studies in travel writing

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Fort, Tom, A303: Highway to the Sun (London: Simon & Schuster, 2012).

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 Café, 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.

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