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Archive for May, 2011

Travel – Dolphins seen off Madeira, Mid- Atlantic Ocean

Due to its position in the mid-Atlantic Ocean, the island of Madeira is ideal for watching visiting whales and the many different types of dolphins.

At just five kilometres off shore the island shelf drops to a depth of more than 3,000 meters making these serene and beautiful animals easy to spot and watch from a boat.

These photos were taken by the author on one such visit on a rather grey day in May 2011.

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Travel – A3 Hindhead Road Tunnel Walkthrough; May 2011

May 15, 2011 3 comments

Balfour Beatty and the Highways Agency built this 1.2 mile, £371m twin bore tunnel under the well-known UK national beauty spot, the Devil’s Punchbowl, situated near Hindhead in Surrey.

The A3 is the main London to Portsmouth trunk road. The sole set of traffic lights on this road are at Hindhead, just south of Guildford on the Surrey / Hampshire border. It is these lights that have caused years and years of traffic delays resulting in hours and hours of lost time and additional petrol and diesel costs. This is now the longest underland road tunnel in Britain, completing the dual carriageway between the capital and the coast.

The BBC reported, The Devil’s Punchbowl, a large hollow of dry sandy heath to the west of Hindhead, is a site of special scientific interest and part of an international special protection area designated under the EU Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds. The existing A3 between the National Trust café and Boundless Road will be closed to through-traffic after the tunnel is opened and acres of land returned to heathland’.

After 30 years of lobbying, and owing to the need to get visitors down quickly to the sailing venue at Weymouth for the 2012 Olympics, the go-ahead was finally given for the project. Work began in January 2007. Over four years later, here we are and the A3 Tunnel opens for traffic this July and is expected to carry well over 30,000 vehicles a day.

The public walkthrough was held on Saturday 14th May 2011. Almost 7,000 local residents and visitors took part but many others missed out due to serious problems with ticketing and an inadequate website leading to considerable unhappiness locally.

We did manage to get tickets (after logging on one morning at 5am!) and – having already put up with a decade of development of the West Coast Rail Line whilst living in the north of England and having now spent several years of ‘rat-running’ through the Surrey lanes every morning to avoid the queues on the A3 – I was really pleased to be viewing the tunnel up close at long last. Hopefully, our morning commute will be less stressful in future?

I must say however that, having seen a number of major road tunnels in Norway, this one is not quite as impressive as some of its larger and wider European cousins.  

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