Personally, coach journeys are never something I look forward to. If there is any form of alternative transport available instead of a coach, I will always opt for that. Trains, planes, cars, tractors, ferries, speedboats, horseback, rickshaws, go-karts, arthritic camels and carrier pigeons are all preferable to coach travel, even though human-lifting carrier pigeons haven’t yet been invented.
I think my coach travel aversion was formed during school field trips away, where I’d spend the whole excruciatingly long journey doing my very best to make sure I wasn’t ill. Even now, the smell of coaches instantly brings back the intense and uncomfortable feelings of nausea that I felt back then, which sadly starts the whole process off again.
However, here’s the thing: when I travel on buses, I feel absolutely fine. The impending feeling of doom just doesn’t materialise. And yet, it’s essentially the same vehicle. I have never been able to work that out, and therefore find a cure, much to the disappointment of National Express executives everywhere.
Because most of my coach experience was obtained years ago, I do sometimes think that modern coaches are different, and that I might survive a journey longer than a few meters. There is one way I could find out though, and that is by booking a journey and seeing what happens.
If I did take an experimental coach journey, I would surely choose to depart from the shiny new bus and coach station in Gloucester that has recently opened after a £7.5 million refurbishment. The grand opening of the station saw many old and restored buses and coaches displayed in the new terminal, evoking memories of how the station might have looked many years ago.
As with today’s new transport hub, the previous bus station would have been buzzing with the arrival and departure of coaches and buses, with passengers alighting from their vehicle at the end of their journey, mingling with the expectant travellers at the very start of theirs.
Before the site was a bus station though, it was still a lively centre of activity, but for the business of transporting animals instead of people, as it was the location of Gloucester’s cattle market.
Looking on the Know Your Place website, a recent map showing the bus station site can be overlaid with a 1st, 2nd or 3rd edition OS map from 1888, 1903 and 1923 respectively, allowing an easy comparison of the site through time.If you would like to know more about what the old cattle market was like, there is a video on the Gloucestershire Archives YouTube page containing audio of Brian Frith sharing his memories of it, which includes some old photographs of the site taken from various collections that are held at the archives. It can be found here.
In addition, the Know Your Place website has a facility whereby users can upload their own historical photos onto the map for everyone to view. For example, if someone had a photo of a bus doing its rounds on the streets of Cheltenham from the 1960’s, they could upload that photo onto the map at the place the photo was taken. The more people that can upload photos, the richer the resource. Instructions on how to do this are available on the website.
Another resource for transport enthusiasts is a Gloucestershire wide bus shelter survey, which is available to view at Gloucestershire Archives. This is a database of photographs made in 2001 on behalf of Gloucestershire County Council’s Environment Department, primarily as a report on the condition of the shelters at the time, with a view to replacing them.
Although the database was initially used to check the condition of the shelters, it’s now more useful to view the roads, countryside and buildings surrounding them, as it’s easy to see any changes that have occurred since the photo was taken. For example, a car showroom shown in one photo in Stroud has now been developed into a care home and a pub in Brockworth has been demolished and is now a housing estate.
The bus shelters are all mainly still there today though, in one guise or another.
I might even see a few of them on my experimental coach journey. Assuming I’m well enough to look out of the window that is.