Monday, March 11, 2013

A Walk to Widcombe in Bath!



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





11 comments:

Katherine Cox said...

Bath is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your photos, Jane! :)

Jane Odiwe said...

Thank you, Katherine-it's so kind of you to leave such a lovely comment!

Sophia Rose said...

How lovely! Thanks for sharing your pictures and comments.

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous pics Jane! Thanks for showing the pic of the white gate. I had so much fun reading your story "Searching for Captain Wentworth",because I had visited Bath and could picture some of the scenery, and especially because you live there and can share so much intimate detail about Bath.
Vee

Jane Odiwe said...

Thank you, Sophia Rose and Vee for your wonderful comments-I'm so glad you enjoyed the post.

canalmonkey said...

Turn left thru the gate and on the supporting pillar for the Chinese bridge before you get to the tunnel you will see some 17C graffiti. Notice how only one side of the Sabrina bridge tunnel is decorated as only one side could be seen by the rich people from Sydney Gardens. You might want to fact-check if the canal was finished when J.A. was in Bath, certainly anybody walking through the tunnel and down the canal path to Widcombe in those days would be trespassing; it would be the same as walking down a rail track today.

Jane Odiwe said...

Hello canalmonkey,

The canal was part of the pleasure gardens as far as I know-anyone who had access to the gardens would have been able to walk along or take a ride on pleasure or rowing boat. The authorities had to pay to have the canal built in the gardens. We don't know if Jane walked as far as Widcombe along the canal-in fact, in my book I have her follow the river to Widcombe.
In May 1801 she writes, "Last night we walked by the Canal". On the 26th she records walking to Lyncombe and Widcombe which inevitably meant crossing the canal. Work on the Widcombe Locks had started at this time although they were not completed until 1810.

Here's an interesting article-http://www.jim-shead.com/waterways/Articles.php?wpage=26

canalmonkey said...

Thank you so much, I never knew that J.A. mentioned the canal, I assume it is in her diaries. As I have you here, any idea how much it cost to enter Sydney Gardens (ideally the price in J.A.'s time, and how much that is now)?

Jane Odiwe said...

Hi canalmonkey
This is from the Jane Austen Centre website:
The terms of subscription for walking are for one month, each person, 4s.; for 3 months, 7s. 6d.; and the season, 10s. If two in one family, each 7s 6d; if three or more, each 6s. Non-subscribers, for walking, 6d. each time. Nursery-maids with children in arms, one subscription. Gentlemen and families may be accommodated with elegant apartments at Sydney-House. The terms of subscription to the ride, one month, 2s. 6d. each person. Three months, 6s. Six months, 10s. The year, 15s. Non-subscribers, 6d. each time.
The whole article is excellent for interest and research: http://www.janeausten.co.uk/sydney-gardens-bath/

For conversion to today's money-here is another excellent article: aneaustensworld.wordpress.com/2008/02/10/the-economics-of-pride-and-prejudice-or-why-a-single-man-with-a-fortune-of-4000-per-year-is-a-desirable-husband/

Vesper Meikle said...

Thank you for the photographs of Bath - it brought memories of when I visited - I was living in England then

Jane Odiwe said...

It's a pleasure, Vesper - I'm so glad you liked them!