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Archive for the ‘Kennet and Avon canal’ Category

 

The White Gate – Sydney Gardens
If you’ve read my latest novel, Searching for Captain Wentworth, you will know that the white gate in Sydney Gardens plays a very important part. At the start of the book, my heroine Sophia is invited to Bath by her aunt who understands that she is in need of mending a broken heart and also has a dream of becoming a writer. Sophia sees her neighbour, the mysterious Josh Strafford, drop a glove outside the house where she is staying (which just happens to be next door to Jane Austen’s Sydney Place address) and when she follows him in an attempt to return it, she finds herself at this gate and with no sight of Josh who seems to have disappeared.

Here’s a little from the book: 

The only way he could possibly have gone seemed to be screened by hedges but, as I approached, I saw a white cast-iron gate hidden in the greenery. I must admit to feeling a little uneasy at this point. The gardens were deathly quiet and felt more than a little eerie. I was totally and utterly alone. All my Mum’s advice about never going into parks by myself came back with a flash. I could easily be murdered and no one would know anything about it. I looked behind me, but there was not a soul around so I pushed the gate open and stepped down onto to the canal path. I didn’t want to go any further, I couldn’t see my neighbour anywhere and there was something very melancholy about the place. Under a beautiful cast-iron bridge, studded with moss jewels upon its stone façade, a ribbon of jade water snaked slowly along to the echoes of dripping water as two seagulls swooped in a race to the end of a long, dark tunnel.
I was getting soaked through; it was time to go home. I turned, walked up the steps and put my hand on the gate. It opened with a rasping scrape and as I placed my foot to step through the entrance back into the gardens, I thought at first I’d been hit so hard that I reeled and clutched at the gate to steady myself. The world went black and then so dazzlingly bright that I was blinded. I instinctively closed my eyes and how I managed to stay upright I couldn’t later figure out, but the greatest shock came when I opened my eyes again. From my place, half hidden behind green bushes, I saw a scene that made no sense.

An original bridge in Sydney Gardens
Whilst I leave what happens next to your imaginations, I will tell you a little about the gate in the gardens. It does indeed lead onto the canal path of the Kennet and Avon canal and it’s possible to take a walk in either direction. Last week, I turned right as I stepped down onto the canal path and you can follow the path along as far as Widcombe and beyond. Here are some photos I took – it was a very chilly day but there are still some lovely views. I hope you like them!
Narrowboats seen from a bridge
Gardens extend down to the water
Georgian architecture sits beautifully in the Bath landscape
A heron takes a dip in the water
Views of Widcombe in the distance
Widcombe – it is here in my novel that Sophia walks with Jane Austen
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One of my favourite walks in Bath starts at Jane Austen’s house at no. 4 Sydney Place and takes me through the gardens opposite where we know our favourite novelist walked. Although the gardens do not look the same as they did in Jane’s day, they are still a lovely place for a stroll or provide the starting point for something a little more energetic. There is a gate almost hidden amongst the greenery which leads onto the Kennet and Avon canal path and if you turn left after passing through it you can follow the canal for a good twenty minute walk to the village of Bathampton and beyond if you’ve the stamina!

The photos below are a selection of ones taken over time, but I hope they give you an idea of what you might see in Sydney Gardens and on the canal path.

In 1819 Pierce Egan wrote about the gardens and canal in his book of Walks through Bath –The Kennet and Avon Canal runs through the gardens, with two elegant cast-iron bridges thrown over it, after the manner of the Chinese; and the romantic and picturesque scenery, by which they are surrounded, is fascinating beyond measure. Great opposition, it seems, was originally made to the canal running through these gardens by the proprietor; but it gives such a variety to the walks, that its introduction is now viewed as a great addition. It would be a matter of some difficulty to point out a spot of ground so tastefully laid out as SYDNEY-GARDENS.

When you finally reach Bathampton there is a very nice pub – The George Inn, where you can stop and take some refreshment before turning round to go home again.

If you’d like to read more about the gardens in Jane Austen’s time Julie from Austen Only has written some excellent posts on their history.












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