|Location Map ( geo)|
|Via:||Shaftesbury, Gillingham, Leigh Common, Bruton|
|Distance:||45.2 miles (72.7 km)|
|Meets:||A31, B3072, B3078, A354, A30, A350, B3091, B3092, A303, A371, A359, A371|
|Former Number(s):||B3093, B3096|
|Route outline (key)|
At about 42 miles (not including the Wincanton spur), the B3081 (by my reckoning) squeezes into the top-10 B roads by length. It is single-carriageway throughout.
Ringwood - Shaftesbury
The route starts at the A31 near Ringwood on the busy stretch between the two A338 junctions. We head northwest through Ringwood Forest, through Verwood, a town that has grown much in recent years, and reach the B3078 Wimborne-Cranborne road at a T-junction. At Sutton Holms (SU061098), the road used to TOTSO through Edmondsham but it was rerouted to its current course about 20 years ago.
We multiplex with the B3078 for just short of a mile before turning left again. A right turn at the end necessitates a TOTSO in the opposite direction; one which used to occur farther north before another small re-routing. Then we head north-west across the downs to a roundabout junction with the A354 just short of Sixpenny Handley. At night the roundabout is visible from afar since it has street-lights, unlike the surrounding roads.
The road then winds downhill into Sixpenny Handley, takes some right-angled bends and then climbs out once more onto Cranborne Chase. The road is often narrow as it crosses the hills, and before Tollard Royal we cross the border into Wiltshire. The road through the village is particularly narrow, with poor visibility between buildings. The road then climbs steadily out of the village, and enjoys some stunning views as it crosses the downs, often narrowing between tall hedges, before opening out again.
We re-enter Dorset above Zig-Zag Hill approaching Shaftesbury. Zig Zag Hill is, as its name suggests, a steep descent through sharp bends, with a hairpin or two for added enjoyment! At the bottom, after TOTSOing at Cann Common, we head into Shaftesbury proper and multiplex west for a very short time with the A30 before crossing the A350 at the Shaftesbury by-pass (ST871225). The B3081 originally ended on the A30 but was extended along the entire length of the former B3093 in 1935.
Shaftesbury - Shepton Mallet
We now go through Shaftesbury town centre, briefly multiplexing with the B3091 along Bleke Street, before forking left and heading down a steep hill. This takes the road under the A30 and round a hairpin, before straightening up and heading northwest once more to Gillingham. The town is entered past a small industrial estate and through modern housing before meeting the B3092 just before the railway bridge. The two then multiplex half way round the by-pass, before the B3081 turns left and climbs once more across the hills to the A303 junction at the Dorset-Somerset border (ST751299).
We continue northwest with the 5 miles to Bruton, halfway along which we find the B3081 has a two-mile spur into Wincanton (numbered B3096 until 1935), to the south, where it ends at the A303/A371 junction. At Bruton we have a brief multiplex on the one-way system with the A359, before we head on the last stretch, maintaining our northwestward direction, through Evercreech and terminate on the A371 at Prestleigh, a couple of miles south of Shepton Mallet.