A39/Bath - Wells
|Meets:||A4, B3116, A368, B3115, B3355, A37, B3139, A371|
|Former Number(s):||A368, A369|
Bath and North East Somerset • Somerset
|Route outline (key)|
Bath - Farrington Gurney
The A39 doesn't really start in Bath; indeed in 1922, none of this section was the A39, being the A368 as far as the current split at Marksbury and then the, long defunct A369. However, today the A39 does start very close to Bath, as it has since the mid 1930s. The beginning of the route is the Globe Roundabout on the A4 to the west of the city. Almost immediately we pass the entrance to Bath Spa University, which almost proves we are still in Bath!
Not long after leaving the city we enter the pretty village of Corston. With its relative proximity to Midsomer Norton, it is sometimes considered the origin of the name of the town of Causton in Midsomer Murders, although it is a tiny settlement in comparison to its fictional namesake! The village is soon behind us and we snake steadily uphill before the road straightens out a touch, offering views across gently rolling farmland.
Unfortunately, this reasonably fast stretch is soon broken by the traffic lights at the junction known as Two Headed Man. This is where the B3116 turns off to the north, headed for Keynsham and so the A4. The A39 itself swings to the south here, and enjoys a very short section of dual carriageway. The reasons behind this improvement are lost in the mists of time, but with modern traffic you'll be lucky to pass more than one or two slower vehicles. At the other end of the dualled section we enter the village of Marksbury, another small settlement which is quickly passed through. However, before completely leaving the village we reach a set of traffic lights, where the A368 forks off to the right. Until the mid 2000s this junction was a TOTSO, with the A368 running into the Bath-Bound A39. However, with a lot of traffic rat-running across the forecourt of the garage to avoid the queues the council decided to install lights to improve things.
We are now on the route of the old A369, heading south to the village of Farmborough. Just after entering the village, a left turn provides a route to the B3115 and so into Midsomer Norton, or as the lorry route sign has it, Norton Radstock. Farmborough is by far the biggest village so far, but fortunately the A39 skirts around the northern edge, so avoiding the centre. Beyond the village, we do pass between plenty of open fields, but it is the scattered farms, houses and industrial sites that tend to stick in the mind as a near continuous line of development.
The fields do give way once more to the village of High Littleton, but not before a staggered junction where the B3115 turns left to Timsbury. The A39 then winds down the hill into the village, where parked cars can often cause problems especially for lorries. Another left turn provides yet another route to Timsbury (it's not a big or important place by the way, just that the A39 happens to take a wide curve around it!). We then head out of the village, still gently descending the hill into Hallatrow where we cross the Cam Brook. The B3355 from Paulton then joins from the left and half a mile or so further on we meet the A37 at White Cross, another traffic light controlled junction.
Over the Mendips
There is now a short multiplex with the A37, through Farrington Gurney where the A362 heads east to Midsomer Norton from another set of traffic lights. We then climb Rush Hill (with a short climbing lane) to find Rush Hill Junction at the top, a TOTSO where we get priority on the A39, and fortunately there are no traffic lights, as yet. The road is now reasonably straight, snaking across the Mendip Hills between tumbledown stone walls. There are good views across the plateau, mostly open farmland, but it soon changes as the road suddenly plunges downhill into Chewton Mendip.
The descent may not be steep enough to warrant arrows on a map, but it feels steep as it winds down Chewton Hill between high hedges and walls. Houses suddenly appear around a bend, but the road continues to drop until we reach the bottom, where the B3114 heads west through Litton to the A368. There is actually still a bridge here, over the infant River Chew, although modern development almost hides it from view. But, as the old saying almost goes, what comes down must go up, and so it is with the A39 which quickly starts an equally steep ascent out of the village. The road is once more lined with high walls, but this time it is reasonably straight as we pass under a footbridge and climb steadily up to Bathway Crossroads, where the other part of the B3114 heads east across the Mendips. The other arm is a useful shortcut across to the B3135 and so down through Cheddar Gorge.
The A39 continues to climb, albeit much more gently, in long straights up to the top of the Mendips. The long straight across the plateau is punctuated with hidden dips and blind summits, before we reach Green Ore, the crossroads with the B3135. More undulations lead us to the highest point of this section of the A39, next to the Wells /Mendip TV transmitter at Pen Hill. But, what comes up must go down, and soon we are diving down the wooded slopes of Biddle Combe on Bristol Hill. This is in fact the road built in the Turnpike era, the Old Bristol Road climbing even more steeply out of Wells to the west.
As the road snakes down the contours, there are still escape lanes for runaway lorries, although how often they are used these days is unknown. Eventually the gradient eases, and we enter the countrys smallest Cathedral City. The Old Bristol road quickly turns off to the right, leading back out of the city, while we head south onto New Street where traffic lights control the junction with the B3139. The two routes then multiplex westwards along Mounterey Road, part of the city relief road built in the 1990s and through another set of lights to the junction with the A371. We lose the B3139 here, but pick up the A371 instead as we turn south, through a fourth set of lights at the Burcott Road Junction, to finally find a roundabout at Strawberry Way Roundabout. This is where the A371 and A39 part company once more, their short multiplex having followed the old line of the railway through Wells.
Historical route through Wells
Prior to the relief road opening, the A39 continued down New Street, where the B3139 now turns off, and onto Sadler Street. For years there was an A road box around the city centre comprising the A39 and A371. Some parts were one way in later years, and St Cuthbert Street through the middle was also included. The box consisted of Sadler Street, High Street, Priory Road, Princes Road and Chamberlain Street. Quite which bits were part of the A39 and which the A371 is uncertain. The A39 itself then left the box by continuing along Priory Road, which still leads to the Strawberry Way Roundabout.