the cost of having large items taken away was a factor. At the last meeting a communal skip at Redland park had been asked for, but no progress has been made on that priority.
Val Rowlands gave an update on The Hut Creche since the Council decided to stop funding this service. The creche is open and staff are seeking funding from other sources. A charity has offered some funds but the creche is still drawing from Bath Area Play Project reserves.
One option would be to become a preschool facility so that the creche fits the criteria for Council funding. But this could have drawbacks such as increased fees and no places for children under 18 months.
People complained of speeding cars in Newton Road, Kelston View and elsewhere, as well as young people speeding on motorbikes and using motorbikes through alleys in Redland Park.
Issues were raised about Twerton High Street and traffic not stopping at the zebra crossing, as well as the hazardous corner at the top of Connection Road.
Firefighter Mark Searle said that the fire service is fitting free smoke alarms in homes and setting up a road skills project for 17 to 24 year-olds. People should contact the fire service if they see a fire hazard such as an abandoned vehicle.
At the end of the discussion it was decided to group concerns into 3 main themes. So the panel will be looking at: 1) Speeding cars and motorbikes; 2) Regular communal skips and fencing; 3) Grasscrete by Pennyquick Park and cars parked on yellow lines.

Joe, 08/05/09


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