Section 1: London – Strood
An important historic road this – connecting the capital with the cathedral cities of Rochester and Canterbury, the naval military base at Chatham, and the port of Dover. Follows the line of the Roman Watling Street, give or take a few bypasses.
Starts at the A3, at Borough Tube Station, as Great Dover Street – a suitably portentous name. After a while, we reach the Bricklayers' Arms junction with the Ring Road, and we are thus joined in our journey by traffic coming from Westminster and the Elephant along the New Kent Road via the flyover. We're now on the distinctly shabby Old Kent Road – the cheapest square in Monopoly, and not for nothing. Look out for the DIY superstores, discount food retailers, and drive-thru McDonalds that have unfortunately sprouted here in recent years.
Eventually we get to New Cross, where there are two one-way systems which are effectively triangles with the tips together. The A202 comes in/leaves from the west, and the A20 exits to the south-east. At this point, the A2 is signed to Dover, and the A20 to the Channel Tunnel, which is surprising as they're so close together. The A2 trundles through Deptford, and just when you thought you couldn't take any more red traffic lights, we suddenly climb a hill and emerge on Blackheath – an oasis of (relative) calm. Now at the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout we diverge from Watling Street (which carries on as the A207), and we won't meet it again for some time. Rochester Way was built in the 1920s/30s to allow long-distance A2 traffic to bypass Shooters Hill and the by now sprawling SE suburbs. However, by the mid 1980s the western section was getting very congested itself, and so the Rochester Way Relief Road was built: effectively a bypass of a bypass. At Kidbrooke Park we pass the last set of traffic lights out of London (and they're always green anyway). The original Rochester Way joins us at Falconwood, and we're now on East Rochester Way. Until 2001, this was the cue to accelerate into the blue yonder, as a 70mph speed limit applied from here. This was removed, and replaced with a 50mph limit up to the Kent border. Additionally, the inside lane (of three) was reserved for local traffic, thus making merging at the (grade-separated) junctions easier.M25 at the Darenth Interchange (roundabout with slip roads in each direction). The junction at Bean was once a simple affair but was completely changed in 1999 as part of the Bluewater shopping centre development (quite an impressive sight – it's been built in a massive ex-quarry – but I wouldn't advise actually going in...). Shortly after this we meet the A296 which has come from Dartford, and we're on Watling Street again. The Channel Tunnel Rail Link runs parallel to the south of this part ot the A2, with Ebbsfleet International station to our left. Thong Interchange. The two carriageways briefly drift apart, with a line of trees in the middle, and then we wind up at M2 J1, which provides access to the A289, linking to Grain and the Medway Tunnel. The M2 departs to the south, which leaves us with no alternative but to go through the Medway Towns.
An account of the first mile can also be found at London Geezer's Webpage here
Original Author(s): Tom
Section 2: Strood – Faversham (M2 J7)
From the beginning of the M2, the A2 is living very much in its shadow. After leaving the dual carriageway section at the start of the M2 split, and negotiating the new flyovers and underpasses that now define this junction, there is a run down a wide boulevard, past 1930s housing towards Strood. A traffic light junction allows a left turn into the B2108, the former route of the A289. Another set of lights guard the left turn into the A226 Gravesend Road.
Into Strood and there is a one-way system around the High Street. There are junctions with the A228 and the B2002 which leads to the town’s station. The Medway is crossed on separate bridges; the eastbound one on a new bridge laid on the piers of a long redundant railway. This allows two lanes in either direction. A crossing has existed here since Roman times.
The dualled section continues over the bridge into Rochester. The original straight line following the Roman Watling Street into the High Street is bypassed and the new route crosses over the old with two lanes climbing Star Hill. At the top of the hill is a roundabout where there is a junction with the A229. The now single carriageway New Road takes the route to the south of Chatham High Street where it used to run before pedestrianisation. It crosses the very short A230 Maidstone Road on a bridge before continuing on another dualled part.
The A2 finally rejoins its original route at a roundabout junction under some high railway arches at the foot of Chatham Hill. Having cleared the junction, it proceeds up the other side of the Medway valley towards Gillingham. At the top of the hill is a traffic light and a junction with the A231. Following the junction is a parade of shops and the road broadens to a 1930s style dual carriageway. The 2 or 3 miles between Gillingham and Rainham are peppered with small bits of industry and retail units. There is also the Will Adams Roundabout, a junction with the A289 and the Bowaters Roundabout for the A278.
Neither of the next two towns, Rainham and Newington, are bypassed. So although there are inevitable delays working through traffic lights, the road is following the direct course of a route that has been in use for over 1,000 years. Rainham parish church provides an interesting view on the right, while at Newington is at a pinch point where the A2 narrows to just two car widths. There are quite a few speed cameras on this stretch.
After another mile or so, the junction with the A249 is reached. Today the A249 (linking Maidstone, the M2 and M20 with Sheerness docks) is dualled all the way to the Sheppey Bridge and at this point runs in a cutting with the roundabout forming the junction on top. This was once a simple crossroads. And then is Sittingbourne, a long ribbon of a town stretching along for about the next 4 miles. Sittingbourne High Street – the original A2 – is now narrowed to one lane and a one-way system of relief roads runs to the east of the town, carrying the through traffic past light industrial and retail premises. The original road is rejoined at small roundabout and the first exit is taken to continue out of town and on towards Bapchild. Beyond this, the speed limit rises to NSL for about a mile until reaching Teynham.
Scenery along this part of the road is the most traditional of Kent we have seen thus far. Oast houses are at regular intervals on both sides of the road, with distinctive hop fields, their wood and wire supports jutting above the hedgerows. Fruit orchards can also be seen.
Past Teynham, the A2 becomes NSL again and runs on a fast, straight, but hilly section up to the B2045 Western Link to Shepherd Neame Brewery's storage depot. After this, it drops back down to 30 to go through the village of Ospringe near Faversham. Although the road is urban in nature, the centre Faversham itself has never been on the main A2, but sits just to the north on the B2040.
Along this section, there are two speed cameras as the A2 passes the Abbey School, and there's a junction with the A251 to Ashford and the B2041 towards Faversham town centre and station. The final junction to Faversham appears about half a mile beyond this, which is the B2040 to the east of the town.
Past this, the road changes back to a straight, rural nature. It used to be NSL but was reduced to 50 in 2009. THe A2 crosses the Faversham - Canterbury East mainline, heads downhill and back up, where this section of the road comes to a halt, terminating at Brenley Corner, a large roundabout sitting over the merge point of the M2 and the A299 (Thanet Way).
Section 3: Faversham – Dover
Things are much busier now the M2 has reared its ugly head again and dumped all the Canterbury and Dover-bound traffic back onto the A2. We're dual carriageway again, with grade separated junctions for the moment. Almost immediately after Brenley Corner, the original route of the A2 splits off to the left towards Broughton Street, while the current route bypasses it and Dunkirk to the south. The original route is rejoined the other side of Boughton Hill, and runs alongside it for a mile or so - this explains the at grade turning with a minor road to Chartham Hatch. The old route to Canterbury splits off after this towards Harbledown - this is now the A2050 but signs bearing this route number are somewhat rare. All of the junctions on the Canterbury bypass are limited access; the middle one with the A28 at Thanington only has Dover facing on and offslips, much to the annoyance of the locals. The old route crosses over us before a bypass of Bridge.
At Bridge, we follow the course of Watling Street bar the odd bypass; the original route is used as sliproads in places; such as the one for the A260. At Slbertswold, the Dover bypass starts. However, put away any thoughts of racing down to the sea at 70mph: the road becomes single carriageway again. It looks like this was the place where the authorities ran out of money to upgrade the A2. After a couple of junctions (A256 Whitfield and A258), we're onto Jubilee Way (that's QEII's Silver Jubilee). This is a great downhill stretch of road cutting into the cliffs, past Dover Castle on your right. Culminates in the road jetting out above the harbour, then turning right through 180 degrees to meet the A20 and the Eastern Docks access at a roundabout. Here endeth the road.
Original Author(s): Tom