Open Jaw: Where readers write back ... about their favourite A-roads
Friday 01 June 2012
In praise of the A272
The A272 winds along the South Downs through towns such as Petersfield, Petworth and Midhurst. Beautiful views, and interesting places to stop and wander.
The A272 proceeds calmly due west from the heart of Sussex into Wiltshire, where some fairly recent renaming has it disappearing at an insignificant T-junction – but it is a lovely road. Don't just take our word for it – find if you can the coffee-table book by Pieter Boogaart A272 – An Ode to a Road (Pallas Athene). It is not just full of gorgeous scenery: there are gems about local "things-to-see", and it still can lead you to visit out-of-the-way places.
The A272 from Hadlow Down to Winchester and beyond (preceded by the A265 from Hawkhurst, Kent) is a road I have frequented through all seasons and all hours of the day and night, visiting my three children and their families, notably for emergency baby-sitting. They just happen to live within a few miles of this road: Horsham, Meonstoke in Hampshire, and Winchester. The art of enjoying this route is to travel at obscure times when traffic is very light! Then it is "my road".
I grew up next to the A5. In my late teens, every Friday night involved taking the A5 from Wolverhampton to Snowdonia and back in the small hours on Monday morning. At 3am with a full moon shining on the rocks and no traffic it was just magic.
Try living near the A5 on a summer Sunday when the 1,000th (or more) motorcyclist has gone by, accelerating out of the bends which make it such a nice road, and filling the echo chamber of the Dee Valley with a reverberating screech from the shifting gears. The past decade has seen a 10-fold increase in noisy motorcycle traffic: time for the Welsh government to allow only electric bikes on its roads.
"Grumpy Old Green"
The best road in Britain is undoubtedly the A4069 between Upper Brynamman and Llangadog. It passes the little village of Bethlehem, and if your heart doesn't skip a beat at the scenery and the view then you are probably dead.
Best of the rest
The A39 to Minehead over Exmoor is spectacular.
The A6, a big beast like the A5, desolate and magnificent as it heads over Shap Fell in Cumbria, never fails to punish the hopeful cyclist.
It has to be the A57 (the Snake Pass, across the Pennines): beautiful hillsides, running streams and idyllic villages.
Sorry you are not including B-roads: is there anywhere more evocative than the B6318 Military Road in the shade of Hadrian's Wall, and the place names? Walbottle, Heddon on the Wall, Halton Shields, Chester, Temple of Mithras, Housesteads, Vindolanda, Once Brewed, Greenhead, Gilsland, Birdoswald, Kirkcambeck, Lyneholmeford, Sleetbeck, Langholm. Drove east to west at dusk, and west to east just before dawn.
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