My favourite place in the UK
In 2006, we decided to move out of London. We visited a number of places, here and abroad, but none of them touched us. We came to Bath on a rare sunny winter day in February. As we stepped from the train, our first view was of the soft green hills surrounding the city and the golden stone of the Georgian buildings. We looked at each other and smiled and that was it. Six months later, we’d sold up and moved here.
We live in a house on the north-east slopes, where the Romans planted their vineyards, with magnificent views of city and countryside. A ten-minute walk and we’re away from the everyday bustle, rambling along country lanes and talking to the cows. The city’s setting is ravishing, cradled by hills all round, with the river Avon flowing through the middle, the Kennet and Avon canal and many grassy parks and squares. Even on the dullest winter day, light reflects off the mellow Bath stone of the buildings. It’s a small place, so you can walk everywhere easily and the hills aren’t that daunting. After a couple of weeks here, we were scampering about like mountain goats.
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to the beauty of its natural surroundings, the Roman Baths and architectural set pieces such as the Royal Crescent and the Circus that reflect its Georgian glory days. Bath lifts my spirits like no place I’ve ever lived before.
My hometown of Vancouver enjoys a beautiful natural setting, but it’s barely been there a hundred years and I like a place with a long history. In Bath, you’re most definitely sharing the space with ghosts. You get a palpable sense of long years and many lives lived, from the Iron Age settlement on nearby Solsbury Hill through the Celts and Romans. Edgar, the first king of all England, was crowned at Bath Abbey in AD 973. Now that’s what I call a pedigree.
And, of course, Bath has great literary connections, which makes me feel right at home. I’m a big Jane Austen fan and Persuasion is my favourite of her books. I love the fact that my walk to work takes me along Upper Camden Place, where Austen had Anne Eliot live with her dreadful father and sister. Considering that Austen hated Bath and was very unhappy during her stays here, it’s a cruel irony that she has practically become its patron saint. Georgette Heyer also set many of her books in Bath and I like to track where her characters live and scheme and play. One of her characters visits an employment bureau on Gay Street, right around the corner from my writing room. Bath is still bursting with writers, indeed creative folk of all stripes, and a very friendly, supportive bunch they are too.
I don’t overstate the case when I say that the people of Bath and the city itself – its beauty and history satisfy something very deep in me – have been the making of me as a writer. I’m very at home here. I have no plans to leave.
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Be sure to check out Book passion for life today for a guest post from Dianna Hardy, author of The witching pen novellas.