October 27 – A visit to the Roman Baths and Sham Castle

A few church micros on the way

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

Today we visited the Roman Baths in Bath. We went early as we wanted to make sure we arrived before the tourists started coming in great numbers. We got the headset and walked off around the site listening to the detailed explanation about the Roman Baths. The first shrine at the site of the hot springs was built by Celts, and was dedicated to the goddess Sulis, whom the Romans identified with Minerva. The Roman temple was constructed in 60–70 AD and the bathing complex was gradually built up over the next 300 years. The water which bubbles up from the ground at Bath falls as rain on the nearby Mendip Hills. It percolates down through limestone aquifers to a depth of between 2,700 and 4,300 metres where geothermal energy raises the water temperature to between 69 and 96 °C. Under pressure, the heated water rises to the surface along fissures and faults in the limestone. Hot water at a temperature of 46 °C rises here at the rate of 1,170,000 litres every day, from a geological fault (the Pennyquick fault).

Firstly you walk around the baths and then through the museum area. It is very interesting though people stopping to listen to the headsets can cause congestion. Roman coins of many periods have been found in the waters as well as Roman curses used to curse people who committed crimes such as theft.

Next, we visited St Michael and St Paul’s church, it is also known as St Michael’s Without. It possesses a fine example of a Sweetland Organ as well as some fine wall and ceiling paintings, ironwork and a brilliant reredos. From Mondays to Saturdays, the church plays host to a cafe serving hot drinks, cakes and snacks. When we visited it also had stalls selling Christmas cards and other gifts.

On our walk back to the house we passed St Mary the Virgin church at the bottom of Bathwick Rd and for the first time all week it was open.

Next on our agenda was to pick up the car and head up the hill to find Sham Castle so after grabbing some lunch and feeding Shabi that is what we did. We drove passed Sham Castle but there was nowhere to park until we found the golf course car park where we parked and walked the short distance back. It is a screen wall with a central pointed arch flanked by two 3-storey circular turrets, which extend sideways to a 2-storey square tower at each end of the wall. It was probably designed around 1755 by Sanderson Miller and built in 1762 by Richard James, the master mason for Ralph Allen, “to improve the prospect” from Allen’s townhouse in Bath. The views from up there are wonderful and apparently, Sham Castle is now lit up at night though we did not see that. We did get the geocache up there though.

Holy Trinity church in Combe Down had some lovely stained glass windows which we were lucky enough to see as the church was open while the lawn was being mown. We searched for the church micro until the gardener came over to say that he thought that the cache has been missing for several months. He keeps an eye on it as he must mow around the tree where it is hidden.

We drove down the hill to Monkton Combe where we found both a church micro and a fine pair. The gardener from Combe Down had recommended St Michael’s church as the churchyard contains the grave of Harry Patch, known as the “Last Fighting Tommy” and the last surviving soldier to have fought in the trenches of World War I. He was buried there following his death in July 2009 at the age of 111, alongside several members of his family.

Later we found the other end of the Two Tunnel’s walkway and got a cache there but we did not walk in the direction of the tunnel itself. It is certainly a popular place for walking and cycling. Here we also watched two hot air balloons in the sky.