|Distance:||39.2 miles (63.1 km)|
|Meets:||A665, A6010, B6393, A663, A6104, M60, B6189, B6191, B6192, A6048, A627, B6477, B6194, A669, B6194, A672, A6052, A670, B6107, B6109, B6432, A616, A629, A640, A641, A6107, B6118, A644, B6119, A649, A638, A651, B6117, B6122, A652, A643, M621, M62, A650, B6126, A6110, A58|
|Route outline (key)|
The A62, which runs from Manchester to Leeds, via Oldham and Huddersfield, was once the main route across the Pennines, connecting the largest city in Lancashire with Yorkshire's largest city. However with the completion of the M62 towards Leeds in the early 1970s it lost much of its importance and traffic to the motorway, which runs a few miles to the north. These days, the A62 serves as a busy primary route between Manchester and Oldham, an extremely very quiet route over the Pennines, and then a fairly busy local road linking Huddersfield with Leeds.
Manchester - Huddersfield
Most maps show that the A62 starts its journey in the middle of Manchester by leaving the A6 Piccadilly and running along Lever Street (the original route was the parallel Oldham Street). However, owing to a bus gate Lever Street is not generally accessible from Piccadilly. We head out easterly on a busy street (non–primary) until we meet the Ring Road where we pick up primary status that we retain until Oldham. We turn left at this point and then immediately right to start the A62 proper.
The first part of our journey will take us to Oldham, through the suburbs of Manchester. We retain our 30 mph limit all the way until Oldham. The first mile or two is decent D2 and D3 and pretty flat, where we will pass what seems to be an enormous Chinese restaurant. The D2 turns into a mixture of S2 and S4 for the next couple of miles as we pass through the suburbs of Manchester. We have junctions with the B6393 and also the A663 which forks off to the left. We pass through Failsworth and shortly after that we meet the M60 at a huge signalled junction. We cross over the motorway and almost immediately begin climbing uphill, now back on proper urban D2, but blighted by traffic lights every 400 yards or so.
After about 3 miles we arrive at a roundabout underneath a flyover that makes up part of the Oldham Bypass. To the left the road is numbered the A627 and heads past Boundary Park, the home of Oldham Athletic Football Club before continuing towards the M62. Ahead at this point is Oldham town centre, which the A62 used to plough straight through. These days we are routed to the right and join the bypass to briefly multiplex with the A627, but not for long as almost immediately after we join, A627 traffic heading for Ashton leaves. At this point we lose our primary status, but we will briefly regain it around Huddersfield. We continue on the mainline, heading gently downhill on a 50 mph D2.
We arrive at a large signal controlled roundabout at the bottom of the hill, meeting the A669. After that it's a short gentle climb on a mixture of 30 mph D2 and S4 until we arrive at more traffic lights, where the A672 forks off to the left to begin its way towards Halifax. We cross the junction and you'll begin to realise that you are pretty much on your own, even during the day. This is because at this point you are about to begin the crossing of the Pennines and these days most traffic that intends fully crossing them towards Huddersfield will be on the M62 motorway. This leaves the road very quiet until we get to the other side of the Pennine crossing at Marsden, which we shall pass in about 10 miles or so.
Anyway, we begin to climb uphill, still in a 30 mph zone passing by Austerlands and onwards towards Scouthead where there is a 40 mph zone. We then begin to drop downhill back into the valley on a winding road which has had retaining walls rebuilt over the years. We pass another Chinese restaurant on the left, formerly a pub. As we get towards the village of Delph in the valley bottom we need to slow down to 30 mph as we pass through the village centre.
At this point, you will have also noted a fair few 'snow warning signs'; one of these signs is actually evident as early on as Manchester City Centre itself, there is also one in Failsworth that will warn motorists with flashing lights if the road is closed ahead. The section of the road it is referring to is the Pennine section between Delph and Marsden. These snow warning signs become much more evident in between Oldham and Delph. They were put up in around the 1960's and most of the Saddleworth based models have survived in their earliest form, and the look very old fashioned and faded as you will see in the gallery. If you are passing through Failsworth and notice the snow warning sign's lights are flashing, even though there is no snow at all around you, don't be fooled because there will be a very high chance that the Pennine section is impassable!
With the villages of Saddleworth gone, we then quickly climb again into rural bleakness and the hills and climbs so far, if they weren't high enough, were just a taster of things to come as we cross the Pennines. Now, you really will be on your own. As we climb the Pennines, there is a 50 mph speed limit although I'm not entirely sure if this is followed, as the average motorist will be under the impression it is NSL if they haven't read the signs; the lowered speed limit is a combination of the nearby Pennine Way, Pennine Bridleway and general tourist area. We then take a bit of a history lesson because on the left is a offical historic Roman Fort, whilst you will also notice the hill your climbing is steep enough to warrant two lanes on your side of the road (there isn't a central reservation, just two lanes on your side and one going downhill). This is to allow you to pass the many lorries you will overtake on the way up. Well, it was before 1970, but now it just reminds us that this road used to be very busy and was indeed the primary route over the South Pennines. Nearing the summit, the A670 starts here which goes right down the Tame Valley to Ashton-Under-Lyne through Uppermill and Mossley. If there is snowfall in the area, don't bother going any further. You'll regret your actions.
This pass at Standedge between Diggle and Marsden is a major crossing of the Pennines for several modes of transport — both the Huddersfield Canal and the London & North Western Railway used it, although unlike the A62 they tunnelled through it – the 1811 canal tunnel is claimed as the longest, deepest and highest canal tunnel in the country. As for the road crossing, it has existed here (over Standedge) for so long it is unsure when it was actually built.
The road levels out and the crests the hill, passing Redbrook reservoir on the right and then we start to drop downhill. Those of you who are not local to the area and end up on this road should be warned at this point of an unusual feature of the next section of road. As I keep saying, this road is very quiet these days and so due to the lack of traffic the local sheep population who should graze on the moors at either side will regularly roam across the road and even sit in the middle of it. So even though this bit of road looks like a road to put your foot down, a head-on collision with a sheep at 60 mph WILL damage your car, as well as the sheep. It's very wide S2 initially with various two lane set ups on the climbing side of the road in place once again. These two lanes that were put in place for climbing the hill were of course in place from a very early age and have been left there since the addition of the M62 and are now almost a living museum.
We pass a transport café on the right which will have seen busier days in the past, before entering a 30 mph zone as we finally stop dropping or climbing and enter Marsden.
The next six miles until Huddersfield see us driving through the Colne Valley. We keep the river (and canal) to our left all the way, and the road stays on the right hand side of the valley. After we pass through Marsden, the road becomes a 40 mph S2 until we reach the village of Slaithwaite. There are many different pronunciations of this name (Slawit, Slathwate). The recent claim to fame of this area is the location of Anglia TV's “Where the Heart Is”. We enter a 30 mph zone that we shall not leave until Huddersfield town centre. Linthwaite is the next village to pass through, followed by Cowlersley and the edge of Milnsbridge before our last former village of Thornton Lodge.
After that a short flat part and a climb until we meet the late 1960s Huddersfield Ring Road. At this point we pick up primary status and give our number to the Ring Road in both directions. The Ring Road is generally D2 with some D3 sections, containing a GSJ trumpet interchange, signalled crossroads, roundabouts and even a tunnel at various points. Depending on which direction you have taken (it's about the same distance either way) you will arrive at a signalled crossroads where the A62, now once again non–primary leaves towards Leeds.
Huddersfield - Leeds
It's 30 mph D2 for a bit and we pass retail parks on our left and right. The John Smith's Stadium (or is it Galpharm, or McAlpine?) is on the right. 40 mph signs make an appearance and we narrow to S2. We pass a huge chemical works on the right that employs hundreds and then the site of another former chemical works, which is now a new industrial park that is the new home of Poundstretcher and Instore. We continue for a mile or so until a set of traffic lights where the B6118 and A6107 end. We carry straight on, into a short NSL section and meet the A644 at Cooper Bridge roundabout.
We turn to the right, now restricted to 40 mph for a short S4 multiplex with the A644, where the A62 number is dominant - and even gains primary status from the other road. This lasts for about 400 yards until we head up the hill in front of the Three Nuns public house on normal S2. We climb for a mile, levelling out at the top near Roberttown before dropping downhill into Heckmondwike. As we enter the town we slow once again to 30 mph.
We cross the A638 at a set of traffic lights and then begin to climb the next hill, leaving the 30 mph signs behind just after another set of lights where the A651 comes to an end to enter another 40 mph zone. Once again as soon as we reach the top of the hill, we are no sooner dropping downhill again, this time towards Birstall and a six way signalled crossroads with the A652 and the ancient precursor to the road we have just travelled from Heckmondwike on. Just before the lights we re-enter a 30 mph zone.
We start climbing yet again, crossing the A643 and gaining our Gelderd Road name that we retain until the end of the road in Leeds. We level out as we approach the junction with the M62. Prior to the junction we gain some 40 mph signs before passing through the retail park. Twenty years ago, there was nothing here at all but these days it is the home of the local IKEA and its associated traffic.
We pass underneath the M62 on a short stretch of primary NSL D2 forming part of J27, which also provides access to the M621 and ends at the roundabout with the A650. We carry straight on, immediately back into a 40 mph zone and losing the very briefly held primary status before we pass through a set of lights for an industrial estate and then more lights for a crossroads with the B6126 at Gildersome.
After that, it's downhill for about two miles on wide NSL S2+1, running alongside the M621 through open countryside for the final run into Leeds. Just before we cross the A6110 Ring Road at a set of lights, we need to slow down to 40 mph. After the lights, it's a couple of hundred yards until a new roundabout where we will go straight on.
After many miles of hills, this last mile is pancake flat passing through an area that is currently being redeveloped. We slow down to 30 mph about a hundred yards before we come to an end, at a roundabout with the A58.
Other than a couple of minor urban re-routings around the pedestrianised town centres of Huddersfield and Oldham, a minor re-routing at the western end in Manchester, and slight curtailment at the eastern end in Leeds, there have been no changes to the route since the 1922/3 classification. The A62 must therefore be a contender for the route with fewest changes since classification in the First 99 - something that is particularly surprising given the significant areas of urban population that it travels through.