|From:||Ross on Wye (SO588244)|
|To:||Bamber Bridge (SD562251)|
|Via:||Leominster, Shrewsbury, Warrington, Wigan|
|Length:||158 miles (254.3 km)|
|Meets:||A40, A44, A5, A53, A41, A51, A54, M56, A57, A50, M62, M6, A58, A6|
|Former Number(s):||A40, B5064|
|Old route now:||A528, B5476|
|Route outline (key)|
The A49 can be divided into two distinct sections. The first runs from Ross-on-Wye to Warrington, all primary, and is a country drive alongside the hills that run all the way along the English / Welsh borders. It is famous with SABRE for never quite entering Wales though, usually running around ten miles away from the border as it winds its way up through Herefordshire, Shropshire and Cheshire, although it comes within a couple of miles near Whitchurch. It is also mainly single carriageway, which means it can be a slow drive in the likely event that you come across a tractor.
The second section runs from Warrington through Wigan to Bamber Bridge near Preston and is mostly a non primary road for local traffic, largely superseded by the M6.
Section 1: Ross-on-Wye - Shrewsbury
The A49 begins at a roundabout with the A40 at the end of the Ross-on-Wye bypass. It starts off heading westward before it picks up traffic from the A4137 and heads round to its more usual northbound route. The A466 joins on as we sweep past the woodland of Aconbury Hill to the right.
Into Hereford, the A49 picks up the A465 at a roundabout and briefly becomes dual carriageway as it crosses the River Wye and runs to the west of the town centre. After this brief interlude, we resume single carriageway status, running past Hereford United football ground and the racecourse. This part of the road up to Shrewsbury closely follows the course of the main line railway.
Past Hereford, the A49 runs along the Lugg valley towards Leominster. About five miles along, coming out of a patch of woodland, there's a straight T-junction with the A417 - only the second main road crossing the A49 not to enter Wales! Just beyond this, we reach the Leominster bypass / relief road at a somewhat oversized roundabout. This bit is noticeably straighter than previous sections, and there are several long stretches suitable for overtaking (though it wouldn't surprise me if the centre line was hatched over by now...). Towards the end of this part, the A44 is briefly multiplexed, coming in from Worcester on the right, and leaves us at the terminal roundabout going left, with the A49 heading to the right.
The A49 carries along the valley as it leaves Herefordshire and crosses into Shropshire at a junction with the A456. It then heads up to Ludlow, which it swings round to the east of. This was bypassed in the early 1980s, and originally it ran through the middle of the town on very narrow streets indeed! Past Ludlow it heads along Wenlock Edge, a range of hills popular with hikers and full of ancient monuments and stones. I know this section best as I've been on several hiking weekends around the area. It's a lovely part of the country and well worth exploring.
Heading into Shrewsbury, the A49 meets the A5 at the 1990s bypass, replacing the much congested ring road built in the 1930s. It multiplexes with the A5 to the east of the town, passing under the A458 and along the edge of the River Severn. The A5 leaves at a roundabout bound for Telford, while we carry on north, back to wide single carriageway and with two crossings of the River Severn. The A53 then branches off to the right at the Battlefield Roundabout, with the A49 bearing left towards Whitchurch.
Section 2: Shrewsbury - Warrington
The view to the left of the A49/A41 roundabout is anything but rural and the general dereliction around here depressing. But at least you've now got enough dual carriageway to get past what you've been stuck behind, seemingly for an eternity. After a mile, a slip lane enables a speedy transfer onto the Whitchurch by-pass. This is generously wide but only marked two lane - overtaking can thus be hairy, especially southbound, up the hill. The first roundabout collects the B5476 (Wem road) and A525 (the eastern part of the by-pass), now merging with the A41 until it heads west into Wales at the next roundabout (services here). As you leave this roundabout, steal a quick glance on the left at the tranquil Llangollen Canal.
The A41 departs to the left at the next roundabout. From this point the A41 takes over from the A49 in shadowing the Welsh border, less than a mile from here. However, although between them they shadow the entire length of the border so closely, neither the A41 nor the A49 ever actually crosses it. The A49 now heads off to Tarporley where there is a multiplex with the A51 along the town's bypass and across the Cheshire Plain to the M56 (junction 10) and Warrington.
Section 3: Warrington - Bamber Bridge
The A49 heads north out of Warrington and soon meets the M62 (junction 9) and Winwick, where a spur leads to the M6 (junction 22). Beyond here the A49 remains intimate with the M6 all the way to Preston. The A49 loses its primary status at Winwick, continuing parallel to the M6 through Newton le Willows to Junction 23 where it crossed the motorway, Ashton in Makerfield (junction 24 via A58) and Bryn (junction 25) where primary status is resumed. The road continues through Wigan where there is a one-way system through the town and Standish, where primary status is ceded to the A5209 (linking to the M6 at junction 27), and on through Euxton and Leyland (junction 28) before passing under the complex M6/M65 junction. The road terminates on the A6 at Bamber Bridge, south of Preston, where that road allows access to both motorways.
The present A49 follows the 1922/3 route very closely, with only a handful of major re-routeings. There have also been many on-line improvements where bends have been straightened out. The historic route map on the right illustrates the 1922 route.
Until the 1935 road-numbering revision – when the A40 was re-routed to run via Monmouth – the A49 began at a point on the original A40 known as Old Pike, lying some four kilometres further west of Ross than the present junction between the two roads; the old A40 west of here is now numbered B4521.
In Hereford, Greyfriars Bridge was opened in 1966, replacing the original A49 which crossed the River Wye via the old narrow stone arched bridge at Bridge Street before continuing northwards through the heart of the city centre. The new route rejoined the old route at the north end of Edgar Street.
When the Leominster bypass opened in 1988, the original A49 became part of the B4361, with Mill Street forming part of the A44. A little further north, the small village of Brinfield is now bypassed, with the original A49 now unclassified. Ludlow is also bypassed, with much of the original A49 here also being designated as B4361, though even that now diverts around the edge of the town centre, unlike the 1922 A49 which ran through the market place.
Church Stretton is also now bypassed, this time the original route is designated B5477, a curious choice given that there is another B5477 in the Wirral, and the B5477 number is out-of-zone in Church Stretton as it is south of the A5.
The original A49 followed a short section of the A5112 into Shrewsbury before following the now-unclassified Hereford Road, then crossing the Severn on the present A458 English Bridge. It then ran north along the present A528 Ellesmere Road before following the B5476 through Wem to Whitchurch. The present, more easterly route is a post-war change.
The next significant deviation from the 1923 route is the Tarporley bypass which dates from the mid 1980s. North of here, Weaverham was bypassed in the early 1990s, with the old A49 becoming the B5144. That scheme also included straightening of the bends south of the railway.
Bartington and Lower Whiteley each have short bypasses, and there is also a short deviation from the 1922 route to accommodate M56 Junction 10 (Stretton Interchange (Warrington)). Through Warrington itself the A49 remains faithful to its 1922 route, except for a short deviation to the east of the town centre, the original route following Horsemarket Street and Bridge Street, now pedestrianised.
The next significant diversion is where the A49 crosses the A580 East Lancs Road, something that it managed without difficulty when the East Lancs Road originally opened in 1934. All this changed in the early 1960s when the M6 was driven through the area, and the A49 was pushed to one side to accommodate Junction 23. The A49, once the most important road at this point, now plays third fiddle to both the M6 and the East Lancs Road.
In Wigan the present A49 takes a new line to bypass the town centre to the south and east. The original route ploughs through the middle via Wallgate and Standishgate, another pedestrianised road.