When I first heard that I was going to be joining a coach tour of the M25, I must admit, I wasn’t exactly over the moon. However, in the name of Door2Tour I thought that anything was worth trying once and I might be pleasantly surprised by it all. Indeed, by the end of the coach tour my opinions were altered for the better and my new-found knowledge of one of THE most famous road in the UK astounds me…
After an early morning start to ensure that I was not late getting to Pease Pottage Services as I certainly did not want to miss the coach, would you believe it? I got stuck in a jam at the point where the M26 feeds into the M25, just before you reach Clackett Lane Services. It didn’t last long however and it wasn’t long before I could reach fifth gear and I was finally on my way to Pease Pottage for what I hoped was going to be the journey of a lifetime. Well, as much as it could be after all, I was taking a coach around the M25 and not Route 66!
Brighton and Hove Bus Company came to meet me and the other members of the media for the M25 tour. We left Pease Pottage Services at 11.00 and made our way to Redhill where we picked up the final passenger before hitting the M25 at Godstone at exactly 11.36. The crowd on board were jovial – some were customers of Brighton & Hove Bus Company who had paid the £15 each to join the ‘wet run’ of this ‘soon to be famous’ coach tour. Nigel Pullen was our Tour Guide with Graham Maskell as our driver. Simon Ashcroft was the brains behind the tour, although for the time being he was relegated to tea/coffee boy and provided everyone on board with refreshments. There was a cross-section of people travelling from WI Ladies to twitchers, journos to regular customers, both young and old. One gentleman on board, Territorial Army Para James Smith, bought a pair of tickets for the coach tour as a surprise for his girlfriend to celebrate them being together for 16 months – she only found out where she was going when it was announced on the PA! Basically, everyone was here to have a good time and to learn more about this famous road.
It’s amazing how much knowledge comedy Nigel has about the M25, for example, after an accident and depending on what time of day it is, there can be a tailback of at least 15 miles! Godstone is the major Control Centre of the M25 but there are other centres at South Mimms and in Essex. The highest point of the motorway is at Reigate Hill which has an incline of 220m – Nigel quipped that ‘oxygen masks will be dropping from overhead shortly’, and his funny tales just kept coming after that. Did you know that there is a website dedicated to motorway steps? Apparently a gentleman is trying to map every set in the country – he used to be a bus spotter. Also Old MacDonald’s Farm is home to the closest meercats to the M25 – bet you didn’t know that?
There are so many things about the M25 that I did not know about until I hopped aboard this tour and here are just a few of those fascinating facts:
M25: The Facts
- The M25 cost £909 million and took 11 years to build. One lap of the M25 = 202 km and it passes through 6 counties and one London Borough.
- During the first year of construction, there were approx. 454 accidents on site.
- When the M25 was constructed, it was planned that there would be a Service Area for every 35 miles – this isn’t always the case and Clackett Lane is technically the only Service Area that you can get to by Motorway.
- Robbie Williams once randomly stood in South Mimms car park and sang ‘Angels’? We tried to tempt Graham, our driver, to re-enact this but he was having none of it!
- An environmentally Service Station is going to be built at Cobham and will be completed by June/July 2012 – it will be harvesting its own rainwater!
- Some of the many sights mentioned in the tour are: The Pinewood Studios (where the James Bond movies and Carry On films were made), The Ovaltine Factory (at Jct 20), the Aeronautical Museum at Salisbury Hall, Canary Wharf, Stratford Olympic Site, Lakeside, Bluewater, Epping Forest, Ebbsfleet International Station and a beautiful Elizabethan Cottage.
- When the M25 first opened, there were no speed restrictions.
- The M25 is the only road in the UK that has a cricket square? It’s located on top of the Bell Common Tunnel. This Tunnel took 4 years to build and is over 470m long.
- Here’s a spooky fact: The M25 is rumoured to have various human body parts holding it up due to gangland killings and the dead bodies being dumped in concrete/cement!
- Clackett Lane Services is known affectionately as ‘the jewel of the M25’ and is the only Service Area that you cannot get to unless you are on the motorway.
- ‘Twitchers’ love the M25 tour because there have been sightings of Red Kites, Kestrels and Peregrines within the area. Nest boxes have been strategically placed on the overhead bridge signs to encourage these birds of prey – let’s face it, they will never go hungry, think of the road kill!
I’m sure that most of you are wondering how long it took us to travel clockwise (result of a coin toss) around the M25. I made a note of exactly when we joined the M25, when we stopped for lunch, our comfort break and of course the moment when we left the M25 and the tour came to an end…in total, we were travelling for 2 hours 47 minutes.
- This is just a sneaky peek at what you’ll find when you embark on the M25 coach tour as Brighton & Hove have some more tricks up their sleeves for this one! Some things were purposely omitted from the ‘wet run’ of the tour to encourage more people to hop on-board the tour – they definitely did not want to give the game away, that’s for sure. As we came to Junction 6 for Godstone, someone quipped from the back of the coach, ‘let’s go round again’ to which Nigel smiled and Graham said ‘you’ll have to find another driver’ (jokingly of course)!
At the end of the tour, we were all presented with our individual certificates for having ‘endured and enjoyed the M25’. I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed my time onboard the M25 coach tour and would recommend it to anyone who fancies something a little quirky – after all whenever most of us are negotiating the M25 it’s because we’ve got to concentrate on the driving and cannot (safely) appreciate this wonderful feat of engineering. This tour definitely opens up a different side to the M25 that I truly did not know existed until now!