It is hard to imagine that less than two hundred years ago, this part of the rural River Avon valley was major freight transport interchange. Horse drawn coal wagons trundled their way down from the Kingswood coal mines on a specially built mineral ‘Dramway’, and offloaded their contents onto barges, after being weighed at one of the two weighbridge buildings which can still be seen to this day.
A bright, mild day saw the Wilts/Glos/north Somerset group meet at Keynsham for a six mile walk in the River Avon valley, led by Martin and John. One walker demonstrated his green credentials by arriving on the train. We set off along the river bank in an easterly direction, passing the first weighbridge, eventually reaching the former Midland Railway line, now part of the Bristol to Bath Railway Path, well used by cyclists, walkers, runners and equestrians. From here the views to the south flank of the Cotswolds were very extensive, providing a scenic backdrop for a mile or so. We reached Bitton Station, our first refreshment stop. This has been restored by the Avon Valley Railway, along with about four miles of track and several steam and diesel locos. The ‘Pines Express’ from the North of England to Bournemouth used to pass this way, although today the only train running was a rather mundane, but well restored and maintained diesel multiple unit.
Onward through a narrow wooded river valley and a pretty nature reserve with lots of spring bulbs and birdsong, to the well restored Willsbridge Mill. This was still in use until flooded out in 1968, the mill was originally used for producing iron products, but was later converted to produce cereals. After our picnic lunches, we carried on over fields to Hanham Court, a large, 15th century manor house, which is unusual in that the tower of the local church is actually joined to the house. We regained the River Avon, and followed the towpath for a couple of miles, past the former Fry/Cadbury chocolate factory at Somerdale, until we reached the end of our walk at Keynsham. A welcoming real-ale pub satisfied our thirst, and some walkers treated themselves to late Sunday lunches.