A Local Guide to Bear Flat
South of Bath’s stunning city centre, Bear Flat is a friendly, cosy community adored by residents and locals, with a vibrant high street, stunning green spaces, and several respected schools.
A Brief History of Bear Flat
Bear Flat owes the former half of its title to the Anglo-Saxon name ‘Berewick’, ‘Bere’ meaning barley and ‘Wick’ meaning settlement, as the area was essentially a settlement near a barley field. ‘Flat’ may be due to the flatness of the land, which sits in stark contrast to the majority of the extremely hilly Bath.
Prior to Bear Flat’s Poets Corner estate that flanks Beechen Cliff, the area consisted solely of gardens and farmland, within which the Bath and West Show was held until the 1850s.
These cliffs were originally called Blake or Blake Leigh, known as the herb garden of Bath Apothecaries, and have served as inspiration for many famous artists and creators, including Jane Austen, John Wood, and Thomas Hardy. The painter Walter Sickert even depicted them in his work titled ‘Paradise Row, Holloway’.
During the 19th century, the settlement was incorporated into Barrack Farm, which came to be demolished to make way for housing. The majority of the architecture in Bear Flat was built during the early reign of King Edward VII.
Location of Bear Flat
Bear Flat sits south of Bath’s city centre and to the west of Beechen Cliff. Originally, the route to the neighbourhood from the centre was up the lane of Holloway, a southern route of the Fosse Way with a 14th century pilgrim’s church and the Magdalen Chapel. The northern end of the area has been closed to traffic since the late 1960s, when it was redeveloped during a time in the immediate post-war period called ‘The Sack of Bath’.
To the east of Bear Flat runs the Widcombe Valley, once a parish, characterised by stunning Georgian buildings that echo the architecture of Bath’s city centre.
The wooded valley of Lyncombe Vale sits towards the south, formerly the route of the Bath branch of the Somerset and Dorset railway and the Combe Down Tunnel, the longest unventilated rail tunnel in Britain at 1700 metres. This tunnel reopened along with the Devonshire Tunnel as part of the Two Tunnels Greenway during 2013, forming part of the National Cycle Network.
The 19th century saw another route to Bear Flat out of Bath’s centre constructed, now called Wells Road, but originally named on some early maps as the Wells-Exeter Road.
Sights to See
Alexandra Park sits at the top of Lyncombe Hill, to the east of Bear Flat. Titled in honour of Queen Alexandra, the park was opened during 1903, with Beechen Cliff School just next alongside it. The park offers stunning views of the area, with tranquil green spaces and incredible panoramic sights over the city of Bath.
There is also the Beechen Cliff Wood, lined with mature beech and ash trees on the side of a steep hill, perfect to work up an appetite on a Sunday before a roast at The Bear Inn.
Things to Do
Among Bear Flat’s many cafes and bars, The Bear Inn is impossible to miss with its lifesize polar bear mascot lurking above the doorway. The art deco interior is covered with art and prints from local artists, creating a cosy community atmosphere that’s perfect for an afternoon of coffee and cake. You can even pick up a book and curl up in a comfy chair in the mini library, complete with a community book-swap by the bar.
There is also an annual open studios event in Bear Flat during which local artists, painters, crafters, potters, sculptors, jewellers, and photographers come together over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend to display their work, with homes and The Bear Inn open to the public for perusing and purchasing.
If you fancy watching a match, the Bear Flat Cricket Club, also known as ‘The Bears’, was established in 1983, and went on to become Wiltshire League Division 1 Champion in 2017.
When the evening rolls around, Menu Gordon Jones is one of Bath’s most highly regarded restaurants, offering a modern European multicourse tasting menu alongside a selection of global wines to enjoy in the stylish contemporary decor.
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