I drove down to Cleveland in Somerset today for a meeting, one of three in a ten day period involving major potential partnerships for Cognitive Edge. I avoided the M4 as anything around the M4/M32/M5 junctions at rush hour is a nightmare with traffic. So instead I headed down the A4 to Chippenham and down the A420 past Wick, where I lived in a commune during the 70's so passing the Carpenter's Arms always produces a trace of sentiment. From there a left turn after Warmley, a brief section on the A4 then round the backstreets to the A36 and a final cross country section via Yatton. Its one of those routes which is a pleasure to drive, if you know the way.
I've been driving variations on that route for several decades now so I know every passing place and thought I knew all the lay-bys with refreshment vans as well. I'd planned to pull into the lay-by on the descent to Chippenham for a bacon butty by way of breakfast but hard times appear to have resulted in closure. Not to worry I expected to find another but it wasn't until just sort of Bristol Airport that I finally came across one. Now this was a new discovery, and the product (see picture) was an exemplar of its kind. The conversation was fun as well, two aunts trying to explain why their niece should pay more attention to her mother's concern about late night returns to the family home.
Now these roadside vans are a feature of the roadsides of Britain, the equivalent of the American road side diner but even better! They serve breakfast and lunch, often with elaborate awnings to provide shelter. Their trade comprise commercial and business drivers rather than families and they provide amazing quality for price with good hygiene. I know one near Kidderminster where the bacon comes from an organic farm over the hedge, the bread from a local bakery and untreated milk from the farm over the road. I will drive miles our of my way if I ever get a chance to visit that one.
Compared the bland and branded motorway service stations, these small examples of entrepreneurship are a treasure, long may they survive.