I have a great fondness for the A272 between Winchester and Petworth, then add in the A 283 to the coast and reach it by way of Pewsey Vale and Ludgershall. Over the last five years I have driven it many times ferrying daughter to and from University in Brighton and more recently to complete various stages of the South Downs Way. It is one of those purposeful English roads that follows the lie of the land but has not yet been changed into a duel carriage way or worst. OK it takes a little longer that heading down to the coast or worst still the M4/M25/M23 slog that the sat nav so likes.
It starts for me by taking the country lane from my house to the overview of Pewsey Vale. In the early morning the Vale is often full of cloud and the sun comes up over it bringing a wonderful light effect to the Downs. From there you thread through Wiltshire villages with thatched hours and cricket grounds (including the one where I got my highest ever total) to Pewsey. Ignoring the Sat Nav again the direct route to Everleigh follows a fast deserted road having first climbed some neolithic terracing with great views. With ice or army exercises in operation it requires caution. This used to be my route to work when I was with DataSciences in Farnborough and in that time I have encountered commando groups bursting out of a wood to my left, a frozen flood on a sharp corner, two tanks crossing the road and a helicopter landing on the road in the half light of morning. The A343 which takes you to the A303 has good views and is a real drivers road, you can see traffic for miles ahead and cut corners and overtake slow moving traffic at will. After that its dual carriage way until you get to defy the sat nav yet again and join the delight that is the A272.
The A272 hugs the South Downs which provide a constant vista to your right and many a memory of my two year odyssey to complete that walk. It goes through ancient beech woods and delightful villages before crossing the south bound A3 at Peterborough and on to Petworth with its National Trust House that the children loved so much when they were young. In getting there you can linger in the market town of Midhurst (one of British Polo) with a coffee shop and Cowdray Park (pictured). After Petersfield the A283 continues the delight but in the winter the water meadows around the various southbound rivers that you cross and which in turn punctuate the South Downs Way are mostly flooded. Worth a stop for the birds and the many charming and welcoming pubs that line this route. Finally you follow the River Adur and its Victorian industrial architecture to the coast and thence to Brighton. Pieter Boogaart even wrote a book about the A272 now sadly out of print, but I received it as a gift from my good friend Bob last year. I now read it before I make the journey and explore the history of a new section each time.
I drive in many countries around the world, but the pastoral scenery of England remains a favourite. Why slog down a Motorway when you can experience it on ancient roads that follow Roman and pre-Roman routes and the natural contours of the land? I drove the whole route there today and on the return journey first headed north to add a longer section of the A272 on my return today and it always provides new sights and in consequence insight. It is not just about getting from A to B; but about creating a journey and living memories.
Oh, and The Telegraph agrees with me so …
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