Imberbus: Ride Vintage London Buses Over Salisbury Plain This August

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 6 months ago

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Imberbus: Ride Vintage London Buses Over Salisbury Plain This August

If this is your sort of thing, you'd probably like to read about our visit to Stockwell Bus Garage too.

Imberbus 2023: a line of Routemasters driving across the countryside
You wait ages for one vintage Routemaster, and then 25 turn up at once. Image: Peter Hendy, with permission

What's that coming over the hill — is it a 'master, is it a 'master?

Actually it's over 25 Routemasters. This is Imberbus — the annual parade of double-decker London buses from Warminster to Chitterne — via Salisbury Plain and a collection of bucolic villages, including Imber (hence the event's esoteric name).

Imberbus 2023: a green double decker driving down a country lane in a cloud of dust
Ohh, a green one. Image: Shutterstock

The uncanny sight comes with a backstory to match. Residents of the small village of Imber in Wiltshire were turfed out of their village by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 1943 so the land could be used for military exercises. They were promised their village back at the end of the war. That never happened.

Imberbus 2023: a modern Routemaster driving down a country road - a sign in the foreground warns of unexploded debris
You may spot the odd modern Routemaster too. Image: Imberbus

Fast forward to a tipsy conversation in a Bath pub in 2009, some schmoozing with the MoD's top brass, and the concept of Imberbus was born... Imber may not have any residents, but by heck, it was going to have a (once-annually) bus service.

Imberbus has since ballooned into something of a cult event, some bus fanatics even coming from overseas to experience it.

Imberbus 2023: a line of red double deckers driving down a country road
You ain't seen nothing quite like Imberbus before. Image: Imberbus

How do you take part? All you need to do is get to Warminster station in Wiltshire on Saturday 19 August 2023. Trains from Paddington to Warminster take as little as 1 hour 35 minutes.

The first vintage Routemasters run from Warminster to Imber at 9.45am, and then throughout the day every 15 minutes or so until late afternoon. Buses serving Tilshead, Chitterne, New Zealand Farm Camp, West Lavington, Market Lavington and Brazen Bottom go twice an hour throughout most of the day, while one morning and two afternoon journeys run direct between Warminster and Chitterne (not via Imber). Check out the 2023 timetable to see what's what.

Imberbus 2023: a few red buses parked outside a country church
In the pretty village of Chitterne. Image: Imberbus

There are various landmarks, events and refreshments to get stuck into, including Imber Church, Caspers Cafe at Warminster Station, the village halls in Tilshead and Chitterne, and Market Lavington Museum.

Imberbus 2023: a bus stop in the countryside
London's urban sprawl is getting ridiculous... Image: Imberbus

Day tickets for Imberbus are £10 (children ride for just £2 on top of this). This gives you unlimited rides, allowing you to try different buses, and stop off in various villages along the way. There's no need to book ahead — in fact you can't. Buses only accept cash, but you should be able to purchase tickets from a special desk at Warminster in the morning using a card. Cash machines are also available in Warminster Market Place — five minutes walk from the rail station.

In recent years, the event raised £22,000 for the Imber Church fund and the Royal British Legion — so your cash is going to a good cause.

Imberbus 2023: a green battle bus driving through the countryside
Battle bus! Image: Imberbus

By the way, cars, motorbikes, cycles, scooters and pedestrians are NOT permitted access to the military roads on Imberbus day, so don't try to join in that way.

Get all the other information you need on the Imberbus website.

Last Updated 19 August 2023

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