|To:||East Brent (ST349513)|
|Distance:||28.7 miles (46.2 km)|
|Meets:||A4, A38, A3029, A369, B3128, A4174, B3130, B3169, B3133, M5, B3440, A371, A3033, B3140|
|Old route now:||B3440|
|Route outline (key)|
The A370 is a route which heads south west from Bristol to the coastal resort of Weston-super-Mare, and then continues south to rejoin the A38. As such, it can be considered a "long-way-around" route - to travel from one end to the other it would be more direct and probably quicker to take the A38. In many cases such circuitous routes are caused by extension of a pre-existing number, but in this case it appears that the A370 had essentially the same route as it had in the original numbering scheme of 1922.
Section 1: Bristol – Weston-super-Mare
The start of the A370 is also noteworthy, because there are two parallel versions. Near Temple Meads station in Bristol is a junction known as "Bath Bridge Roundabout". This is a roundabout spanning the new cut of the River Avon, a waterway constructed to prevent tidal waters from entering Bristol's Floating Harbour. The two bridges of the roundabout connect the A4 with the start of the A370, and westbound traffic travels along York Road on the southern bank of the river as far as Bedminster Bridge Roundabout, which is a similar junction spanning the river on two bridges, connecting with the former A38. To prevent eastbound A370 traffic from having to cross the river four times, it is sent along Clarence Road, which runs parallel to York Road on the north bank - yet both York Road and Clarence Road are two-way! Confusing at first but logical once you think about it.
We continue along the south bank of the river along Coronation Road, taking us to Ashton Gate, home of Bristol City FC. At the next set of junctions the best advice is to keep one's nerve - it's less complicated than it looks! A370 traffic turns left at a trumpet junction to join traffic from the Cumberland Basin complex on an elevated dual carriageway. Despite the rather elaborate sign at the next junction, all that we need to do now is to stay on the main carriageway (losing primary status in the process), which takes us across the city boundary and onto the Long Ashton bypass.
Once there were plans for a motorway link to the M5 along this route, which may explain its rather over-engineered nature. It's three lanes wide, and once had a central "suicide lane", but now the first half is one lane outbound and two lanes inbound, followed by a short section of dual carriageway and then the reverse arrangement. Although it's almost entirely single carriageway, its two junctions with the B3128 and B3130 are grade-separated. At the northern end of the bypass, a new junction is being constructed as part of the new section of Bristol's ring road, which will run to the east across the A38 and onto the A4174.
After Long Ashton we come down to earth with a more conventional T junction with the former B3129 at Flax Bourton (most maps suggest this last section is now unclassified, the B3129 finishing on the B3128). From Flax Bourton, we pass through Farleigh and Backwell West Town, the three settlements being almost merged from the roadside. In Backwell, the largest of the villages, there is access to Nailsea & Backwell railway station - which is not particularly well placed to serve either town (although they did need to put the station near the railway). That turning, from traffic lights in the middle of Backwell, also leads onto Nailsea, a substantial modern commuter town for Bristol.
Whilst there is a brief rural section climbing the hill from Backwell, the road is soon passing through Brockley and Cleeve, which again have almost merged into one. We then arrive at Congresbury, where the road has been diverted slightly to leave a tiny section reclassified as a B road, apparently with its own number - B3169. The B3133 crosses here at traffic lights, leading west to Yatton and Clevedon and east to Langford and the A38, making it a busy junction. Indeed, it is two junctions, with a short multiplex across the bridge over the Congresbury Yeo river.
The road then turns westwards, running alongside the river and for a while passes open fields. Hewish is the next settlement, a scattering of houses along the roadside interspersed with car sales, garden centres, scrapyards and other retail / industrial sites whioch have sprung up in old farmyards and fields. From time to time, these businesses seem to come and go, often with short intervals of semi-dereliction before being revived. The road finally arrives at junction 21 of the M5, and picks up primary status again, at the signalised roundabout.
Section 2: Weston-super-Mare – East Brent
From one GSJ, the A370 quickly reaches another, just off the motorway junction. The A370 used to turn off here, over a future proofed bridge and run through Worle on what is now the B3440 (a duplicated number from Devon!), but a new dual carriageway known as "Somerset Avenue" now keeps traffic out of the built-up area, with roundabouts providing access to local roads, the A371, and the absurd A3033 - a ridiculously short road whose only purpose is to connect the A370 to itself. The new section of road terminates at Tescos, after crossing the railway and just short of the sea front. A loop round the town hall leads onto the beach lawns, where the A370 abruptly turns left and follows the front, losing primary status once more.
The next section of road has been changed several times over the last 30 years as different planners ideas for how the Sea Front space should be used are put into practice. Currently there is a short stretch of dual carriageway along the sea front, effectively forming a giant roundabout with central cut-throughs. The central reservation is actually two large greens, separated by two curving links between the southbound and northbound carriageways. These links extend the full length of the beach lawns, although most of them were closed up in the 1990s. After the 400 or so yards, the road becomes two-way along Beach Road which is set back from the coast a short way behind the Beach Lawns. However there is another road on the actual sea front - Marine Parade, which is about ¾ of a mile or so long, with traffic heading north only and the rest of the road being for parking. As far as is known, this road is still closed over night (by gates) to prevent boy racers using it. Up until the mid 1990s, when the gaps were closed, it was two-way too, without gates.
We have now said goodbye to dual carriageway for the rest of our journey. Continuing roughly parallel to the coast for another mile the road has houses, hotels and nursing homes on the left, and although it really feels like it should be 40 mph the speed limit remains at 30 mph, so watch out for the Gatso. Now the road turns sharply inland around Broadoak School to avoid Uphill village, but the A370 originally would have gone straight through. Next we pass the A3033 again, and it becomes increasingly obvious this is a relatively new road. We go straight ahead at the Hospital roundabout, and any lingering doubt this isn't the original route is finally dispelled as we travel through a broad, curving cutting to take us up the hill.
It is rather intriguing that North Somerset Council seem to recognise the difficulties of sending through traffic the 'long way round' on the A370, and from either end through traffic is generally signposted down the unclassified Winterstoke Road/Broadway route through Oldmixon, to emerge at the hospital roundabout. They haven't, yet, gone as far as classifying the route though.
After climbing the hill, we arrive at a cross roads where the old A370 route through Bleadon emerges on the right. Our journey continues on a broad single carriageway road skirting the edge of Bleadon Hill, whereas the old route lies to the east, and is largely still passable. The next few miles of road were all built in 1929-32 (the exact date can be gauged from the dates carved in the bridges) and first bypasses Bleadon, before takign a direct route to Lympsham where the old road can be traced in loops to either side. After crossing a crossroads to the east of Lympsham village, it also passes to the west of Eastertown, which is enough justification for Somerset County Council to have imposed a speed limit of 50 mph, then, after a short run of NSL, one of 40 mph speed at East Brent (with Gatsos).
Shortly after entering East Brent, the A370 comes to a signalised crossroads with the B3140, which for many years used to sit at red in all directions until traffic was waiting - they may still do. The road to the left is part of the original A38 route, which we now join for the last half mile or so to the roundabout, which is the end of our journey. This roundabout is an unusual shape that gives every impression of having originally been a fork, It was, the roundabout being installed after the war. Turn left at the roundabout and follow the A38 into Bristol and you'll be back at Temple Meads station much quicker than it took you going via the A370.
Bristol – Weston
Unlike the southern section of this route, the A370 sticks closer to its 1922 route to the north of Weston. The first section of what is now the A370, south of the river, was originally the A3034, but Coronation Road has hardly changed. The route at Ashton Gate has moved west through the Cumberland Basin complex of junctions, and then the old road ran through Long Ashton itself, the bypass dating from the 1970s. From Flax Bourton to St Georges, however, the most substantial change to the route is the realignment away from Kent Road (B3169) in Congresbury. There are, of course, numerous bends that have been reprofiled, and the final approach to the motorway roundabout is new, but otherwise the A370 sticks fairly faithfully to the road as classified in 1922.
Weston – East Brent
As alluded to above, this road was heavily upgraded around 1930. Originally, the main road south from Weston passed along Uphill Road South in Uphill, then straight across at the crossroads to pass down the steep Bleadon Hill. However, that section was upgraded in the Turnpike era, so in the 1920s when the A370 tag was allocated, we turned right at Bleadon Hill, using the two short links by the Railway Bridge to cross a level crossing. The bridge that now stands is in fact the second one built, having replaced the original in c. 2002.
After the bridge, a long 'parking' layby (it is very poorly surfaced) is the old alignment on the left, and then turn left at Huttons Garage to pass the front of Bleadon village. After crossing the Axe, The Crescent, Hobbs Boat entrance and Boat Lane all show up the loops of the original road. At Lympsham Crossroads, the old road turned left through Eastertown. We then take the next left down Edingworth Road and Strowlands into East Brent, where we met the A38 on Old Bristol Road. This 'rat run' was closed up at the A38 end in 2005 to improve safety on the surrounding routes.
As you can see, over half of this section of the A370 was new-build in the 1930s.