There are surprisingly few crossings of the River Avon - there's a footbridge, the town bridge, and the bypass in Melksham
, then nothing to Staverton on the outskirts of Trowbridge
- or so I thought until recently. For - set on the flood plain about 2 miles from the town - is an old pack horse bridge, only accessible by some fairly faint footpaths.
Map locator - Pack_Horse_Bridge
If you want to see the bridge (why not take a picnic down there?) you can park in the lay-by on the B3107 just after the road from Melksham crosses the railway, and take the footpath across the field, crossing the railway on the level:
Crossing the Railway - Stop, Look, Listen
The path continues over two more fields down to the river, and the pack horse brige itself
Pack Horse Bridge, Melksham Without
The flood plain is wide, and swans graze on the grass
River Avon flood plain, Melksham
branch line railway used to cross the river close to here too. Closed in 1966, the bridge was removed soon afterward and now just the abutments remain.
Devizes Branch - River Avon Crossing
Brook flows into the main river here abouts, and the footpath crosses it on a much more modern bridge
Footbridge over the mouth of Semington Brook
before rising up a short, steep hill to Whaddon with its tiny Church.
The Village street in Whaddon takes us south to the Kennet and Avon Canal
Kennet and Avon Canal near Whaddon
and we then head east along the canal. If you turn sharp left at the Swing bridge, you can loop back via Whaddon Grove Farm to the Pack Horse Bridge
Semington Swing Bridge
Or you can carry on, with views of the old Semington Work House on the horizon
Soon you arrive at the "Old" A350 - a humped back bridge which use to carry all the heavy traffic; now it's only a through route for cycles and buses. Ahead, through the bridge arch, you can see a lock but this is where you can head off in all sorts of directions, and we'll leave the canal.
Semington Canal Junction
The new line of the Wilts and Berks Canal will run northwards from here, alongside the old A350 - already a cycle way into Melksham. Stop at the Waney Edge Cafe for lunch at Berryfield
Footpaths - some poorly defined - will lead you in a circle back to the river and the Pack Horse Bridge, or you can walk into Melksham to sample the town if you wish. The 237 bus will take you close to your car, you can walk (a further 2 miles or so), or there are taxis available.
The walk described is fairly "doggable" - but you will need to be able to lift your dog at the railway crossing over the stiles there, and perhaps at one of the other stiles on the way to the river if (s)he isn't a good jumper.