There is one place, however, where the A3 has been stuck in time, and that's the small town of Hindhead. By the time traffic flow had outgrown capacity there, alternative route options were severely limited and there was no easy answer. The road was cutting through some of the most beautiful and ecologically sensitive countryside in the UK, and political concerns were at odds with environmental ones. After decades of argument and maneouvring, the solution finally agreed on was to cut a tunnel under the hill and create a bypass by going underneath. It took some time to come to fruition, but, in 2011, the Hindhead tunnel was opened; one of those rare projects completed within budget and on time. So what happened to the old bit of road made redundant? Well, the contractors ripped up and disposed of the tarmac, and encouraged the land to revert to its natural state. The effect this has had on the area is staggering, as I was fortunate enough to see when I went for a walk there a week ago.
The first, and probably most obvious, change is that the Eastern and Western halves of this Site of Special Scientific Interest are now reconnected. A shrew no longer risks its life to travel the 40 feet or so from one side of the old carriageway to the other. Nature is no longer divided.
The second change is the effect on one's senses. Standing on the old A3, the smell is of woodland, and the sights and sounds are purely natural. The only real acknowledgement of man's presence is the other walkers enjoying the same new-found freedom.
From a photographer's point of view, there are many more interesting benefits. The complete removal of motorised traffic, and the resultant reduction in pollution, means many species - both fauna and flora - are thriving once again. The presence of a generally clear track in amongst the heather, gorse and broom means the views out to over the Devil's Punchbowl are not only as stunning as they once were, but you can also now simply stop and stand to observe them where previously you could only fleetingly do so from a moving car window, and even then only if you weren't the driver.
The Hindhead tunnel was a significantly more expensive option than the other two routes that, for environmental reasons, were rejected. This shows the value people place on responsible stewardship of the world around us. And when one goes for a walk there and sees the benefits, one realises that perhaps it wasn't so costly after all.