Jim and I don’t get away much because it’s not that easy leaving teenagers and a miniature dachshund to their own devices. Haunted by headlines ‘Running tap creates third Herne Hill flood’, ‘Terraced house collapses under weight of Facebook rave’ and ‘Sausage dog runs amuck in suburbia’ we trundled off to the station, destination Bath to ‘take the cure’. So if you are looking for things to do and places to visit and where to stay in Bath, here’s our holiday in a nutshell.
Moderately refreshed by a snooze on the train, we arrived at the majestic Bloomfield House basking in sunshine. A small boy named Oliver, a dog and the housekeeper Sarah welcomed us with a decanter of sherry, adding a 1930s air: tranquility with a little whiff of decadence. Bloomfield House is quite rightly proud of it’s green credentials, they refill the shampoo and soap dispensers, use recycled paper not plastic bags in the bins and the house runs on renewable energy. You even get a 10% discount if you travel by public transport or bike – it’s a really fine B&B, the best in Bath and all concerns about teenagers + and Mole making the Nine O’Clock News were soothed away in a puff of pillows.
By mid morning Jim and I were hot footing it down the hill and through the ‘prefabricated McBath’ bit …… and were soon reaping the rewards of use of shoe leather. There are a fabulous variety of independent shops and very creative people thriving on the fringes and tucked away in the alleyways of the City.
No. 53 Guildhall Market is a really beautiful, historic building – another 1930s time capsule with jaunty flags and the feeling a tea dance may break out at any moment. This small market is uniquely positioned to reintroduce local producers and makers, bringing them face to face with customers looking to buy goods from an authentic community: the honey mead, cheeses, man and eggs in the photo are all from Somerset – meet Paul of Nibbles Cheese.
Jim and I strolled up Walcot and down London Street soaking up the friendliness of ingenious people who are busy providing really good things and happily can still afford the rents. On the alert as always for ways to reduce waste Reboot Computer Services caught my eye, their philosophy of repair united with their team of super geeks prepared to sell you an expertly reconditioned computer. Previously leased, this sort of robust professional hardware won’t cost you an arm and a leg and think of all the landfill saved.
We were further excited by Jessica Charleston’s couture wedding dress shop, heralding spring with a glorious floral window display, a collaboration between Jessica and the Tallulah Rose Flower School. The Director of the flower school, Rachel Wardley (you can watch her video) decorated the catwalk for ‘Bath in Fashion’ with flowers in 2013. Rachel collaborated in adorning a dress of real flowers for that same event, and the dress was made by Jessica. Tallulah Flower School now include window display as part of their training. The flower school is at 28 Milsom Street, Bath where they run courses in floristry and essential business skills, so if you want to set up your own florist shop you could give them a call. Rachel is a member of the British Flower Collective.
People must love living and working on London Street which drifts into London Road about half way along. Every shop seems to celebrate what it is they do inside and the Potter’s ‘home-shop’ below is a throwback to the days when a window was a golden opportunity to delight passers by. Even the little notice on their door makes you want to drop by later for a cup of tea and to buy a dish or two. Good things are worth waiting for.
Lunch was next and we stumbled upon a cafe Made by Ben and the food really was made by Ben, who starts cooking at 3am to bring forth an abundance of fresh pies and mountains of gorgeous gluten free goodies daily. The cafe has a cosy little dining room, a perfect hideout on a chilly day.
Back in town we went to see the Roman Baths, the free audio guide pinned to my ear for an hour of travelling back through antiquity. Much taken by the ‘Roman way’ I had come prepared and stuffed Jim’s swimming trunks in my handbag. As if by magic we found ourselves in the queue for the Thermae Bath Spa (imagine pool population in photo x 100.) With trepidation we entered the kingdom of white towelling and in our pristine white slippers were soon shuffling along the roof tops feeling slightly chilly. The ‘sky pool’ is like heaven on earth, bobbing around in naturally hot spring water, listening to the ‘modern day Romans’ gossip and watching the light drawing away from this hemisphere until you’re left counting stars.
On Sunday after the sleep of blissfulness and a hearty Bloomfield breakfast we decided to follow our ‘water cure’ with a walking tour. We set off for the village of South Stoke, a circular route. On arrival we discovered that South Stoke are in the thick of a community driven campaign to save the Packhorse Inn. A ‘Punch owned’ ‘concern, sold on ‘under the counter’ with change of use for residential, until in the nick of time, our enterprising villagers realised they were about to have no pub. Solution? They are aiming to buy it themselves – we wish them all the luck in the world and hope they succeed and we’ll be heading back for a swift half – all power to the Packhorse.
Early evening found us ambling along the canal towpath where this lock gate ‘Hanging Gardens of Bath’ made me recognise that by breaking your routine and resting your mind you start to notice things again and this feeds your imagination in a productive way. The weekend was all to brief so please let us know if you have a few Bath secrets to share.
Other good Bath places:
Country Threads (patchwork emporium) 2 Pierrepont Place, City Centre, Bath
Wool (knitting shop obviously) 19 Old Orchard Street, Bath
The Makery 146 Walcot Street craft shop, ‘making’ parties and workshops
The British Emporium (UK made gifts) 15 Cheap Street, Bath
George Bayntun (fine binding and rare books) Manvers Street, Bath.