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Archive for the ‘Widcombe’ 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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Regular visitors to my blog know that I have a long-standing love affair with the City of Bath. We know that Jane Austen lived here from 1801-1806 and that her feelings about the place may well have been very mixed as time went on. I can feel a whole other blogpost coming on about Austen’s feelings but I wanted to share some pictures that were taken of a walk from Lyncombe Hill to Combe Down. I have to thank Janet Aylmer for the directions to part of this walk. Her book In the footsteps of Jane Austen outlines a walk that Jane Austen took with a friend, Mrs Chamberlayne, through Bath to Lyncombe and Widcombe in May 1801. The book is annotated with lots of facts and pictures of Bath in Jane’s time – a very enjoyable book and without it I would never have discovered this walk!
In a letter to her sister Cassandra, Jane wrote:

Tuesday 26 May 1801
…I walked yesterday morning with Mrs Chamberlayne to Lyncombe and Widcombe, and in the evening I drank tea with the Holders. – Mrs Chamberlayne’s pace was not quite so magnificent on this second trial as in the first; it was nothing more than I could keep up with, without effort, & for many, many Yards together on a raised narrow footpath I led the way. – The Walk was very beautiful as my companion agreed, whenever I made the observation…

Now to my photos.

The first two show Lyncombe Hill, what was known as Lyncombe Lane in Jane’s day. Believe me, the word hill is the better descriptive and I have to say at the start, this is not a walk for the faint-hearted! I’m not sure this pic of yours truly standing near the bottom really shows how steep it gets, but it does incline far more as you carry on up. The delightful pussy cat who I am sure must have been human in another life had quite a conversation with us – it also provided me with an excuse to stop and catch my breath – one of many! From here, it was downhill for a while before turning into Lyncombe Vale.

Now, the next photo shows me on the raised footpath which is most likely the very same one that Jane walked along with her friend. Opposite the path there is a terrace of pretty Victorian houses, but of course these would not have been there in Jane’s day. On one side of the path runs a stream and beyond that there are fields and trees.
From Lyncombe Vale we turned into Perrymead or Pope’s Walk where there are some interesting buildings and from here climbed ever higher. It tends to get a bit muddy here but the views are stunning and the air is scented with green shoots of wild garlic. Spring has only just arrived in this part of the world but there’s nothing so lovely as spotting those new buds on the trees.





We came out at the top of Combe Down and after resting for a short while at a local pub for refreshment, we then took the short cut back down Prior Park Road to Widcombe. It did feel good to be walking downhill!

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