A piece in today's Evening Post reports that some progress may be being made behind the scenes towards upgrading the old tow-path along the River Avon between Conham and Hanham. You may recall that I blogged about the current appalling state of the tow-path last year, which resulted in some much neglected maintenance being carried out within a few days. It seems that the publicity might have had a more far reaching effect because the two local councils with riparian responsibilities, Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council, are actually talking to each other about dealing with the problems. Those familiar with local politics will know that this is no small achievement in itself.
The upgrading of the River Avon tow-path was proposed by local campaign group Cyclebag (the precursor to Sustrans) back in 1978 as part of its proposals for the creation of a Bristol to Bath Cycle/Walkway. It was originally envisaged that the route should follow the Avon to a point south of Bitton where the former Midland Railway branch line would be joined to continue to Bath. The former railway section was built the following year, 1979, as a result of a remarkable volunteer effort powered through by John Grimshaw in particular. But the River Avon section remained largely untouched except for some upgrading between Netham and Conham about 10 years ago. So perhaps 32 years later it is at last timely to progress this scheme, not least in the context of Bristol's Cycling City aspirations?
Although the Bristol to Bath cycle route ended up following the former Midland railway all the way back to Bristol via Mangotsfield, a rather circuitous route, the River Avon tow-path route still has great potential to make an outstanding contribution to the range of recreational routes available to cyclists and walkers around Bristol. As indicated in the map below it could also provide a practical commuting and utility route linking Keynsham to Bristol, far more agreeable than slogging down the A4, and an attractive alternative to the established Bristol & Bath Railway Path.
View River Avon - Netham to Keynsham and Bitton in a larger map
As always emails and letters to the local authorities and relevant councillors will help spur them towards finding practical solutions. It seems from the Evening Post story that South Glos councillor Andy Perkins is taking a particular interest so messages of support and appreciation in that direction might be timely, as well as our old friend Jon Rogers, Bristol's transport supremo.This path really could be a jewel in the crown of cycling around Bristol so think of the warm glow to be experienced in future years when you can take some small credit for having helped rescue this path from dereliction and decay.