|Distance:||29.1 miles (46.8 km)|
|Meets:||A31, A272, B3035, B2177, A334, M27, A27, B3385, B3334, B3333|
|Old route now:||A4094, A4155, B3031, B3349|
|Route outline (key)|
The A32 – like the A33, A34, and A37 – runs north-south across the 3-zone. (The A30, A31, and A35 run roughly east-west; the A36 runs from north-west to south-east; and the A38 and A39 run north-east to south-west.) However, unlike all the other A3x roads, the A32 is non-primary for its entire length. Like the A33, it has also been massacred as a result of the opening of the M3, and is now roughly two thirds of its original length.
Section 1: Alton - Fareham
Today the road starts just south-west of Alton, by the village of Chawton, at a roundabout with the A31. From here we head further southwards, through gently undulating countryside. The road is relatively quiet, and it's nice to slow down a little and admire the countryside. Not so nice if you're stuck behind a slow lorry, although there are numerous straight sections on which to overtake.
Suddenly, out of the blue, you are confronted with a set of traffic lights at the junction with the A272, which by this stage is non-primary. After a few miles, we reach the village of West Meon, and start to follow the Meon Valley down towards Wickham. The villages along here are full of thatched cottages. At Droxford, there are "road narrows" signs warning of overhanging houses, but these were nowhere near as dramatic as I was imagining!
At Wickham we meet the old A333 (now B2177) and the A334. The traffic is noticeably heavier from here southwards. Our pastoral scenery is broken when we hit the M27 at junction 10. The first sign on the southbound A32 for this junction, a large ADS, directs motorway-eligible traffic for the A32 to Gosport to hop onto the M27, where signs on the sliproads tell traffic to keep left and use J11. The road ahead is signed for non-motorway traffic. The junction is limited-access: there are no slip roads on the western side, allowing the road to form a northern bypass for Fareham without enabling westbound traffic to rat-run through the town. In fact, this junction is a bit like two-eighths of a cloverleaf, as there is only access to and from the motorway from the northern A32 (the off-slip has a fun 270° bend...).
Section 2: Fareham - Gosport
Assuming we didn't heed the sign's advice to use the motorway, we head down around the centre of Fareham on to the Wallington Way, a 1970s dual carriageway bypass for both the town centre and the nearby village of Wallington. We reach the large Delme Roundabout where traffic from the M27 flies over the top (D'oh! Should have used the motorway then...).
We multiplex with the A27 and join the flyover on another 40mph dual carriageway bypass, although this one can get very congested. Here we're given a choice of three lanes: left for the A27 on an unusual single-lane flyover, centre for the A32 which bears left and right for the town centre via Quay Street Roundabout. We take the centre one and bear south on to an urban, congested dual carriageway, this one the notorious Gosport Road. We cross a roundabout and then have another choice of lanes, this time it's left for the A32 and Gosport Road and right for the B3385 towards HMS Collingwood and the Retail Parks.
This is an odd junction, as it's a fork with several exits, including the possibility to take a u-turn or head back on to the B3385. We head straight and from here on it's four miles of urban single carriageway, with four names, two roundabouts and seven traffic-light controlled junctions. It's also very congested because it's the only 'A' road in to Gosport (there are two 'B' roads), and it's part of the only route between Gosport and Fareham and Portsmouth, the latter being only half a mile away but on the other side of a harbour. The road finishes, if you make it, in the centre of Gosport next to the passenger ferry terminal.
The biggest bit of history of the A32 is that it used to be twice as long, starting (or ending, if one starts from its home zone three) at Loudwater on the A40, halfway between Beaconsfield and High Wycombe. It followed the north bank of the Thames along the edge of the flood plain, following the route of the present A4094 and A4155.
It then followed the pre-bypass A33 from Reading to Riseley, on the Berkshire-Hampshire border (virtually the entire of this section has been bypassed in recent years making the ex-A32 Class II). The renumbering of the A32 north of Riseley dates from 1935. The road continued, following the route of the current B3349, to cross the A30 at Hook, then multiplexed for a short distance with the A287 south of where M3 J5 is now (I've never understood why the exit sign at the junction says (B3349), as the B3349 does actually touch the junction, albeit only on the northern side). The A32 then continued to Alton and multiplexed with the A31 for a short distance, bringing it to its current starting point.
At Fareham, the road would have ran down High Street and Quay Street, a journey which is no longer possible as a short section of it is now buses only. Instead, this has been bypassed by the Wallington Way and Eastern Road dual carriageways.