We’ve seen some disruption this year on Much Wenlock’s roads, mostly because of resurfacing. The overwhelming majority of local residents are tolerant of delays, noise and dirt which are the inevitable consequence of highways improvements and maintenance. Occasionally we have to bear additional diverted traffic because of roadworks elsewhere – such as when the B4380 Buildwas-Atcham road was being resurfaced a couple of years ago.
This summer there are plans that bring a rather more substantial diversion our way. The A49 at Onibury, between Ludlow and Craven Arms, is to be closed so that Network Rail can carry out essential work at the level crossing. The proposed diversion is from Ludlow to Kidderminster, then to Bridgnorth and on to Shrewsbury (and, for southbound traffic, the reverse). This inevitably means the diverted traffic driving through Much Wenlock.Given that the A49 is a trunk road, it is understandable that the diversion should be on roads capable of taking large volumes of heavy traffic. For the most part, the diversion route can accommodate this extra load for ten days although, given that it’s an additional 50 miles on the journey, I suspect that some drivers will try to find a short-cut.
My principal concern, so far as Much Wenlock is concerned, is the narrow stretch of the A458 between the B4378 Bourton Road junction and the B4371 Stretton Road junction. Victoria Road is a pinch point, bounded by old limestone walls on both sides. The wall supporting the elevated footway is frequently struck by vehicles and evidence of the impacts is there for all to see – shards of stone and mortar on the road. For much of this 400 yard stretch, this footway is the only pedestrian route. Residents of Victoria Road and of Stretton Road, comprising some 70 properties, who walk into Much Wenlock already have to negotiate traffic approaching around blind bends, sometime at speeds in excess of the permitted limit. The only way to cross over is via a central refuge in Victoria Road. Of course visitors to our local campsites will have to use this route as well when heading into the town for a meal or drink, or to take in the sights.Adding considerably more traffic, day and night, will increase the risks for local pedestrians and visitors to our town this summer. These photographs were taken in the space of five minutes mid-morning today. The morning and evening rush-hour sees far more traffic.Vehicles heading in both directions will have to negotiate Wenlock Edge. Heading from Shrewsbury, this an especially challenging incline for heavy vehicles and those towing trailer and caravans. An increase in the volume of traffic will see more instances of hill starts when traffic has come to a halt. And this brings me to another concern.
Driving from Cressage toward Much Wenlock along the A458, it is possible to see if the traffic is at a halt at the bottom of the incline from a long distance. If it is, the temptation is to turn off at Wig Wig and try to get ahead of the blockage. This single-track lane is unsuitable for more than the occasional car or tractor and certainly hazardous for a large vehicle which would have to negotiate the ford and the tight bends. Any use of this as a cut-through would be a major inconvenience to the local residents and an added frustration for drivers who shouldn’t be using the route.I’ve aired my concerns with the hard-pressed highways team who have to juggle essential maintenance by Network Rail, the Highways Agency and our own Shropshire Council Highways department, along with the various electricity, water, gas and telephone undertakings. They understand my concerns – and mine aren’t the only ones. As a result, a meeting is being arranged to re-examine all of the options and consider what traffic management measures might ease the load for local residents and for all motorists. I’m hoping that, by bringing all parties together, we can look forward to a less congested Victoria Road than might otherwise be the case.