A perceived road-classification oddity

Calthrop

Established Member
Joined
6 Dec 2015
Messages
2,281
I don't drive, and nowadays rather seldom travel as a car passenger; which may contribute to a thing witnessed recently, having struck me as strange. Spent a couple of days recently in Dorset, travelling around with a friend -- he the driver, me the passenger and assistant with navigation. Friend has rather a liking for using minor roads for getting from required A to B -- fewer other vehicles to have to share the road with ! On one journey, we needed to get from near Shaftesbury to near Weymouth. His large Philip's "Navigator" GB road atlas showed, running due north -- south for some seven miles from a junction with the B3081 at Cann Common near Shaftesbury, to the outskirts of Blandford Forum, a from its "atlas" appearance, very minor road: which he adjudged excellent as part of our route. From appearance in atlas, I -- admittedly ignorant about these matters -- was prompted to slight uneasiness: the road was "uncoloured" in the atlas, denoting sub-B-road status -- and a particularly "narrow" version of this symbol; and shown in the atlas as slightly eerily ruler-straight -- with no settlements along it. This caused to me, visions of possible poorly-surfaced / grassgrown "forest ride" stuff; we agreed, however, that we would give the road a try -- should there be problems, there would be ways of extricating ourselves.

On our taking this seemingly highly-minor road, I was surprised to find it looking more like a "B" or even lesser "A" road: width appropriate for same, well-surfaced, dashed white line down the middle -- this throughout its seven-mile-odd length. Essentially, little traffic: that, at country-lane level. A phenomenon which I can't recall ever encountering before -- generally, I have found minor roads as per map, to look / feel / behave like minor roads ! The A350 lies a mile or two west of my "strange road", throughout; wondering prompted as to whether this might be a relatively new development of the superseding kind? Or: the Army is prominently on the scene in this part of the country, with assorted training facilities -- the one big instance of traffic activity we saw while driving along the weird road, was a string of military vehicles heading rapidly in the opposite direction. Could it be that this road has been made over to the Army to do with as they wish, for training activities re things vehicular; with their allowing its use, to what little civilian traffic there is -- presumably reserving the right to close it off when they require to do so?

The two road atlases (different makers) which I possess, both show this road with the "uncloured = unclassified" symbol, and decidedly narrow. The O.S. "Landranger" map shows it as "yellow" and "generally more than 4m wide" ("yellow" = unclassified, but a step above uncoloured tiny lanes / tracks). I find it intriguing that map-wise, an "unclassified" road can, in real life, look bigger and more imposing than is usually the case with roads shown thus on the map; and wonder whether this situation maybe obtains more often than I would have imagined. Would be interested in participants' thoughts on this issue. (My friend who was driving, found this whole thing totally uninteresting, and had no views about it to offer.)
 
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

Gloster

Established Member
Joined
4 Sep 2020
Messages
1,872
Location
Up the creek
I walked that road on the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Bank Holiday in 1977 (June 7, I see from google). My recollection was that it was not unduly wide, but I didn’t know the classification or how to drive then. I just assumed that it was one of the old ridgeway tracks that run along the tops.
 

JonathanH

Established Member
Joined
29 May 2011
Messages
7,872
More about the road you describe here
The A350 south of here is a horrible road and you are recommended to turn left onto the A30 and then right onto the B3081. The B3081 TOTSOs after a few miles, but carry on the now unclassified road. Whilst there is narrow bit through Melbury Abbas, the road from there onwards is far better than the A350, which this road then joins again at Blandford. Apparently the 'high road' between Shaftesbury to Blandford Forum is the C13 from its junction with the B3081 at Cann Common to the junction with the A350 on the Blandford Forum bypass.
https://www.sabre-roads.org.uk/wiki/index.php?title=A350

...and here
https://www.ndorsetlibdems.com/dcc_a350_c13_traffic_scheme

DCC's A350/C13 Traffic Scheme - Judicial Review
NORTH DORSET LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

'Melbury Abbas and Cann Group Parish Council' have filed for a judicial review of Dorset County Council's traffic management scheme for the A350 and C13 roads. The scheme affects Melbury Abbas village and the wider area.

Brief Background

The A350 Blandford-Shaftesbury road was designated in 1922 and, despite a huge increase in motorised traffic since, both it and the parallel-running C13, have not been fundamentally improved to this day with increasing traffic chaos.

These days, massive continental juggernauts from the Poole Ferry terminal, on their way north to the M4/M5 motorway network, and then back south again, are travelling along the two roads. But the roads are hardly better than cart tracks in places - and still Dorset County Council and the Government do not come up with proper long term solutions to the problem.

On the 6th December 2017, Dorset County Council decided to continue with its advisory system for heavy good vehicles (HGVs) travelling between Blandford and Shaftesbury. This asks HGVs to travel north on the A350 and south on the C13.

This decision was arrived at, it is understood, against the representations of the police and emergency services who instead wanted weight restrictions placed on the C13. Such restrictions are understandable as the C13 through Melbury Abbas is mostly a single track road with many tight turns and very steep gradients. Traffic chaos can then build up when two HGVs, proceeding in opposite directions, meet in the village and cannot pass each other.

And this can easily happen as it is apparent that many HGVs are unaware of the DCC advisory system. So, it only needs one HGV going north along the C13, most likely from Continental Europe, to cause a complete grid-lock in the village for many hours - wasting the time of the police and many others as it is all unpicked. And in addition diverting all the traffic onto the A350 causing more confusion there.

The council supported its new advisory system with some improvements to the A350/C13 such as the following:

* Surface improvements and kerb-stone replacements where necessary.
* Enhancement of the current signing to advise of the advisory one-way route.
* Application of an anti-skid surface on the uphill section of Spreadeagle Hill.
* Installation of new vehicle activated signs (VAS) in Melbury Abbas including the creation of a new lay-by, with VAS signs, at Melbury Abbas for use when there is another HGV in the narrow section.
 
Last edited:

Dai Corner

Established Member
Joined
20 Jul 2015
Messages
3,127
The classification of a road is more about its importance locally, regionally or nationally than its quality.

Not all important roads have been built or improved to a good standard, such as the A35 between Bridport and Axminster, especially through Chideock.
 

Snow1964

Member
Joined
7 Oct 2019
Messages
929
Location
West Wiltshire
The A350 is a very strange road as it’s quality varies every few miles, parts of it are on new alignments, and some parts have earthworks and bridges for dual carriageway (but only one carriageway was built). Other parts are rather poor. It used to end at A4 but gained a few miles with extra section to M4

The are a few roads in South Wiltshire and Dorset which seemed to have been improved about 20-50 years ago which seem to link some army areas and camps to the military training grounds and ranges on Salisbury plain and around Bovingdon area. Some of these don’t show as upgraded on highway maps
 

Calthrop

Established Member
Joined
6 Dec 2015
Messages
2,281
Thanks to everyone -- highly enlightening.


As said in OP, I'm not well-informed about these matters; had had no idea hitherto, that there was such a thing as a "C" road -- as with our friend here, the C13. Existing, but rare? -- unless I'm still under my non-driving rock...

The classification of a road is more about its importance locally, regionally or nationally than its quality.

As I'm learning here -- a case, I feel, of "because such-and-such a generalisation is true in most cases, doesn't mean that it applies universally or officially".

The A350 is a very strange road as it’s quality varies every few miles, parts of it are on new alignments, and some parts have earthworks and bridges for dual carriageway (but only one carriageway was built). Other parts are rather poor. It used to end at A4 but gained a few miles with extra section to M4

The are a few roads in South Wiltshire and Dorset which seemed to have been improved about 20-50 years ago which seem to link some army areas and camps to the military training grounds and ranges on Salisbury plain and around Bovingdon area. Some of these don’t show as upgraded on highway maps

Altogether -- re yourself, and @JonathanH -- I had no idea that the A350 was, considerably, a problem road. As per OP: we eschewed it in favour of the C13 -- not because at the time we knew anything against it; but because of my friend's maxim, as per OP -- that minor roads have the "upside" of not having a lot of competing / interfering traffic on them -- and for sure, that paid dividends for him on the C13 !

Re the military connection: it would seem that my surmise was to some extent, on-target.
 

swt_passenger

Veteran Member
Joined
7 Apr 2010
Messages
25,458
I believe the general idea is that roads other than A & B are not labelled on signs or maps, but the numbers do exist for the local highway authority administrative or maintenance purposes only. If you see a C13 on a road sign it’s basically an error, or it was put up under much earlier rules. I’ve now found the current DfT advice is that C road numbers should not be shown on signs:

3.28 Some authorities choose to number their classified unnumbered roads, and can refer to them as C roads. This has no national standing, but we recognise that an authority may put in place measures to help identify a road. In the absence of a standardised national system of numbering, we advise that any local numbering is not displayed on signs.

The key point being that they aren’t nationally unique, and don’t conform to the zoning rules. So there’ll be loads of C13s, all over the country, not just in the area east of the A1 where you’d have the natural home of A1xxx or B1xxx.

C, D and/or U for unclassified roads all exist, AIUI not all areas use all three, or exactly the same definitions, but it shouldn’t matter as normal drivers don’t need to know the meanings…
 
Last edited:

PTR 444

Member
Joined
22 Aug 2019
Messages
812
Location
Southampton
Been along this road several times. I do recall a few years ago, southbound HGVs were diverted from the A350 to this road to prevent conflicts in the villages on the former route. Turns out it actually caused more problems due to sat-navs sending northbound HGVs that way as well. I recall a story about an ambulance responding to an emergency that got stuck in Melbury Abbas, and as a result a new one had to be called out.

In an ideal world, a bypass of Melbury Abbas would enable the A350 to be diverted over the overall higher quality C13. The valley may be a challenge but a railway-style viaduct could do the trick while blending in with the scenery.
 

Taunton

Established Member
Joined
1 Aug 2013
Messages
6,180
The Higher Shaftesbury Road. Like others around Blandford Forum, it seems it was improved in WW2 for military traffic. The road south from Blandford which branches off without a number straight through Winterbourne Kingston, Bere Regis and Wool to the tank grounds is the same. Similarly, the road due north from Dorchester towards Sherborne, passing behind Cerne Abbas is another, better than the nearby A-road. Thomas Hardy wrote a short story about the latter in pre-motor days "Interlopers at the Knap", which described it even then as "a monotonous track without village or turning for many miles".
 

Wilts Wanderer

Established Member
Joined
21 Nov 2016
Messages
1,570
I know this road very well, it’s definitely the route of choice between my home in Wilts and the south coast. Don’t go near the A350 between Blandford and Shaftesbury, it takes you around every field and twisting valley and easily adds 20 mins to the journey.

Always assumed it was the narrow width through Melbury Abbas that precludes it’s upgrade to A status, but it’s a really minor stretch of what is otherwise an excellent shortcut.

(To be honest, it’s better than many other A roads in the Wilts-Dorset area, not just the A350.)
 

Calthrop

Established Member
Joined
6 Dec 2015
Messages
2,281
I believe the general idea is that roads other than A & B are not labelled on signs or maps, but the numbers do exist for the local highway authority administrative or maintenance purposes only. If you see a C13 on a road sign it’s basically an error, or it was put up under much earlier rules. I’ve now found the current DfT advice is that C road numbers should not be shown on signs:



The key point being that they aren’t nationally unique, and don’t conform to the zoning rules. So there’ll be loads of C13s, all over the country, not just in the area east of the A1 where you’d have the natural home of A1xxx or B1xxx.

C, D and/or U for unclassified roads all exist, AIUI not all areas use all three, or exactly the same definitions, but it shouldn’t matter as normal drivers don’t need to know the meanings…

With respect -- fascinating and hitherto utterly unknown material, unlikely to have any real-life import to non-driving me; but, truly, most interesting.

The Higher Shaftesbury Road. Like others around Blandford Forum, it seems it was improved in WW2 for military traffic. The road south from Blandford which branches off without a number straight through Winterbourne Kingston, Bere Regis and Wool to the tank grounds is the same. Similarly, the road due north from Dorchester towards Sherborne, passing behind Cerne Abbas is another, better than the nearby A-road. Thomas Hardy wrote a short story about the latter in pre-motor days "Interlopers at the Knap", which described it even then as "a monotonous track without village or turning for many miles".

That Hardy guy -- context of his "home patch", you sometimes feel that he's like some attribute to Shakespeare: "the man who knew everything about everything -- past, present, and future".

I know this road very well, it’s definitely the route of choice between my home in Wilts and the south coast. Don’t go near the A350 between Blandford and Shaftesbury, it takes you around every field and twisting valley and easily adds 20 mins to the journe
Always assumed it was the narrow width through Melbury Abbas that precludes it’s upgrade to A status, but it’s a really minor stretch of what is otherwise an excellent shortcut.

(To be honest, it’s better than many other A roads in the Wilts-Dorset area, not just the A350.)

I'd never known the A350 to be a notorious horror; but, as above, this kind of thing overall very much not on my personal radar. I must have had some experience long ago, with the A350: a university friend of mine lived in Compton Abbas, and I stayed with him there a time or two; but, at many decades' remove, recall nothing about the road being particularly a "so-and-so" -- I never having done the driving, such non-recall likely not remarkable !
 
Last edited:

Ostrich

Member
Joined
15 Jul 2010
Messages
145
Ah - the C13 Higher Shaftesbury Road :D. I drive it quite frequently because as others have said, the A350 between Shaftesbury and Blandford had multiple speed restrictions through the villages, and more than a few sharp left and right hand turns. The down side of the C13 is the enforced 20mph through the extremely twisty Melbury Abbas - the self-styled "Village of the Jammed" - and the single lane traffic light controlled section through Dinah's Hollow. So it's swings and roundabouts, and I have therefore definitely maintained "knowledge" of both routes.

The "one way system" for HGVs was controversial - Melbury residents wanted HGVs banned altogether - but Dorset Council tried to mitigate their concerns by an umpty-million pound road improvement scheme involving passing laybys in the village and a high-tech warning light system that flashes up "Wait Here - Large Vehicle On The Way Through The Section" or something similar (I don't think I've ever seen actually lit up). They are now talking about a further long period of road closure to shore up the sides of Dinah's Hollow which are steep and apparently unstable. Scheduled for later this year I think. If you're caught up in this, BTW, just divert from Cann Common along the B3081, up Zig Zag Hill (once followed an HGV trying to accomplish this and get stuck on a bend - I did a U-turn!!), then on top of the Chase, veer right following the signs past Compton Abbas Airfield to rejoin the C13.

It has to be said, though, the C13 "racetrack" was - and still is - a potential death-trap. There have been countless accidents and fatalities on that section, both cars and motorbikes. It used to be national speed limit from the top of the hill outside Melbury Abbas throughout; now there's a long stretch at the Airfield end of 40mph and the rest of the road to Blandford is 50mph to just a few miles from that town. And be very, very wary of trying to drive it on an Autumn or Winter evening if there's fog or low cloud down on the Chase. I've only done it the once, lesson learned, never again. That's definitely when you stick to the A350 .....
 

randyrippley

Established Member
Joined
21 Feb 2016
Messages
3,645
The Higher Shaftesbury Road. Like others around Blandford Forum, it seems it was improved in WW2 for military traffic. The road south from Blandford which branches off without a number straight through Winterbourne Kingston, Bere Regis and Wool to the tank grounds is the same. Similarly, the road due north from Dorchester towards Sherborne, passing behind Cerne Abbas is another, better than the nearby A-road. Thomas Hardy wrote a short story about the latter in pre-motor days "Interlopers at the Knap", which described it even then as "a monotonous track without village or turning for many miles".
A lot of road improvements in Dorset were carried out by the Americans prior to D-Day to ease traffic to the ports. This may well be one of theirs. One they definitely did was the A37 over the North Downs between Clay Pigeon and Grimstone, bypassing Maiden Newton. They followed the route of a still-paved Roman road, destroying the archeology, but I guess that didn't matter then. It was subsequently widened again in the 1970's. I suspect Dorchester - Weymouth over the South Downs was part of the same wartime project, also following a Roman road
 
Last edited:

thejuggler

Member
Joined
8 Jan 2016
Messages
946
The classification of a road is more about its importance locally, regionally or nationally than its quality.

Not all important roads have been built or improved to a good standard, such as the A35 between Bridport and Axminster, especially through Chideock.
Its all about keeping traffic on the most appropriate roads, remember road atlases are also used by HGV drivers. What may be good for cars, may be totally unsuitable for HGVs.

It also works the other way. The road to Durness is the A838, but its single track with passing places. Its an A road because its the only road!
 

Calthrop

Established Member
Joined
6 Dec 2015
Messages
2,281
Thanks for further posts -- the C13 certainly seems to be a road characterised by history and drama in plenty.

A lot of road improvements in Dorset were carried out by the Americans prior to D-Day to ease traffic to the ports. This may well be one of theirs. One they definitely did was the A37 over the North Downs between Clay Pigeon and Grimstone, bypassing Maiden Newton. They followed the route of a still-paved Roman road, destroying the archeology, but I guess that didn't matter then. It was subsequently widened again in the 1970's. I suspect Dorchester - Weymouth over the South Downs was part of the same wartime project, also following a Roman road

The Americans were certainly busy bees around the south coast and "back thereof", in the run-up to D-Day. I have read that they had notions of straightening-out some irritatingly -- from their point of view then -- tortuous and restrictive rail routes in those parts; but in the end, nothing came of that.
 

Taunton

Established Member
Joined
1 Aug 2013
Messages
6,180
Thanks for further posts -- the C13 certainly seems to be a road characterised by history and drama in plenty.



The Americans were certainly busy bees around the south coast and "back thereof", in the run-up to D-Day. I have read that they had notions of straightening-out some irritatingly -- from their point of view then -- tortuous and restrictive rail routes in those parts; but in the end, nothing came of that.
The US Army Corps of Engineers apparently rebuilt the Didcot, Newbury & Southampton line of the GWR, in 1943, doubling the whole of the Didcot to Newbury section, and then carrying on to the first station south of Newbury, whereupon the Southern faction on the Railway Executive Committee panicked at the prospect of a GWR double track main line at Southampton and put the brakes on the project.
 

randyrippley

Established Member
Joined
21 Feb 2016
Messages
3,645
One thing the US Army Corps of Engineers wanted to do (for free, as training) was to level out Yeovil Town's famous sloping football pitch at Huish, but the club directors refused.
Stupid decision - it stopped Yeovil from being voted into the league several times
 

Calthrop

Established Member
Joined
6 Dec 2015
Messages
2,281
The US Army Corps of Engineers apparently rebuilt the Didcot, Newbury & Southampton line of the GWR, in 1943, doubling the whole of the Didcot to Newbury section, and then carrying on to the first station south of Newbury, whereupon the Southern faction on the Railway Executive Committee panicked at the prospect of a GWR double track main line at Southampton and put the brakes on the project.
One thing the US Army Corps of Engineers wanted to do (for free, as training) was to level out Yeovil Town's famous sloping football pitch at Huish, but the club directors refused.
Stupid decision - it stopped Yeovil from being voted into the league several times

I can envisage the Yanks viewing with some understanding, the Southern Railway's feelings here -- while disagreeing with their priorities: one gathers that fierce competition between different railroad companies was for long, a prominent feature of U.S. life. As for football; three-quarters of a century ago, didn't Americans regard everything about our kind of football, as totally mad and incomprehensible :s?
 

Top