The M4 is a constant looming presence on the Cotswold Way. Walking from the north, you start off 80 miles or so away from it, but you always know that it’s there in-between you and Bath. At some point it has to be crossed.
Alice’s blisters have (just about) healed enough for her to start again on her Cotswold Way Challenge and I joined her again this week for another section, as she approached the motorway. You first hear it as you reach the churchyard at Old Sodbury. It’s still three or four miles away, but the elevated position of the church, which gives it a great view, seems to help the sound to travel there. After that you’re into more of a dip as you cross Dodington Park and the sound fades away, but not for long.
The trail crosses the A46 and heads east to Tormarton to avoid the motorway junction and find a quieter bridge over the M4. There’s still an uncomfortable section walking along quite a busy road that has no pavement either side, before the path turns and heads back west. For almost two miles you’re walking roughly parallel to the motorway and only a short distance away from it, with the constant roar of traffic from both the M4 and the A46. It must be about the least attractive bit of the Cotswold Way (although the dreadful fly-tipping mess of the old quarries above Cheltenham probably pips it).
So I hereby launch the campaign for a new pedestrian footbridge over the M4. I’d suggest a position just west of the A46, roughly by Springs Farm, where the motorway is still in a cutting, before falling away down what remains of the Cotswold escarpment at this point. It could be a very striking position for a bridge, and brings to mind the elegant pedestrian bridge that carries the Pennine Way over the M62. I hear that a new garden footbridge is planned for the Thames in London that is likely to cost 170 million pounds. A bridge over the M4 for the Cotswold Way might not be as high profile as that, but it could surely be built from the small change left over.
Meanwhile Alice keeps heading on southwards. Almost Bath time.