The switchback drive to Cannonball Corner on the A3

DESERTED Looking south along the old A3 over Butser Hill which has been re-opened for cyclists and walkers

DESERTED Looking south along the old A3 over Butser Hill which has been re-opened for cyclists and walkers

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How many of you can remember when the A3 over Butser Hill south of Petersfield was like a switchback ride?

Southbound, the road used to rise to 700ft above sea level then drop down 300ft or so to Cannonball Corner then up again to the Hampshire Hog pub before plunging down to Horndean.

Butser Hill is just less than 900ft above sea level but the old road never went over the top but to the east of it, Nevertheless, it was still a very steep climb from the railway bridge by the Buriton turn off.

This was when it was single carriageway. If you happened to be behind a lorry of some size there was very little chance of overtaking it.

In fog and falling snow the whole route was treacherous and walking pace was all that could be achieved at times.

In the late 1960s and ’70s when the A27 and M27 were built to bypass Havant and Farlington, chalk was excavated from Butser making a deep cutting below the original road. This was made for the new route through Butser with a dual-carriageway and was almost level. The old road was closed and rarely used, even by walkers, as the local quarry took over the road.

The old road has now been opened for cyclists and walkers as far as the old summit where you have to turn off into Queen Elizabeth Country Park. Hopefully the whole old road will be reinstated down to Cannonball Corner.

In the photo on the facing page we’re looking south up the road to the old summit.

To the right we are looking up to the top bank of Butser with the new A3 in the cutting out of sight to the right.

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