|To:||Hope under Dinmore (SO511530)|
|Via:||Cirencester, Gloucester, Ledbury|
|Distance:||97.5 miles (156.9 km)|
|Meets:||A329, B4016, B4493, A4130, A4185, A338, B4001, B4508, A420, A4095, B4019, A361, A429, A419, B4070, A436, A46, M5, B4641, A40, B4063, A38, A430, A4301, B4211, B4208, B4213, M50, A449, B4216, A438, A4172, A4103, A465, A49|
|Former Number(s):||A419, B4214, B4215|
|Route outline (key)|
Like the A361, the A417 goes all over the place and ranges from a major trunk road to a winding country road. It's not really a "long way round" route per se (the central section is trunk), though there are several quicker ways to get between the two ends.
Section 1: Streatley – Cirencester
It starts off just outside the centre of Streatley as a fork west off the A329, and just inside West Berkshire. It climbs away from the Thames Valley, into that part of Berkshire that was taken over by Oxfordshire in 1974 and along the Ridgeway, which is a nice fun drive. It then crosses the A34 without a junction and enters Harwell, best known (to me at any rate) for its large research lab. It then meets the A4185 and A4130 – both ex-A34 – at a roundabout.
The A417 continues west towards Wantage, where it meets the A338. The old road through town is now unclassified, so the A417 multiplexes north along that road before running along what appears to be half a bypass to rejoin its original route in the Belmont area of town. The road then runs across the Vale of the White Horse, until it meets the A420 Faringdon bypass at a roundabout. The old A417 ahead is now blocked, so we must multiplex with the A420 briefly before heading right at the next roundabout into Faringdon itself, where we meet the A4095.
The A417 continues out of Faringdon and past Buscot House, then over the Thames at St John's Bridge to enter Gloucestershire before reaching Lechlade, where it meets the A361 in the centre of the village. There's a brief multiplex (with the A361 number dominant) through the Market Place between a TOTSO for both roads. It seems fitting that Lechlade should play host to two 3-digit roads that don't seem to know when to stop!
Beyond Lechlade, the A417 heads past the Cotswold Water Park – wonder if you can wave to waterskiers as you drive past? It then heads through Fairford, crossing the River Cole, and heads through countryside past the picturesque village of Ampney Crucis (stayed here once on holiday) towards the historical town of Cirencester. In 1922 the A417 ended here on the A429 – it was extended in 1935.
Section 2: Cirencester – Gloucester
As you might imagine, being a historical Roman settlement, Cirencester is the meeting point of two important Roman Roads - the Fosse Way and Ermin Street. In a few miles the A417 will run on part of the course of the latter road.
Before that, however, the A417 approaches a bridge over which it crosses the primary ... A417! After 1935 the A419 and A417 cannoned off each other in the middle of Cirencester, but following the completion of the Cirencester bypass, there's now a two mile stretch of road between the A419 branching off towards Stroud, and the non primary A417 meeting it. Northbound signs refer to it as the A417, whereas southbound signs refer to it as the A419, so it's a schizophrenic multiplex. Things are made even more complicated though, by the fact you can't actually get from the non-primary A417 onto the primary A417 – you have to carry on for another half a mile to meet the A429 at a T-junction, then double back on yourself to meet the primary route.
At any event, the character of the A417 now changes completely as it's a major dual carriageway, cutting the corner between the M4 near Swindon, and M5 near Gloucester. It soon meets up with Ermin Way at the end of the Cirencester bypass, and carries along its route, still a good dual grade-separated road.
It doesn't last though – about eight miles north of Cirencester the dual carriageway gives out rather disappointingly at a small roundabout and we're back onto the original single carriageway, which is a huge bottleneck with regular traffic jams. The reason this part hasn't been dualled yet will soon become apparent, as the A417 runs along the edge of Birdlip Hill with some really spectacular views to the left, before meeting the A436 at the Air Balloon Roundabout. It then doubles back on itself to head sharply down the hill - a real challenge for HGVs!
At the bottom of the hill the A417 widens out to a dual carriageway and passes underneath the A46, bypassing Brockworth, to meet the M5 at junction 11A just outside Gloucester. It's probably worth mentioning at this point that Gloucester to Oxford traffic is signed these days via the A417 (back up Birdlip Hill) and the A436 instead of the A40, which still ploughs straight through the middle of Cheltenham. Maybe this part of the A417 will turn into the A40 eventually?
After the M5 junction and another roundabout, the A417 meets a road that's either a spur of the A40 or the A417. At the next roundabout, it meets the A38, which it multiplexes with around the north of Gloucester. It reasserts itself as part of the Inner Ring Road, and then runs on a dualled section up to the A40 at a roundabout just before the latter road bridges the Severn at its nearest point since the Severn Bridge some 30 miles downstream.
Section 3: Gloucester – Hope under Dinmore
We leave the A40, heading north, crossing a channel of the River Severn as we enter Maisemore. We then pass Hartpury before reaching Staunton, where we turn left at a mini-roundabout in the village centre. The right turn is the B4213 and straight on is the B4208. Again, we curve round to the north, before crossing over M50 junction 2, an almost conventional diamond layout. The reason it is almost conventional is because immediately north of the motorway, the A417 turns sharp left, and we meet the eastbound off-slip a hundred yards or so away from the bridge. There is a motorway maintenance depot at this junction.
The A417 then runs parallel with the M50 for a short distance before turning slightly north again towards Ledbury. We follow the Ledbury bypass around the west side of the town – the southern section is a multiplex with the A449, although the A417 number is dominant. After a couple more roundabouts we meet the A438 as it emerges from Ledbury. We turn left onto a multiplex with the A438. To the north there is an impressive brick arch railway viaduct on the Hereford to Worcester line.
A few miles west, we reach the Trumpet junction, where the A417 regains its number by turning right. The left turn is the A4172, which suggests that the route we have just followed isn't the original line of the A417. This is true, but that is because the A417 didn't originally run west of Gloucester. However, when it was extended, it was allocated to the route it takes at present. The A4172 was previously the B4215. Presumably it was allocated the number A4172 as it could be argued that it is a spur of the A417.
The next stretch takes us on a Roman alignment to Newtown, where we cross the primary A4103 Hereford to Worcester Road. We then cross the single-carriageway A465 at a roundabout at Burley Gate before reaching the terminus of the A417, at a T junction on the A49 near Hope under Dinmore, a few miles south of Leominster. Just to the south, on the A49, is Queenswood Country Park, which has a view point offering spectacular views over the Herefordshire Countryside.
In 1922 the A417 followed its current route (bypasses excepted) between Shillingford and Cirencester, giving the road a sensible, albeit not particularly important, route.
In 1935 the road was extended west by some distance. It took over the original A419 into Gloucester (that road was diverted west through Stroud). Following a multiplex along the A40 (not the A38) in Gloucester the road then took over the B4124 to Ledbury. Another multiplex (along the A438) followed and the A417 ended by taking over the B4125 to Hope, giving the road its current route.
The road has had a couple of routes into Gloucester. Originally it ran straight through Hucclecote, then that was bypassed – and the construction of J11A of the M5 in 1995 led to the current alignment but left behind the section of dual carriageway just to the south of the motorway junction.
Later still the Cirencester bypass was built and seems to have been given the A417 number in its entirety, thus giving rise to the current situation where the non-primary A417 goes over the primary A417 but with no obvious way of getting from one to the other.