|Location Map ( geo)
|Apsley, Hemel Hempstead (TL049052)
|66.9 miles (107.7 km)
|A41, A4251, A4146, A4147, M1, B4630, A405, A5183, B5378, A1081, A1(M), A1001, A6129, A1000, B1455, B195, A119, B158, B1197, A10, B1502, A1170, B181, A1019, A1169, A1184, B183, A1025, M11, B1393, A128, B184, A1114, A12, B1002, A1060, B1010, B1418, B1018
|M10, A405, A11, A122, A12, B1009
|Old route now:
|A4147, A1057, A119, A1060, A1114
|Route outline (key)
The A414 runs from Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire to Maldon in Essex, but very little of it follows the original 1922 route. The construction of the M25 resulted in a large scale renumbering exercise which affected many roads, including the A405, A1057 and A121 as well as the A414.
Section 1: Hemel Hempstead - St Albans
The A414 begins on the A41 in Apsley, Hemel Hempstead. But with the construction of the A41 bypass to the west of the old A41, the A414 had to be extended westwards as well. We start at a dumbbell roundabout under the A41, then descend down a steepish hill to a large signal controlled junction with the A4251 (old A41) where we pick up Two Waters Road. A short hop past B&Q and we reach the Plough Roundabout, better known as the Magic roundabout. Take your pick - negotiate three mini roundabouts by going anticlockwise, or five by going clockwise. Either way, we climb up the St Albans Road dual carriageway past Jarman Park, a large retail / leisure park containing a McDonalds and a large Tesco store. Don't ever arrange to meet anyone there - the place is vast.
We stay on the dual carriageway through a couple more roundabouts. At Leverstock Green, the A4147 turns to the right towards St Albans. This was the original A414 which now continues east of St Albans as the A1057 to Hatfield. The present A414 continues along Breakspear Way, named after the local 12th-Century English man who eventually became Pope.
At the next roundabout, the A414 continues forward as far as the police / maintenance compound. Beyond here, you used to find yourself on the M1 junction 8 slip road, but due to the construction of non-motorway collector distributor roads running parallel to the M1 between junctions 8 and 7, we can now remain on the A414. We cross over the M1 before doing a 270-degree swerve to the left to merge onto the southbound collector distributor road. There are three lanes here, but only lane 1 continues on the A414 to St Albans, with lanes 2 and 3 merging onto the M1 London-bound. (On the northbound c/d road, the opposite happens with only lane 3 merging onto the M1.) Indeed, the A414 between here and the Park Street Roundabout was formerly known as the M10, but this was de-specialised on 1 May 2009 following notices originally published in January 2004. The de-specialisation was part of the M1 junction 6A to 10 Widening scheme, as were the collector-distributor roads, (which usefully remove traffic travelling between St Albans and Hemel Hempstead from the main line of the M1.) However, the de-specialisation took effect formally from the time the main M1 widening scheme was completed in December 2008, and it was possible to drive on to the M10 without passing any 'start of motorway' signs from Hemel Hempstead from around this time. The former M10 is still trunk - the only part of the A414 to be so.
Section 2: St Albans - London Colney
At the end of the former M10 (or A414 restricted section), we reach the Park Street Roundabout, immortalised in successive editions of the Highway Code. Here we pick up the North Orbital Road (A405) from Watford, and cross the A5183 (ex A5) to enter zone 5. This next section of the A414 also used to be a trunk road, but it reverted to local authority control in the 2000s. This section used to be the A405, but was renumbered as part of the M25 project. The section is dual 2-lane carriageway, with a grade separated junction, but also with direct access from a pet shop and garden centre. The alignment is tighter than you'd expect for a road subject only to the National Speed Limit.
At London Colney Roundabout, we cross the A1081 (formerly known as the A6), into Zone 6, though we are further south than any road with a number beginning with 6. The reason will become apparent shortly. The London Colney roundabout was upgraded in the late 1990s to provide traffic signals and additional capacity. Generally it is better than before, though many drivers ignore the lane markings, resulting in frequent use of the horn in the area.
We continue east on dual carriageway, past the Colney Heath longabout, reaching the A1(M) at Roehyde and the 1-zone. We've just cut across the bottom corner of the 6 zone - hence no roads beginning with a 6 further south than the A414.
Section 3: London Colney - Hertford
We now do multiplex with a motorway - the A1(M) through the Hatfield Tunnel. As we do so, we pass under the former line of the A414 as it runs on the present A1057 into Hatfield. We leave the A1(M) at junction 4 (Oldings Corner) and pick up the A414 again, heading east. At the next small roundabout, a detour to the right (almost a U-turn) will take you onto the old A414 alignment. These days it forms the back entrance to Tesco and Homebase, but you can still see a very old primary route sign for the A414 on it.
Back to the present route, the next section of dual carriageway runs east between Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield along the original alignment of the A414. Text books on road design say that horizontal and vertical curves on a road alignment should start and finish at the same point. This doesn't seem to have been done on this next section as we approach the Holwell Roundabout.
After Holwell, we pass the Welwyn Hatfield refuse tip - beware queues of people on the A414 queuing to get in on a weekend afternoon in the summer. We then deviate from the original line again - running along the Cole Green Bypass, opened in 1993.
We descend into Hertford, round another roundabout and along more dual carriageway, subject to a 40mph limit. The dual carriageway ends for a few yards as we pass under the Hertford Loop railway line, then we reach the dual carriageway Gascoyne Way - Hertford's inner relief road.
Prior to the construction of Gascoyne Way, the A414 passed right through the middle of Hertford, through narrow streets such as St Andrews Street and Fore Street. A couple of roundabouts later, the A414 turns right along London Road towards the A10 at Rush Green. Once again, this is a "new" alignment - the old road followed the line of the B1502 Gallows Hill, running parallel to the present A10 to Great Amwell.
Section 4: Hertford - Chelmsford
We multiplex with the A10 for a mile or so before taking a left onto a spur to the Amwell Roundabout, labelled on the OS Landranger Map as part of the A10, but logically ought to be A414. From Amwell, the present A414 runs along a dual carriageway bypass to Stanstead Abbotts. Yet again, this is a newish alignment (opened in 1987) and the original route runs through Stanstead Abbotts itself. We cross a long viaduct, running over the Hertford East Branch Line, the River Lea and the New River, a canal built a couple of hundred years ago to bring fresh water to London.
At the far end of Stanstead Abbotts, we reach a limited-access junction with the B181, where we meet the original A414 alignment again - albeit one that was dualled and straightened out in 1990. Having passed a grade-separated junction, we almost immediately come upon a series of at-grade junctions with minor roads. The accident record here is sufficiently poor to warrant the addition of a large amount of anti-skid surfacing, yellow-backed signs and a 50mph speed limit, enforced by a couple of cameras. The junction design is not appropriate for the speed of the road, but given the layout, I can see the justification for the speed limit.
At Eastwick, we once again say good-bye to the original alignment of the A414. We will not meet it again until we get to Chelmsford. The old A414 ran along the unclassified road through High Wych, into Sawbridgeworth, then to Hatfield Heath, where the A1060 takes up the mantle to Chelmsford. There are many that think this is a faster route to Chelmsford than the present A414. Back at Eastwick, we turn right onto a single carriageway road running into Harlow, and across the Essex County Boundary. The A414 skirts Harlow to the north and east making its way towards the M11, junction 7, at Hastingwood. The eastern leg of the A414 around Harlow was at one stage the A11.
East of the M11, we bypass North Weald Bassett, then meet the B181 for a second time. From here it is a single carriageway to Ongar, once known as the last stop on London Underground's Central Line, though a place more different from central London is hard to imagine.
A ten-mile stretch along a typical rural single carriageway A road follows, taking us past Writtle, where a bypass was opened in August 1987, and on to the Chelmsford ring road. At one stage, the A414 carried on from here past the Britvic Tower, through the middle of town, past the Army and Navy Roundabout complete with its prefabricated flyover, then out towards Great Baddow and the A12 on its way to Maldon. A weak bridge near the old Britvic site now has width restrictions on it, as such the A414 is now signed back towards London along the old A12, then doubling back along the 1980s A12 bypass towards Great Baddow. The old section of A414 between the Army and Navy and the A12 is now numbered A1114. I wonder how long it took them to come up with that number.
Section 5: Chelmsford - Maldon
Having been primary all the way from Hemel Hempstead to Chelmsford, the last leg is a non primary road out to the Blackwater Estuary. The road runs through the middle of Danbury, where there's a sharp set of bends in the centre, turns left at a roundabout near Woodham Mortimer and continues up to the edge of Maldon. This section of road was all originally the B1009, becoming the A414 in 1935. Originally the road ended in the centre of Maldon, but now it turns left and runs along a better quality single-carriageway bypass of the town, before turning right and ending up just north of the bridge over the River Chelmer. Here, only a couple of miles from the Blackwater Estuary, the A414 can finally rest: turn right to head back into Maldon, or left onto a isolated spur of the B1018 to Heybridge, from where the B1022 leads to Tiptree.
- The A41 Trunk Road (Two Waters) (Detrunking) Order 2003 - This detrunks the Two Waters Interchange and the link road to the junction with the A4251. Interesting the legislation gives the link road to be part of the A41, although it is signed as a continuation of the A414
- The A414 North Orbital Trunk Road (M10/A414 Park Street Roundabout to A1(M) Junction 3) (Detrunking) Order 2003