It is my day off. The sun is shining, there is a slight breeze, in other words it is a perfect day. And what am I doing? I’m photographing a motorway. Yes, I must be mad. Well, I know, it is not just any motorway, it is the M25, the London orbital, but still, for most people I must be mad.
So let me try to explain. First I have to admit that I love roads and driving. It doesn’t matter if it is a narrow country lane in Scottish Highlands or a multi-lane freeway in Los Angeles. I like them all. But my fascination goes further than simply driving along them. Being slightly geeky I have become really interested in road building, road design and all the associated technologies. I also like photography and I take a lot of pictures of roads and road signs. From that perspective walking along the motorway in search of some good views should seem a little bit less strange. At least I hope so.
I started my adventure by carefully studying the OS maps covering the southern bits of the M25, which I chose because it is relatively close to where I live. There I was looking for some interesting features because, let’s be honest, a plain stretch of motorway is boring even for someone like me.
I identified the M25/M23 junction as quite an interesting structure and planned my trip around it.
I started my walk at Merstham train station which is conveniently located less than 500m from the bridge carrying the A23 (called here London Rd) over the M25. From this bridge there is a nice view to the east where two railway bridges carry the London-Brighton line over the motorway. Another good vantage point is the pedestrian bridge carrying the North Downs Way above the M25, located a few hundred meters to the west. That’s where I crossed to the north side of the motorway.
I then followed the trail as long as it went along the Rockshaw Rd. This local road crosses the railway line which runs here in a deep cut and then, after a bit over 1km, it also crosses the M23 motorway, just north of its junction with the M25. You can see some of the slip roads but the multilevel core of the junction is not really visible from here. For that you have to continue along the Rockshaw Rd until the Warwick Wold Rd and then turn right (south). This road crosses the M25 on an overpass just east of the junction. From that overpass there is a good panorama of the 3-level junction, a great photo opportunity.
I then crossed under the M23 south of the M23/M25 junction and followed Bletchingley Rd until the first public footpath heading to the right (north). It looked promising at first but quickly become overgrown and poorly marked. Or I should rather say not marked at all. At some point I got actually lost but then spotted some barely visible trail in the waist-tall wild grass. That little path brought me back to the trail running just south of the M25. I couldn’t believe how such a rural and bucolic landscape can be so close to such an important artery. Only the constant noise reminded me that the London orbital was running no more than 20-30m from the trail.
Just before returning to Merstham station there is one more pedestrian bridge over the M25 and it offers a great uninterrupted view of the railway bridges, located probably just over 100m to the west. It is a perfect place for taking pictures combining motorway and trains. A truly sweet spot for any infrastructure geek like me.
So that was my motorway walk. It might be bizarre, it might be strange but I really had a good day and I’m already planning more ventures in the vicinity of the M25.