LOCATION: Just on the edge of the town of Nailsea, is the prize-winning Tout's Budgens store.

Location: This site is just off the M4, on Shepiston Lane, right near Heathrow Airport.Forecourt: Banners out the front of this spacious forecourt highlight the goodies inside including a Greggs and a Subway. One banner says 'Fuel your senses'.

LOCATION: My target, Verwood Motors, part of the Central Convenience Stores enterprise, is situated on the B3081 that runs through the town of Verwood, between the A31 and A354.

LOCATION: This Shell site is on a roundabout just outside Brenzett on the Romney Marsh. The site is very visible from the roundabout but it's not obvious how you get to it. I had to turn one way and do a U-turn to get in. There used to be a Little Chef adjacent to the forecourt but now it's a business selling sheds.

LOCATION: Located on the busy A20 in West Malling, Kent my stealth check target is the prize-winning Parkfoot Garage. The site won the first Forecourt Trader of the Year award in 1996 and, for the past four years, has been the Best Site in London & South East in the 4mlpa plus category. Now that's consistency and surely worth another visit.

Location: This site is on the busy A607, also known as Leicester's Golden Mile.
Forecourt: This is a very impressive looking site. It is clearly signed from the busy main road with the BP sign as well as Spar, Costa Express and Subway branding plus the fuel prices, which were very competitive.

LOCATION: My target is located just to the north of the 'railway town' of Crewe, close to Bradfield Green on the B5076. It is the first MFG- owned garage to trial the Morrisons c-store concept 'Morrisons Daily'.

Location: South Cave is a village, approximately 12 miles from Hull. This Sewell on the go site is just off the busy A63.Forecourt: It's a very impressive drive into the site with the pole sign featuring BP, Costa Express, Subway and Nectar points.

LOCATION: Northbound on the M5 and wanting refreshment and to refuel, I just had to head for Gloucester Services (located between junctions 12 and 11a), the 2015 Forecourt Trader of the Year winner. I had heard so many good things about it I was determined to see it for myself.

LOCATION: My target, the Chatham Road Service Station, is located just south of junction six on the M20 and north of Maidstone on the A229. The site is on a service road and if travelling south, drivers must go right round a busy roundabout and come back on themselves. It was okay for me as I wanted to visit the site, but it's a bit of a hassle for local drivers. To make it worthwhile, it needs to be special.

LOCATION: Coalville, a former coal mining town in north west Leicestershire, lies on the A511 trunk road between Leicester and Burton upon Trent. This site is the first in the UK to be branded Essar.

LOCATION: Hill's Retail Redditch Service Station is close to the new town estate of Winyates, in the middle of a large residential area. Situated on the B4497, it is also very close to a large Bristol Street Motors site and a Morrisons superstore that sells fuel.

LOCATION: The busy A103 Hornsey Rise road dissects the middle of an area bordered by Upper Holloway, Stroud Green and Crouch End. So, my stealth check target is surrounded by thousands of houses.

LOCATION:Swaythling, to the east of Southampton, has lots and lots of households with lots of motors, but only a few superstores, service stations and convenience stores. So, great potential for the Applegreen-branded service station near West End and close to a roundabout on the busy A27 that threads through the district.

LOCATION: Micheldever Service Station is located on the A303 eastbound at Popham and was, until recently, an Esso 'On the Run'. It is now one of the growing numbers of Euro Garage sites in the south. There are the usual 'service station ahead' signs on the A303, but the service station pole is not visible until drivers are on the slip road up to the site.

LOCATION: It has been some time since I visited a large site with a shop operated by a national multiple and where, perhaps, the local team has little strategic autonomy its task being to run the enterprise effectively as dictated by head office.

It is reported that the new My Local convenience store chain "will operate in the space between independents and multiples, with the emphasis on local and fresh". It could be argued that this is the same space that many Budgens operate in. But Budgens is facing possible change now that Booker has purchased it and Londis from Musgrave.

LOCATION: A free tourist guide to North Norfolk gives a warning to motorists that they may find petrol stations tricky to find. It then gives a list of towns with a filling station so a pin in the list and I find myself off to do a stealth check in Burnham Market.

LOCATION: Shell Lymington is located on the busy A337 Christchurch-to-Lyndhurst road at the village of Pennington, just a mile or so outside Lymington.

LOCATION:

High Noon Northbound Services is on the busy A40 between Monmouth and Ross-on-Wye at Symonds Yat. High Noon Stores won The Grocer Gold Award in 2014 as the Independent Retail Chain of the Year, so I was keen to visit this site in such a popular tourist destination.

LOCATION: This Forecourt Trader of the Year award-winning site is located on the busy Portsmouth Road, just off the A27. It is on the edge of a dense area of housing, by Highbury College and next to a pub.

LOCATION: The Commandery Service Station, one of four owned by Burns & Co, is located right in the city centre of Worcester. I also planned to pop into Hereford to visit another of their sites.

LOCATION: The Falcon Garage at Tadley is located on the A340, where it snakes around the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) towards Aldermaston.

LOCATION:

Paul and Pinda Cheema are well known in the convenience store sector as award-winning retailers. Last year was a significant one for them they purchased their first service station, left Costcutter and agreed a partnership with Nisa.

LOCATION: Wild Goose Garage, what an intriguing name! So, thought I would make a stealth check, then learned that the enterprise had won Best Pace Forecourt in the 2014 SuperStation Awards. Even more reason to make a visit.

LOCATION: My target is a family owned business, in the heart of the Derbyshire Peak District, on the A623 at the village of Calver.

LOCATION: Very close to the busy centre of the small market town of Romsey is a BP Park & Shop service station. In such a central position it is very accessible and visible thanks to its large branded canopy and pole with prices.

LOCATION: Just outside Broadstairs on the A255 are two large retail parks both part of the Westwood Gateway complex including major superstores offering fuel at highly competitive prices. They provide fierce competition for my target site the Broadway Garage trading as Morrison's Budgens of Broadstairs.

LOCATION:

A business with a service station, shop, franchise to sell new and used Vauxhall and Chevrolet cars and a micro-brewery must be worth a visit! Bellingers has two sites one in Abingdon and my target at Grove. It is on the A338 just outside Wantage and is clearly visible the distinctive Jet service station and Vauxhall car display make it hard to miss.

LOCATION:

Just outside Windermere, on the A591, is the small village of Ings and my target its service station. The forecourt and shop are co-located and part of a large area that also includes a significant parking area, a restaurant/motel (now closed and boarded up) and one of The Lakeland Motorhome Centres. The entrance to the motorhome showroom is right next to the forecourt shop.



LOCATION:

My target is in the beautiful holiday area of North Pembrokeshire. It's located on the B4329, just outside the small village of Eglwyswrw.

LOCATION:

At the southern end of Uckfield is a Petrogas Applegreen site. This was the first Applegreen to introduce a Subway store and a new store design. I was interested to see it now, after about a year of trading.

LOCATION:

My target is the prize-winning Fraser Budgens site at Marlborough. It's located on the Marlborough Business Park, just a mile from the town centre, opposite a large Tesco (no fuel).

LOCATION: Last year, following a few weeks closure for a new-build, this site re-opened as Essentials of West Meon a Nisa/BP Service Station

LOCATION:

The village of Oxshott is located between Esher and Leatherhead. Close to the main Chelsea FC training ground, it has been described as the "most expensive village with the most footballers in England". My reason for this visit is MRH Retail's new convenience store, Hursts.

GENERAL APPEARANCE:

On the north west outskirts of Corby, at a roundabout, is the new Southern Gateway Business Park. Currently it only has three completed developments - a Premier Inn, a Beefeater restaurant and my target, the award-winning Brobot site.

GENERAL APPEARANCE:

Pickering, just south of the North Yorkshire moors, is probably equidistant between Whitby, York, Thirsk and Scarborough. My target is the B&M Harland service station, because it is the first to sell Spar-branded fuels.

GENERAL APPEARANCE:

I have read a lot of positive reports about Simply Fresh the fast-growing symbol group that places great emphasis on community-based, family-owned businesses that are encouraged to support local suppliers. The rustic style of branding promotes the concept of fresh foods and has an intriguing tag line 'convenience just got better...'. All this encouraged me to visit the first forecourt to sign-up to the group the Lunn site on the A38, a busy main road between Bristol Airport and the M5.

GENERAL APPEARANCE:

The Esso Snack & Shop Wellington Service Station is virtually located on an 'island'! An island made up of the Archway Road (A1) and North Hill that joins Aylmer Road and leads onto the North Circular with its access to the M1. Traffic is constant, at times horrific, and there is very little access for pedestrians. I was interested to see how the 24/7 Wellington Service Station managed its shop offering to what must mainly be vehicle-based customers.

GENERAL APPEARANCE: I felt it high time I visited a Shop'N Drive site so 'stuck a pin' in the Rontec website Petrol Station Finder and came up with Milton Road, Southsea.

GENERAL APPEARANCE: Applegreen Fairies Cross is located in the Republic of Ireland on the outskirts of Tralee, the county town of County Kerry. It is a corner site with a lot of passing traffic and is near the Kerry Technology Park and the Tralee Pitch & Putt Club.

GENERAL APPEARANCE: Freshwater Garages is in Freshwater town centre, on the Isle of Wight. It is on a corner, is very visible and is opposite a large Southern Co-op.

GENERAL APPEARANCE:

I was happy to pull into the Shell Halfmoon service station as its advertised pole prices were competitive. I also needed a snack for lunch and was interested to again sample some of the Shell 'Deli2go' range.

GENERAL APPEARANCE:

A Forecourt Trader reader suggested a visit to a site with friendly staff, Joblings Garage in Bicester. It is a BP/Mace site, right next door to the Joblings

GENERAL APPEARANCE: This site, developed by the James Graven group, is perhaps better known as Spar Littleport and for winning best environmentally friendly outlet awards. In October 2012 the enterprise was leased to BP.

Morrisons Petrol Station Feb 2013GENERAL APPEARANCE: Just south of Bridport, on the B3157, is a Morrisons. But my stealth check target was the supermarket's petrol station and shop.

GENERAL APPEARANCE: Not far from the cathedral is the Forecourt Trader of the Year 2012 prize-winning enterprise, Budgens of Wells. Opened in July 2011, the BP forecourt and Budgens store is located in the heart of a dense housing area.

GENERAL APPEARANCE: Ward End Service Station is the unit where Booker recently introduced its new Premier Food & Fuel concept. The bespoke offer is now being rolled out. The trial received good publicity and I was keen to make a 'stealth check' on the test store.

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About the Forecourt Trader Group
Forecourt Trader continues to maintain its market-leading position as the major source of information for the petrol-retailing sector.

Targeted at independent retailers, all those connected to the industry seek out Forecourt Trader (magazine and website) for its strong mix of news, industry and retailer profiles, as well as scheduled features that cover all categories of a service station operation at length, on both the forecourt and shop side of the business. ...more »

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