I am a freelance writer, living in Bath with my wife and son.
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Published July 10th 2017
A courtyard to see, with a beautiful tree
Bath is home to one of the oldest architecturally planted trees in the world: the giant plane tree. Planted as a sapling in 1793, it is now a gigantic presence, towering over a lovely, and largely undiscovered courtyard adjoining the world famous Bath Abbey. Crammed with cafe's, a gourmet tobacconist, jewellers, a novelty shop and several luxurious apartments, it is almost a Bath in miniature, that has its own unique identity within the city. The green is also an integral part of Bath City life, and one of the focal points of the annual Bath Christmas Markets, when the plane tree is adorned with twinkling lights. I love it because it offers an oasis of calm in what can be a very busy and crowded city.
Originally built to form a walled and gated courtyard to Bath Abbey in the 17th Century, Abbey Green has become a thriving community. Adjacent to the Abbey courtyard, it also fans out into beautiful, narrow medieval streets that themselves are full of lovely shops to visit. With the ancient Bath Spa pools less than a minute away, it offers all sorts of experiences. Every time I go there, I notice a new business or visit a shop that I have not really noticed before. It brings a sense of what the old, pre-Georgian Bath must have been like, with labyrinthine streets and small businesses setting up. Indeed, Sally Lunn's, the oldest teashop in Bath, is literally just around the corner from here.
Tucked just behind the thoroughly modern Marks and Spencer's store, Abbey Gate opens out into the Green, and passing through it is like going back in time. The buildings ripple and flow with age, and the differences in their width and height lends the place a European feel. I have an Italian friend who says that going to the Green after a hot day feels like strolling through his native Venice. Praise indeed! Should you be looking for a central but quiet location to stay in Bath, then this would certainly be an area to consider, whether hiring an apartment or looking at hotels. It must be wonderful to step out and be a the heart of the city immediately.
Bath is a city full of pockets and hidden areas, and this may well be one of the deepest. The best way to find the Green is to head for the Abbey, turn right after the Pump Rooms, and keep going. If in doubt, then just ask passers-by for the massive tree, or the Crystal Palace pub. Most Bathonians know and love the Plane tree, and it really is magnificent. It is hard to believe it is so very old really, because it sports thick, lush green leaves during Summer, and in Winter seems to shrug off the Winter frosts. So loved is this old giant, that the council recently paved the area around its base with golden stone, and this has now become a popular place for buskers to perform. The acoustics are perfect for this, and choirs and singers seem drawn to the Green. If you visit, I hope you get serenaded.