An initial acquaintance having been sought by the Divine Comedy, on my first and recent experience of National Express it was a slight disappointment to find there was no ‘Jolly hostess serving tea’.
Nor was there one with a sizeable posterior.
Nonetheless the service was efficient and smooth on the journey to Sheffield. In fact it was a trip down memory lane, since a time long before regulated hours and ‘tachos’ it was a city I had only glimpsed from the steering wheel of a lorry, on the same nightly route to Huddersfield and back.
At that time motorways had only been in existence for a decade or so, and I well remember the almost-overnight difference that the opening of the first section of the M1 made to Fenny Stratford.
The continual roar of commercial traffic was replaced by an almost country lane tranquillity.
Many businesses also noticed a difference - in their profits. At the Fountain Inn at Loughton this amounted to £6,000 and a rates decrease was sought. As for the 48 Filling Station, the proprietors ended up in the bankruptcy court. When they took over the business they knew that the M1 would have an affect, but they grossly underestimated how much. As the official said at the end of proceedings: “This was one of the craziest ventures I have ever heard. It was a foregone conclusion when they started that they would end up here.”
In Fenny Stratford at the start of the motoring age, Mr G Harrold was stationed on duty at Swan Corner. He had a red flag to warn drivers, and then with the increase in traffic in 1939 a tender was accepted for dual carriageways between Stony Stratford and Loughton.
However the war intervened and in 1954 work began on the flyover for the bypass at Loughton. This opened in 1956, and until the coming of the motorway the filling station at the 46 Cafe was amongst the busiest in Britain.
Then for many years the site lay derelict until revitalised by the present car wash operation.
So it could be said that by his acumen the proprietor has certainly cleaned up - rather than get washed out by their own “crazy venture”.