Ever wondered what’s it’s like to drive a Bullocks coach? In this brand new series of blogs, we’ll be following Graham, one of our dedicated and long-serving drivers, as he describes his day-to-day work.
Wednesday 16th March 2022 – Cheltenham Day
“It's been exactly two years since I was at Cheltenham Races with a Coach Party. In fact, it was my penultimate job before everything stopped in March 2020. I remember it was a lovely sunny day and everyone had a great time, totally oblivious of what was to come. Well, I am here again with the same group but it's pouring with rain and very muddy today.
My colleague Dave collected the group from Manchester at 8:00am and I met him at Northenden at 8:30am. We do this for long days as we can only be on duty for a maximum of 15 hours, meaning I have an extra hour to play with at the end of the day. I must now finish before 11:30pm.
I took over the coach from Dave, put my tachograph in and set off down the M56 towards Knutsford. Here I joined the M6 and headed south. I was soon approaching Birmingham where I joined the M5. It was getting very busy now, so my speed reduced accordingly.
I asked the passengers if they wanted a comfort break at Frankley Services but they said no, as they were keen to get to the race course as early as possible. They were all in a very jovial mood, drinking beer and eating pastries provided by the trip organiser.
It was dry when we left Manchester but by now it had started raining. It got heavier and heavier and the traffic got slower and slower as we got closer to Cheltenham. My original ETA was 11am but this was a little optimistic considering the traffic, the weather and the shear volume of cars and coaches heading to the races. My Satnav said 5 miles to go but I was crawling in a very long traffic jam waiting to turn into the coach park.
I finally arrived about 11.45am, which was still OK, as the first race wasn't until 1.30pm. However, it was still pouring with rain and it is a long walk to the race course entrance.
It is "Ladies Day" today and everyone is dressed impeccably wearing smart suits, beautiful dresses, fancy shoes, hats and fascinators. There was a man selling plastic ponchos for £5 each in the car park and he was doing a roaring trade.
However, it's now my time to relax for a few hours before the long drive back to Manchester. I shut my eyes for a few minutes and am awoken by a knock on the door about 2 hours later. It was Rachel from Elite Coaches, now driving for Go Goodwins/Maynes. She was here with a group of race-goers from Bolton. So it was time to put the kettle on and have a chat and catch up with Rachel.
The next few hours go quickly chatting with Rachel about coaching, people and places and soon it is 6:00pm and our customers start returning to the coaches. They are very wet, some are happy with their winnings, some not so happy having not won anything.
By 6.:45pm, everyone is on board and I am ready to go, so I start driving towards the coach park exit. The problem is that there were 100+ other coaches who had the same idea and we all jockey for a place in the queue. This takes a while, but by 7:45pm I am out and heading north. The traffic is very slow all the way to the M5 but then it is pedal to the metal and 62mph all the way back.
We arrive back in Manchester at 10:30pm and I drop the group off safely at their local pub in Chorlton for yet more drinks before closing time. It's then back to our Cheadle Garage to clean the coach, park up and sign off just before 11.30pm.”