|Location Map ( geo)
|Ashbourne, Nottingham, Grantham, Boston
|146 miles (235 km)
|A34, A50, A520, A523, A515, A38, A5111, M1, A606, A6011, A46, A1, A607, A15, A17, A16, A158, A1104
|A152, A154, A524, A5007, B1180, B1198
|Old route now:
|A34, A51, A523, A531, A6011, A6200, B5500
|Route outline (key)
The A52 is an east-west road running across the majority of the width of England, from just east of the M6 to the Lincolnshire coast. Parts of it are even still important.
Section 1: Newcastle-under-Lyme - Ashbourne
At one time, the A52 began in Nantwich. However, with the extension of the A500 into Cheshire, the western terminus of the A52 is on the A34 at Knutton Lane Roundabout in Newcastle-under-Lyme. On leaving the town centre, a short one-way system forces outbound traffic onto the A53 whereas inbound traffic remains on the A52. The road then runs the couple of miles to Stoke, along Brunswick Street and Hartshill Road. Although the one-way system in Stoke town centre is definitely still the A52 - and even primary - all signposts direct through traffic away from the area. Indeed, westbound traffic is directed to avoid the A52 almost completely - by following the A500 and B5045 and only rejoining the A52 on the edge of Newcastle. Eastbound traffic is not diverted until the edge of the town centre, along Shelton Old Road (the former B5042, now a spur of the A52) to meet the A500.
The A52 used to TOTSO in the centre of Stoke, before passing under a very low rail bridge on Glebe Street (formerly a level crossing). To make the road passable to most vehicles, the road was diverted along a short section of A5007 under the railway line before turning abruptly north to rejoin its original route. The A52 then bypasses Hanley, which lies to the north-west, and crosses the non-primary A50 in the process. At a crossroads with a short length of dual carriageway it TOTSOs right where it meets the A5008 and A5009, and we are at last back on an easterly alignment towards Ashbourne.
This section of the A52 is a relatively unimproved single carriageway route, and is likely to remain as such now the A50 is dualled all the way to Derby and the M1. However, even though this is not the main route east, we soon meet an RCS showing the distance to Nottingham. We pass through a number of villages without a bypass to be seen: firstly Bucknall on the outskirts of Stoke, and then Werrington and Cellarhead where the A520 Stone-Leek road crosses. Shortly afterwards, there is a short multiplex with the A522 that comes in from Wetley Rocks and eventually leaves for Cheadle (and Alton Towers) to the south east, where the A52 TOTSOs. In Kingsley the road bends sharply to the left to descend to cross the River Churnet and associated steam railway at Froghall soon after the A521 joins from the right; to the left the B5053, strikes off across the Staffordshire Moorlands swathe of the Peak National Park, and the Caldon Canal also starts hereabouts. A52 traffic then hits the zigzag of Whiston Bank, a 1 in 6 ascent that must have deterred the original planners from making this stretch a trunk road. Now it's a hilly road with fine moorland views, but don't expect to travel too quickly. After a while the B5417 bears right for Alton Towers, and suddenly our road can be beset with manic holidaymakers bent on revisiting their breakfasts. On towards Ashbourne the route gradually begins to level out, and just before Swinscoe there's an important junction with the A523 which comes in from Manchester. (Travelling west, one must TOTSO left to stay on the A52). Now the A52 is part of the original trunk road system and is somewhat better engineered as we maintain a gradual descent towards Ashbourne. On the other side of Mayfield we meet the B5032 from Uttoxeter and at the Hanging Bridge, we cross the River Dove which forms the Staffordshire-Derbyshire boundary and inspired Isaac Walton to pen The Compleat Angler. Then at a roundabout, the former A52 (now unclassified) bears left for Ashbourne town centre, whereas the current A52 now passes to the south of the town, crossing the A515 and picking up its old line a mile and a half further on.
Original Author(s): Simon A6(M)
Section 2: Ashbourne - Nottingham
In the past A52 traffic had to zigzag through Ashbourne via Mayfield Road, Compton Bridge and Derby Road, but now there is a WS2 bypass that relieves congestion for east-west traffic. At a roundabout just outside the town the bypass meets the original line, and now we are off to Derby on a straight stretch of road that bears traffic from Manchester and the north-west.
Anyway, it's a pretty straight run to Derby, although not as fast as it used to be owing to numerous 50mph speed restrictions. We pass Osmaston Park on the right, and just before crossing the Brailsford Brook we take on the line of the old Derby-White Peak turnpike road - this comes in from the left, having passed through the "Hole in the Wall", a turnpike cottage that still bisects the road. Now we run on through Brailsford and Kirk Langley, and at Mackworth we briefly join the alignment of the Rocester-Little Chester Roman road (numbered 181 in Ivan Margary's classic book Roman Roads In Britain) which has itself come from Stoke via a more southerly route. Suburbia now starts to close in, and we soon meet the A38 Derby ring road at the Markeaton Island, which can become very busy. The A52 loses primary status at the Markeaton Island. If you want to go on to Nottingham by primary route, then there's either a long drag round (eventually) the A5111 (reached via the A38), or you follow signs to the A50 which takes you even more out of your way. It's certainly much shorter to go through the city centre, where we soon pick up the inner ring road, multiplex briefly with the A6 and then bear left towards Nottingham.
Close to the city centre, the A52 splits into two. Traffic leaving the city does so along Friar Gate whereas traffic heading into the city must turn left, onto Bridge Street then Agard Street. The A52 then joins the A601 at the Agard Street Junction and multiplexes with it until the Eastgate Junction. After the Eastgate junction, there is a short weaving section before the Pentagon Island. At the Pentagon Island, traffic entering and leaving the city must also take separate routes- outgoing traffic crosses the roundabout by means of a flyover but incoming traffic must negotiate the roundabout itself.
Primary status is resumed after the Pentagon and is a fast dual carriageway with graded interchanges all the way to Stapleford. We start with a 50mph speed limit through Derby's eastern suburbs. Pride Park, on the right, is the home of Derby County FC. We pass the turning for the A5111 Derby ring road at Raynesway, also signed to Loughborough (A6; perhaps unexpectedly, this is where we gain trunk status. We cross the "old" A52 just before Spondon; the section leading SSE is now the A6005 into Borrowash, on the line of another Roman Road (Margery 182), that probably linked up with water traffic on the Trent at Sawley. From here the speed limit goes to NSL.
The A52 then presses onward to cross the M1 (J25) by means of a splendid three-tier bridge, complete with 45-degree concrete-clad columns that look very impressive from the motorway below. Once over the M1 we hit the Stapleford bypass, less expensively engineered with its at-grade roundabouts. We cross the B6003, meet the A6007, and are soon at a roundabout on the Nottingham Ring Road.
The A52 between Derby and Nottingham, as well as the A6200 into Nottingham, was named Brian Clough Way during August 2005 in honour of Brian Clough, both Derby County and Nottingham Forest's greatest ever manager.
The A52 used to go straight on into the city when the ring road was numbered A614, but nowadays we turn right and head southwest, along what has for a long time been dual-carriageway but has recently been improved to give a fairly fast run round the southwest of the city. There are several graded interchanges, including one with the A453 from Kegworth and M1(south), until we are stopped once again in our tracks by a roundabout where the A60 crosses: a non-primary route that ought to be primary, if ever there was one. A mile further on and it's another roundabout, this time with the A606. The A52 bears north from here on one of its newest stretches, and becomes single-carriageway for a while until the suburb of Gamston. Soon yet another roundabout heaves into view, and it's either a right turn for the A52 to Grantham, or a left along the A6011 (the former A52) back into Nottingham.
Section 3: Nottingham - Mablethorpe
From its roundabout with the A6011 east of Nottingham we head pretty well due east towards Grantham. Although this section is now a trunk road it has only had this status since the late seventies (I think), when long-distance traffic from East Anglia to Nottingham was encouraged to use A1/A52 instead of A1/A606 through Melton and Oakham. As a result there is a series of village bypasses on the A52, but the vast majority of the road is single carriageway from now on. We indeed begin with a stretch of dual carriageway dating from the 1970s that bypasses the National Watersports Centre, but at Radcliffe on Trent this peters out and the bypass is beset with speed restrictions, having been built too near the village. A couple of miles further on we cross the Fosse Way, A46, at Bingham Interchange (that road is grade-separated), cross the old route of that road at the next roundabout, and then divert south on a 1987 bypass of the market town of Bingham where the long-forgotten B687 once ended. In these parts the old ridge-and-furrow medieval field system is particularly well preserved, and can be easily seen from the road. We thread our way past Whatton on a reasonably high quality S2 though some junctions have the road become D1. We then go through Elton, the only village that hasn't yet been bypassed, however you are out of the village fairly quickly. The road then briefly enters Leicestershire to bypass Bottesford to the south on a reasonably quick section - all were served by the old course of the road. This rolling countryside is the Vale of Belvoir (pronounced beaver), and Belvoir Castle, where a version of Little Lord Fauntleroy was once filmed, lies a couple of miles south of Bottesford. After Bottesford, we enter our final county, Lincolnshire and plough on past Sedgebrook and Barrowby to cross the A1 at a fully grade-separated junction west of Grantham (thus making the A52 the only road to cross both the M1 and A1 without having to give way); this is the end of trunk road status, though we do remain primary. And behold, we enter Grantham, birthplace of a certain former prime minister and once (or maybe several times?) dubbed the Most Boring Town In Britain.
Now this is where the A52 used to stop originally, joining the old A1 (now B1174) in the town centre. But we are these days still very much alive, and (following a short town-centre relief road) have taken over much of the A152 to the east. (We have also multiplexed briefly with the A607 from Leicester to Lincoln.) Once out of town, there's a short but interesting mix with the B6403, aka Ermine Street and rather oddly numbered considering that it's really mostly a Zone 1 road...
Anyway, we press on eastwards, fairly straight but not overly improved, and meet more and more villages ending in -by, a legacy of Lincolnshire's heavy Norse settlement. We cross another Roman road (an extension of King Street), and hardly pass through any sign of habitation this side of the roundabout with the A15 (Peterborough-Sleaford). Beyond, things become noticeably faster and straighter as we approach the northern fenland; a third Roman road is crossed, and also Car Dyke, thought by some to be a Roman canal between Lincoln and the Fens. Once over the South Forty Foot Drain we are soon approaching Donington, where just beyond the railway line what is left of the A152 leaves to the right for Spalding (tulip festivals, etc.). After bypassing Donington and traversing Bicker, we meet the realigned A17 at the end of its Swineshead bypass. From here the A52 has been straightened out a little over time; this portion of road used to be numbered A1075, which joined the A154 just south of Kirton Holme. (The A1121 through Hubbert's Bridge parallel to and north of the railway line is of relatively recent construction.) There's a quickish mile or two until a sudden lurch to the left brings us to a level crossing and the A1121 in swift succession; and we must turn right at the junction to enter the port of Boston, famous for a number of things such as the Pilgrim Fathers, Boston Stump (the hugely tall church spire) and Boston United, who had a brief period in the Football League in the 2000s. Needless to say, perhaps, it's all very flat hereabouts.
After a multiplex with the A16, the A52 branches off to the north east and follows the coast to Skegness. This 20 mile section is slower than the section before as it passes through or nearby numerous small villages and becoming rather twisty at point, with 50mph speed restrictions. Historically, this section of road used to be theA154. It was also a secondary route until comparatively recently. Having arrived in Skegness the A52, continues north along the coast (although never particularly close to the sea), still along the ex-A154. The road meets the A1111 in Sutton-on-Sea before reaching Mablethorpe, where it ends at a set of traffic lights on the High Street; to the left is the A1104 whereas the road to the right (which only lasts a couple of blocks before reaching the seafront) is unclassified.
From Skegness to Mablethorpe things look awfully winding. These last additions do make the road exceedingly long, and the number does seem somewhat incongruous so far east and miles from the remainder of the zone 5 numbers.
Grantham Southern Bypass
A southern bypass of Grantham was approved in November 2013, with construction starting in 2015. By June 2016, Phase I and part of Phase II was complete, which added a roundabout to the B1174 and a new roundabout to the west for the King 31 distribution park, with a new dual carriageway from there to an eastern dumbbell for a new junction that is proposed with the A1. The signs indicate that this new road will carry the A52 designation, which will mean it no longer will cross both the M1 and A1 without giving way - see above.
Junction details and maps can be seen at A52/Named Junctions
Nantwich - Newcastle
The original western end of the A52 was on the A51 on the eastern side of Nantwich, practically adjacent to the level crossing on London Road. It then headed east via Shavington and Audley before entering Newcastle from the north, along Liverpool Road (which was renumbered A34 in 1935). Prior to the construction of Ryecroft in the 1970s the road multiplexed along the A53 along Ironmarket before reappearing on Brunswick Street.
The road through Audley was never particularly quick and so in the 1980s a bypass was built to the north to rejoin the old road near Weston. This also had the advantage that it provided access to M6 J16 from the west. The new road (at least west of the motorway) was given the A52 number in the planning stage but opened as an extension of the A500. That road also took on the A52 to the west whereas the section to the east (following a short stretch of A531) was downgraded to become the B5500. By the mid-2000s the section of ex-A52 that had been renumbered A500 was declassified following the construction of the current road which bypasses it to the north.
Newcastle - Ashbourne
With the exception of a few improvements in Stoke and the occasional bypassed corner, this section has remained unchanged since classification, as can be seen by the narrow road (especially in Kingsley) and tight corners. As this road has never been the obvious route to Derby, an attempt was made in the 1990s to renumber it to stop traffic following the A52 number blindly. As such, the entire A52 between the A34 and A523 was renumbered A524, with the A52 rerouted over the A523 to end on the A6 in Hazel Grove. However, the change was reversed almost immediately. The fact that the A524 number appeared on maps and signage suggests that the renumbering must have got further than the planning stage but it is not known why the change was reversed.
Ashbourne - Derby
Derby - Nottingham
The original line of the A52 from Derby to Nottingham was along what is now the A6005 to Borrowash and the B5010 from there to Nottingham. The first improvement between the two cities was the Borrowash Bypass, opened in 1957. Its age is clearly apparent to drivers given the low engineering standards of the stretch.
The next improvement between the Derby and Nottingham was the construction of the non-primary stretch of A52 between the A601 and the Pentagon Roundabout in Derby city centre. This was for a time only a short stub as the stretch between the Pentagon and the Borrowash bypass was not completed for some time, leaving the A52 on its old alignment between the Pentagon and the Borrowash Bypass.
Nottingham Ring Road
Following the opening of Gamston Lings Bar Road in 1981 the A52 was re-routed out of the City centre and onto the Ring Road. Original opening dates for the Ring Road sections can be found at Nottingham Outer Ring Road.
Dates for all new bypass sections, with associated maps, can be seen at A52/Improvements Timeline
- A52 Junctions - Nottingham Road and Cropwell Road (archive.org) (2017)
- A52 Junctions - Nottingham Knight and Wheatcroft Junctions (archive.org) (2019)