A272, Winchester, UK

This Great Road was initially published in issue 90 of Total 911.

A lot of our Great Roads have been across the Welsh border recently, so it’s time for a bit of a change. Just to be different, our subject is a road that should be near a good few readers, without too much in the way of motorway slogs to reach. This month, we head south to look at the A272.

Cutting a winding swathe across the South Downs, it was suggested that the road’s origins go back to a route linking to the two cathedral cities of Canterbury in the east and Winchester in the west.

This is disputed somewhat, but what is certain is that it is a route that has evolved through time from a mainly rural landscape, and thankfully has pretty much stayed that way, being single carriageway almost its entire length. Because of this, it can at times be quite busy, and overtaking sections can be somewhat lacking.

As a road it has an interesting history, extending right to the present day. Not only is the route interesting for historical landscape; it is also distinctive in that it has a book dedicated to it – by a Dutch author, no less.

Pieter Boogaart’s An Ode To A Road covers everything from the road’s origins, to suggesting sights to visit within a few miles of the road’s length. According to Boogaart, the A272 “captures the Englishness of English life.”

Location: Winchester to Midhurst

Latitude: 51.0630N, 1.3167E

Length of drive: 31 miles

Points of interest:
Winchester Cathedral
Petworth House
Cheesefoot Head
Old Winchester Hill
Petersfield food festival

Food and accommodation:
South Down Hotel, Trotton

The Half Moon, Sheet

Annie Jones, Petersfield

Rather than go the whole length, we will look at one section between Winchester and Midhurst. We begin at the road’s highest point a little past Winchester, Cheesefoot Head – famous for being the location where President Eisenhower addressed troops before D-Day.

We then descend, the next mile pretty much setting the character of the drive. It may be fairly narrow in places, but is fast-paced, with long, sweeping bends that quickly switch, offering decent sight lines in the main.

As we arc through pastoral farmland in the first section, we probably have the widest road of the trip. Quaint villages slowly roll into view, each with their own centre – usually a pub that was probably a coaching inn years past – and then peter out again, bringing back the alternating views of closing in hedges and fields.

From Petersfield, the A272 roughly follows the River Rother, and tends to be a little narrower, with avenues of trees close to the road.

You’ll not be overtaking – those solid white lines have been decided on for a reason – but the switching curves are a thrill to pilot a car through. If you’ve been lucky, Midhurst itself will appear, sometimes apparently far too soon.

The joy of the road does probably link into Boogaart’s concept of the road having some sort of ‘Englishness’.

The rolling hills, plenty of bends and pretty villages – even cities – all hold appeal that captures not only the enjoyment of driving, but also perhaps harks back to that mythical open road we never get to drive day-to-day.

It will at times be busy. Get up early, and we mean early, and enjoy some glorious light, a great car, and a great drive.

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