Brunel Trail Part 5: The Old Folly to Bathford Bridge

(2 miles; circular walk 4.5 miles)

This walk forms part of a waymarked trail from Keynsham to Box, devised as part of the celebrations for Brunel 200. Originally published in April 2006 as an appendix to The Ringing Grooves of Change: Brunel and the Coming of the Railway to Bath, this downloadable version will enable walkers to explore all or part of the trail without having to carry the book along with them.
Maps are not included as part of the trail because the Ordnance Survey produce much better ones than we could possibly hope to. OS Explorer Maps 155 and 156 are recommended; alternatively, small sections of these maps can be downloaded for free at www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/getamap/

The starting point of this walk can be reached from the London Road. Coming from Bath, turn right down Grosvenor Bridge Road, three quarters of a mile past Cleveland Bridge. Coming from the east along the A4, Grosvenor Bridge Road is the first turning left after the A4/A46 roundabout. Cross the Grosvenor Footbridge, and the starting point is just beyond the railway bridge.

Take the path heading east alongside the railway for half a mile, until you come to a minor road. (The bridge over the railway to your left is worth a quick detour as it gives a good view of the line.) Join the canal towpath on the other side of the road and continue eastward for half a mile to the George Inn at Bathampton. Walk down the steps to the road and continue on, with the church on your right, to the railway bridge. To the right of the bridge was Bathampton station, opened in 1857 and closed in 1966 (this is a busy narrow road, so care is needed when looking over the bridge parapet).

If Brunel had stuck to his original plan, the line would have taken a different route at this point, wedging the George Inn between the railway and the canal and cutting across what is now the southern extension to the graveyard.

Retrace your steps, cut through the churchyard, and, at the crossroads below the canal bridge, turn left along Tyning Road, passing the school. Note, as you do so, the sturdy iron gates at the entrance to Station Road. The station house, halfway down this road, is all that is left of the old station.

At the end of Tyning Road, cross the railway line (with extreme care). On the other side of the line, go down the steps to the right of the gate, and head across the field towards the electricity pylon. Go through the metal kissing gate in the fence just past the pylon and follow the path up towards the railway line. Cross the bridge and walk down towards the road.

Bathford Bridge, which you have just crossed, was described by JC Bourne in 1845 as “one of the most beautiful structures on the line; it is a bridge of one arch, elliptic, of 54 feet span, and 27 feet rise; the arch is flanked by two projecting piers, and meets the embankment with low walls; above the whole is a plain entablature and parapet.” To get a good view of Bathford Bridge, take the dead-end path leading off into the woods on the right before you reach the road.

The bridge over the road on the left, reminiscent of a triumphal arch, is another architectural gem. The contractor’s path leading up to the railway line on the other side of the road once led to Bathford Halt, opened in 1929 and closed in 1965. This is the point at which the railway leaves the valley of the Avon and heads up the valley of the By Brook.

To continue the trail, go to the next section.

To return to the Folly, turn left under the bridge, carry straight on at the roundabout, and walk through Batheaston (passing the old Poor House, once the navvies’ Episcopal Chapel,on the right). After a mile, take the left turning down to the toll bridge. 400 yards beyond the bridge, a footpath on the right will take you back across the meadows to the starting point.

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