A39/Bridgwater - Williton
|Location Map ( geo)|
|Distance:||18.1 miles (29.1 km)|
|Meets:||B3339, B3191, A358|
|Route outline (key)|
Bridgwater - Nether Stowey
The two routes of the A39 through Bridgwater reconverge at the Quantock Road Roundabout in Wembdon. Back in 1922 the A39 passed through Wembdon on what is now the B3339. This route is now severed with the construction of the Northern Distributor Road, and the lower end of Wembdon Road is blocked off as a cul-de-sac on the new road. The new A39 and B3339 meet at a traffic light controlled junction.
Quantock Road was built in the 1930s to avoid Wembdon and its steep, narrow hills. It crosses the historic road again at the top of Sandford Hill, where a new roundabout was built in 2013. The next part of the route is named New Road, but appears to pre-date the A39; the older route follows Charlynch Lane and Limestone hill to reconverge a little further on. We soon reach another bypass, this time the much newer Cannington Bypass, built in the 1990s. The road from Bridgwater to Cannington had already been upgraded a number of times to cope with the traffic to Hinkley Point Power Station, with traffic turning off the old A39 in Cannington Village. The new bypass curves around the village between two roundabouts, effectively forming one side of a triangle. An additional western bypass was built in c2013 to allow Hinkley Point traffic to completely bypass the village.
Beyond Cannington, the road quickly drops back to the narrow, twisty country lane (only just wide enough for two lorries to pass in places) much as it would have been in 1922. A few of the bends have been improved, more often with improved visibility splays than with straightened alignment. A sharp bend has been realigned at Keenthorne, but many years ago, and then we are on the approach to Nether Stowey. Before we reach the village, a left fork leads to Over Stowey, and so the roads to Crowcombe and Triscombe Stone on the top of th Quantocks. Nether Stowey was bypassed in the 1960s, so the road now sweeps round the village, starting with a new alignment past Inwood Farm to the west of the village. The old A39 then entered the village on St Mary Streey, after a sharp bend in front of the parish church, and then along Lime Street.
Nether Stowey - Williton
Lime Street emerges onto the bypass at a set of traffic lights, and despite some improvments the road quickly returns to its historic twisty nature, winding between fields. We are getting near to the Quantock Hills now, and so as we brush along the edge of the hills, woodland drops down to the roadside, and the verges gain the characteristic red mud of the Quantocks. Small parking areas open up in the trees on the left, offering picnic sites or starting points for walks up on to the hills above.
The next village is Holford, a village which feels bypassed, but this bypass dates back to the Turnpike era, having simply been widened more recently. Holfordis, however, worth a stop, with pretty cottages on narrow lanes, and a big car park at the top of the village offering nice walks up Hodders Combe. Just beyond Holford we reach Kilton Cross, where the A39 turns sharp left along Putsham Hill. The road straight ahead leads to Kilton, but between the two is Rowditch Lane, a contender as the old alignment of the Bridgwater - Minehead road.
It is now just a short run into Kilve, another pretty litle Quantock village, and this time not bypassed. At the crossroads in the middle of the village the right turn runs down to the beach, famous as a good site for fossil hunters. For a while beyond Kilve, the landscape is large open fields, as we pass the tiny village East Quantoxhead off near the coast, but the road remains sinuous as it winds between high hedges. The Red mud is still much in evidence, with a couple of large unsurfaced parking areas highlighting the colour.
As the road enters trees once more, it starts to curve round the Northern end of the Quantocks and suddenly St Audries House can be glimpsed below, in winter minths at least. The Parish Church is much closer to the road, and strikes a dramatic pose with the parkland spreading out beyond. There is a certain feeling of an estate village about West Quantoxhead, although whether the modern A39 alignment is a bypass is unclear. At the edge of the village, a right fork heads to Doniford and so Watchet, but the A39 continues westwards towards Williton.
The road remains sinuous as it winds between fields, with no further junctions until we enter the town. Station Road marks the old alignment of the road, beforethe bridge was built, and the railway still remains, as the preserved West Somerset Railway. Long Street then leads us into the town centre, where a sharp left marks the junction with the B3191. The very short Fore Street, running between shops then leads to the mini roundabout junction with the A358, which terminates here.