Well, what can one say about our visit to Bradley Stoke. To be honest, not a massive amount ... Wikipedia says that it’s ”...Europe's largest new town built with private investment” and that it “...is bordered by three motorways on three sides -the M5 Motorway to the north, the M4 Motorway to the east and the M32 Motorway to the south ... The town is predominantly residential with some retail and commercial areas.” So there you have it. But there’s a bit more to it than that – the road names give something away – it’s rammed with hi-tech aerospace stuff – Concorde, Airbus, that sort of thing ... that’s what they do here. Despite its initials (surely someone thought of that???) there no bullshit about the place. It’s clearly a place that is making a significant contribution to something. We weren’t here for that, though; we were here to visit family as part of our odyssey, on our way further south-west.
Our first reaction to the place was that it’s a nice little dormitory town kind of place. We were here at the weekend, so there were people around mowing their lawns and chatting over their fences. It’s clearly a newish area – it was started in 1987, so nothing’s very old. But it was clearly built in that era when the planners knew that private space was important so the houses have garages and gardens. It felt nice and clearly there was something of a community spirit at weekends anyway – we saw it. We also heard that there isn’t much community during the week, but we can’t comment first-hand on that. It’s certainly better that other new towns we’ve seen and experienced.
What we would say is that it has a really interesting-looking Community festival annually ... and there aren’t many new towns that have those.
But really what we wanted to talk about in this blog entry was the driving and associated things. Now, we are northerners (now). We admit freely that we don’t do much driving south of York nowadays (none at all if we can help it) so we were prepared for the aggression on the road, even on a Sunday when we went down the A1, M18, M1, A42 and M5. Pushy is a word, too. “Indicators” isn’t a word, however, that gets much use, and that stuff one learns about Mirror-Signal-Manoeuvre is translated down here as Manoeuvre-Signal-Mirror. Same abbreviation, I suppose and at least the signal bit gets in there somewhere. So many close calls! But the other thing that’s worth commenting about is the service areas on the motorways. Twice we either failed to find the entrance or the exit ! Leeming Bar (used to be a service area, but it’s now been downgraded to a “Rest Area”) has a sign off the motorway, but then no more. We could see it but never found it! Nary a sign to be seen. We wondered how much trade they get! The other one was Gloucester Services where they let you in OK, but then signpost you away from the motorway when you try to get back! Hotel California, maybe.
One more mention of MSAs, and that’s Bridgwater Services ... which has a multi-storey car park! Never seen one of those in an MSA before!
That got us down to Devon. Honiton, to be precise. More shortly.