Escape back home from the south

Eee but it’s great to be back home away from the hustle and bustle of the south. When the M6 moves on from Manchester, the traffic thins dramatically, and from there on past Lancaster, Tebay services (the best motorway services in the whole of the UK), past the heart on the hill, past the snow-covered peaks of the Lake District, off at Penrith for the last lovely leg over Hartside to the North Pennines and home.

It’s not great in the south, to be frank: so many cars, such rude drivers, such well, such consumerism to be honest, such a rat race. We had to get to Dorset for a family birthday this past weekend, but we were fortunate to stop over in Herefordshire, from whence kindly brother-in-law drove us the rest of the way after an overnight refreshing. And back again on Monday and Tuesday. Lots of folks here in the Allen Valleys will have their own stories of family commitments and necessary travel, but I suspect there’s one common thread among us all: how nice to be home!

So we headed back from Hereford circa 10am yesterday, but the iPhone’s satnav took us way up into Wales, and around a variety of places when we thought, wait a minute, why aren’t we accessing the M6 here then? Apparently there was a serious incident on the southbound carriageway just before we started out, and so traffic was re-routed around the houses. But how, we wondered, does the satnav know about these things? Apparently it’s a question lots of folks have already asked Google. The answer is rather simple, and yet rather amazing at the same time.

“Beginning in 2009, Google turned to crowdsourcing to improve the accuracy of its traffic predictions. When Android phone users turn on their Google Maps app with GPS location enabled, the phone sends back bits of data, anonymously, to Google that let the company know how fast their cars are moving.” Thank you HowStuffWorks!

And so, unbeknownst to navigator and driver, Google Maps is quietly finding the most expeditious route to their destination, recognising traffic incidents, jams and congestion, as well as closed motorways, and re-routing them accordingly. Hence our hour detour and scenic route into Wales.

We nearly stopped off at Charnock Richard Sservices on the M6, so relieved were we to be on the main drag home at last, but remembered just in time that we’d forsworn any darkening of that particular place with our footsteps ever ever again. Lancaster Services, that ugly tower next stop further north, is probably second-to-worst, but at least they have a Costa coffee and a Marks & Spencer fast food of healthiness, and you can have a pee on the same side of the motorway as you’re travelling.

And so today feels almost like the start of the week, after a long weekend away. It’s great to be back.


  1. Couldn’t agree more, Larry, we made a similar trip last weekend, though not quite so far – Cheshire. It’s when you start seeing hills & horizons again that I love, round about Tebay onwards. But especially the road down from Alston.

  2. HA! That could have been written by us. Absolutely agree that it’s a great relief to get a certain point back north after a family visit down south…sigh!
    Interesting what you were saying about satnav warning you of hold-ups. Are you using Google maps on your phone? Anything that helps smooth the travel process is very welcome. 🙂

  3. I found your wonderful blog about a fortnight ago and this is my first comment. All of your posts are so evocative that I am instantly transported back to Northumberland and the North Pennines in particular.

    I live abroad and when I’m back in England I am often up and down the M6 and the A1M so this post brought a knowing smile to my lips.

    Keep up the great work.

  4. Thanks for the lovely comments! With only 48 more diary entries to go, to fulfil this crazy project of a daily diary about life in this community throughout this year, your kind thoughts give me courage to continue. Today we’ve been working on the cover for the eventual ‘book of the blog’ and I’ve been learning new editing techniques that will, I’m sure, really help the tangible book to sing.

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