|Length:||107 miles (172.2 km)|
|Meets:||A52, A38, A617, A619, A57, A629, A616, M1, A628, A635, A638, A650, M621, A63, A64(M), A58, A658, A59, A1(M), A170, A19|
|Former Number(s):||A629, A639, A19|
|Old route now:||B6179, A6135|
|Route outline (key)|
The A61 threads its way through some of England's most industrial landscape on its way from the East Midlands to North Yorkshire; there is, on the other hand, some delightful scenery at both top and bottom ends. As a long-distance through-route much of the A61 has been largely superseded by the M1, but the gradual increase in traffic volumes since the motorway was built has ensured that the A61 is still a heavily-used road, although it is no longer trunk.
Section 1: Derby - Dronfield
The road still starts in Derby, originally at a junction with the A52 by St. Mary's Bridge near the city centre. With the construction of Derby's inner ring road the "source" of the A61 moved half a mile eastwards, and it now begins at the Pentagon Island, a large grade-separated roundabout on the new A52. Immediately a primary route, it hugs the eastern bank of the River Derwent (one of a number of streams bearing this pre-Saxon name denoting "oak tree river"), quickly passing the Roman fort of Little Chester, where several important Roman roads met. Indeed, the A61 shadows the route of Ryknild Street virtually the whole way to Chesterfield, although it does not actually come onto the line of the Roman road itself until beyond Alfreton. After a couple of roundabouts, from one of which the A608 leaves for Heanor, the A61 meets the Derby northern bypass, the A38 from Bristol and Birmingham, and for the next 11 miles or so multiplexes with the latter, which has taken over the trunk route up to the M1. The original route of the A61 still exists, of course, and is now the B6179 through the twisting villages of Little Eaton, Coxbench and Kilburn, where road, stream and railway keep close company. Just after the delightfully named Denby Bottles Ryknild Street is crossed at Smithy Houses, and the old A61 enters Ripley, an old colliery town now noted for its preserved steam railway and the HQ of the Derbyshire Constabulary (no connection intended!). North of the town the B6179/ex-A61 passes under an impressive high level bridge carrying the Ambergate-Nottingham road (A610), after which, a mile beyond Swanwick, the A38 is reached once again, and the A61 proper resumes.
From here the A61 is the signed primary route to Chesterfield, even though it almost immediately passes through the centre of Alfreton, another settlement in the Derbyshire coalfield, midway between Matlock and Mansfield. Once through the town our road enters some attractive countryside, and gradually ascends to the top of an impressive escarpment to encounter the aptly-named hamlet of Higham. A sharp turn to the right finally brings the A61 onto the line of Ryknild Street, which the Romans had cunningly laid out on the top of the ridge to give a commanding view of surrounding hostile territory. For several miles the road is pretty well dead straight, through Stretton (a typical name for a village on a Roman "street") and Clay Cross, whose Labour councillors were famously rebellious in 1973 when they refused to implement the Conservative government's Housing Finance Act and increase council rents. Further on the A61 becomes less rural on the approaches to Chesterfield, which it reaches at a distance of 25 miles north of Derby.
An important manufacturing town - George Stephenson, of "Rocket" fame lived here for the latter part of his life. Chesterfield is Derbyshire's second largest urban area, Chesterfield is of course especially famous for its parish church's twisted spire, a local landmark and even more remarkable when viewed at close quarters. In days of yore the A61 passed hard by the church along St Mary's Gate, but nowadays it avoids the town centre which it bypasses to the east by way of a significant stretch of dual carriageway that now runs practically the whole way to Sheffield. Bottlenecks can still occur at this southern end where traffic from two important primary routes, the A617 and A619, merges at overcrowded roundabouts; once on the relief road, however, it is usually a fast run for the next 8 or so miles. As the A61 sweeps northward from Chesterfield on the Dronfield - Unstone By-pass built in 1974-75 it makes quite an impressive sight, now through clean-looking cuttings, now overlooking Dronfield and with views westward towards the Peak District.
Section 2: Dronfield - Sheffield
It is rather a shame when it all comes to an end at Bowshaw Roundabout, the northern end of the Dronfield Bypass. Here the newer A61 rejoins its former alignment, meeting also with the B6057 which extends south on the old route to the A61 through Dronfield and east along the Jordanthorpe Parkway, through one of the first new-town areas built in the south of Sheffield, pushing right up to the boundary with Derbyshire. It's quite obvious that some form of grade-separated junction was planned here, plans probably put on hold when Sheffield seized control of the Trunk Roads inside the city boundary from the Department for Transport sometime in the 1980s for budgetary reasons.
The next section of the A61 called Chesterfield Road South has, since dualling in the early 1960s, a wide central reserve with trees along the middle. The trees are the remains of a windbreak that once extended right across Greenhill Moor to the top of the hill at Meadowhead. The northbound carriageway follows the old line of the A61. At the northern end of this section, Meadowhead Roundabout forms an important gateway into Sheffield, with the B6054 heading west into the south west of Sheffield and beyond to Hathersage, Baslow and Bakewell and the A6102 heading east forming an outer ring road to the city. The term Outer Ring Road was removed from use with the introduction of the Guildford Rules in TSRGD 1994, thus leaving Sheffield and many other cities confusingly with two Ring Roads; however, this concept allowed for the idea of multiple ring roads for larger urban areas.
The A61 continues north along Meadowhead and, after a level section with more of the former windbreak trees alongside the road, begins to descend into Woodseats and joining Chesterfield Road at the junction with the B6068 Abbey Lane. This hill into Woodseats features significant bus priority works introduced in 2005 as part of a larger priority scheme along the whole southern A61 corridor and has caused significant debate as to the merits between the local authority, the press, councillors and local residents.
From here, Chesterfield Road passes through Woodseats shopping area, a popular and very busy set of local shops mixed in with a few national chain outlets and several popular pubs. The area is surrounded by a mix of housing stock with a mix of student, blue- and white-collar worker homes. Again, this area was substantially redesigned in the early 2000s providing improvements to crossings, access for loading and parking. To the northern end of Woodseats, a busy junction forms the entry from the north, whilst not a signed classified route, Scarsdale Road links both Woodseats Road and Derbyshire Lane to more significant A class routes at their far ends, thus making Scarsdale Road a very busy unofficial route through the southern suburbs of Sheffield. To the north of this junction, the bus priority separates leads into Woodseats from the north.
Heading further north, Chesterfield Road passes numerous side streets linking into Meersbrook, mixing three and four lanes with bus priority and right turning lanes to each congestion. The road continues to descend into the city centre, passing a retail park built in the late 1990s on the western side.
Between Valley Road and Albert Road the road crosses the Meers Brook (now hidden in culvert). Until 1904 the Meers Brook marked the boundary between Norton, Derbyshire and Heeley, Yorkshire. Norton was gobbled up by Sheffield in two stages and the present county boundary established in 1934. The original boundary is marked by Chesterfield Road changing its name to London Road as it enters Heeley. Here a mix of less popular, but still busy and more specialist shops continue to thrive, despite plans through the 1970s to widen London Road and even replace it with a bypass to the east, the route can be made out from the clearance of buildings about 300m to the east of the A61.
We are now entering the Heeley Tidal Flow scheme, introduced in the 1970s to ease traffic congestion along Queen's Road after the more significant highway improvement plans for Sheffield were dropped in favour of developing a new tramway. The old southern end used to begin in Heeley on London Road, but was removed in the 1990s as part of the temporary traffic management for the construction of a replacement bridge across the river Sheaf. The current Tidal Flow arrangement begins at the junction of Broadfield Road and also on the A621 Wolseley Road, providing in general, two lanes north and two lanes south in the morning and a single lane north and three lanes south in the evening peak. The northern end of the Tidal Flow system is neat the junction of Edmund Road. This section also links in with the A621 Bramall Lane and the B6388 Myrtle Road at a complex junction known as Havelock Bridge, where traffic from the city centre wanting to head for the B6388 need to split early from the A621 onto Shoreham Street and traffic heading south for the A61 need to continue along Alderson Road turning right into Queen's Road about 100m further east.
Following Queen's Road further north past another retail park to the east and then slightly further north the viaduct of the South Yorkshire LRT can be seen to the east before reaching the Inner Ring Road and Granville Square. The route of the A61 becomes complicated at this stage, passing both sides of the city centre.
Section 3: Sheffield
The southern and western side of the A61 inner ring road was built originally in stages through the late 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s forms a traditional style urban at-grade dual carriageway, starting on St Mary's Road; the first section was improved first in 2004, then again in 2008 to provide the southern part of a larger signal controlled junction called “Junction 3 – Granville Square”, the other sides being Matilda Street, Shoreham Street, Suffolk Road and a middle link called Fornham Street. All of these roads are now classified as the A61.
Continuing west past Shoreham Street onto the older section of dual carriageway built in the 1970s, widened westbound in 1993 and eastbound in 2007. We come to “Junction 4 – Bramall Lane roundabout” and meet with the A621 Bramall Lane again, which used to continue into the city centre but was terminated at this junction in 2007. This roundabout was originally more square before the 1993 improvement, reflecting the original plans to build an under and overpass for the A61 and A621. The next roundabout “Junction 5 – Moore Street Roundabout” had a similar arrangement and proposals. The link between these two roundabouts is very busy, constructed originally in the late 1960s and widened in 1993 as part of the preliminary improvement to remove traffic from the city centre to make way for the new tramway. Moore Street roundabout also link the A61 with the A625 Ecclesall Road, which again originally continued north into the city centre, but was terminated at the A61 in 2007.
The A61 begins to twist northward, the first section of dual carriageway, Hanover Way originally terminated at Broomspring Lane, merging into a then narrow street called Upper Hanover Street; this section was later widened in the early 1980s to provide a tight funnel past the busy bus route that is West Street and then altered again to make room for the tramway in 1994. The next roundabout was formally called Brook Hill Roundabout, but was renamed in 2007 to “Junction 6 – University Square”, linking with the A57 Brook Hill/Western Bank, Bolsover Street and the B6539 Broad Lane, which was formerly classified as the A57 until 2007. The roundabout was originally intended to have an underpass for cars; this concept was of course used to take the tramway under the roundabout in 1994. The final section of the western side of the Inner Ring Road was originally constructed in the 1960s linking Brook Hill to Hoyle Street, the dual carriageway originally ended at Meadow Street in anticipation of the proposed A61(M) Sheffield Urban Motorway. This gap was finally plugged in 1994 as part of the South Yorkshire LRT, then less than 12 months later the original roundabout at Shalesmoor was constructed as part of the Penistone Road improvement, then later enlarged in 2007 as part of the Inner Relief Road project.
The current western and northern Inner Ring Road starts at Granville Square, continues north to a significant public realm project that transformed the area from the c. 1950s roundabout into a modern square completed in 2006 linking the Midland Railway Station, Sheffield Hallam University and the city centre. Although the A61 currently runs as a single-carriageway 4-lane road, plans were prepared in 1994 to look at options to place the A61 into a tunnel route to the east of the Midland Railway Station, these were dropped quick when the sheer cost of the project was calculated. Later options developed a scheme that placed a dual carriageway right up to the frontage of the station, linking with Granville Square via Cross Turner Street, until the final current alignment was agreed.
Sheaf Street continues the route of the A61 north, past the Midland Railway Station to the east and Sheffield Hallam University, Pond Street Bus Station and Ponds Forge International Sports Centre to the west. Finally meeting a significant signal controlled roundabout “Junction 2 – Park Square”. Park Square was originally built as a terminal junction for the Sheffield Parkway in the early 1970s, the wide 4-lane circulatory carriageway became known locally as Whacky Races. The roundabout eventually gained signal control, then through 1993-1995 gained a slip road from Exchange Place to Sheffield Parkway and various other widening improvements in preparation for the South Yorkshire LRT. Park Square is a shadow of its former self, with the A61 passing through the roundabout and linking only with the B6070 Duke Street, whereas previously it was the convolution of the A61, A57 Sheffield Parkway, A616 Duke Street, and a link to the A625 – although Commercial Street still exists, the A625 no longer begins at Castle Square. Numerous ideas have surfaced in the 2000s to remove the current roundabout and replace it with a simple through road, thus freeing up development land, but as of writing, no firm plans have progressed into planning consent.A57 Sheffield Parkway is now reclassified as the A61, linking with “Junction 1 – Cutlers Gate”, which in turn forms the new start to the A57 Sheffield Parkway.
Arriving at “Junction 10 – Saville Street”, the A61 becomes a very modern urban forest of traffic lights and signs, with a new bridge under the former London and North Eastern Railway connecting to the A6135, A6178 and A6109 to the north and odd-looking rears of buildings where the road punctures through the back streets of the Wicker, which are starting to become filled with car parking and other development. Almost immediately we arrive at “Junction 9 – Bridgehouses”, where the A61 passes again over the River Don and meets the B6074 Mowbury Street and provides access to Kelham Island Museum. In quick succession “Junction 8 – Corporation Street” appears which has now become the main access into the northern financial district of the city via the B6539 Corporation Street and the new road again punctures through the rear of buildings to sweep into Shalesmoor and meets finally with “Junction 7 – Shalesmoor”.
Section 4: Sheffield - Leeds
Rejoining its alter ego, the A61 now follows Penistone Road north towards the M1, through a very industrial area of Sheffield, with industry along much of the route between the Inner Ring Road and Hillsborough Football Ground. The first mile from the Inner Ring Road was completed in 1995 (Penistone Road Stage 3), passing the B6075 Rutland Road. The next part between B6074 Neepsend Lane and A6101 Owlerton Green was completed in 1993 (Penistone Road Stage 2) and the next section to A6102 Herries Road South in the mid 1980s (Penistone Road Stage 1). The dual-carriageway section fronting the football ground was widened in time for the 1966 World Cup matches and still features the flagpoles for the event. The new road is more or less along the old alignment apart from a small section around Hillfoot where the old road now forms access to businesses, a great location to view the famous Pigeon Coops of Penistone Road to the west.
From the current roundabout at Leppings Lane, the A61 meets the B6079 Leppings Lane/Herries Road and continues northwards as Halifax Road climbing uphill along firstly a tight dual carriageway section then a wider section with homes stepped well back from the road, suggesting a grander scale of road was proposed. Just past the B6087 Chaucer Road, a gap in the housing lining up with Yew Lane, shows were a grand unbuilt scheme for linking Yew Lane with Halifax Road and forming a dual-carriageway link across the north of Sheffield to the M1 (J35) at Thorpe Hesley.
Halifax Road becomes a single carriageway from here, passing through Grenoside and passing to the west of High Green and Chapeltown, passing two junctions, the first with what was originally the A629 Hall Wood Road, now reclassified as the B6546. Then passing the A629 road to Wortley and Penistone. The A61 however twists northeast towards Barnsley, passing first the A616 Stocksbridge Bypass, then meeting the M1 (J36) at Tankersley.
At the other side of the M1, we find ourselves on a very short bit of D2, before we arrive at a roundabout where the A6195 Dearne Valley Parkway begins on its way to Doncaster through the former coal-mining heartlands of South Yorkshire. At the roundabout, we turn left and head on through the village of Birdwell, through a 30 mph zone with terraced housing on both sides of the rather narrow street. The road opens out after that, gains NSL signage and plunges downhill through some cracking sweeping bends. The original road is to our right at this point, the M1 is to our left and at this point all three roads are going swiftly downhill.
At the bottom, it's back into a 30 mph zone as we enter Worsborough and we then begin to climb again. We encounter a couple of sets of lights, crest a hill and gently roll downhill. We gain D2 just before we meet the Barnsley Ring Road where we turn right at the roundabout, now at up to 40 mph. We find ourselves multiplexing with the A635 as we pass around the edge of town. At the bottom of Harborugh Hill, we negotiate our way around a large gyratory with a retail park built in the middle of it. We pass Asda and the “Golden Arches” and find ourselves back on 30 mph S2 gently climbing out and away from Barnsley.
We pass through a roundabout where the A633 starts, or ends, depending on your direction of travel and continue uphill. We speed up to 40 mph as we pass through Staincross, before we are allowed to travel at up to 50 mph on S2, passing by a nice golf course. The road continues for a couple of miles, before we need to slow down to 30 as we drop downhill to cross Newmillerdam. The road does a sharp 90-degree right and then a 90-degree left as it goes across the top of this large water feature, with its own popular country park.
The road continues at up to 40 mph for a mile or so as we approach the outskirts of Wakefield. We slow down to 30 mph at Milnthorpe, but gain a short stretch of D2, before a bit of S5 (2 + 3) as we cross the River Calder just outside Kirkgate Railway Station.
We then find ourselves on Kirkgate before arriving at a roundabout. If you were to take the first exit at this roundabout you would find yourself continuing on Kirkgate, which was the original route of the A61 through the very centre of Wakefield. At the roundabout we head straight on, onto Marsh Way, the town centre bypass. It's 40 mph D2, with another roundabout where the A642 crosses our path on its journey to Garforth. At the end, we turn towards the right onto Northgate to pick up the original A61 routing and find ourselves back on S2. A bit further on and we encounter a set of lights where we turn right and briefly multiplex with the A650 before yet another roundabout. At this point the A650 leaves us to head towards the M1 at East Ardsley. We continue straight on the A61 towards the north and pass through Outwood, back on 30 mph S2 by this point.
We cross the M62 without interchange just to the east of Lofthouse and are allowed to travel at up to 40 mph as we pass through Robin Hood and meet the A654 at a set of lights. After that it's a straight bit of NSL road, before we bear to the left, pass through a roundabout at the Stourton Business Park before we arrive at Junction 7 of the M621, where once upon a time the M1 came to an end and merged into the rest of the road network. We have arrived at the boundary of the City of Leeds and the route of the A61 over the years though it has changed numerous times and indeed is still changing.
These days in order to find the next official part of the A61, we need to join the M621 at this point, pass over junction 6, without access and also pass junction 5, before leaving at Junction 4, helpfully signed A61 (although in theory the dual carriageway running parallel to the motorway between J5 and J4 is actually part of the A61). We turn to the left before turning right to cross back over the motorway, before a set of lights. After these set of lights we find ourselves back on the A61, now a 30 mph D2 called the Hunslet Distributor. The Hunslet Distributor takes the A61 in a new north-easterly direction
The Hunslet Distributor - a D2 - now takes the A61 over the John Smeaton Viaduct - an entirely new route over the south-eastern part of the city. Traffic is taken over the route of the old A61 - Hunslet Road - and adjacent to a number of dilapidated building to the east of the road. (John Smeaton was the Leeds-born 'father of civil engineering' - perhaps an apt celebration of his life.)
It lasts about 1/3 mile and arrives at a recently altered signalled junction where we meet the old A61 entering from the east.
Again, for a short while, the entire length of South Accommodation Road was numbered as the A61. Now, the eastern end of the John Smeaton Viaduct descends into the old course of the route - still at D2. After crossing the River Aire, a large (and arguably over-engineered), at-grade junction with the new A63 - the East Leeds Link - has been constructed. The A61 swings into a north-easterly direction and follows the course of East Street, where it continues - still D2 - following the Aire as far as the large junction with Crown Point Road. It's at this part that it re-merges with the previous version of the A61. The road now meets the A653, which took the number of the road over Crown Point Bridge. We need to keep to the right, fight our way through more lights, and negotiate through the railway viaduct. At the other side of the viaduct we find ourselves on St Peter's Street, passing alongside the bus station and opposite the BBC's Leeds building.
We arrive at the Markets Roundabout at the bottom of Eastgate and carry straight on, passing under the Inner Ring Road and heading north along Regent Street. We come to a roundabout where we fork left and then continue straight on, on Sheepscar Street. We arrive at a set of lights marking the start of the complicated Sheepscar Interchange where we seem to interweave with the A58 in order to cross it. In this direction we are forced to turn hard left and then hard right via a one-way system. At this point we rejoin the original routing of the A61 that has arrived via North Street from the city centre. You find yourself on a very wide bit of road which will soon split into two main roads another smaller one.
At this point, following signs for “Chapeltown” will take you on the original A61, through Chapeltown strangely enough. As we are following the current A61 route we therefore need to keep to the left and head onto Scott Hall Road. After the lights we begin to climb a hill and enter a 40 mph zone. From then on it's all 40 mph D2, interrupted by roundabouts three times. At the fourth roundabout, we rejoin the original route of the A61, just in time to meet the A6120 Outer Ring Road at another roundabout.
Section 5: Leeds - Dishforth
North of the Inner Ring Road, the A61 is a slow moving urban dual carriageway with several roundabouts as it heads due north. Just as it finally leaves the suburban sprawl, it reverts back to single carriageway. The road is quite busy and there's little space for overtaking, so it gets quite crowded at times. North of Harewood the road spins round to the left and heads downhill, before heading back round to the right at a junction with the A659 and entering North Yorkshire as it crosses the River Wharfe.
It's pretty unusual these days to have a primary route go straight through a town centre, but that's exactly what the A61 does when it gets to Harrogate. The traffic was nose-to-tail when I drove through it - hopefully that's not a typical journey! Having crawled through that, the A59 is crossed at a roundabout north of the town centre.
Past this, the A61 heads along round Ripley Castle at the far eastern side of the Yorkshire Dales, which you can see in the distance. The stretch to Ripon is quite twisty, though reasonably flat, and has caused many accidents in the past. As a result, there's a lot more double white lines, warning signs and some passing places for tractors.
The famous cathedral city (over 1300 years old) of Ripon is now bypassed with a new bridge over the River Ure - some of the old A61 through the city is now used as an extension of the A6108 which links up with the bypass to the north. A few miles beyond this, the A1(M) is crossed. Before this section of road was upgraded to motorway the interchange here was a roundabout, then a simple diamond junction. Now it's a motorway the junction has been upgraded slightly to a dumbbell (also providing access to the A6055 local access road) - still using the same overbridge.
Section 6: Dishforth - Thirsk
After the A1(M) junction a few miles north of Dishforth, the A61 briefly runs parallel with the A1 a few hundred yards to the east for a mile or two, before turning east through Skipton-on-Swale to Thirsk, crossing over the A167 at Busby Stoop roundabout. It is difficult to know why the A61 ended here rather than ending on the A1 (or its pre-1924 route which is now the A167), or following the A170 to Scarborough. However, the original end of the A61 was on the A19 in the town centre. Following the construction of the A168/A19 bypass the A61 now "cannons" off the A170 in the town centre, turning north along the old A19 (did they just turn the signs upside down?) to North Kilvington, where the bypass ends and the A168 and A19 part company. However, this is the end of the road for the A61.
Apart from the bypasses and urban reroutings mentioned in the text above, the A61 still runs more-or-less on its original 1922 route.
There was of course no gap in the A61 between Derby and Alfreton to begin with. In the 1970s this road was improved by building a parallel dual carriageway, to link up with the A615 which provided access to M1 J28. However, perhaps to provide a single number over this route, the new road (and connecting section of A615) were numbered as an extension of the A38. The old A61 is now the B6179.
The only major rerouting of the A61 is to the north of Sheffield. The original route through town pretty much followed the current eastern side of the inner ring road before crossing the River Don on Blonk Street to meet the A57 Wicker. There was a short multiplex before the A61 reappeared to climb Spital Hill and continue north via Chapeltown to meet its current route near Birdwell. The current route through Hillsborough was the southern end of the A629 and the final section past High Green unclassified, later becoming the A6135. In 1935 the A61 was rerouted onto its present route, truncating the A629 and taking over the whole of the A6135, which number was reused as the A61's old route.