|Distance:||19.2 miles (30.9 km)|
|Meets:||A5116, A5480, A494, A5117, A550, B5151, B5133, B5134, B5136, B5135, A551, B5138, B5140, B5139, B5141, A553|
|Old route now:||B5605, A5152, B5445, A483|
|Route outline (key)|
The A540 is the only one of the A54x series in England (apart from about a mile of the A548). It's the West Wirral road. One of the interesting features of the road is that for the ten miles from Chester to Heswall the road cuts across open country without passing through any of the various villages in the area. This suggests to me that although it's not a new road, it's not an ancient one either.
Route: Chester – Hoylake
The route starts on the A5116 just to the north of the A5268 Chester inner ring road and the Northgate Roundabout. Going NNW along Parkgate Road we pass the University campus and cross the A5480 at an island after about a kilometre. Amazingly, this is already the end of the built-up area and some say the Wirral starts here. It only seems semi-rural though The roadside is dotted with houses and businesses like Crabwall Manor.
It's about five uneventful kilometres, passing between, but not through, the villages of Saughall and Mollington, to what was once a very busy roundabout at which the important A55–M56 link road (A494, formerly A5117) crosses our path. This roundabout is now solely used for the A540 and slip road traffic to and from the westbound A494.
The A540 crosses over the A494 to a set of traffic lights where we meet the eastbound offslip for the A494 and the A5117. From here, Gibbet Mill is on the right, then it's less than 3 km (the hamlet we pass through is Woodbank) to the "Two Mills" lights at which we meet the A550 itself. At this point the A540 becomes dual carriageway; it's not a primary route but it's still busy. It's about 10 km from here to Heswall; the first half is dual-carriageway – the most rural stretch of the whole route. This section of dual carriageway was built in 1966-68 as an on-line widening, the southern end across the A550 junction being widened some years later. Originally it was fully free-flowing, but through the 1980s the junctions, even minor ones, were progressively fitted with signals. North of the dual carriageway the road reverts to its former alignment and width. Along the way we meet the B5151, B5133, B5134, and B5136. We go past Leahurst Animal Hospital (part of the University of Liverpool) and pass between, but not through, Neston and Willaston. The junction with the B5136 Liverpool Road (although not a particularly direct route to Liverpool), east of Neston, was rebuilt again in the mid-1960s with a short section of dual carriageway through the signals.
North of here for about 1.5 miles to the B5135 junction and the railway bridge over the Bidston to Wrexham line, the A540 was rebuilt in the 1950s as a classic 3-lane road of the era, although re-marked down to WS2 in the 1980s. The junction with the B5135 Boathouse Lane was also rebuilt in the 1980s, eliminating some poor visibility from adjacent buildings.
When we cross the railway and enter Heswall we're now in the Wirral borough area, which hasn't been part of administrative Cheshire since 1974. Heswall is an anonymous sprawl of a place – the kind of town that no-one's ever heard of and no-one ever goes to. By the windmill there's an island where the A551 (which reaches the A5137 almost immediately) goes off to the east. We carry on on our northwesterly path through the narrow town for 2 km or so (passing the B5138) before hitting a 4-km stretch of open country on up past Thurstaston (Telegraph Road). The first section beyond Heswall has a realignment built in the 1980s which left behind a prominent oxbow layby to the east. Beyond Thurstaston crossroads is a Victorian-era realignment which took the road past the exposed sandstone hill and then down through a significant stone cutting, which reduced the gradient of the former road which still lies as a track, steep in places, to the west.
We cross the B5140 at the Caldy crossroads island (another 1980s-era improvement) and soon we're entering West Kirby. There is a final steep climb ("Smith's Hill") up onto Caldy Hill, some fine views across the River Dee to Wales over the top, and then a very steep descent ("Grange Hill") into West Kirby town centre. Various improvements were carried out over time here, the road over the top of the hill being widened in the late 1930s along with housing developments, while the bottom of Grange Hill used to have a sinuous alignment over the former Hooton railway bridge, which was eliminated around 1970. The last 5 km is through West Kirby centre (Column Road/Grange Road) and into Hoylake (Meols Drive), where the A540 becomes the A553 at a roundabout by the station.
Recent developments include:
The junction at Church Farm was recently turned into a roundabout.
Originally the A540 began on the A5 north of Chirk and ran north through Ruabon and Wrexham, but it lost the section south of Chester when the A483 north-south route (Chester-Swansea) was created in 1935. The original route of the A540 here has now been largely bypassed.