A while ago, I wrote about my collection of roundabouts. I have roundabouts that I am fond of. I even have a favourite roundabout. I also have a favourite motorway service station (and a number of runners up). So my weird thought is: doesn’t everyone?
My favourite motorway station is Michael Wood services in Gloucestershire. I’ve just been told, by someone more aware of his surroundings than me, that Michael Wood services is actually Michaelwood services and that Michael Wood isn’t a person, Michaelwood is a place. This has shattered my twenty-five-year-long image of my favourite services being named by some local celebrity chap called Michael. I’m not the only one who was under this illusion. Gyles Brandreth also posed this question.
There are a just two Michael Woods who it could have been named after (even though it isn’t): Michael Wood historian and Michael Wood Professor of Arts, Languages and Cultures at Manchester University. Sadly, though, it isn’t named after either of them. And also, even more sadly, they are one and the same person. There is only one Michael Wood. And he has no connection with Gloucestershire at all.
These services mark the half-way point between Stafford and Exeter on the M5 and so was a frequent stopping place for me when I was at university. I am therefore very fond of the place. My dad used to treat me to a cup of coffee and a jam doughnut there on our way to and from Exeter.
However, reviewers on trip advisor do not share my love for this west-country service stop:
‘I’m sorry for being negative but there is little to tempt the weary traveller here at Michaelwood services.’
‘We stopped at this services before reaching Exeter and wished we had carried on. The place is a mess.’
‘Oh dear the place looks shabby and run down.’
I haven’t been there for a while so perhaps standards have slipped. But until I do, it remains my favourite.