Well, all right, perhaps she didn’t do the actual gardening, but if she had been here, I’m sure she would’ve cut a rose or two. When we visited Bath Spa last summer, we were up to our ears in Georgian-style gardens and it felt like Austen might walk around the yew hedge at any moment.
You can join the throng in the city center – I believe everyone must say “I’ll meet you at the baths” – but look sharp so that you don’t accidentally end up on one of the myriad of coaches that stop near the Abbey, regularly disgorging and then sucking up their passengers. Perhaps you’ve been a day tripper?
It’s possible to enjoy Bath and not get caught up in the hordes. We stayed at a small, charming hotel just a ten-minute walk from the rail station – granted, last summer, it was a ten-minute walk in the pouring rain, but that’s beside the point. Up Manvers Street, alongside the Parade Gardens, across Pulteney Bridge, and hang a left onto quiet Henrietta Street, and we arrived at the Kennard Hotel.
The rooms are small, the breakfast room cozy, the hosts – Mary and Giovanni Baiano – friendly and accommodating. And in the back garden of this Georgian townhouse, you’ll find a picture of what it might have looked like if Jane lived there.
Such an authentic representation that their garden appears in Kim Wilson’s book In the Garden with Jane Austen (Frances Lincoln, 2009).
You’ll find another Georgian period garden by heading toward the Royal Crescent by way of the quieter gravel walk rather than traipsing up Gay Street and around The Circus. The garden is free to enter and wander through – signage explains the layout. The garden had been covered up during Victorian improvements, and then uncovered again. It’s a garden to stroll around – picture Lizzie and Jane Bennett arm-in-arm.
For your Bath Spa pub stop, Leighton recommends one of his favorites – The Raven. Cozy and dark downstairs; bright and cheery upstairs.
So, venture away from the Pump Room, come out of the Jane Austen Centre (you can’t budge in that gift shop, anyway) and stop lounging around on the grass at the Royal Crescent. There’s more to see.