Feature Town – Bradford on Avon
Bradford on Avon is an extremely attractive town, sometimes referred to as a “Little Bath” and well-known for its limestone buildings, two medieval bridges, Tithe Barn and Saxon Church. It sits in the valley of the River Avon in a lovely corner of West Wiltshire, on the SE edge of the Cotswold AONB, and on the border with Somerset, just 9 miles from Bath itself.
The name of the town originated from the “Broad ford on the Avon”, this is the Bristol Avon that flows on through Bath and Bristol into the Bristol Channel at Avonmouth. Evidence of the ford can still be seen in the centre of town, alongside the Town Bridge.
Bradford on Avon became a Walkers are Welcome Town in 2011 and has since gone from strength to strength. It was the first town in Wiltshire to gain Walkers are Welcome accreditation, made possible through the efforts of the West Wiltshire Ramblers. A couple of years later Corsham, 6 miles up the road, also gained WAW accreditation and they have a good working relationship, including offering reciprocal walks at each other’s Walking Festivals.
Bradford on Avon WaW organises two guided walks each month, open to everyone and these are immensely popular. They also run a highly successful Annual Walking Festival over the first weekend every September. You can find out more about these on their website.
The area offers a huge variety of walking opportunities, along the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath and through the valleys of the rivers Avon and Frome. They have easy, level walks as well as more adventurous and strenuous ones in and out of the valleys with many great views. The MacMillan Way also passes through the town.
The Bradford on Avon Walking Wheel, a 42-mile network of waymarked routes connecting the local villages, has proved immensely popular, locally, nationally, and internationally, particularly so over the recent lockdowns. Since its inception in 2016 around 1,500 Walking Wheel maps have been sold.
A favourite walk with local people is the Two Valleys circular walk, of which there are several versions, all around 6 or 7 miles in length. It takes in the canal towpath, Country Park, woods, field paths and country lanes with several historic buildings, pubs, and cafes en route. You can find a good version here.
The town has a proud industrial past, and, for a small town, it used to punch well above its weight over several centuries. The wool industry accounts for many of the buildings – weavers’ cottages, large riverside mills, and clothiers’ grand houses. Now disused, stone mines riddle the hillsides; they provided the main building material locally as well as much further afield.
In the 19th Century many of the mill buildings were used for other industries, mainly rubber when the Moulton family brought the rubber vulcanisation process to the UK from America. Then, in the 20th Century, Moulton Developments designed the rubber based, hydrolastic suspension system for the Mini car. Moulton is now more famous for the technologically advanced, small-wheeled bicycle which sells all over the world, particularly in Asia.
Today, one of the town’s largest employers is a high tech, internationally renowned engineering specialist in automotive test systems. There is also a plethora of small businesses in the IT, creative and tech industries.