Richard White

explorations in place and time

A journey to the edge of the enchanted city

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A walk from the centre of the city of Bath to a burial ground at its edge.

Bath from Beechen cliffInvolving:

Views, some seen and mainly mine
Demarcations. Lines. More on the Wansdyke

It was pouring and cold. The city momentarily drained of its enchantment. I waited in the absence and recalled presence of the photographic shop centurion by the Abbey. I set off alone. The plan was to explore a possible route by way of the National Trust Walk To The View, view, and on via an ornate but overgrown Victorian Cemetery, up through the woods to the Old Jewish Burial Ground arriving at the Bath Workhouse Burial Ground.
Widcombe hill from Beechen Cliff
I stood on the bridge and looked at the river, a distant roar of the weir called me. A watery enchantment. I walked on thinking about this mix of being drawn, almost without conscious thought, into these appreciations of sight and sound. Thinking about Thoreaus daily walks, immersing himself into this embodied experience of nature. The rain, the sound of the water, the filtered light ….and then my phone rang klaxon. Maybe this is the disenchantment that snaps me out and gets the intellectual processes running as well. Paying attention to my thought AS WELL AS giving attention to the embodied experience…..

K joined me and we talked as we walked the way to the official National Trust view of the city. We crossed a Stodhert embossed iron bridge over the canal; encouraged by its design to imagine Venice, we wondered about its historical connection with Ironbridge and the making of shackles for slaves. Critical talk keeps enchantment at bay?

Passing the former Bathwick parish workhouse, we made it to the NT view and Octavia’s bench. We stopped and, still dry under my waterproofs, I stood steaming. Cold drizzle spattering on my hat. Down the sheepcropped green,through the low cloud, the church spire and the Abbey tower were hard against the grey.

From here I continued alone, down a slippery stair case past the Victorian graveyard at Smallcombe, resisting the lure of its fallen angels and more recently controlled undergrowth I continued up the hill and into the woods. Gathering thoughts on my early enchantment with social media, the promise of networking for information but increasingly feeling it as merely a more active audience…a changing ideas of participation. Developing thoughts of the smart device as the disenchanting tool; the act of using it takes me out of the reverie and embodied experience but at the same time require me to share that and possibly comment on it.

Clashing thoughts beautifully tramping up the wet gulley, pleasure in the comradeship of walkers, I slipped and slide eventually upwards as they wet and laughing stumbled and slipped downwards. Through the woods huge fleshy beech trees, strong sensual sculptural thighs and arms holding up the sky. Shining wet folds, crevices and partings. At the top of Ralph Allen drive I tried to imagine men maneouvering huge chunks of stone on the tramway down, I thought of the carved out caverns underground and saw the field empty and steamy green; nothing left of the miners last circus that came to town to fill it all in.
Old Jewish Burial ground new window
I had discarded my glasses by the time I passed the old Jewish Burial Ground remembering once when it stood for liberation from Belsen I looked in through the new window. Blurred. Wet. At last returning to the Shepherds Walk on the very edge of the city. I saw it all raw. The drizzle drenching me, no longer safe in my waterproofs, water trashed leaves diluted dogshit slurry, I walked through a wet gloom thinking of climate change and the dominance of wealth that does not care. A dangerous disenchantment. On the edge of the city seeing without lenses, feeling the cold rain on my eyes, I walked passed the high fences and the old walls along an ancient path. A demarcation: this is mine, this is safe, and you, whoever you are, be afraid and not welcomed. A territorial tag, a human piss mark.
Official view south
And in this state of mind walked along a further fragment of the Wansdyke thinking of other walks along this landmark and then through a gap and over broken wall into a former council estate. Not so old but nevertheless wet and slowly decaying settees in the yard. The old red brick Workhouse chimney in the distance. The drizzle had stopped as I walked out onto the burial ground. Again I noticed the uneven surface one side of the fence and on the school side smoothed out for a playing field.
W burial gound hips
A rose bush in the far corner, a memorial planting perhaps. Heavy with big red hips each with a rain tear hanging beneath.

In the centre a couple of stone I had not noticed before, unmarked, but definitely dragged there, a memorial perhaps. Or just somewhere to sit on in this green dead field. In the grass a discarded lottery ticket. Someone still dreaming of fortune in Bath.
W burial ground loterry ticket
I walked back through the grim high walls of the old workhouse down to Beechen Cliff for a last view over the city re-enchanted by afternoon sun.


Author: rswpost

Exploring connections between landscape, place and people. on foot and online. Working collaboratively and harnessing the participatory potential of social media.

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