|To:||Coldra, Newport (ST359895)|
|Via:||Wolverhampton, Worcester, Ross on Wye|
|Length:||108 miles (173.8 km)|
|Meets:||A34, A518, M6, B5012, A5, M54, A4150, A460, A4150, A4039, A463, B4176, A491, B4175, B4178, A4101, A458, B4189, A451, A456, A448, A442, A450, B4193, A4025, A4133, A38, A4536, B4550, M5, A4440, A4538, A44, B4026, B4424, B4208, B4506, B4232, B4211, B4218, B4209, A4104, B4218, A438, B4216, A417, A4172, B4215, B4024, B4224, B4225, M50, B4221, A40, B4234, A472, M4, A48, B4237|
|Former Number(s):||A4040, A4041, A442, A48|
|Old route now:||A34, A491, B4091, A448, B4596|
|Route outline (key)|
It varies massively in character between a wide, primary, trunk, dual carriageway major route at either end and a bypassed quiet section; whilst in one nearly 20-mile-long section between Ross on Wye and Raglan it is the junior partner in a multiplex with the A40.
Section 1: Stafford - Wolverhampton
Currently, the A449 starts just south of Stafford town centre, at an enormous gyratory (containing shops, a pub, a garage, a car repair workshop, and an ancient lock-up) where it meets the A34 and A518.
The route then heads southwards, passing over the West Coast Main Line, which we will stay very near to all the way to Wolverhampton. The road here is pleasantly tree-lined, and heads out into the countryside, passing underneath the M6 at junction 13.
The road then passes through the large village of Penkridge, passing the agricultural college at Rodbaston, before briefly turning into a dual carriageway just north of Gailey Island, the junction with the A5.
From here, the road continues as a wide and open trunk dual carriageway and, even with a couple of roundabouts and two sets of traffic lights to slow progress, M54 junction 2 is reached rapidly. From this point onwards, the route becomes urban in nature, as we pass into the Wolverhampton urban area. Fortunately, it is a good standard dual carriageway all the way into the city centre, passing close by where the Goodyear tyre plant was, Dunstall Park Racecourse and Molineux football stadium. As you pass the Racecourse, looking left and right you can see two majestic railway viaducts, one for the Stafford line to the east, and one for the Shrewsbury line to the west, before meeting the busy Five Ways Island. We then meet the A460 at Elephant and Castle, and as is usual practice in the area, the route disappears under the A4150 Inner Ring Road at Stafford Street Junction.
Section 2: Wolverhampton - Worcester
The road re-emerges, still as dual carriageway, on the south side of the city centre at Penn Road Island, where we pass the Royal Wolverhampton School, through the pleasant suburbs of Penn and to the countryside beyond. In this section is a short single carriageway section. Dualling of this part was on the cards from the 1970s to the 1990s, but has now been shelved.
The route now passes out into the countryside, passing the village of Wombourne to the west, at the junction with the A463. Soon we pass through Himley and pass close to Wolverhampton Airport, and finally run out of dual carriageway. At Wall Heath's junction with the A491, the route turns sharp right, passing through the town centre before re-emerging into pleasant rolling countryside. Care is required at the “Stewponey” junction with the A458, but generally this section is a pleasure to travel along.
Finally, after passing into Worcestershire, we reach the outskirts of Kidderminster, although the route does not go near the town centre, but passes through the eastern suburbs instead. This section tends to be quite busy, mostly caused by the traffic lights at the junction with the A456.
South of this point, the route multiplexes with the A442 for about a mile, and heads for Worcester. A high proportion of this road is dual carriageway, but the local authority have seen fit to make it a very frustrating one, as one lane is continually marked out, and covered in red tarmac in order to enable better access to side roads at the expense of progress on the main route.
Just north of Worcester, the route splits into two. The road ahead is actually a very long dual carriageway spur which meets the M5 at junction 6. The main line of the road, however, turns right to head into the city as a suburban single carriageway.
Section 3: Worcester - Ross on Wye
The A449 is one of those roads that keeps popping up all over the place. To the north of the city centre it multiplexes along the A38 before reappearing to go under the railway line before crossing the Severn via another multiplex, this time with the A44. We go past the County Cricket ground on the left, then turn south onto Bromwich Road to regain the A449 number. We pass through south-west Worcester, then cross the Teme Bridge in order to reach the 1990s A4440 Worcester Southern Bypass at a roundabout, also rejoining through traffic which for obvious reasons has avoided Worcester city centre.
We continue through Powick where there is a gyratory and to the south of Bowling Green - areas popular with commuters to Worcester - and then run through farmland towards Malvern, the famous hills rising in the distance. Malvern is actually a series of villages, and we pass first through Malvern Link, before deviating sharply southwards at the junctions with the B4503 and B4232. The reason for the deviation is the 397 m (1200 feet approx) North Hill, marking the northern end of the Malvern Hills.
The hills form an impenetrable barrier, and Great Malvern town centre is built on the lower slopes. The A449 follows the contours, but turn left or right and you will find yourself climbing or descending along some very steep roads. We follow the hills through Lower Wyche, then Malvern Wells, until the road forks at Little Malvern. We take the right hand fork and climb over the saddle just to the north of Herefordshire Beacon. We can finally head west again! We emerge from the hills and head southwest over gently undulating farm land, before descending to Ledbury.
At the crossroads in the middle of this market town, we turn left (signposted for through traffic) and, half a mile later, we reach a roundabout on the A417, where we turn right. At this stage the northbound A417 and southbound A449 multiplex around the southern portion of the Ledbury bypass. Nevertheless, we are on the A449 (the dominant number), so we only go as far as the next roundabout, before turning south-west once again.
After two miles we reach a roundabout, where the A4172 heads north towards Trumpet, and the B4215 heads south towards Newent and then Gloucester, a pleasant alternative to the A417 (which is also a pleasant drive...). We continue through more Herefordshire farm land, interrupted by the occasional patch of woodland, along a winding single carriageway road, negotiating a long horseshoe bend at the bottom of Perrystone Hill. A couple of miles later we reach the western terminus roundabout of the M50, just north-east of Ross on Wye.
Section 4: Ross on Wye - Newport
We turn right onto the dual carriageway, marked on the OS map as the A449, though it is not signed as such on the ground. The reason for this is that just after the service area we reach another roundabout, where the A40 joins us from the east, and we enter a long dual carriageway multiplex with the A40. We bypass the town, crossing the Wye near the castle, then at the next roundabout, the A49 starts its journey north.
The journey south keeps us fairly close to the large meandering bends of the River Wye, and we stay on a dual two-laned road until we reach the M4. The junctions are generally grade separated, though with one or two exceptions as we shall see. At Whitchurch a detour will take you to Jubilee Park, complete with a complex of mazes. We leave the river Wye here, but another detour to Symmonds Yat will allow you to get away from the traffic and walk in the wooded Wye Valley.
South of here, the hillsides are steeper, and wooded. We rejoin the course of the Wye and cross into Wales. Overlooking the river there is a curious emergency crossing - see here - caused by the vertical separation of the carriageways. Soon after, we reach a roundabout on the outskirts of Monmouth and then a set of traffic lights at the junction with the A466. Another detour - in Monmouth you can see Monnow Bridge, a good example of a fortified bridge.
South of Monmouth, we finally say goodbye to the Wye, by passing through a twin-bore tunnel. Then the land opens up and at Raglan the A40 turns off via a trumpet junction TOTSO, and the A449 number resumes once more. The next stretch of the A449 is very flat and reasonably straight. We pass another trumpet, this time with the A472 for Usk.
We follow the River Usk Southwards through flat countryside, but over the last few miles we deviate away from the river, finding a route between the hills. The road terminates at Junction 24 of the M4 underneath the imposing Celtic Manor Resort, where there is also access to the A48.
Original 1922 Route
In 1935, the A449 was rerouted massively, with the northernmost section between Newcastle and Stafford being truncated in favour of the A34's northwards extension to Salford, whilst the original section from Wall Heath to Bromsgrove became what is now the A491, B4091 and A448.
Instead, the A449 was rerouted along the A4040 and A4041 to and around Kidderminster, then the A442 to Worcester and the A48 all the way to the centre of Newport. At the same time, the A40 was also rerouted between Ross on Wye and Raglan, which explains the unusually long multiplex where the A449 is submissive. The new road between Raglan and Coldra Interchange came much later - the old road, still in existence to the west albeit unclassified, ran through the centre of Usk and Caerleon before entering Newport along what is now the B4596 to end on the A48 (now B4591).
Whilst the entire Welsh section of the A449 is maintained by the South Wales Trunk Road Agent (SWTRA), in England only two short sections are maintained by Highways England: the northern approach to Wolverhampton (4 or so miles between the A5 and M54) and the few hundred yards in Ross on Wye between the M50 and A40. The remainder is locally controlled.