SOMERSET motorists face three weeks of lengthy diversions to allow a key route over the Blackdown Hills to be resurfaced.

Blackdown Hill Road runs along the Somerset-Devon border in the heart of the Blackdown Hills area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), providing an important link between the A38 near Wellington and the A303 west of Ilminster.

Somerset County Council has announced its intention to surface dress several stretches of the road in February and March, in order to make the road safer for vehicles and prevent potholes from forming.

The work will begin on Valentine’s Day and will be staggered over three weeks – with motorists facing diversions of more than 24 miles while the work is being carried out.

Surface dressing works by coating the road with bitumen, covering it with stone chippings, rolling it to press the chips in, and then sweeping the road to remove any debris.

The majority of surface dressing is carried out in the summer months, with the council regularly redressing more than 100 miles of roads across the county.

A spokesman said: “Surface dressing is a cost-effective way of restoring the road surface and sealing it in one process.

“Surface dressing also improves skidding resistance which makes the roads safer, helps to make a road waterproof, and protects the road against frost and water damage which causes potholes.

“Surface dressing involves treating roads which are in relatively good condition.”

Phase one of the Blackdown Hill Road surface dressing – which runs from February 14 to 18 – will cover the stretch between Lowton Road (near the former Merry Harriers pub) and the Hemyock turning towards Fore Street, leading to Wellington.

Phase two – which runs from February 21 to 25 – concerns the stretch between the Fore Street turning and Wellington Hill and Combe Hill, including the Quarts Moor viewpoint operated by the National Trust.

Phase three – which runs from February 28 to March 4 – will cover the road between Wellington Hill and Wrangcombe Road, which includes access to the Wellington Monument car park.

During each of these three phases, an official diversion will be in place, with motorists having to add up to 24 miles to their journey.

Traffic seeking to reach the Wellington Monument from the east will be diverted along the B3170 into Taunton town centre and pick up the A38 on Mary Street (near the Sainsbury’s petrol station).

They will then follow the A38 out of Taunton, past the Orchard Grove development site (including the new roundabout), over the Chelston roundabout and past the Jurston Fields development in the south of Wellington.

They will then take Wrangcombe Road – the last junction before the Exeter Road roundabout, where 205 new homes are being built – and head south back into the Blackdown Hills.

Traffic wishing to reach the A303 from the west will follow the same diversion in reverse.