The Bath Beat and four more skyline walks

Ramblings 17, hosted by ‘passionate hiker’ Stuart Maconie in early 2011, was a series of six city skyline walks aimed at making the most of short winter days. Do spring and autumn offer deeper sensory experiences, with more changes of colour?

Bath Skyline followed the National Trust’s Bath Skyline Walk, their most popular download with 9K a year, it’s even got its own Twitter account (@NTBathSkyline). See the route overview, with non-zoomable map.

Bath, like Rome and a few other places, is built on seven hills, but is now known for its hen nights. Stuart’s walk (6 mile circular, on a ridge) was in the company of the Bath Beat walking group: specialised equipment rating probably around 3. The walk took in a number of POIs (scroll!), such as the university, Solsbury Hill, the British Bobsleigh Track, Sham Castle and Smallcombe (hamlet, 5 mins from central Bath), ending up on Bathwick Hill with views inter alia of Bath Abbey, Kelston Tower House and Pulteney Bridge (one of four bridges in the world with shops across its full span on both sides).

Points of personal interest, aka even more curious facts corner:

  • Bath dogs home is one of the first UK dogs’ homes, opened in 1937, and pioneer of the no destruct policy (currently houses 130 dogs)
  • mention of Street Pastors, never heard of these before I came across Natteravnene in Denmark
  • industrial heritage – the walk passed Bathampton Rocks, a limestone quarry, with deserted tramways used for transporting stone downhill to the Kennet and Avon Canal (mid 1700s)
  • Ralph Allen – bcame a postmaster at the age of 19, wanted the view of a castle from his home at Prior Park so built Sham Castle, a one wall facade complete with drawbridge and portcullis

Updates: several cities have spawned their own specialist publishers – the Akeman Press list includes a guide to Bath with 15 walks and another with 11 literary walks. Plus Bill Aitchison has covered the walk on his Bath tour of tours.

The other episodes in the series:

  • Belfast – the perspective from the Belfast Hills, where you can’t see the murals or the peace walls, but on a clear day can see Galloway
  • Lancaster – traversed by both Robert the Bruce and Bonnie Prince Charlie, plus hosts the Taj Mahal of the North
  • The Garth, outside Cardiff, offered up the story of The Englishman who went up a hill but came down a mountain (plus 2008 re-run)
  • The Lickey Hills – overlooking Birmingham and its five hills, one of which doesn’t really make it…the flat middle of England, no higher point between Beacon Hill and the Urals (that’s some viewshed); a train sponsored by Cadbury for the benefit of its workers used to run to the top; perfect for a Sunday constitutional or to get inner city types into the countryside – all very Living Streets and why not? “walking is still not really viewed as a valid form of physical activity”

I’ll cover the Manchester episode with Simon Armitage elsewhere here.

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