A4/Bath - Chippenham
|Location Map ( geo)|
|Distance:||17 miles (27.4 km)|
|Meets:||A36, A430, A3604, A367, A3039, A46, A363, A365, A350, A420|
Highways England • Bath and North East Somerset • Wiltshire Council
Somerset • Wiltshire
|Route outline (key)|
At Twerton Fork the A4 stops being a primary route, handing that responsibility to the A36, which carries on straight ahead from the junction, taking most of the through traffic - indeed traffic for Chippenham (the next major destination beyond Bath) is signed via the A36, not the A4. Traffic requiring the A4 proper takes a filter lane to the left. From here to the eastern side of Bath the A4 is essentially a local road, and its number does not generally appear on signs.
The road crosses the Avon via New Bridge (built in the 1830s to replace an earlier bridge of that name), and into the eponymous suburb of Newbridge. On the left is the Boathouse pub, on the right Newbridge Marina. Newbridge Road (as the A4 is now called) is fairly wide and straight, and leads to the suburb of Lower Weston, where it is joined by the A431, an alternative route from Bristol. From here on it takes the name of the Upper Bristol Road, passing Locksbrook Cemetery on the left. Windsor Bridge Road (the A3604 and possibly one of the shortest numbered roads in the country!) heads southwards from the next junction, linking with the A36 and the southern suburbs of Bath.
On the left can now be seen the children's play area in front of Royal Victoria Park, and the Hop Pole pub on the right is definitely worth a visit. The road passes the municipal allotments on its way into the city centre. It bears left slightly at the junction with Monmouth Place (one-way westbound), becoming Charlotte Street, which has the entrance to one of the city's main car parks. Then the A4 finally affords a view of Bath's celebrated Georgian architecture as it enters Queen Square.
Eastbound traffic is routed along the northern side of Queen Square (with westbound traffic going round the other three sides). As the road leaves Queen Square it takes a sharp turn to the left up Gay Street, then turn right into George Street. Most of the best-preserved Georgian areas are to the left here, with the main shopping street (Milsom Street) on the right. At the junction with Lansdown Road (unclassified, but another busy route for traffic heading north of Bath) the A4 swings left onto a road known as the Paragon, built into a hillside.
Hedgemead Park now appears on the left, and traffic is joined from the right by London Street (A3039) at a mini-roundabout near one of the entrances to the park. This stretch of road is notable for the high pavement on the left-hand side. It leads to the junction with Cleveland Place (the spur from the A36), where the A4 regains its status as a primary route. This junction has been re-engineered in recent years to allow a more natural flow from Cleveland Place onto the eastbound A4, since this in fact the main through route; up until this point the road through Bath has been non-primary and largely unsigned. Now there is no doubt that we are on the main road to Chippenham and indeed London; it still bears the name "London Road", and traffic for the M4 is directed this way. The road is fairly wide as it proceeds through the eastern suburbs of Bath.
The distinctive green roofs of the Snow Hill housing estate can be seen on the left. Apparently they haven't always been so - the colouring is due to verdigris forming on the copper plates. (There's a short central reservation along this stretch.) A signal-controlled junction gives access to Morrison's supermarket on the right - once the site of the city's bus depot. Just out of view along the ensuing stretch is Kensington Meadows, a large public space on the bank of the River Avon. The suburb of Larkhall lies to the left. On the right we pass Bath Rugby's Lambridge Training Ground before arriving at the junction with Gloucester Road - the former A46. Previously this is where traffic would have left to join the M4, and some people in the know still prefer the old route via Swainswick.
Bath to Chippenham
The signed route, however, is straight on past Alice Park to the large signal-controlled roundabout at Lambridge, built as part of the Batheaston/Swainswick bypass. The old A4 route continues straight ahead via Batheaston, but long-distance traffic has the choice of the A46 on the left towards the M4 and Stroud, or the A4 on the right towards Chippenham. The underpass beneath the roundabout connecting these two routes carries remarkably little traffic - it was planned on the assumption that a link would be built from the Batheaston bypass southwards to the A36, which was cancelled. The existing arrangement of roads is seen by many as a white elephant.
A4 traffic takes a three-quarter circuit round the roundabout and then runs down the slip road to join the dual carriageway. The dual carriageway and both slip roads cross the River Avon at this point, making the road appear heavily over-engineered from the point of view of an onlooker. In order to resume its eastward course the road has to sweep through a right angle to run parallel to the main Great Western railway line and the Kennet and Avon Canal across Bathampton Meadows. This section of the road was highly controversial when first built. There is no access to any other roads south of the River Avon - the road from the private Bathampton toll bridge passes overhead without a connection. The dual carriageway passes over the Avon again and immediately terminates at a roundabout at Bathford. To the right is the A363 to Bradford-on-Avon, to the left the original route of the A4, but the road continues straight ahead to what is also the original route of the A4, but that goes east.
The road has a 40 limit through Bathford for a while but the road finally gets NSL for the first time in a few miles shortly before we cross into Wiltshire. There are a few bends along the way, but the road runs parallel to the railway line for a couple of miles before passing over it just before the Northey Arms pub on the outskirts of the village of Box. As it comes into the centre of Box, the road forks in two, with the A365 towards Melksham and Devizes bearing off to the right. All too often you find people blindly waiting at the traffic lights when they want to go along the A4; the lights are always green in this direction since right turns off the A365 are prohibited. As it leaves the village it passes over the railway again, with the entrance to Brunel's famous Box Tunnel clearly visible on the right.
With no tunnel of its own, the road climbs steeply up Box Hill and then past an former MOD site, which is now a housing estate, on the left on the approach to Corsham. On the right the B3109 from Bradford-on-Avon joins. Pickwick Manor, a 17th-century manor house, stands on the right. (Pickwick was originally a village in its own right but now formed part of Corsham; it's thought that Charles Dickens took the name of the Pickwick Papers from here.) The road skirts much of the settlement of Corsham, heading out at a signal controlled crossroads with unclassified roads past the now-shut-down and forever-for-sale Cross Keys Inn.
The next major junction is the roundabout meeting the new A350 on the outskirts of Chippenham, which also allows access to a large Sainsbury's. At this point most long-distance traffic heads either north towards the M4 and Cirencester, or south towards Melksham and Warminster. The A4 loses primary status here and does not regain it until Colnbrook, east of Slough in Berkshire. A second roundabout allows access to local industrial estates.
The next roundabout is the junction with the B4528 (former A350), and the road passes a large B&Q and general retail park on the right. It crosses the railway line once more and then proceeds down Rowden Hill on its route to the Bridge Roundabout in the centre of Chippenham.