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 London buses from Warminster to Chitterne — via Salisbury Plain and a collection of bucolic villages, including Imber (hence the event’s esoteric name).
This 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.
Fast forward to a tipsy conversation in a Bath pub in 2009, a bit of 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.
It’s since ballooned into something of a cult event, some bus fanatics even coming from overseas.
How do you take part? All you need to do is get to Wiltshire on Saturday 20 August. HANG ON! we hear you cry — is there not a national rail strike that day? Well yes, one is scheduled. HOWEVER, Imberbus organisers have thought of that, and are putting on special coaches from London.
(If the strike happens to be called off, trains from Paddington to Warminster take as little as 1 hour 40 mins.)
The first vintage Routemasters run from Warminster at 9.45am, and the first buses in the other direction run from 11.04am. Buses then run throughout the day until late afternoon. (2022 timetable here)
There are various landmarks, events and refreshments to get stuck into along the way, including Imber Church, Caspers Cafe at Warminster Station, the village halls in Tilshead and Chitterne, and Market Lavington Museum.
Day tickets for Imberbus are £10 (children ride for just £1 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.
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.
By the way, cars, motorbikes, cycles, scooters and pedestrians are NOT permitted access to the military roads on 20 August, so don’t try to join in that way.
Get all the other information you need on the Imberbus website.