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Via Bath deeper into England

Home -> Europe -> United Kingdom -> Travelogue United Kingdom -> 09 September 2005

Friday 09 September, via Bath deeper into England

Via Brecon we drive through the Brecon Beacons national park. With more than 1300 square kilometers too big to see it all on one day, and we cross it from north to south. Most of the time we drive on a plateau, but now and then there are steep climbs. The landscape is varies from very rural to totally desolate.
But the sky is grey, not good weather for making pictures. When we drive out of the national park we decide to leave Wales and go on to England. We have been a week now in Wales, so we will have to skip the south this time. Via Cardiff, the capital of Wales, we cross the Servern riverr and drive to Bath.
Bath Cathedral of BathIt is still cloudy, but much warmer here and in t-shirt we can walk into the center, with an umbrella at hand. Our travel guides tell us Bath is supposedly one of the most beautiful towns of England, but we don't agree. The old center, near the cathedral and the Roman baths, is quite charming, but to call it the most pretty we have seen, no, we don't think so.
Bath, Roman baths and the cathedral Roman baths at BathBut this place has always attracted people, starting with the Celts (or maybe even earlier) who worshipped Sul here, the goddess of the wells. Every day, more than a million liter warm water comes up to the surface and since 500 BC. the wells are known for their therapeutic effects. The Romans, who already were masters in the art of bathing, used the well to build a large bathhouse around it. it is not hard to guess where the name of this city came from.
But at some time in history the knowledge of the well and the bathhouse was lost and only redicovered in the 19th century when the neighbours complained about a leakage. Excavations brought the Roman public baths to the surface again and it is amazing how much has been preserved. The entrance fee is high (9.50 pounds per person) but this time really worthwhile. We get an audioguide (many languages available) and it has much to tell about the baths and all things on display. The temperature of the water from the well is a constant 46 degrees Celsius and the large amount of water that comes to the surface every day makes the air in and around Bath a few degrees higher than elsewhere. Of course, that is the reason why we find it so nice here!
Roman hairstyle Hot water well of de Roman bathsWe still don't know where the water exactly comes from (is there a reservoir, or is it some sort of volcanic activity?), but it is still flowing, every day. On the picture to the right you see the overflow from the well to the constructed baths. The Romans distributed the water to several rooms with different purposes (sauna, swimming pool, healing baths, etcetera).
To the left a picture with the hairstyle from the Roman period. Thanks to the presence of the baths, Bath was a large and prosperous community in those times.
Roman proverbAnd Seneca, a Roman philosopher, already knew: life is a bath. The saying continues as follows: some sink, some swim. Ironically, Seneca was forced by emperor Nero to commit suicide and he tried to do this by cutting his wrists while sitting in bath, but at first it didn't work.
Cherhill White HorseAfter this very interesting and informative visit, we have a drink and then continue our way into England towards the Salisbury's Plains. When we enter Wiltshire, we soon notice our first 'white horse' in this area, the White Horse of Cherhill, made in 1780. In this region there are at least 7 white horse figures, made out of the chalk rocks.
Silbury HillThis region is also known for the many prehistoric sites to which Silbury Hill also belongs. The purpose of this 4500 years old hill is still unclear; nothing has been found indicating it was a tomb, or some holy place. The mysteries of the antiquity have survived very well in this part of England.
When we stop at an inn near Avon to have a cup of soup, the owner tells us he uses the land behind the inn as a campsite. It is nice weather, so we decide to stay here. Avon lies north of the bare Salisbury Plains where Stonehenge is. We want to explore this area the coming days, so this is a good starting point for us for a couple of days. We only have to pay 2 pounds per night! But there are only toilettes present, no showers or hot water.
Archeological reconstruction at UpavonThe campsite is full with large groups of students who do projects in the neighbourhood on prehistoric sites. One of the projects stands in the meadow next to the campsite where people from the Timewatch Team of the BBC try to reconstruct something with large tree trunks, a sort of woodhenge. That is a circle of trees instead of stones.
It has been a long and busy day, so we sit outside the inn and enjoy the nice wetaher with a meal and a beer. Time to relax and prepare for a whole new area of Great Britain. We liked Wales very much and could have stayed there much longer, but we have to make decisions and until now we have spend more time in Scotland and Wales than in England. So we will have to change that the next weeks.


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