Frome Valley – Frenchay to Snuff Mills

November 22 2021

Staple Hill & Mangotsfield councillor Michael Bell, a member of South Gloucestershire Council's public rights of way committee, on a walk next to the river Frome

IT has been said before how lucky we are to have some marvellous green spaces and parks so close to us, where we can relax and take part in leisure activities.
We also have many local walks nearby and I have previously written about Brandy Bottom, Siston Court, and sections of the Cotswold Way. This walk follows paths close to the river Frome from Frenchay to Snuff Mills and passes from South Gloucestershire into Bristol, where the river eventually drains into the City Harbour.
The river Frome starts its life as a small spring in Dodington Park, close to the home of the inventor James Dyson, then follows a course through Chipping Sodbury, Yate, Frampton Cotterell and Winterbourne before reaching the beginning of this walk.
A recommended start point is by parking legally close to the Quakers Meeting House in Frenchay. Friends (Quakers) have worshipped in the area since the middle of the 17th century, first meeting in private houses. In 1673, a meeting house at Frenchay was completed near the site of the present one. A caretaker’s cottage was added at the back in the mid-18th century.
Cross the road and continue downhill through a choice of gates and then fields through the National Trust Frenchay Moor opposite.
The walk continues alongside a paddock which may have horses (please do not feed) and comes out into a row of picturesque stone cottages, continuing onto the Grade II-listed Frenchay Bridge, which crosses the river Frome.
Look out on this stretch of river, as otters and kingfishers have recently been seen.
There is a cast iron plaque attached to the bridge with the words "Frenchay Bridge By Subscription 1788" and another plaque which details weight limits imposed by the former Chipping Sodbury Rural Parish Council.
Cross the bridge and take the lower path above the river but be cautious, as this stretch is unsurfaced for approximately half a mile and can be steep, muddy and slippery, especially after rain. An alternative easier higher path can be followed before cutting back to the river path later, when it becomes more even and continues with the river on the right.
Along the way we pass many other walkers, and dogs fetching sticks and balls and enjoying a swim. We are now in what is officially named the Oldbury Court Estate and is also known as Vassalls Park, named after a previous owner, and was landscaped by H Repton in the mid-19th Century.
We then pass the man-made weir and a stretch of fenced path, and it then crosses a narrow footbridge to eventually reach gardens with a house and the watermill, behind which is the remnants of a working quarry.
The watermill, which once used the flow of the river to power the grinding of corn and saws to cut stones from the quarry, has been lovingly restored by a group of volunteers since the 90’s.
A short walk through the car park and the small café is reached, and a well-earned rest and refreshments.
The return journey is along the same route: the complete walk takes roughly two and a half hours.