Watford Gap

Almost the whole of the UK has heard of it but few know about it. It has been the butt of many jokes, Has a book entitled North of Watford Gap by John Brown, been written about in poetry and sung about by Roy Harper and also the players of Liverpool F.C. It is home to Britain's first ever motorway service station, the legendary Blue Boar Cafe. This less than likely rock and roll hangout was a thriving meeting point for any London-based musicians driving home from a shows or concerts. The service station recently celebrated its 50th anniversary prompting a huge party on the site and this film from BBC Northampton, Watford Gap, the Musical, based on the stories and memories of people who have been part of Watford Gap services.

Although the gap is only 400metres wide, this is not a regular occurrence.
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Northampton Heights is a hill range stretching from Brackley in the south of the county to Rockingham Forest in the north, following the northern boundary of the county. The Heights are part of the Jurassic System, the line of limestone hills that stretch from Yorkshire to the Dorset Coast. The Gap is a natural break in this range that is only 400 metres wide. Since time long forgotten, it has been a main pass between the north and south of Britain. The Romans exploited it and made it an important route to travel between London and Wroxeter in Shropshire. They called it Watling Street but now it is more commonly known as the A5 and the Gap has always been a crossing point from as early as the 16th century on the stagecoach route.

watford gap
Copyright Stephen McKay and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Historically and traditionally it has served as a major connecting route for the midlands and the southern counties and continues to do so today. Within that little 400m wide, four mile long chink in the Heights, there nestles four major lines of communication. The A5 road, the West Coast Main Line railway, the M1 motorway and a branch of the Grand Union Canal, all traversing the gap in parallel.

Found in the Tube at Oxford Circus

"It’s certain you’re a Londoner when ‘going south’ means south of the river, and ‘the north’ starts at the Watford Gap", states the now famous advert seen on the London Underground. Watford Gap is named after the nearby village of Watford, however this is often mixed up with the much larger Watford found further down the M1. Southerners claim that there is no culture or sophistication north of Watford Gap, and northerners claim that humour, humility and humanity cease south of the Gap.