In Bath the path starts on the western outskirts of the city, in the Brassmill Trading Estate (just off the A4). There's a fair amount of unrestricted on-road parking if you want to bring your bikes by car (but check the weekday restrictions in the factory access road to the left of the track). You can also ride there from the city centre (a mile and a half) along the river towpath, which is tarmac all the way. The river path starts just west of Churchill Bridge, near the railway station, and there's a short (but well signposted) road section between the end of the river path and the start of the cycle path.
In Bristol the track starts in St Phillips Rd, between Old Market and the giant Lawrence Hill roundabout (tip for TV fans - the BBC's long-running Casualty series is filmed in a warehouse near the entrance). There's no on-street parking nearby, but there is an excellent signposted cycle route to the city centre. This is mainly on-road, but also takes you through the pedestrian precinct by Haskins furniture shop, and through the underpass by the Bristol Evening Post building. You come out in Castle Gardens, the park that runs alongside Broadmead.
If you don't fancy cycling there and back, you and your bike can go by train one way - both track ends are within a mile or so of railway stations (Bath Spa and Bristol Temple Meads), and it's a quick, 11-minute journey between the two cities (watch out for the cycle path to the north as you approach/leave Bath). Apparently it's a good idea to book your bike's "seat" (actually the guards van) in advance. Tel. 08457 000125 for details.
A map of the cycle path is available from bike shops, Sustrans
and Life Cycle UK (see below), and council offices.
In Bath the track starts on the eastern outskirts of the city, on the A36 Warminster Road just up the hill from Sydney Gardens. There is some on-street parking nearby (further along the road), but this may be chargeable. From Bath Spa railway station, head straight away from the main entrance up Manvers Street (you'll need to walk the first 50 yards as it's one-way against you), turn right at the first traffic lights into North Parade, go over the river and turn left at the next traffic lights. You're now on the HGV ring route. Go straight over at the first roundabout (by the large church), on to the next traffic lights and turn right for Warminster. The canal is roughly 100 yards up, just after the first bend.
In Bradford on Avon, theentrance is on the Frome Road (B3109), about half a mile from the town centre (look out for the Canal Tavern on the right). The nearest car park is by the railway station, 300 yards before the canal on the same road.
The Official Bristol and Bath Railway Path website. Run by the Avon Valley Partnership, the three-council organisation that maintains the path. News, contacts, history and a detailed section-by-section guide to access points, nearby toilets and the like. Great stuff. (OK, I'm a bit biased because they used my photos to illustrate it, but it really is a good site!)
Sustrans is the cycling charity which built the Bristol and Bath cycle path (well done!!!) They've done many others since, but this was their first, and they're still based in Bristol. Their website is excellent (it's even got tips on how to ride). Try this page for maps of the Bristol and Bath cycle path route, and this page for Bath to Bradford on Avon (zoom in for detailed views).
Life Cycle UK (formerly Cycle West) is a Bristol-based cycling organisation offering events, advice and free maps (you can order them from the website). Another nice, clear website - it must be all that mind-clearing exercise!
Bristol Cycling Campaign is a pro-cycling action group which might suit those who find Sustrans just a tiny bit, er, corporatethese days. The BCC no longerb describes itself as "non-hierarchical consensus-driven quasi-anarchic" (shame!), but they're still doing a great job, including organising rides from Bristol and Bath. Check the links page for lots of other cycling resources.
Two Tunnels Shared Path. Low-profile but highly worthwhile campaign to open two disused railway tunnels heading south from Bath for shared use (i.e. cycling, walking etc). Nothing to do with the Bristol & Bath path, but no-one seems to have heard of it, so I thought it was worth a mention.. The voluntary organisation that saved the canal from oblivion when official bodies had written it off. They're still doing a great job.
Waterscape (British Waterways). Did you know that you need a permit to cycle on the canal towpath? It's free, and you can download it here. The site also has a guide to the Kennet and Avon cycle route, plus general tips for cycling on towpaths. The guidelines are perfectly sensible (for example, if you must cycle after dark, watch out for boat mooring ropes), so please follow them and make sure we stay welcome on the towpath!
The page uses a lot of image files, and there's a delay while it downloads the first few pictures. This may take a while the first time you visit the page, but should be much quicker on subsequent visits, because the image files will be in your browser's disk cache (they'll eventually be dropped from the cache, but downloaded again the next time you visit the page).
After the initial delay you'll see the "ready to Ride" button - click it and you're taken to the start of the track. Click "Let's Ride", and off you go.
At this stage, you'll see messages such as "Downloading image 26 of 67" in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen (under the "Auto repeat" checkbox). This is the page downloading the slideshow pictures into your browser cache. You don't have to wait for this to finish before starting your tour. If you get ahead of the downloads on the tour (for example by going straight to a later location), the page will show you a polite message instead of the as-yet unavailable picture(s). Either go back to an earlier place, or rest where you are until the downloads catch up.
Working in offline mode
The cycle path page works best when your browser is switched to offline mode. This prevents the browser from checking the server for a newer version of each picture before displaying it, making the dissolve effects smoother.
To switch to offline mode, first wait until you see the "All images downloaded" message under the "Auto repeat" checkbox (if there's a blank space there, that means the same thing, as the message is removed after a while). Then choose "Work Offline" from Internet Explorer's File menu. In some installations this option isn't available in IE, in which case you'll have to choose it from Outlook Express instead.
In offline mode, the browser loads its images from your local disk cache. Eventually some image files (and the page itself) will be removed from the cache, and you'll need to download them again. To do this, make sure you're working in online mode, then go to the cycle path page and press your browser's "Refresh" button.
One way to keep the files in your cache as long as possible is to view the page, then choose "Add to Favorites" from IE's Favorites menu, and check "Make available offline" on the dialog box.
Here are the page controls - hold the mouse over a control (or feature) to see what it does.
Enjoy your ride!
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