This, our second foray into the commencement of London’s trunk roads.
A2 London to Dover (77 miles, originally Roman Watling Street)
This road is the only one of London’s five major trunk routes to begin south of the river. The modern road follows the alignment of Watling Street, along which Roman soldiers would have trooped on their way from London to Dover.
Unlike Chaucer’s pilgrims chatting on their way to Canterbury, because of a 20th-century one-way system the journey starts innocuously at a junction with the A3 outside Borough tube station, turning into Long Lane, right Tabard Street, right Nebraska Street before joining the A2 by turning left into Great Dover Street which has a real mix of housing along its half-mile length. There are plenty of council flats in long blocks, some old and some new but almost all with satellite dishes pointing southwards. Just visible to the south-west is Trinity Church Square one of the few unspoilt Georgian squares left in London and the only part of the area where you might aspire to live is 100 yards away to the right.
Comply Bricklayers Arms
L/By Old Kent Road
F New Cross Road
F Deptford Broadway
F Deptford Bridge
F Blackheath Road
F Blackheath Hill
5-mile ends at approximately here, but unlike other trunk roads, this area is picturesque. Nearby is Greenwich and Rangers House on the edge of Blackheath, a vast high open area.
A3 London to Portsmouth (74 miles)
This road starts where London nearly finished – at the Monument. The Great Fire of London was kindled just around the corner in Pudding Lane, killing only six people but destroying four-fifths of the City. The Monument was built by Sir Christoper Wren to commemorate the conflagration and is exactly as far away from the bakery where the fire began as it is tall. At 202ft it remains the world’s tallest free-standing stone column and became one of London’s first tourist attractions with its stunning panorama over the rebuilt city.
To be truly accurate, the A3 begins in front of the House of Fraser department store on King William Street, but somehow that doesn’t sound so interesting, although the road it stands is the more impressively named King William Street.
Ahead is the capital’s oldest permanent river crossing – London Bridge, which we cross and proceed to Borough High Street, an important bridgehead thoroughfare in medieval times when it was packed with all the bawdy revelry and lewdness that wasn’t permitted north of the river. Only one of the old coaching inns now survives – The George. It may be cunningly hidden up an alley just off the High Street but all the tourists and real ale drinkers still seem to find it, and rightly so. In neighbouring Talbot Yard, a blue plaque unveiled a decade ago by film director and former Monty Python team member Terry Jones marks the site of the Tabard Inn from whence Chaucer’s Canterbury pilgrims supposedly set off in 1386.
F Borough High Street
F Newington Causeway
Comply Elephant and Castle Gyratory
L/By Newington Butts
F Kennington Park Road
F Clapham Road
F Clapham High Street
R Long Road
F Clapham Common North Side
F Battersea Rise
F Wandsworth Common North Side
F Huguenot Place
F East Hill
F Wandsworth High Street
F & B/R West Hill
5-mile ends at approximately at the top of the incline known as Tibbet’s Corner. A sign depicts a skulking highwayman wearing a long-brimmed hat and brandishing a pistol has been erected in the centre of the roundabout, in memory of a famous highwayman who used to frequent the then lonely wastes of Putney Heath in the days before the highways were well policed.