IT’S been seven months since the Hindhead Tunnel opened, and now finally the old A3 has been left to the wild.
For decades, bumper-to-bumper traffic went around the top of the Devil’s Punchbowl.
But now, as the above picture shows, it’s been given back to nature.
Most of the tarmac has been lifted and the area will be left to its own devices.
Senior project manager Paul Arnold said: ‘Restoring tranquillity to Hindhead village is a big part of the new tunnel’s legacy.
‘Local people have played such an important part throughout the successful delivery of this major improvement project, and I’d like to thank them for their patience, especially throughout this final section of roadworks.
‘I’m delighted that we are now able to hand them a road that will help to realise Hindhead’s potential – both as a place to live and work, and as the gateway to some of the most stunning natural scenery in southern England at the Devil’s Punch Bowl.
‘It is now over to local partners to make the very most of this opportunity for the people of Hindhead.’
Ray Cobbett, co-ordinator of Hampshire Friends of the Earth, said: ‘We completely support it.
‘It seems to us to be a really good use for the land. To be perfectly honest it’s a beautiful area. It should make a wonderful path for cyclists and walkers.’
He said he was glad it was being returned to nature rather than an emergency road if the tunnel became blocked – an idea considered by engineers.
‘This is a fairly sustainable development,’ he added, ‘although it will encourage more traffic.’
The land is now owned and maintained by the National Trust as part of the Hindhead Commons and the Devil’s Punchbowl Cafe property.
Hindhead Youth Hostel is inside the bowl. It is a natural nature reserve, filled with heathland, streams and woodland. The site has abundant wildlife including the lesser spotted woodpecker, redstart and the wood warbler.
The £371m Hindhead tunnel, which is the longest road tunnel under land in the UK, has cut journey times between Portsmouth and London by an average of 20 minutes.