|Location Map ( geo)|
|Distance:||18.4 miles (29.6 km)|
|Meets:||A1071, A1214, B1075, A1022, B1073, B1456, A14, B1080, B1070, B1352, B1029, A133|
|Route outline (key)|
The route starts at a junction with the former A12 (now the A1214 towards Copdock and the A1071 to the town centre) at the point where it crosses the River Orwell. The A137 follows the river downstream, passing through a one-way system giving access via the B1075 to the station on the other side of the river, and then, at a complex junction with the A1022 inner ring road, crosses the river itself.
Ipswich is a tedious place to get out of, as both the A1156 (former A45) and A1214 (former A12) pass through seemingly endless suburbs to reach the bypass. However, the A137, which runs beside the Orwell past the docks, gives rapid access to the bypass.
The bypass is reached via a steep hill which is provided with a crawler lane. At the top of the hill, the bypass junction itself is a simple dumbbell and we are then in open country. The road has undergone little improvement as the A12 provides for all long-distance traffic and it serves no intermediate destination larger than Manningtree, which has fast train services to both Colchester and Ipswich.
The A137 passes Alton Water, a large reservoir, but there is little to see from the road – the dam is two miles away. The reservoir has flooded a short section of the original A137 which went through the unusually named Tattingstone White Horse before crossing the valley; the road's current route to the north is flatter. We continue in close company with the railway, crossing it at a recently strengthened bridge at Brantham. Skirting the village, and descending steeply to the bridge across the Stour at Manningtree, we enter Essex and come to a curious crossing of the railway – there is both a narrow ten-foot headroom underbridge and a level crossing. On both sides of the crossing priority is given to traffic taking the left fork, which then has to give way to the other route on the far side, so that however you negotiate the crossing you have to give way once (but only once).
At Lawford we reach a T-junction: left is the B1352 (and a "Secret Bunker" – so secret that the sign telling you about it is covered with semi-transparent white tape!), but the A137 turns right and resumes its winding way towards Colchester. The reason for the turn is that this was the original southern end of the A137. The road left and right was originally the A135, which became part of the A604 in 1936. That road was moved further south in 1948 and so the A137 was extended south along its former route to Colchester (where the A137 and A604 never actually met).
Now heading west we cross the railway (for a third time) by a bridge which was narrowed by the provision of extra-strong Armcos and on which a 20 mph limit is imposed. These measures were provided in the aftermath of an accident in 2002 when an articulated lorry missed the bend approaching the bridge and crashed through the parapet to land on the track, where it was hit by a train. Fortunately the consequences were far less serious as those at Great Heck on the M62 the previous year.
After passing another reservoir at Ardleigh and crossing the A120 Colchester bypass (with which there is no interchange) we enter what is proudly proclaimed to be "Britain's Oldest Town": it was the first town established by the Romans following the Claudian invasion of AD 43, the existing fortification there, like other pre-Roman settlements, not really qualifying as towns. The first Roman town did not last long, however, as Boudicca sacked it in AD 60. However, as a key strategic location it continued to be fortified over the centuries, and Colchester remains to this day a garrison town. There is a medieval castle in the centre of the town, next to the end of the A134 on the High Street.
As for the A137, it runs into town along Harwich Road (the name evidencing its history) to end at a double roundabout on the A133 to the east of the town centre.