|From:||Stanton St Quintin (ST916796)|
|To:||Lower Hamworthy (SZ000904)|
|Distance:||68.1 miles (109.6 km)|
|Meets:||M4, A429, B4122, B4158, A420, A4, B4528, A365, A3102, B3107, A361, A363, B3097, B3098, A3098, A36, B3414, A303, B3089, A30, B3081, B3091, A357, B3082, A354, B3075, A31, A35, B3068, A3049, A349, B3093|
|Former Number(s):||A429, A364, A363, A3031|
|Old route now:||B3068|
|Route outline (key)|
The A350 is a mostly reasonable primary route connecting the M4 to the South Coast. Its original start was in Warminster, but it took over part of the A363 and the entire A364 in 1935 to create a through route from Chippenham. When Chippenham was bypassed to the west it gained a few more miles, taking over a section of the former A429 to connect with the M4.
Stanton St Quintin - Warminster
We start, then, at M4 junction 17, with about three miles of dual carriageway heading south. This dual carriageway predates the single-carriageway Chippenham bypass and used to end, strangely, just short of the roundabout where the bypass starts - why it couldn't have been extended to meet the roundabout sooner I'm not sure. We turn right onto the bypass and negotiate several more roundabouts, and several short dual carriageway sections inbetween them. One of the roundabouts is the junction with the A420 Chippenham-Bristol road (which forms a more direct route than the A4!) and then the A4 itself via Bath. Heading from the M4 into Bath it can sometimes be quicker and more pleasant to take this route than continue to junction 18 and the tortuous A46.
Regaining the old road south of Chippenham, we bypass the village of Lacock, a quintessentially English picture-postcard village preserved by the National Trust. We continue via Beanacre to Melksham, where the road now avoids the town centre, meeting the A365 and A3102 on its way. The far end of the Melksham bypass merges into the first section of the Semington bypass, then passing under the Kennet and Avon canal by a new aqueduct opened in 2004.
At the next roundabout (a smaller one than that on the old A350 to the west) we cross that great warhorse of a road, the A361 and then rejoin the pre-bypass route. The A350 forms a "natural bypass" of Trowbridge and A361 traffic has long been directed down the next section of the A350 to avoid the town, passing West Ashton at the traffic lights and turning off at Yarnbrook, the junction with the A363; a relief road is proposed for these bottlenecks. We pass from here via Heywood to the town of Westbury, on the edge of Salisbury Plain, meeting the A3098 (which was once the B3098). Westbury is another bottleneck, the eastern bypass being thrown out by the Planning Inspectorate in 2008 but continues to be pursued by Wiltshire Council.
Warminster - Shaftesbury
From here the road skirts the edge of Warminster Down, passing the village of Upton Scudamore, where it has been diverted to connect with the A36 Warminster bypass (the old route now being unclassified). We join the A36 at a roundabout near Cley Hill and then multiplex for a few miles, regaining the original route at a roundabout near Crockerton Green. The local signage here is for "The Deverills", referring to a series of villages mostly just off the route with "Deverill" in their name. The one we pass through is Longbridge Deverill, where the B3095 leads to its sisters - Brixton Deverill, Monkton Deverill and Kingston Deverill.
There is some spectacular wooded scenery along the next stretch as we approach the junction with the A303. This is the simplest multi-level junction imaginable: a two-way slip road leaves the A350 at a T-junction to the left, curves through 90 degrees and meets the A303 (single-carriageway here) at another T-junction above. Given the volume of traffic on the A303 this can sometimes be hard to negotiate!
At the A303/A350 junction, the A350 passes underneath, but this underpass was added in the late 1970s. Prior to that, it was a staggered crossroads, with the A350 traffic having to cross the busy A303 - a nightmare on Summer Saturdays!!!
South of the junction, the old A350 road can be seen on the right for around half a mile before we get to the B3089 staggered crossroads, which is now traffic-light-controlled, but was also difficult for traffic on the B road.
We then drop down the hill to bypass East Knoyle. The original route of the road can be seen on the left twisting up the hill, but now the road just blasts straight down the hill and carries on straight past the village of East Knoyle. This used to be a notorious traffic hotspot where articulated lorries tried to pass on the narrow and twisting village road. If you fancy an interesting diversion, take the old road through the village and wonder how two lorries could pass each other (or not on many occasions).
South of East Knoyle, the road is wide and easy drive, although for some reason there is a 50 mph restriction for half the distance to Shaftesbury. Just after you cross the railway line, there is an excellent scrapyard, after which you have the long climb up to Shaftesbury. This is a twisting road, with high banks either side and makes you realise how high Shaftesbury is above the surrounding countryside.
Entering Shaftesbury, the A350 multiplexes with the A30 for the Shaftesbury "bypass", which at one time was in fields but is now a busy town road, although much better than the original route through the town, the B3081/B3091. South of the town, the A350 carries on southward and the A30 eastward.
Shaftesbury - Blandford Forum
The A350 south of here is a horrible road and you are recommended to turn left onto the A30 and then right onto the B3081. The B3081 TOTSOs after a few miles, but carry on the now unclassified road. Whilst there is narrow bit through Melbury Abbas, the road from there onwards is far better than the A350, which this road then joins again at Blandford. Apparently the 'high road' between Shaftesbury to Blandford Forum is the C13 from its junction with the B3081 at Cann Common to the junction with the A350 on the Blandford Forum bypass.
The A350 between Shaftesbury and Blandford is tight and twisty, goes through numerous villages and around three sides of Stepleton House, whose owner obviously didn't want to see traffic out of his front window. After the A357 joins at Durweston, the A350 is a far better road.
North of Blandford, the original A350 forks off as the B3082 and the A350 continues as the Blanford bypass which actually forms two-thirds of a ring road around Blandford. You then come to a roundabout where the above diversion joins back on. The next roundabout has the A354 joining from Salisbury and the A350 multiplexes for a while. The A354 has priority although the A350 is the more important route. The next junction is with the B3082 which heads to Wimborne Minster and is an alternative route down to Poole (with the B3078/A31/A349).
Blandford Forum - Poole
We come to the end of the Blandford Bypass and the A354 carries on straight ahead with the A350 going off left. The A350 now goes through the villages of Charlton Marshall, Spetisbury and Sturminster Marshall, which are rapidly becoming a single linear development!! The road is okay, but has numerous speed limits and so is fairly slow going. After Sturminster Marshall, we cross the A31 at a roundabout and carry on down to Poole.
North of Upton, we come to the A35 Upton Bypass. The A350 used to carry on down through Upton and Hamworthy to Poole docks, but this has now become the B3068. The A350 multiplexes with the dual-carriageway A35 Upton bypass heading eastwards. The A35 comes off on a sliproad at the next junction and the road continues as the A350 for another mile when we come to the roundabout junction for the A350 Holes Bay link road. The main road then carries on as the A3049 and heads towards north Poole and Bournemouth - two TOTSOs in less than a mile.
The Holes Bay link road was built in the early 1990s on land reclaimed out of Holes Bay, and for a recently built dual carriageway, has a rather tight bend on it, which is now subject to a speed restriction, but was fun at 70. The link road ends at Hunger Hill which is a large signalised roundabout/gyratory, named after a particularly poor part of Poole which was wiped out in the late 1960s to build the junction. The A350 now has two endings. Firstly (following the ex-A3031) the road takes a sharp left over the Towngate Bridge, which was built in the 1960s to replace the High Street and Towngate level crossings and enable the pedestrianisation of the High Street. The road carries on around the George Roundabout with its huge Barclays building and heads eastwards for another mile or so before terminating on the A35 at the Civic Centre gyratory system.
The A350 has also been extended to head to the port. It traverses three quarters of the Hunger Hill U shaped system before taking West Street. Latterly there is a one-way section before the two halves of the road join up again to cross the Poole Bridge which lifts for boats. It then ends at a mini-roundabout where you have to turn left to continue to the port.
So there you have it, a long distance route from the Midlands to one of the Channel Ports which is largely single carriageway A road, with a number of reasonable bypassed stretches and couple of awful unbypassed stretches.