The Roundabouts of Great Britain

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Kevin Beresford is the President of The United Kingdom Roundabout Appreciation Society, an odd group of people who meet in and around Redditch, a town in north-east Worcestershire, to discuss everything about roundabouts – their architecture, design, style, location as well as their safety features. Any why not? Roundabouts are not only an essential traffic management system but they also provide space for gardening, sponsorship and sculpture. These roundabouts range from a simple expanse of grass to magnificent landscaped beauties. Some feature works of art or are wildlife havens, others are sources of local history. There are 10,000 roundabouts in the UK. Redditch alone has over forty.

The society started in 2003 when Beresford's printing company was looking for something different to put on a calendar that he intended to present to his suppliers at Christmas. Beresford chose roundabouts and sent a graphic design student with a camera to shoot the best roundabouts in town. Beresford initially printed only 10 calendars, but the response he got was so overwhelming that he ended up selling 100,000 calendars the world over, and the Roundabout Appreciation Society was born.

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The Magic Roundabout in Swindon. Photo credit: Roundabout Appreciation Society

Never before has anyone  written so poetically about the traffic rotary. On the society’s webpage, Beresford wrote: “Roads are often condemned as being scars on the landscape but with the coming of the roundabout in all their glory, they counteract the road’s unsightliness. With infinite variety, colour and creative-ness, these bitumen babes lift our sagging spirits on long tiresome trips. The roundabout is truly an oasis on a sea of tarmac.”

British roundabouts are indeed very expressive. You’ll find statues, fountains, war memorials, gardens, topiaries, sculptures, even pubs, cinemas, shrines, windmills and duck ponds.

Each year, the members of this peculiar society meet on a bi-monthly basis in a pub in Redditch, and they swap stories – stories about roundabouts the members encountered on their holidays. They exchange pictures of roundabouts and discuss the different aspects of these “traffic islands”. Then before Christmas, Beresford brings out a new calendar with 12 of the best specimens. These are apparently chosen by Beresford himself and not the society. “I'm never outvoted," he told The Independent. "This society is not a democracy."

The first roundabout was set up in New York's Columbus Circle opened around 1904. The first roundabout in the UK appeared in the Garden City of Letchworth 1909. It was originally intended not for motorists but to help pedestrians cross the street. They became so popular that in 1960s UK developed a miniature version that could be installed in more places with lesser space. The development of roundabouts reached its pinnacle in Swindon’s Magic Roundabout consisting of one large roundabout surrounded by five mini satellites. The Magic Roundabout has been called the most confusing roundabout in the entire country.

Today roundabouts are common in Europe with 10,000 in Britain and France leading the tally with 30,000. Roundabouts never became popular in America who got its first modern roundabouts only in the 90s. But it’s catching up fast – their numbers have grown from a few hundred to 3,000 in the past decade.

Also see: Cloud Appreciation Society

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A roundabout with a duck pond in Otford, Kent. The pretty pond, which is circled by willow trees, is thought to date back to Anglo Saxon times. Photo credit

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The duck house was placed on the pond in 1960. Photo credit

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The Holgate Windmill in York is located in a roundabout. The windmill was built in 1770. Photo credit

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The Holgate Windmill in York Photo credit

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The BFI London IMAX is located in the center of a roundabout junction. Photo credit

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The BFI London IMAX. Photo credit

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The BFI London IMAX. Photo credit

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Mini roundabouts such as this are scattered all over the UK. This one is located in St. Johns Wood, London. Photo credit

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Another mini roundabout in Greenwich. Photo credit

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A double mini roundabout in Bury St Edmunds, UK. Photo credit

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The Shepherd and Flock roundabout in Farnham has a home in the middle.

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Street view of Shepherd and Flock roundabout in Farnham.

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The Magic Roundabout in Swindon. Photo credit

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The Magic Roundabout in Swindon. Photo credit

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A Chinese pagoda in a roundabout in Birmingham. Photo credit

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Located in the centre of the Holloway Circus roundabout on the Inner Ring Road, the pagoda forms a landmark for the nearby Chinese Quarter of the city. Photo credit

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A min roundabout in Longbridge island, Birmingham, has a beautiful floral display with an old Mini in the middle. Photo credit

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The Silicon Roundabout in London. Photo credit

Sources: BBC / The Independent / Duerr's / Telegraph

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