|Location Map ( geo)|
|Distance:||4 miles (6.4 km)|
Saint Helena Government
The most important road on the island is Ladder Hill, which while not signed is unofficially classified as the A1. This designation continues through Half Tree Hollow and St Pauls to Bates Branch, where it forks left to Sandy Bay and right to Blue Hill. Back down in Jamestown, the A1 actually starts at the bottom of the hill, with the road down through town classified as the A4, purely for administrative reasons. As such, it is included below!
We start at the end of the wharf, which until recently was the only point of entry for anything coming to the island. Passengers, vehicles, food, furniture, everything came on the RMS St Helena and was offloaded via barges and tenders to arrive at the wharf. Work is now underway to create a new cargo port at Ruperts, the next bay to the east, to complement the new airport and so free up Jammestown Wharf for leisure purposes. In the meantime, the road along the wharf is only open while there are no cargo movements, for safety reasons.
Heading south from the wharf, we reach the new customs building and then turn westwards with substantial parking areas on both sides of the road along the sea front. The main road then turns left to cross the moat and pass through the archway, a narrow, low arch which until recently restricted the size of vehicles that could access the rest of the island. On the other side of the arch the road opens out substantially into Grand Parade, a large square with plenty of parking surrounded by the Museum, Church, Police Offices, Prison, Court and Government offices in The Castle.
The road then climbs up Main Street, which opens out around the cabstand (parking up the middle of the street) to the islands only mini roundabout in front of the tourist office at the Canister. Forking left is Napoleon Street, the A2, whilst right is The Bridge (the river through James Valley, The Run, is culverted below somewhere) and into Market Street. This is the main shopping area of Jamestown, from the Cabstand into lower Market Street. Next to the Market House, Backway leads around the back of Main Street, linking back to Grand Parade and also Shy Road which climbs up to Ladder Hill.
Market Street continues its gentle climb up the valley floor, with The Run lying behind the houses to the left and having a footpath along its bank. Nearly a mile from the Wharf Steps, we reach the one way system around China Lane and St Johns Lane at the bottom of Ladder Hill, Market Street continues to the Hospital, where it becomes New Bridge Road, crosses The Run and soon becomes Constitution Hill. Behind St Johns Church, Maldivia Road is a short dead end leading to some houses.
Ladder Hill takes its name from Jacobs Ladder, originally an inclined plane built to remove waste from the town and bring goods down the hill. This consisted of two tracks where wagons were hauled up and down by Donkeys working a windlass. Eventually it fell into disrepair and whilst the steps up the middle were rebuilt, the rails on either side were removed. The road reaches the top of the hill at the top of Jacobs Ladder, whose bottom end is outside the museum at the back of Grand Parade.
The road starts off as a sensible width, but quickly narrows and becomes S1 in many places on the steep climb. The rule is that uphill traffic has priority over downhill traffic, which results in downhill traffic having to creep around a couple of blind bends as close to the retaining wall as possible to allow any invisible uphill traffic to pass. Around half way up, Shy Road meets Ladder Hill, another narrow switchback road which climbs steeply from the town. Shy Road is one-way uphill, forcing traffic to do a three point turn if they want to continue up Ladder Hill, but why would anyone want to go back down to Upper Jamestown?
After about half a mile and 250m of ascent, the top of the hill is reached, and the road turns left around another sharp bend to pass Ladder Hill Fort. There is a narrow gateway alongside the fort, and then the road sweeps left to climb up past a small business park and the islands old peoples home. At the back of this is a concrete road which runs back down to the top of Jacobs Ladder, and then requires another hairpin turn to get onto Ladder Hill.
Half Tree Hollow
From Ladder Hill, the A1 climbs up through Half Tree Hollow, effectively a suburb of Jamestown split only from the town below by the Geography of the island. In the 1.5 miles from Ladder Hill to Red Gate, the road climbs another 250m, although the land is much more gently sloping than Ladder Hill! Housing spreads out on either side of the road, accessed from private drives and minor roads, some with and some without names. Indeed, part of the A1 is called Commonwealth Avenue. A number of shops are mixed in with the houses, as well as a church, Salvation Army Hall and Community Centre.
About half way to Red Gate we reach White Wall, where the A3 forks right. The junction takes its name from the two short pieces of white painted walls either side of the junction. The road beyond seems to be less built up, but this is because we are now running along the side of the hill below High Knoll Fort, and so the houses are either above or below the road. Finally we reach Red Gate, one of the busiest junctions on the island.
Red Gate - Bates Branch
From Red Gate the road runs roughly due south for about half a mile to White Gate. These two gates are thought to be the old entrances to the Plantation House Estate. The two gates are linked by another road, roughly paralleling the A1, and passing Plantation House and Model Cottage, next to a junction with Sapper Way. White Gate is another busy junction, with a number of roads heading off across the island. The main road between the two is a relatively straight, level stretch of a good width. There are only a couple of driveways leading off, making this a stretch of road where the blanket 30 limit could easily be exceeded!
Continuing south from White Gate, the A1 skirts around the bottom of the churchyard of St Pauls Cathedral, to Luffkins where a couple of dead end roads lead off. The road continues climbing gently southwards, curving slightly round the contours, but there are very few houses along this stretch which remains S2 more or less all the way to Bates Branch. The junction here is a very sharp fork where neither road seems to gain priority. Left leads to Sandy Bay, while right heads to Blue Hill. For traffic travelling between the two, there is an alternative road linking across a little to the south.