|From:||Newby, Carlisle (NY372536)|
|Via:||Alston, Bishop Auckland|
|Distance:||93.6 miles (150.6 km)|
|Meets:||A595, B5307, M6, A7, B6264, A69, A686, B6277, B6294, B6295, B6278, B6296, A68, A690, B6298, B6286, B6284, A688, B6282, B6287, A167, A1(M), A177, A19, A1185, B1276, B1277, A178, A179|
|Former Number(s):||B6264, B6292, B6277, B6293,|
|Route outline (key)|
The A689 is a true coast-to-coast route, in that it is the nearest classified road to the sea on both the west and east coasts of England, something that even the A66 doesn't manage. However, it's not really a road you'd ever use from end to end: it's scenic but not particularly quick.
Section 1: Newby West – Brampton
Today, from a west to east viewpoint, the road starts on the A595 to the west of Carlisle. It heads clockwise around the city along a road dating in full to 2012, although some bits were cobbled together from pre-existing roads, for example through the industrial estate just to the east of the West Coast Main Line. Presently the Greymoorhill (Carlisle North) Interchange (J44) with the M6 is reached. The reason the road was extended to the M6 was to relieve traffic on the A69 going through Warwick Bridge to and from the M6 at J43 but fails slightly in this objective as the A689 is not signposted from the southbound M6.
A few miles south of the Interchange at Linstock we meet the remaining part of the B6264 coming out of the area of Carlisle known as Stanwix. The A689 tuns left here at a roundabout and follows for a while General Wade's 18th-century Military Road which ran alongside the course of Hadrian's Wall. We now bypass Crosby-on-Eden and pass the area's biggest white elephant and local joke - Carlisle Airport, which was for many years an unwelcome burden on the rate/council tax bill for Carlisle until the city council finally sold it in the late 1990s; it's now called Carlisle Lake District Airport - but given that it doesn't see any commercial passenger flights at the moment it's unclear as to exactly who this name is aimed at.
The B6264 ran directly into Brampton but to stay on the A689 we must bear right and run along a new stretch of road to join the A69 at the western end of the Brampton Bypass. The 2 roads multiplex along most of the bypass until we reach a staggered crossroads where the next section of A689 starts to the right. The road to the left before the bypass was also the A689 and met the A69 (now A6071) on the eastern outskirts of Brampton.
Section 2: Brampton – Alston
The first village along this section is Milton with its level crossing over the Carlisle - Newcastle railway. To the west of Milton is Brampton station (formerly Brampton Junction); there was at one time a Brampton Town station as well, which formed the northern terminus of the "Earl of Carlisle's Railway", one of the first to be built in Britain and which served the coal mines the earl owned in the area. After Milton comes the former mining village of Halbankgate in the parish of Farlam. Here we start the climb up to Tindale and the watershed between the Eden and the Tyne. One thing to note is that streams flowing west here are called becks whereas those flowing east towards the South Tyne are called burns, a term more commonly used in Scotland.
At Midgeholme we cross into Northumberland and go through the village of Halton-Lea-Gate. At nearby Lambley we enter the most northerly and one of the most beautiful of the major Pennine valleys - South Tynedale. Lambley village was marked on maps before the 1960s as Harper Town although its railway station was always Lambley Junction; it was here that the Earl of Carlisle's railway met the NER Alston or South Tyne branch. Lambley church is the most northerly in the Team Parish or United Benefice of Alston; this may seem strange considering Alston is in Cumberland but ecclesiastically the area is part of the Diocese of Newcastle and before the 19th century that of Durham. The other churches in the huge parish are St Augustine's at Alston itself, St John's Garrigill, St John's Nenthead and ones at Kirkhaugh and Knarsdale.
After Lambley the road starts to descend to the valley bottom and crosses over the Glendue Burn underneath an impressive but decaying railway viaduct. The cost of the upkeep of this viaduct is the main obstacle in the plans of the South Tynedale Railway Society to extend its narrow gauge line further than it already has. Next we pass but do not enter the hamlet of Knarsdale but we do go through the next village of Slaggyford (great name!!!). Around here we follow close to the route of the Maiden Way Roman Road which ran from near Kirkby Thore on the A66 to Hadrian's Wall. The Pennine Way LDP also crosses and runs alongside the A689 here.
After Slaggyford, passing the Whitley Castle Roman Fort we cross Gilderdale Burn and re-enter Cumberland and the civil parish of Alston Moor. A couple of miles on we enter England's highest market town (now without a regular market), Alston, or at least the suburb known as The Raise. Here this section of the A689 comes to an end with a junction with the A686 at the foot of the Hartside Pass.
The A686 and A689 now multiplex over the bridge (with the other number dominant) and along Townfoot past the small but long named "Ruth Lancaster James Cottage Hospital Alston." At the next T-junction the A689 branches to the right and climbs the steep cobbled main street of Alston - Front Street - past the town's most famous landmark the Market Cross. Twice in the last 40 years the Cross has been destroyed in traffic accidents and now Front Street is the subject of an HGV ban with lorries having to make a detour along the B6294 which runs along the hillside to the north east of the town. At the top of Front Street by the former police station to stay on the A689 we have to TOTSO; the road going straight on is the B6277 to Garrigill and through Teesdale and finally meeting the A66 at Cross Lanes near Bowes. However I digress and the A689 turns to the left past the Jolly Beard Estate and meets the B6294 at Lovelady Shield.
Section 3: Alston – Bishop Auckland
Next come the settlements of Nenthall and Nentsberry and then the former centre of the Cumbrian Leadmining industry, Nenthead, whose now-disused mines and associated workings were for a while a successful heritage centre. After Nenthead we start the climb up to Killhope Cross the highest point of any classified road in England, where we enter County Durham and Weardale. It is interesting that the three major rivers of the industrial north east (Tees, Wear and Tyne) all have their sources within a few miles of each other and are all in fact within the bounds of the ancient chapelry of Garrigill. However, it is fair to say that the Tyne has two sources as the River North Tyne flows out of Kielder Reservoir on the Scottish border to meet with the South Tyne near Hexham. Just below the summit of Killhope is the Killhope Wheel Lead Mining Museum.
As we descend, the villages and hamlets along this section are almost continuous. From west to east we pass through Lanehead, Cornriggs, Copthill (where we meet the B6295 from Allendale), Cornhill, Wearhead, Ireshopeburn, St John's Chapel (which boasts its own auction mart) and Daddry Shield. A few miles on, after crossing the River Wear, we meet Westgate and Eastgate. At Eastgate was a huge Blue Circle Cement works, the lorries belonging to which were the reason Alston had and still has an HGV ban. This is the also the terminus of what's left of the Wear Valley railway line which once reached Wearhead; passenger traffic west of Bishop Auckland is now extremely limited.
The next settlement is the market town of Stanhope. Here we have a short multiplex with the B6278 Teesdale to Consett road. After Stanhope comes Frosterly (once famous for its "marble" quarries) and the town of Wolsingham. Four miles further on we reach the original western end of the A688 as we meet the A68 at a roundabout just outside Crook. We now go right through Crook and have to TOTSO with the A690 near the town centre and branch south towards Howden-Le-Wear and Bishop Auckland. We cross the Newton Cap Viaduct over the River Wear - an old railway viaduct reused for road use (and quite high up!); the original road is just to the west but some distance below.
At one time the A689 went right through Bishop, terminating the A688 in the process. but now it forms a sort of three-quarters ring road around the town centre. It meets the A688 near South Church for the eastern section of the bypass. That road continues ahead at Coundon along the former A6074 and the A689 turns right to reagain its number and become a primary route again for its final stretch.
Section 4: Bishop Auckland – Hartlepool
After bypassing Coundon we cross the A167 (former A1) to the south of Chilton and then meet the A1(M) at J60. After going under the East Coast Main Line and then over a freight line we bypass Sedgefield, where the A177 multiplexes with us. Apart from a small section of S2 in order to pass under the railway the road is now mostly dual carriageway for the rest of its length, albeit with a number of roundabouts.
This section of road provides one of the few high quality links between the two main north-south roads in the North East, the A1 and A19. It crosses the A19 at a GSJ at Wolviston, near Billingham. The next roundabout is a former GSJ with that road but was downgraded when the road was downgraded (although a southbound offslip still reaches here). Continuing northeast, the A689 acts as an urban dual carriageway through Hartlepool finally coming to an end at a roundabout end-on with the A179; maps and signs disagree as to exactly which roundabout this is.
Note – Before the 1960s Hartlepool was two separate towns: the small port of Hartlepool itself (on the Headland) and the larger industrial town of West Hartlepool. Together they were referred to as "the Hartlepools". The A689 had its eastern terminus at the A1048 in West Hartlepool.
The A689 is one of the longest Axxx roads and runs from coast to coast but this was not always so. Prior to c. 1970 the road only ran from the A68 near Crook to Hartlepool but with the closure of the Wear Valley and South Tyne Valley railways the road was extended over the Pennines to Brampton in Cumberland. Later still, around 1990, the road was extended further to reach J44 of the M6 at Greymoorhill on the northern edge of Carlisle. In 2012 it was extended west of the M6 to bypass Carlisle on the north and end on the A585 (spiking the debate as to whether it was out-of-zone). Strangely enough it is the original section of the A689 I am unfamiliar with but have travelled on parts of the rest of the road most of my life. When it was extended, the A689 took over the routes or part of the routes of other road numbers as follows:
- Crook – Alston Townhead: B6293
- Alston Front Street: B6277 (part)
- Alston The Raise – Brampton: B6292
- Brampton – Linstock: B6264 (part)
- Linstock – M6 J44: C road (is this the only instance of a C road having been upgraded to become a primary route?)