|To:||Terry Hill (ST715534)|
|Via:||Highbridge , Wedmore, Wells, Emborough|
|Length:||31.9 miles (51.3 km)|
|Meets:||B3140, A38, B3141, B3151, A371, A39, B3135, B3114, A37, B3356, B3355, A367, A362, A366|
|Former Number(s):||A371, B3112|
|Route outline (key)|
The B3139 crosses Somerset from the coast at Burnham-on-Sea to just a few miles short of the Wiltshire border near Kilmersdon. Its route is continued across the border by the A366, running on to Trowbridge. The first half, from Burnham to Wells is almost entirely 'urban' in nature, passing through a whole series of linear villages along its way. It then climbs over the Mendips, with barely a house in sight until it reaches Chilcompton, where the route again becomes largely Urban.
Section 1: Burnham – Wedmore
Starting on the mini roundabout junction with the B3140 in Burnham, the B3139 runs south along Oxford Street towards Highbridge. It crosses a second mini roundabout where Marine Drive doubles back to the sea front, and a third where the new link road curves round the edge of town to the B3140 once more. The road was initially Highbridge Road and then Burnham Road, running through a lengthy ribbon of interwar semis. We then reach the new roundabout at the Asda store on the A38 in Highbridge. At present we turn south to continue on the B3139 by multiplexing along the A38, but it has previously been suggested that the route may be realigned in the future onto the Iselport Industrial Estate road. After quarter of a mile or so, we reach yet another mini roundabout, and regain the B3139 number by turning left down Market Street, over the narrow traffic-light controlled railway bridge to Walrow. This bridge was built so narrow because it used to cross both the GWR (the surviving line) and Somerset & Dorset Railways. The two lines crossed at a skew under the bridge! Another roundabout at the edge of the Isleport Business Park shows the new road that may claim the B3139 tag to bypass the bottlenecks of Walrow.
We then cross the M5 motorway and enjoy a short burst through scattered settlement to Watchfield (sadly all now speed-limited). Here, the B3141 turns south to East Huntspill. A little further east and we reach the long straggly village of Mark. It has been suggested that this village was in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest village in England at three miles, although as yet this is unproven. The bulk of the village is properly called Mark Causeway, because it runs along an ancient raised road route through the flat Somerset Levels which are still prone to widespread flooding in winter months. As Mark itself is reached, the road does a long right-angled double bend with open fields to one side. Almost unbelievably, the road used to be a 40 up to the first bend, then NSL, before a 30 after the second bend. At the eastern end of Mark, we climb up a low hill from the levels and enjoy a short blast along the open hedge-lined road to Blackford, where despite the bends there is good forward visibility for overtaking.
Blackford is a historic village, which was bypassed in the turnpike era. The village starts down on the levels, with a nasty kink between rhynes (ditches), and then a sharp right hander by the interesting Octagonal church leads to a short climb onto the 'Isle of Wedmore'. Keen observers will notice the Sexeys Arms and then the Hugh Sexey Middle School in the village, named after a 17th Century benefactor who also founded the Sexeys School at Bruton. After the Blackford School, the road becomes twistier as it once more runs between high hedges into Wedmore, where the speed limit starts well in advance of the village due to the school being the first building reached.
Section 2: Wedmore – Wells
The B3139 then winds down the hill past the dramatically sited church, with parked cars often causing problems for traffic trying to squeeze through the village streets. The B3139 and B3151 form a box around Wedmore, although the B3139 number takes priority as it zigzags through the village, twice TOTSOing with the B3151. The second TOTSO comes after the two routes run down the main shopping street, and is followed by a gentle climb along another narrow street lined in places with parked cars.
Beyond Wedmore, the six or so miles on to Wells are all through almost continuous village development, with only two or three very short derestricted sections. The road is often narrow and twisty and enjoys many blind corners and hidden dips, but nevertheless is enjoyable as we weave between old houses and farms. There is a brief rural interlude between Wedmore and the next village of Latcham, which is just a scattering of houses squeezed along the roadside. A few fields later and the larger village of Theale is reached, with several twists and turns and whilst the road is reasonably wide, parked cars can once more force emergency stops and hasty reversing.
Theale gives way to Panborough, where the road dips sharply down a narrow descent past the Panborough Inn, before a long bend takes it round the strange pimple of Panborough Hill. Despite passing a couple of farms, the road is briefly derestricted before the long, near continuous settlements of Henton, Yarley and Worth, where once more the road can narrows suddenly around a bend, or be pinched by parked cars. This being a strong farming area, there are often tractors on the road, and lorries, which can cause brief hold ups as they manouvere past one another. Finally, the village of Wookey is reahced (the caves of Wookey Hole are a couple of miles to the north), and it is then a short blast up a hill to the edge of Wells, where the A371 is reached.
Section 3: Wells – Terry Hill
The B3139 forms the straight on arm at a fork from the A371 when leaving Wells, which can make it difficult to turn right into the city when heading east. The two routes then multiplex, however with the 'new' roads that were built through Wells in the 1990s, the multiplex soon swaps to the A39. The B3139 actually gained a few metres of length from the A39, taking over New Street, which leads towards the city centre. A sharp left at a mini roundabout then sees the B3139 take over some of the former A371 route, running around the back of the Cathedral precinct. As the B3139 then TOTSOs left, the former route of the A371 southeastwards towards Shepton Mallet is also a spur of the B3139.
Meanwhile, the mainline of the road climbs slowly through the eastern suburbs of England's smallest city, before passing the new village of South Horrington, built around a former hospital / sanatorium site. The road then climbs steeply up the flank of the Mendips, finding a fast open road which gets straighter and straighter. It makes a crossroads with the B3135 which enjoys a lengthy route along the Mendip Plateau. The B3139 then drops a little past the left turn onto the B3114 at Emborough, and on to the A37 at White Post.
The junction with the A37 at Old Down has been realigned, to provide a staggered crossroads by the pub of the same name. Previously it was the A37 that had to dogleg, but now it is the B3139 doing a right-left dogleg, with the old road still visible in front of the pub. We then continue eastwards through the large village of Chilcompton, which is strung along this road, and also extends down the hill to the north. In the middle of the village, the B3356 turns south through Downside. A couple of fields beyond the village, we reach the White Post Roundabout junction with the A367. This comes just after a crossroads with the B3355, which leads north to Midsomer Norton, and south to the A367.
With the roundabout behind us, we have just two miles and two villages - Charlton and Kilmersdon - left. In Charlton the road turns sharp left, then a sweeping right. The long hill that follows, dropping down into Kilmersdon is fortunately not mirrored on the far side of the pretty village, but the sharp bends continue, both in the village and beyond as the road winds between fields and banks of woodland. Eventually after many twists and turns, the road comes to and end on the A362 at a straight crossroads, with the A366 continuing straight ahead to Trowbridge in Wiltshire.
Much of the route that is now the B3139 was originally allocated different numbers back in the 1922 Road Lists. The list suggests that the B3139 road has always started at the Oxford Street / Love Lane junction in Burnham, despite this creating a very rare Multiplex with the A38 along Church Street in Highbridge. In Wells, two short sections that would briefly become part of the B3139 were the B3137 Chamberlain Street and B3138 Princes Road, although these quickly gained Class I status and are now unclassified. Beyond Wells, the modern route was originally given the B3112 number. It was not until the renumberings of 1935 that the B3139 gained its current length.
As a slight aside, there is some confusion as to the reason for the B3139 and B3140 both terminating at the same spot in Burnham. There are some maps (from the 1930s - 1960s mainly) which suggest the B3139 continued north as far as Berrow Church, with the B3140 starting at Berrow Triangle, however these are locally produced and of dubious accuracy. However, there are other examples of two roads running end-on into each other in coastal towns: nearby Clevedon had the B3130 and B3132 - and Ilfracombe still has the A361 and A399. Given that these coastal settlements would be a place traffic would go to rather than through it makes sense for roads to end there.