From Roader's Digest: The SABRE Wiki
|To:||Bere Regis (SY849953)|
|Length:||86.8 miles (139.7 km)|
|Meets:||M3, M27, A3, A32, A35|
|Old route now:||A3090|
|Route outline (key)|
The A31 is a major through route in the south of England, although its central section has been replaced by parallel motorways.
Section 1: Guildford - Winchester
The A31 from the Western edge of Farnham to the M3 is a lovely stretch of road, as it has very little long distance traffic on it (most of it's gone down the A331 to join the M3), making for very pleasant motoring.
The A31 starts from the one-way system in the centre of Guildford (that circles the Electric Theatre, Wetherspoon's pub and the ACM), goes over a railway bridge, and then across a roundabout, and up a hill up the Farnham Road. It keeps on climbing, in the shadow of the Hog's Back (the non-main road section), until it joins the Hog's Back at a junction with the A3. You used to be able to turn right onto the A3 here but can't any more. It then becomes dual carriageway and a 60 limit (reduced from 70 limit because of safety concerns, I would presume, as there are lots of at-grade junctions with farms and the like, and a cut-through right turn).
It then becomes better as we enter the Runfold diversion, where the road becomes much better quality, and completely grade-separated. Then the left lane filters around the edge of the Shepherd and Flock roundabout east of Farnham town centre, and the A31 continues, up to a traffic-light controlled crossroads by Farnham Station, after which the traffic all goes into two lanes from four back at the lights - chaos - I'd advise aiming to get at the front of one of the queues but deliberately getting stuck at a red light to minimise stress here! Although coming the other way is worse as the road narrows to a single lane before widening for the lights. It then goes under a narrow bridge (the A287) which is the reason for this narrowing, and settles out properly the other side. There's one more set of traffic lights, but these aren't nearly as busy and are green much more than the others, then it's NSL again.
It then goes past another roundabout, where you can turn off for Petersfield, or the West side of Farnham town centre, and goes on to a lovely stretch of dual carriageway to Alton, although some of the second lane has been hatched out near dangerous at grade crossroads. Going past Alton there are a couple of roundabouts, and junctions that go off towards Liss/Petersfield (B3006) and the A32 towards Fareham, and the A339 past Alton towards Basingstoke.
At Holybourne, there used to be a junction with a side road to Binsted on the left. This now links up underneath the current route with the old road into Alton, while the Alton bypass swings off to the left. We turn right at the next roundabout (with the B3004) and rejoin it as this road turns to the left, heading into the centre of Alton. A mile or so in, we reach the old High Street, where the speed limit drops to 20. We pass old pubs and houses on both sides of the street. (The original start of the A339 is here). Ahead, the High Street is one way, so we must turn left into Turk Street. This follows ahead for a few hundred yards to the Bass Brewery, where we can turn right to head back down onto the main road out of town. At The Butts, we pass under a double railway arch with the current A339 to a roundabout. The road ahead, Winchester Road, is the original A31, but the gap under the Alton bypass has now been closed except to pedestrians and cycles. We instead head left towards Selborne, and take the first turning on the right, just past the bypass, towards Chawton. A sharp bend to the left (originally a T-junction) brings us into the centre of Chawton on the original A31 route. The road then swings round to the right (with the original A32) where, at a roundabout, it meets up with the current A31 on its way up to Four Marks. The obvious option is just to stay on the current route of the A31 which is a dual-carriageway bypass - but where's the fun in that? Then the A31 goes to a single carriageway stretch with a 30 limit through Four Marks and Ropley up to a roundabout with the Alresford bypass, opened in November 1986. The town was named after the river Arle, but due to a thousand-year-old misspelling is now named Alresford.
Then there's a lovely single carriageway downhill section that's perfect for about 90mph down. Last time I drove down there I was doing about 75mph and it felt slow as someone shot past me doing about 90-ish. However, this section has several tight bends which can cause a fatal accident in the wet, as you can run the risk of a high speed skid. Although this road is NSL, it has been temporarily reduced to 50 on occasions. Finally, we get back on to a dead straight, although hilly section of dual carriageway, then there's a left turn at the next roundabout with the B3404 leading onto a dual carriageway and a junction with the A272, and after that there are a few short stretches of road before we join the M3.
The A31 disappears from view here, but it used to carry along the B3404 into the city (the current route down to the M3 was the A272), and back out the other side towards Hursley, Romsey and Ower, most of which is now the A3090. It surprisingly reappears just south of Ower as a T junction off the non-primary A36 (although of course this is where the A3090 meets us again), running parallel to the M27 down to Cadnam. This is a nice fast stretch of road, unsurprising for a former trunk route, although a progressive set of speed limits now awaits you on the run to Cadnam. Then there's a right turn at the roundabout with the A336 and A337, then a left turn up a sliproad, and we're back onto trunk road again.
Original Author(s): fat_guy33
Section 2: Cadnam - Bere Regis
The M27 ends at Cadnam and the road continues as the A31 heading towards Ringwood. During the late forties, there was heated debate with the Verderers, fierce protectors of the New Forest, about providing a much needed upgrade to either the A31 or A35 through the New Forest, thus providing a proper link along the south coast. Eventually, in the 1950s, the A31 was controversially selected to be upgraded and was progressively upgraded over the next 20 years.
The section of road between Cadnam and Stoney Cross (around 2 miles) was first to be dualled in the mid-1960s. The westbound carriageway of this section is the original road, as shown by the narrow lanes and tight bend. At Rufus Stone, there is also an at grade junction which usually has long tailbacks as people try to cross the eastbound carriageway.
Between Stoney Cross and the edge of the New Forest west of Picket Post, most of the road was upgraded in sections between 1966 and 1972, but with the building the M27, there was some impetuous to get the job finished. The last section to be dualled, immediately west of Stoney Cross, was finished in 1975, along with the removal of the at-grade junction at Bratley, which required the rebuilding of the recently built dual carriageway.
At Picket Post, there is a grade-separated junction with the Burley road. When the A31 was dualled, this junction was left as a flat junction and became an accident blackspot, so it was grade-separated in 1991.
After the New Forest, the road descends Poulner Hill into Ringwood. The A31 passes through Ringwood to the north of the town centre and remained as a single carriageway road until the Ringwood bypass was opened in 1977. This was a partially online and offline upgrade which was actually squeezed through a residential part of Ringwood, as shown by the number of retaining walls.
This section of road also includes a grade-separated junction with the northern section of the A338, but due to the proximity of the parish church, the sliproad from the A338 to the A31 westbound is very short, and a known accident blackspot. The A338 used go through the centre of Ringwood, but in the late 1960s, the dual carriageway A338 "Bournemouth Spur Road" was built on a new alignment to the west of the river Avon, joining the A31 at a large roundabout at Ashley. The original road renumbered as the B3347. This means the A338 multiplexes for around 1.5 miles along the A31. This section of the A31 was dualled when the new A338 was built.
The roundabout for the A338 "Bournemouth Spur Road" was left as the first roundabout on the route from London and as such, became a congestion hotspot. In the 1990s, it was decided to grade separate the junction in the late 1990s. An underpass was built and the A31/A338 multiplex was widened to 4 lanes between the two A338 junctions. Unfortunately, whilst it is 4 lanes throughout on the eastbound carriageway, the westbound section was left as 2 lanes past the parish church, leaving the awkward A338 sliproad. Going westbound, the A31 suddenly picks up 2 extra lanes around half a mile after the church.
After the A338 southbound junction, the A31 carries on through St. Leonards and St. Ives to Tricketts Cross outside Ferndown, where the A348 heads south-westwards through Ferndown to Bournemouth. This section of road was progressively dualled in the 1960s and includes a rather odd roundabout with no other roads coming off it, although there is a junction with a local road a hundred yards away, so perhaps the local road was going to be realigned.
At Tricketts Cross, the A31 used carry on as a single carriageway road, through the northern edge of Ferndown and the village of Stapehill, but this section of road was bypassed with the Ferndown bypass in 1986. This started half a mile east of the A31/A348 roundabout on a new roundabout and headed northwards in a loop around Ferndown, before rejoining the original A31 at Canford Bottom. The first half of this road is dual carriageway, but at a roundabout at Ameysford, the road reverts to single-carriageway and you get long tailbacks as a result. The original intention was that a new dual carriageway called the "Ferndown Relief Road" would head southwards from this roundabout and join the A3049 at the northern edge of Poole, providing a direct route into Poole. This plan was was delayed in the late 1980s, proposed again in the mid-1990s as the "Poole Link Road" (with a couple of different routes), and then cancelled entirely by the Labour Government in 1997.
At Canford Bottom, the A31 used to go through the centre of Wimborne Minster and was a very congested route. In 1981, the single-carriageway Wimborne Bypass was opened, taking the A31 south of Wimborne and through the northern edge of Merley. Halfway along is a junction with the A349 and then a junction with the B3073 at Lake Gates, which is where we rejoin the original A31. After a couple of miles, the A31 crosses the A350 at a large Roundabout.
The route from Wimborne to Bere Regis has had minor improvements and widenings over the years, but is single carriageway throughout and in summer months very busy. At Bere Regis, the road used to meet the A35 at a very busy traffic light junction in the middle of the town. In 1982, the A35 Bere Regis bypass was built around the north of the town and the A31 terminates on a roundabout on this bypass.
A comprehensive history of the A31 can be found on the A31/History page.