|Length:||49.9 miles (80.3 km)|
|Meets:||A30, A330, A332, A3095, A322, A329(M), A321, A3290, A4, A327, A33, A4155, A340, A417, A4130, A4074, M40, A40, A418|
|Former Number(s):||A42, B4013|
|Old route now:||B3408|
|Route outline (key)|
The A329 is a very varied road, ranging from parts with a 20 mph limit and another which is single track, to another part which has six lanes (plus hard shoulders!) in no less than three carriageways!
Should any of the well-heeled residents of Wentworth wish to drive to Thame, a route taking them through the middle of Reading would not be the most obvious one – the M25 and M40 is much more direct, and certainly quicker, and the A329/A330 to the M4 J8/9 and then the A404/M40 would also do the trick. The A329 seems to be a pointless long-way-around route, like the A308 (Knightsbridge to Maidenhead via Kingston) and A404 (Maidenhead to Marylebone via Amersham). These curious routes are partly explained by their history: in the case of the A329, it is actually a collocation of three original roads - its original route was the far more sensible Wentworth to Reading.
Section 1: Wentworth - Reading
The A329 starts on the A30 in leafy Surrey, opposite the entrance to the Wentworth estate, and skirts the southern boundary of Windsor Great Park, with glimpses of the artificial lake of Virginia Water through the trees. Although not easily visible from the road, it here passes over a small valley in which some classical architectural remains are displayed for the edification of visitors to the Park, and shortly afterwards crosses the border into Berkshire, and enters the twisty section through Blacknest, and past the "Harrow", much frequented by course members attending the Civil Service College and Imperial College's field station, both close by. The car park opposite seems to be a gathering place for classic cars.
The A329 now straightens out and makes a beeline for Ascot, where after briefly picking up and dropping the A330 it suffers the indignity of a 20 mph limit through the High Street, despite being four lanes wide. The right hand side of the road here is dominated by the backs of the grandstands of the racecourse. After crossing the A332 at a roundabout, the A329 continues its dead-straight course towards Bracknell.
The original course of the A329 through Bracknell is partly pedestrianised and partly downgraded to the B3408; the present route loops round the north and west of the town centre to meet the A322 at an unusual junction at Twin Bridges. This is built round the piers of the viaduct carrying the London Waterloo to Reading railway, and has features of both a "hamburger" and a "dumbbell". From this point the A329 briefly takes over the primary status of the A322, carrying the main flow of traffic from the M3/Bagshot/Guildford, and shadows the railway on a modern dual carriageway to where it once again meets its original course, now the B3408, at the Coppid Beech Roundabout.
At the Coppid Beech you have a choice. You can turn off the main line to rejoin the original A329, which continues the on line of the B3408, and goes through Wokingham town centre (one-way system) and out through Winnersh, Earley, and into Reading. However, you can instead go straight on over the flyover and join the duplicate, the A329(M). North of the M4 junction (an impressive semi-cloverleaf) the central reservation has no crash barrier - now possibly a unique feature. The last section towards Reading has now had the last 200 yards or so of the hard shoulder converted to a bus lane, with the rest hatched out, and this has prompted its renumbering as the A3290. This meets the A4 at a roundabout (the dual carriageway continues over the top as unclassified access to the industrial area) and a short trip along the A4 towards the town centre allows us to rejoins the original A329, at its original terminus.
However, the story continues, as the A329 now continues into Reading. This section - Kings Road – was recently made one-way going out of town, with bus lanes going both ways, inbound traffic having to use the A4. The A329 number is applied to the dual-carriageway known as the IDR (inner distributor road) which completely encircles the town centre, and then leaves as the Oxford Road.
Section 2: Reading - Thame
These days Oxford traffic is directed either by the A4074, which we shall meet again later, or by the M4 and A34 but, as the name suggests, this was the original route to Oxford, and once had a suitably important number, the A42. Its renumbering as an extension of the A329 was done during the 1935 renumberings, as it is not really suitable for heavy traffic, largely thanks to Isambard Kingdom Brunel, as we shall see.
The road follows the River Thames and the Great Western railway line through Tilehurst and Pangbourne, where it makes a reverse TOTSO with the A340, providing a link from Theale and the M4. In Pangbourne it passes under a narrow railway bridge, and near the Beale Wildlife Park it crosses over a second. This second bridge is a replacement for an older one (still there but unused), but nevertheless only allows single alternate lane traffic, enforced by traffic lights.
After passing through picturesque Streatley, with the B4009 leading to Goring bridge, we enter the administrative area of the Vale of White Horse (together with the eponymous horse at Uffington), was ceded by Berkshire to Oxfordshire in 1974. Whether Berkshire felt that gaining Slough (from Bucks) compensated for this is not recorded!
We now cross a third railway bridge near Cholsey, this one having a severe weight restriction. After Cholsey the A329 (and the A42 before it) used to go through the centre of Wallingford and over the Thames by the narrow Shillingford Bridge. It now becomes subordinate in a multiplex with the A4130 Didcot to Maidenhead road, and after crossing the Thames also joins the A4074 Reading to Oxford direct route, before shedding first the A4130 (formerly the A423) at Crowmarsh Gifford and then the A4074 (formerly the A423 and before that the A42) at Shillingford, which marks the other end of the now-downgraded route through Wallingford. The centre of the town still has a one-way loop and four-way set of traffic lights at the central crossroads owing to the narrowness of the streets and was a major bottleneck before the bypasses were competed.
The last section of the A329 was originally the B4013, but was upgraded to A road status around the time the M40 was built to Oxford in the 1970s. It twists and turns its way along the course of the River Thame through Stadhampton, meeting the M40 at a limited access junction facing London – the original Oxford-facing onslip (there was never an offslip) was closed (although it still exists) as it was too close to the divergence of the Birmingham extension so Oxford traffic now has to use the A40 to or from the next junction west. The A329 finally ends at a junction with the A418 on the Thame bypass.
Original Author(s): Peter Lupton & Tim Lidbetter