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Bath Features

Mauro of the Good Bear cafe

By Harry Mottram for Bath Voice

At the top of Holloway linking Bear Flat to the city centre is Hayes Place and if you haven’t stopped for some fish and chips or a coffee in The Good Bear cafe you might miss it.
The Council, traders and the Bear Flat Association representing the residents, want to transform the short but wide street into something approaching a continental piazza – a public space to sit down and appreciate the surroundings while still allowing vehicles to access the street.
Bear Flat campaigner Clyde Hunter said it should become an effective green book-end to Bear Flat with The Gore at the other end of the brief plateau with all the shops and facilities in the middle creating a central zone.
“What we would like to do is to widen the pavements and to change the surface of the road from tarmac to a different colour or paving so to make it a shared space so cars and pedestrians share the road with pedestrians given priority,” he said.
“At the moment it’s a dangerous place with vehicles doing three point turns and people trying to cross – not knowing where a vehicle is coming from.
“What we want to do is to slow the traffic down, and make it more pedestrian friendly, perhaps more continental.”

Bear Flat campaigner Clyde Hunter

In the first step towards the aspirations of the Bear Flat Association’s vision The Good Bear Cafe has been granted a pavement license to put tables and chairs outside.
The proprietor of the cafe Mauro Matta said having the licence had been a lifeline for the business during the 2020 crisis.
“Because of Covid-19 and the restrictions for social distancing we have lost half of our capacity,” he said, “With the extra space outside on a sunny day that has helped us so much to seat more customers.”
A ramp on and off the pavement has been added to facilitate prams and wheelchairs.
Cllr Winston Duguid said that Hayes Place had potential but these were early days. Planters are to be placed by the cafe as part of the plans which he said was an illustration of how the Council, traders and the Bear Flat Association could bring about change. For full details of the Bear Flat Association’s vision visit http://bearflat.org.uk/a-vision-for-bear-flat-centre/

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Oldfield Park Junior School, or South Twerton School as it was known until 1991, dates back to 1893 and is proud of its place in the community in south Bath

Bath Voice News: North gone south headteacher looks forward to a brighter year (despite having to make major changes to the school due to Covid-19)

Hope springs eternal in Bath following one of the most difficult years in modern times due to the Covid-19 crisis

“You have to take some of the positives from 2020,” said Dave Goucher, 44, the headteacher of Oldfield Park Juniors, “we’ve coped exceptionally well despite the challenges.”

In an exclusive interview with Bath Voice the north gone south academic opened up about his personal life, school life and life under Covid-19.
He said the school had sacrificed numerous activities due to the pandemic and had introduced staggered starts, invested in PPE and even made changes to classroom layouts.

Dave Goucher, 44, the headteacher of Oldfield Park Juniors

“The school has coped very well with the Covid-19 crisis along with all the schools in Bath which has in some ways gone under the radar considering what had to done,” he said, “The changes have often been introduced at very short notice by the Department of Education (DfE ) with emails arriving often at the weekend creating real challenges.

“We’ve had to clear out classrooms of furniture to allow the social distancing for the children, so much so we’ve had to hire a container to put the excess furniture in.

“We’ve had to change the classroom layouts with all the desks facing the front like in Victorian times. That is a change for some of the teachers who haven’t taught in that style in the past. I’m old enough to have taught like that with a blackboard and chalk many years ago.

He said the school had had to sacrifice some of the activities such as trips, residentials, music and sports.

“It will have to remain like that until we get the green light to go back to normal. We’re looking forward with optimism to 2021 as the vaccine arrives,” he said.

In the meantime the pupils have continued to wash their hands four or five times a day, timetables continue to be altered and the children and staff will continue to follow the rules.

“The parents have been brilliant,” he said,”They follow the routines, wear facemasks in the school grounds, they social distance and abide by the staggered start and end times.”

Covid-19 has also added to the schools overheads with new soap dispensers, sinks and PPE as well as hiring extra staff to cover for staff who are in self-isolation and not in school.

“From a financial aspect Covid has hit us hard like it has all schools, so I hope the DfE puts their hands in their pockets although that’s more a hope than an expectation,” he said.

Dave lives just a few minutes walk from the school with his wife and his two sons who attend local schools. Not many headteachers live close to their schools but he said he liked to live in the community and it cut out commuting.

“We have things we have to work on like all schools do but our mini Hogwarts is a great place to be,” he continued, “It’s a bit of a hidden gem as from the outside it doesn’t look much but when you go in we are blessed with a field, a fire pit, chickens, and even a pizza oven.”

Covid had cost the school many things including the annual Christmas Fair that usually brings in £4,000 to the school.

In the rush hour the school is the centre of traffic congestion although Dave said that had eased this year as many people were working from home.
However there was a concern about the clean air scheme which could push traffic out of the centre of Bath and turn the roads around the school into rat runs.

He came to Bath in 1998 to do a teacher training course and has stayed ever since.

His previous headship had been at St Michael’s Junior School nearby before joining Oldfield Park in 2015.

As for changes in that time he cited technology with the advent of computers and the internet – but another less obvious change was the pressures of the society in general where everything is instant which put new pressures on children.

Harry Mottram

Bath Voice is a monthly news magazine for the city. Harry Mottram is the news editor.

For on Bath Voice visit https://www.facebook.com/bathvoice/

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Wera Hobhouse MP

BATH VOICE FEATURE: exclusive interview with Bath’s MP Wera Hobhouse, the artistic, made-in-Germany Lib Dem who got ‘up-skirting made illegal’, doesn’t have anything to say to one Tory MP and is looking forward to being a granny

Harry Mottram for Bath Voice asked the city’s MP some very personal questions and received some very candid replies.

The first question was an easy one – who do you most admire in Bath and why? I prefixed it with a line about knowing how old she was and how many children she had but before I could get the question out she said: “I’m going to be a grandmother!”

“Oh, Granny Hobhouse,” I said, “tell me more.” And she did: “My eldest daughter is expecting our first grandchild at the end of February,” she said, “she married five years ago and is 30 – the same age I was when I had her.
“I never thought I’d be excited but I am so excited. I thought I wouldn’t be that excited having had children but I am.”

Back to the question of who to admire in Bath.
“I’ve been really impressed with the work of James Carlin and BAYNES 3SG with their coordination of volunteers during the Covid-19 crisis,” she explained, “They brought people together and fill the gaps with help for the lonely or helping with shopping.
“There are other volunteer groups like the Citizens Advice Bureau – they have all done wonderful work.”

Onto the next question which is what were her New Year’s resolutions? There was a long silence. I suggested taking up daily exercising, visiting long lost relatives or going on a diet. This last idea finally struck a chord.
“I don’t actually need to lose weight – for me it is the other way around and I’m bordering on being too thin,” she said. On my suggestion she should eat more food to fatten her up she accepted eating ‘a little bit more’ would be her answer.

Wera Hobhouse is the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Eating Disorders – a role she says is close to her heart as around one million people in the UK suffer from conditions such as anorexia and bulimia.
The next question was also based on her work in Westminster and in particular on her interest in women’s issues. In September she was given the job of Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Women and Equalities but back in January she made headlines for her work making ‘upskirting’ a crime.

Upskirting is taking a photograph looking up a woman’s skirt without their consent – something which hadn’t been covered in law before. She presented a private members bill which looked set to be successful but it was voted down by Sir Christopher Chope MP much to the outrage of fellow MPS. Eventually the Government took it up and it became law. So the obvious question I asked was Christopher Chope on her Christmas card list?
I felt an icy silence. She simply said: “No. I have nothing to say to that man.”
I had got her onto the subject of politics so the next question had to be about the current Government.

“This is a bad Government, who have undermined the rule of law, damaged and underfunded local Government and have been dismantling the Welfare State,” she said.
She thought they would hang on to 2024 though, as they had an 80 seat majority and could do want they liked. Especially since they had purged the centre right MPs in 2019.

Finally I moved onto less contentious grounds such as her passion for art.
“I paint figuratively, people and bodies in movement,” she explained, “it’s a subject I’ve worked on all my life as an artist apart from college when you try out different techniques and subjects.
“For me it is how you define people in time and space – something that is not fixed in time.”
She said when children came along she had less time and changed her style – using mixed media, underpainting with acrylic, printing on top and using oils as well to complete a canvass.

Wera Benedicta von Reden was born in1960 in Hanover, Germany. After school she studied art in Munster and Paris before completing a master’s degree in history and fine art in Berlin.
She married William Hobhouse in 1989 and moved to England the following year living first in London and later in Rochdale where she was a Conservative Councillor. However she was criticised for defecting to the Liberal Democrats over a controversial plan to build homes on a former asbestos site as she didn’t trigger a by election. However the development she campaigned against was stopped.

After moving to Bath in 2014 she was selected to stand in the 2017 parliamentary general election when she defeated the Conservative Ben Howlett, doubling her majority in 2019.

For on Bath Voice visit https://www.facebook.com/bathvoice/

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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