August 8, 2020

Landscapes Near Bath

By aarondkey

Some people are people people. I have come to the realisation that I am a place person. I love places as much as I probably should love people.

I tried to explain on twitter the other day how much I loved the landscapes near Bath. Trying to find my tweet on there again I searched for Solsbury Hill and realised by looking at all the great pictures how distant my connection was. I lived in my formative years 10-15 miles from Bath (2 locations.) It was a much loved, much visited location but not a brooding, constant presence. Also in the 80s it was a lot quieter. Don’t come to Bath, tourists, you’re spoiling it for the locals.?

The reason my memory was sparked again was because of music. I heard “Solsbury Hill” playing on the radio and it took me back. I was in my teens, a proud owner of “And then there were three” by Genesis. Perhaps it was a present. I don’t remember buying it.

And then by extension I learned to love all of Genesis. Mainly backwards. Previous albums and Peter Gabriel. Although I had a brief spell loving Phil Collins I soon discovered he was not for me. Too urban, modern and of the east (of the UK) it felt to me. I always loved Solsbury Hill and would sing it every time I drove by Silbury Hill thinking this was what it was about. Then I investigated and thought I’d read that Solsbury Hill was somewhere in the East of the country and I lost interest in the true origins – as I would probably never go there. A question on University Challenge made me investigate as I was sure they were wrong, but it turned out I was. Then I realised that Solsbury Hill was somewhere I knew reasonably well. Never walked on it but driven by it a hundred times.

This was before the new relief road had been built, when to get to Bath from the East you had to drive through Box and Batheastern. Now I was always told that Peter Gabriel lived up there on the hill, (don’t know if it was true.) There was an impressive mansion. I imagined this was his when we drove by, and it was a point of pride or connection.

Box was an interesting place too. Site of the Box tunnel which anyone who had travelled between London and Bath knew as the long period of darkness before the shorter period of darkness before you got there. I want to talk about the Box tunnel too but I’ll leave it for another time.

Also somewhere between Corsham and Box and in fact all over these hills were the Stone quarries Bath was mainly built out of, stretching back to Roman times – the famous Bath stone. Also these quarries provided the stone for Box Tunnel. The quarries, which you’d never realise were there under the rolling green hills have hidden all sorts of things including ammunition in the second world war, helped by access to trains.

In the 80’s, I think, one of these quarries was open to the public briefly and I visited. I got the impression that this attraction was being run by hippies, judging by the quality of the refreshments. But what was fantastic that as we followed our flaky guide down the long sloping tunnel into semi-darkness Kate Bush’s “CloudBusting” was playing over speakers and echoing through the tunnels. We survived (it wasn’t as bad as my older, more conservative mind is making it out to be) and in fact had a great tour. It was the music that made the experience so memorable. I’m investigating to see if there is still an open quarry for visitors to look around but there doesn’t appear to be. That’s a shame.

#PeterGabriel #Solsburyhill #Silburyhill #Bath #Boxtunnel #Bathquarries #KateBush #Cloudbusting