The A303: Highway to the Sun

Tom Fort

The A303: Highway to the Sun

The A303 is one of the essential routes of English motoring, promising to whisk the traveller towards the green and honeyed lands of Somerset and the far west to a world of holidays and escape (although these journeys all too often grind to a standstill.) Yet the 303 is more than a road. It is a story. Four-and-a-half thousand years ago the bluestones of Stonehenge were conveyed west from the river Avon along a small section of its route. Roman roads crossed it and drovers' paths lie beneath it. Its route cuts across some of the finest chalkland in southern England. Tom Fort wanders across the summits of the downs, takes in the views and investigates the evidence of ancient habitation and worship. He samples the fare at the Willoughby Hedge Cafe, legendary among truckers. He seeks out service stations and inns and turnpike toll houses; tells stories of dreadful crashes and highway robberies; of solstice seekers and Stonehenge; of Queen Guinevere and Sir Launcelot; of army camps and racing tracks; Battles and festivals; of churches, abbeys, farms, houses, burial mounds, trout fishermen and falconers. Digging in dark corners, exploring long-forgotten byways and poring over ancient maps, Tom Fort has created a book of travel, and of social and cultural history, as alive to the England of 3000 BC as the England of 2012 AD. 3.4 out of 5 based on 5 reviews
The A303: Highway to the Sun

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Travel
Format Hardback
Pages 368
RRP
Date of Publication May 2012
ISBN 978-0857203281
Publisher Simon & Schuster
 

The A303 is one of the essential routes of English motoring, promising to whisk the traveller towards the green and honeyed lands of Somerset and the far west to a world of holidays and escape (although these journeys all too often grind to a standstill.) Yet the 303 is more than a road. It is a story. Four-and-a-half thousand years ago the bluestones of Stonehenge were conveyed west from the river Avon along a small section of its route. Roman roads crossed it and drovers' paths lie beneath it. Its route cuts across some of the finest chalkland in southern England. Tom Fort wanders across the summits of the downs, takes in the views and investigates the evidence of ancient habitation and worship. He samples the fare at the Willoughby Hedge Cafe, legendary among truckers. He seeks out service stations and inns and turnpike toll houses; tells stories of dreadful crashes and highway robberies; of solstice seekers and Stonehenge; of Queen Guinevere and Sir Launcelot; of army camps and racing tracks; Battles and festivals; of churches, abbeys, farms, houses, burial mounds, trout fishermen and falconers. Digging in dark corners, exploring long-forgotten byways and poring over ancient maps, Tom Fort has created a book of travel, and of social and cultural history, as alive to the England of 3000 BC as the England of 2012 AD.

Reviews

The Independent on Sunday

Tom Hodgkinson

What Tom Fort has done in this excellent primer is to combine English history and myth with a host of nerdish facts about the road, some cultural analysis and not a little literary reflection to boot. There are quotes from Thomas Malory about King Arthur and his trip to Amesbury; visits to grand houses such as Montacute; perorations on the state of British farming. Fort gets down on his hands and knees to decipher the ancient lettering on ancient stones and reveal stories from the days of Ethelred. Fort's book is also a meditation on the motor car itself: is it a force for darkness or for liberation?

20/05/2012

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The Daily Mail

John Harding

The journey Tom Fort takes us on, which ends when the road disappears, unremarked, into the A30, is into the past, not simply the mists and myths of Stonehenge, but through a time warp into the motoring age of Mr Toad and the joy of the open road, when travelling itself was fun, and not simply about getting there. It’s a nostalgic experience, informative, humourous, charming, but pervaded by the bitter-sweet scent of regret.

26/04/2012

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The Sunday Telegraph

Clive Aslet

Despite the nostalgic cover illustration, Fort doesn’t flinch from the 21st century … One achievement of the book is to explain Jeremy Clarkson … Fort has an eye for the quirky, the absurd, the pompous — and a style that, like the road, is always on the move.

09/05/2012

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The Times

Iain Finlayson

Highway to the Sun as a title has rather a desperate air, rather like an ad man’s invention of Torquay as “the English Riviera” ... It’s mostly famous, says Fort, as “the road that passes Stonehenge”, which gives him a cue to travel the road back in time, beyond its recent incarnation as a Utopian dream of a great arterial route to the South West, to the Roman roads and drovers’ paths that preceded it. Fortunately, Fort’s journalistic instincts for a good story quickly snap him back to modern times and the quirky, quaint reality of life on the road.

05/05/2012

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The Independent

Jonathan Sale

The A303 takes the scenic route, with historical detours and geographical byways. Wincanton is one of the few towns to be twinned with a fictional place, Ankh-Morpork from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series … Keep his book in the glove compartment, to read at points where two lanes squeeze into one.

29/05/2012

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