|Distance:||60.6 miles (97.5 km)|
|Meets:||M5, A46, A38, B4211, B4208, A449, B4216, B4214, A417, A4172, B4224, A465, B4359, A49, A4110, A480, B4230, A4111, B4350, B4351, B4350, A4079, A4078, A479, A470|
|Former Number(s):||B4077, B4350|
|Old route now:||B4077, A46, B4350, A470, B4602|
|Route outline (key)|
The A438 starts near Tewkesbury, heads west to Hereford, and from there follows the River Wye into Wales.
Section 1: Tewkesbury – Hereford
In 1935, the A438 was extended east from Teddington Hands to the then-A46 at Toddington; it remained as such until the A46 was downgraded to B4632 in the 1980s when it was cut back again to Teddington Hands. Finally, it was cut back further to its current eastern terminus when the A46 was returned to the area some years later.
Heading west from the motorway, we soon meet the A38 eastern bypass but the A438 number continues into the town centre. We reach a roundabout on which stands the town's war memorial and meet the original line of the A38 where we change number unexpectedly. A short multiplex with the A38 along the High Street leads us to regain our number just before crossing the Severn bridge and entering Worcestershire. We then continue on towards Ledbury on a largely unimproved rural single carriageway A-road. We pass under the M50 but there is no opportunity to join that motorway here. A couple of miles further on we give way to cross the B4208 at a staggered crossroads and then enter Herefordshire.
Shortly after passing Eastnor Castle, in the foothills of the Malverns, we turn left onto the primary A449 towards Ledbury. Our route takes us to the crossroads in the middle of this market town, where owing to the narrowness of the A449 the traffic lights are set back somewhat. Through traffic is directed to the left but the A438 regains its number by turning right here, running along the S2 High Street before bearing left by the station and emerging at the northern end of the A417 Ledbury bypass, where the A438 becomes primary in its own right. A glance to the right at the end of the bypass gives a good view of a long brick-arch railway viaduct.
Another four miles leads us to the Trumpet cross roads with the A417 and the A4172 (which despite its number was never part of the A417). The traffic signals look a little incongruous in the midst of the Herefordshire countryside, but I can well imagine that this was once an accident blackspot before the signals were put in. Trumpet gets its name from the pub at the side of the road.
Our onward journey takes us through the hop fields, past places with such wonderful names as Tarrington, Stoke Edith and Bartestree. Traffic wishing to bypass Hereford would be well advised to turn right at Bartestree towards Whitestone, and take the A4103 route along the old Roman Road, picking up the A438 again west of the city. However, our route takes us into Hereford, where we multiplex firstly with the A465 on its own (with the A438 number dominant), and then with the A465 and the A49 as those two north-south routes make their way to the bridge over the River Wye. This short section is the only dual carriageway on the A438.
We, however, stay north of the river, turning right past Bulmer's cider mill and on towards White Cross, where you could turn onto the A4110 if you felt like it. At Kings Acre, a right turn takes you onto the A480 towards Kington and is where you'd come out if you'd taken the A4103. From here, the A438 remains north of the River Wye, on a reasonably good alignment, although it remains single-carriageway.
Section 2: Hereford – Pont-y-bat
Northwest of Bredwardine, we have to turn left to stay on the A438. We continue to remain close to the River Wye. At Whitney-on-Wye we hit a speed limit, cameras and lots of yellow signs and over-the-top road markings. A left turn onto the B4350 takes you over a toll bridge towards the book town of Hay-on-Wye. You don't have to pay the toll: it's as quick to remain on the A438, and turn left to Hay at Clyro. It was once the A road that crossed Whitney toll bridge, however: between here and its next crossing of the Wye, at Glasbury, the A438 and the B4350 have swapped their original routes.
At Rhydspence, we enter Radnorshire and the standard of the road improves for a short while - a nice long straight where you can get past the tractor you've been stuck behind for the last few miles. After passing Clyro (and another turning for Hay, we continue for a few more miles, eventually crossing the River Wye into Brecknockshire at Glasbury, where we meet the B4350 again, which has priority over us at this point.
The next few miles see a disproportionate amount of A-roads for the size of population in the area. Perhaps this is a sign that we will soon reach another major artery. At Three Cocks, there is a right turn onto the short A4079, which cuts off the corner to the A470 northbound. Shortly after this, we reach a left turn for the A4078, another short link, this time to Talgarth and the A479 primary route heading south east. Then to the right there is a primary route, the A479, heading north towards the A470. We now start a short multiplex with that road dominant, leading onto the Bronllys bypass. Just over half a mile further on, a roundabout junction allows a left turn onto the southern leg of the A479 whilst the A438 regains its number by continuing ahead. The final turning, this time to the right, is the A470 itself - possibly the most important of all the north-south roads in Wales. Now we can see the reason for the collection of other A-roads providing short cuts between the east-west and north-south routes. This junction marks the end of the A438, which once continued on to Brecon and the A40. That final section has now been subsumed into the A470 - a route which has taken over stretches of so many other roads too.