|Location Map ( geo)
|Five Ways, Birmingham (SP055860)
|Bearwood, Hagley, Kidderminister
|41 miles (66 km)
|A4540, B4217, B4284, B4532, B4124, B4125, B3129, B4182, A4040, A4030, A4123, A458, M5, B4043, A459, B4551, B4183, A491, B4187, A450, B4188, A449, A451, A442, A4535, B4549, B4190, B4195, B4194, A4117, B4202, A443, A4112, B4214, A49
|Old route now:
|A458, B4183, B4190
|Route outline (key)
Although it doesn't really go anywhere (except, of course, for those who happen to live in Woofferton) the A456 starts off as one of the most important arteries leading out of Birmingham. It is a major route as it skirts around the southern reaches of the Black Country on its way to the sizeable town of Kidderminster. Thereafter, however, it becomes thoroughly rural in character, passing through the Worcestershire countryside before ending very close to the border between Herefordshire and Shropshire.
Section 1: Five Ways, Birmingham – Quinton
Originally the A456 started on the A41 in the Bull Ring in Birmingham city centre and headed west along New Street and Broad Street. Removal of traffic from the city centre cut the road back to the A4400 Queensway at Paradise Circus and it has since been cut back further to Five Ways on the A4540 Middleway. The road becomes the Hagley Road and for two miles of rush-hour hell it goes due west through Edgbaston to the city boundary. Most of the city's hotels (and prostitutes) are around here. Along the way we cross the B4532, B4124, B4125, B4129 and B4182. At the city boundary we meet the A4030 and the A4040 "Outer Circle" at a set of traffic lights in Bearwood. Once out of the city the road finally becomes dual carriageway and stays that way all the way to Hagley itself.
For a while the road serves as the boundary between Birmingham City Council and Sandwell Metropolitan Borough. On this section, "improved" by the addition of a bus lane (2003), is the junction with the A4123 "New" Wolverhampton Road, again at traffic lights. At the Quinton Island (the junction with the A458) the road dives into an underpass and comes out now going south. This is the Quinton Expressway (1970), the beginning of the Halesowen bypass.
Midway between the Expressway tunnel and the motorway junction is the addition of a roundabout to aid access to Quinton Business Park. Featured at this site is the Highways England Regional Control Centre for the West Midlands and the National Traffic Control Centre. The roundabout was constructed in 2001.
Section 2: Quinton – Woofferton
After meeting the M5 at junction 3 at a large signalled roundabout the road carries on due WSW for five miles, forming at this point the southern boundary of the conurbation. The speed limit is now up to 50 mph. Traffic for Halesowen exits at the A459/B4551 island. Also along this section are junctions with the B4043 and B4183 (marking the end of the bypass), and the Clent Hills can be viewed to the south.
In the commuter village of Hagley the road duplexes with the A491, which is met at a set of traffic lights and leaves at a large roundabout. From the duplex to Blakedown we're back down to single carriageway. As we leave Hagley the B4187 (former A450) forks off to the north and the A450 forks off to the south. The section round Harborough Hill and through Blakedown is problematic – it really should be dualled or bypassed but neither is likely to happen. In 1996 the government passed the order approving the route but construction was cancelled almost immediately. So instead the traffic is slowed right down through the village (where we meet the B4188). The final two miles to Kidderminster are dual, but that runs out as we enter the town and cross the A449.
The A456 is Kidderminster's road, and here we are, the Carpet Capital of Britain, home to the Harriers. The road used to go through the centre via the Bull Ring, but it's been diverted slightly to the north along part of the (incomplete) inner ring road, crossing the River Stour by the parish church. (Between adjacent roundabouts on the ring road the A451 duplexes as the junior partner, which number heads north-east at the Blackwell Street island. The A442, which heads off northwestwards at the Proud Cross island multiplexes for the whole length of the ring road.) Back to normal, the A456 leaves Kidderminster after crossing the A4535 and meeting the B4549.
It's only a mile to Bewdley, which must be one of the most flooded towns in Britain. The road crosses the picturesque River Severn here by means of one of Thomas Telford's bridges – or it did until the town bypass was built a few years ago. The old road has been renumbered as part of the B4190. The bypass heads south, skirting the West Midlands Safari Park, going under the Severn Valley Steam Railway and duplexing for a short distance with the B4195. At a roundabout the bypass turns west, crossing the Severn on a new bridge built between the hamlets of Blackstone and Ribbesford, the new road crossing over the B4194 and continuing another mile-and-a-half before returning to its original course at a roundabout by Little Lakes Golf Club.
Now it's crossed the Severn, the road changes character completely, being entirely rural for its remaining 20 miles. To the north now is the Wyre Forest. On the right after a mile there's Callow Hill visitor centre, and after another mile the A4117 Ludlow road forks off to the right in the hamlet of Fingerpost (presumably named after a road sign - but nothing special remains today). Then it's seven winding miles across from the Severn valley into the Teme valley. At 750 feet, Clows Top, where the A456 crosses the B4202, is the highest point since Birmingham. The only village on this section is Mamble, where a 40-yard bypass has now been superseded by a rather more effective 400-yard one. We end our descent at Newnham, where the A443 arrives from Worcester just as we're about to cross the River Rea. It is the A443 that is on the main line so if travelling westbound it is necessary to give way and turn right. When travelling east the driver must 'turn off the stay on the A456' by taking a left
For the rest of its journey the A456 follows the course of the Teme and the dismantled Tenbury railway. This is a lovely, quiet part of England, at one time covered with orchards. Halfway from Newnham to Tenbury we cross Monk's Bridge and enter Shropshire, passing the Peacock Inn on the right. The A456 doesn't go through Tenbury itself – the not especially attractive built-up area we pass through is the village of Burford: Tenbury is across the river to the south, on the A4112.
Passing the B4214 junction, the attractive gardens of Burford House are on the left before we cross Ledwich Bridge into Herefordshire and the village of Little Hereford, well-known locally for its cheese and its cider. The road finally crosses the River Teme half a mile after the parish church. This section of the road is considered quite dangerous, and a 50 mph limit has recently been imposed. At Gosford we cross back into Shropshire, and a mile later the road comes to an abrupt end on the primary A49. A staggered junction takes you onto the B4362 and on to Wales. This junction has a poor safety record and there have been a number of serious accidents here, to avoid it, traffic heading south on the A49 often leaves the A456 west of Little Hereford and travels through Brimfield to join the A49 further south. The famous landmark at the end of the road can be seen here.
The original route of the A456 was through Halesowen town centre, entering along Mucklow Hill (now part of the A458), and leaving through Hasbury on what is now the B4183. It also briefly followed the route of the B4043 before the Quinton Expressway opened.