Hello and welcome to the autumn update from the Bathscape Project. Walks and wildflower seeds are our main topics for this edition. There’s a round up of our successful (albeit soggy) Walking Festival, the completion of our access project works and we hear from one of our volunteer walk leaders. We also sum up the seeding work we’re undertaking this autumn and the meadow management guidance we’ve just published. We hope you enjoy the read.
Walking Festival Roundup
This year was our 7th Walking Festival. It grows year on year and people are still finding out about it. We had over 75 walks and events this year, covering a real variety of length and subject matter.
We get lovely feedback and many constructive comments for improvement, and we’re very grateful to those who take the time to let us know how it went for them.
“These walks always re-inspire me to go a little further than I do on my regular walks and to join more group walks during the rest of the year when I can. Very heart-warming also to spend time with such interesting and friendly ‘strangers’.”
This year we featured Nordic Walking taster sessions for the first time and a new workshop on trees and movement. We are always keen to offer new types of events on top of our popular mainstays. We were affected by the weather – usually so reliable at this time of year – which gave us everything from a heat wave to torrential rain and storms. Keep an eye on our events page as we’ll be rescheduling a couple of walks that had to be cancelled.
Huge thanks to our fantastic walk leaders and helpers – 72 people altogether gave their time, energy and passion to the Walking Festival. The generosity of time, knowledge and expertise that they share with us and the walkers is phenomenal.
Autumn’s Seeding Effort
Our Community Action for Nature volunteers kicked off our seeding efforts last month, seeding a hectare of grassland at Carr’s Wood. All the wildflower seed has been harvested from National Trust land over the summer and there are around a dozen more sites that have been identified for seeding this autumn, including Bath City Farm, Moorlands Park and Bath Golf Course. Adding seed will improve the diversity of plants found in these grasslands, which are often dominated by a few grass species. More wildflowers will bring huge benefits to insects and other wildlife. If you’d like to get involved with our Community Action for Nature volunteer programme see our volunteering page for more details.
Managing Meadows Guidance
If you’re curious to learn more about managing wildflower meadows, the Bath Area Meadows Group have created a useful document detailing their experiences making and managing meadows, ranging from a few square metres of lain wildflower turf to several acres of seed broadcasting. You can download the document – Making meadows final
Access Project Completion
Bathscape and the Cotswolds National Landscape came together last week to mark the end of the “access” element of the Bathscape scheme. The Access Project has included the creation of a suite of self-guided trails, the way marking of the fantastic Circuit of Bath walking route and lots and lots of work on the ground to make the route more accessible (path surfacing works, adding in steps, handrails, etc). Multiple user groups were consulted before designing the walking trails, and many guided walks have taken place as part of the project too. It couldn’t have happened without a tremendous volunteer effort. Volunteers were involved in testing the routes, giving feedback on the trail guides and doing works on the ground. And volunteers will continue to be crucial in maintaining the trails – a team of Circuit of Bath Rangers is now in place, managed by the Cotswolds National Landscape, and they will continue to check the route regularly so that it can be enjoyed by everyone all year round.
Over 50 staff and volunteers met at the Assembly Rooms for a formal thank you. There was a presentation on what’s been achieved followed by drinks and nibbles and we finished off with a guided walk (of course!)
Our most recent podcast episode is all about Radical Bath, which over the centuries has had a rich underbelly of radicalism and rebellion with its streets home to rallies and riots! We delve into a range of radicalism in the city from the past up to present day.
We start with Andrew Swift, who takes us on a walk around Bath and discusses the struggle to get the vote and the importance of Chartism in the city. Next Professor Emerita June Hannam tells us about the suffragette movement and how Eagle House became a refuge for suffragettes when they came out of prison. We then hear from Annie Beardsley, who worked at the Bath Natural Theatre Company and took their show to support the Solsbury Hill bypass protesters in 1994. And finally we join Kidical Mass – a group of cyclists campaigning for safer streets for children to cycle in.
You can listen to the podcast here or search for “Bathscape Footprints” on your favourite podcast provider. Huge thanks go to our podcast producer Pommy Harmar for all her continuing work on this project.
Have you ever wanted to try your hand at hedge-laying? CPRE Avon & Bristol are looking for volunteers to become Hedgerow Heroes this winter. They’ll be holding regular volunteer sessions in and around Bath on Fridays as well as the occasional training opportunity. You can find out all about the Hedgerow Heroes project here.
Hear from a Volunteer
The Bathscape Team are incredibly grateful to all our volunteers who work across our various projects. Below we hear from one of our volunteer walk leaders. Should you want to learn more about our volunteer opportunities visit www.bathscape.co.uk/volunteer
Hello, my name is Steve and I’ve been a Bathscape volunteer for a number of years. I was lucky to be able to take early retirement and needed something to fill my time. I started volunteering for the National Trust first as a gardener and lately leading guided walks. As a National Trust volunteer I was aware of the work going on behind the scenes to put in place the lottery funding to allow Bathscape to be created. The National Trust is one of the partner organisations of Bathscape. I of course signed up to receive the newsletter from Bathscape, in one of those newsletters was a call for more volunteers, and I thought that with my walk leading skills this would be a good opportunity to meet new people and give something back. After some initial training from the Ramblers, a necessary step as you get insurance cover, and some voluntary additional training from Cotswolds National Landscape, another Bathscape partner, in walk leading and first aid, I was ready to go.
Lucy, from Bathscape, suggested I might like to help with the Wellbeing Walks from Monksdale Road on a Thursday. I went along, not really knowing what to expect. After the first few weeks of just tagging along I started to lead, or back mark, the walks. The Bathscape volunteers are supported by volunteers from MIND on the walks, the walks are primarily aimed at people with mental health issues but anyone is welcome to come along. Whilst I don’t believe I personally have any mental health issues I always feel good when the walk is over. The walks are generally short, only an hour, and are more about talking to people rather than a serious walk, but still enjoyable to do as a walk leader.
I then got involved with leading walks on the Bathscape Walking Festival, these tended to be longer, somewhere between five and ten miles, but all the same very enjoyable. A new set of Bathscape volunteers to get to know and share likeminded thoughts. I was then introduced to Nicole, the Trails and Access Officer, from Cotswolds National Landscape, who had been tasked with developing self-guided walks to go on the Bathscape website for people to download. Each of the instructions for these walks, including the twenty-one-mile Circuit of Bath, needed to be checked before they were published. So off I went, instructions in hand, checking everything made sense (it didn’t always, but we eventually got there!). As these instructions were published over a year ago, and things change, we have started the process of re-checking.
As I had helped to check the instructions for the Circuit of Bath Nicole thought it would be a good idea if I were to lead walks for the public with her. Thankfully we decided that we would do the twenty-one miles in three sections, phew!!! As we usually do a pre-walk before an actual walk I make it that I have now walked the whole circuit five times, plus other shorter bits many times on other walks, I think I could walk it in my sleep.
The highlights for me in my time as a Bathscape volunteer are numerous but a few things stick out, seeing the improvements in health and wellbeing of people on the Monksdale walks, including someone who has now become a walk leader in their own right, to attending the Bath Life awards as a guest and having the Bathscape Walking Festival as Highly Commended and lovely comments from people on the walks.
It is a very worthwhile experience being a Bathscape volunteer and I would highly recommend it to anyone thinking of volunteering. Hopefully I will see some of you on my walks in the future, you would be most welcome.