A Letter from Nantwich

June/July 2009                                                                                                       No signs at all (Part 2 of this letter) | Other views and news

Signs that take you all around the houses









No, Potteries town Stoke-on-Trent and the M6 motorway haven't relocated. This was a temporary confusion - since corrected - when old and new signs stood side by side. The sign on the right has now been removed.






THEY'RE changing the road direction signs in Nantwich, causing confusion to visiting motorists and anger to some residents who suddenly find themselves living on roads which have become major route for heavy vehicles.

   The picture above arose for just a few days when a new sign (on the left) was erected in Beam Street and before the old one (on the right) was removed.

   True, a further sign at the junction still sends Chester and Wrexham-bound traffic to the left - place names missed from the larger sign above.

   And still in place (in July, that is) is the old smaller sign (left) which sends traffic to the right to get to Crewe - contrary to the instructions on the new sign. 

   But now, the preferred route to Crewe would appear to be to the left along the A532 (with a turn off further ahead).

   Preferred, that is, by the highways authorities, at this point in Nantwich. Elsewhere in town motorists are sent to Crewe via a completely different route.

  The new route from Beam Street takes motorists to Crewe via the "back door". By that I mean that I have always thought of the A534 as the main way into Crewe. The most direct, anyway, for the centre of town.

   Note that Congleton is now listed as to the left - but it is shown as via the A534, the shortest route to which is to the right.

   The reason for all this - I am guessing - is that the road to the right is along a, currently, busy road on which there are parking problems. Residents cannot get access to the rear of their houses and so park on the road. Perhaps the authorities are trying to keep the road less busy - or at least with fewer lorries travelling on it. But they are thwarting their efforts because, as I write this, the small sign across the junction still sends traffic to Crewe along the A51 on to the A534  to the right. (See this update).

   A bugbear of mine when I drive through towns that I haven't visited before is when the place I am trying to find just disappears from the road signs. Of course, that might not always be due to the work of the people who design the signs.

    Nantwich is currently plagued by fools who delight in turning the signs to point in the wrong direction - quickly turning them the wrong way again when the highway authorities realign them. Maybe other towns suffer in the same way.


THE new signs started to appear last month - just after Cheshire East Council took over from the now defunct Cheshire Council - but I understand this is not down to the new authority and that the signs were on the cards at least two years ago. It doesn't help that the work of  replacing the signs appears to have come to a halt for the moment. 

IN another part of Nantwich, motorists are sent all round the houses to get to Crewe by yet another route, directed to the right by a sign at a junction where the "old" route was straight on (right). Again, this might be to keep traffic off a narrow street which saw a double fatality a couple of years ago.

   But the problem here is that a new sign (seen right) directs motorists to Crewe along the A532 (actually in completely the opposite direction) with the fourth sign along this route (below, left) saying the way to Crewe is via the A5020. The road hasn't changed, just the signage (as it's now called).

  That's the road where local residents are up in arms about more vehicles travelling on their route - endangering their children, they say.

   Note the inclusion of the route number A530 (with no destination) in the "straight ahead" list on the road sign. As the lower destination direction on that sign shows, the A530 is to the right.

   The answer is that Wellington Road is part of the winding A530 which continues for the very short distance to the Park Road junction (below). So the sign designers have pedantically listed it.




















   At that junction the route ahead becomes the A529. That accounts for the "Audlem (A529)" listing - brackets indicating that you are not on the A529 at the moment!  I always thought that information on a road sign applied to the junction ahead - an early warning - and not to the spot where the road sign actually stood.




BACK to the "Crewe (A5020)" instruction. That really is a route that goes all round the houses. To reach the A5020, which is several miles from Nantwich, you have to travel along the A500 towards Stoke-on-Trent (are you still following this?) and along that road two of the signs don't mention the A5020 or Crewe. Instead drivers find themselves directed to Stoke-on-Trent. Strangers must feel they have gone badly wrong somewhere.

   I also had a sat-nav with me. The female voice was giving completely different directions, programmed as she was to go the old way. With each "wrong" turn, the sat-nav quietly reprogrammed "herself" and tried again.

   I was eventually taken to Crewe Station and told I had reached my destination. Well, I was on the road I had keyed into the sat-nav, but at completely the wrong end of it and nowhere near Crewe town centre where I had been heading for the purposes of the test.


NANTWICH has been plagued by heavy lorries passing through the town - I'm not talking about those who deliver goods to Nantwich retail outlets - and so maybe the signs people are doing their best to stop this. You can, of course, guide lorries one way and cars - less of a problem - another way by imposing weight limits to keep the lorries off the problem routes.

   Maybe it will all turn out all right the end. Sadly, people who live on the new routes, which weren't quite so busy a while back, will have to learn to live with a problem previously affecting only others.

   There are roads in Nantwich where historic buildings were having their foundations shaken and the buildings were in danger of collapsing. Road calming has been introduced to Welsh Row, for instance. So that road is spared now, but it's no consolation to residents on the new routes.   


THE A530: The current road signage is not the first confusion in this town. When the roads were allocated their "A numbers" the roads people had a problem. The A530 road which had brought traffic from Middlewich to town met the Stone-to-Chester road (the A51 - and that number took precedence).

   A couple of hundred yards further on, Beam Street (which is off the A51 to the right) is the A530 again. The numbering continues along The Waterlode (inner ring road) and on to Wellington Road - all round town and virtually turning left or right at every junction. Then, as I said above, the A530 turns right into Park Road and heads for Whitchurch, after bearing left at the very next junction . . .



A left turn? Really?

AT this roundabout, the most direct route to Chester is not the A51, which is reached by another route "all round the houses" - almost a full loop, in fact - but straight on. Well, that's the way I would have sent traffic.

   True, you would have had to prevent traffic turning left at one point by the River Weaver bridge, and direct them to stay on the inner ring road (The Waterlode) instead. But anyone turning left at that point would find those aforementioned road-calming measures hampering their progress. Lorry or not.

   Strangely, that road (Welsh Row) is the A534 - a route number which seems to pop up all over the place in the Nantwich, so don't try to follow it off your own bat. At one point in town the A534 becomes the A51 and then goes back to being the A534.

   The road sign pictured here is in Station Road (the A534) as you approach the Pillory Street / Waterlode / Wellington Road junction.

    Audlem (A529), which is the Cheshire township that the Pillory Street / Wellington Road route leads directly to as the crow flies (but not from the point of view of A-road numbers), is not even listed on the signs. Georgina Ross - of the Wellington Road campaign group - drew my attention to that omission. See her comment here.

   You will note that all the route numbers are in brackets which indicate they are not direct routes. The road to the left is the A530, but this sign is on the A534 . . .   

   I don't know about you, but my head is spinning with the complexities of road sign numbering. Perhaps road signs should carry the number of the road they stand on as a plaque on the top.  

Censored sign

No, not a vandalised sign - they wouldn't have been so neat and taken so much trouble! - but, a temporary measure by someone in the highways department of Cheshire East Council to remove conflicting information on a road sign in Pratchitt's Row.

   This sign has now gone altogether, leaving just the recently-erected car park signs (right).