Bishop of Chelmsford Stephen Cottrell on roads

PUBLISHED: 09:18 03 May 2016 | UPDATED: 09:18 03 May 2016

Stephen Cottrell

Stephen Cottrell


Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, grew up in Leigh on Sea. In this Essex Life column, Stephen shares an insight into his experiences across the county

Most people in Essex have a love-hate relationship with the A12. We like the fact that it gets us from A to B, or should I say from Ipswich to Ilford, but we moan about its bumps and potholes (then moan even more when there are roadworks to mend them) and we bewail its traffic jams and delays.

However, this route has been around for a very long time. A map from 1766 shows a thoroughfare that most of us would recognise as the A12. Before that there was a Saxon route from London to Colchester, and this roughly followed an even older Roman Road.

I live right next door to the A12. Fortunately we have good double glazing, so although its noise is a constant backdrop to my life, we don’t notice it too much indoors. But if you open a window or sit outside, you can’t escape it. The only time I have known it quiet is when there were simultaneous traffic jams going north and south, and the whole thing ground to a halt. But even this welcome quiet was probably at the expense of traffic accidents and personal misery somewhere else.

We need roads and we need to get from A to B. We are grateful for our cars and feel safe and powerful when we are driving them, but many of us drive too fast and too often. In fact, many of us take our cars and roads for granted. Yet even keeping to the speed limit, or better still driving below it, will not only save us money, but also help the planet, contributing a small reduction to the colossal amount of carbon dioxide we pump into the air, and make us and others more safe as we travel around this beautiful county.

So here is a strange thing to praise — I give thanks for the A12! It helps me get about and I am thankful for that. But here also is a prayer. Lord, teach me wisdom as I travel. Help me to slow down.


Stephen Cottrell is the Bishop of Chelmsford and was born and brought up in Leigh on Sea. He was previously the Bishop of Reading and has worked in parishes in London and Chichester, as canon pastor of Peterborough Cathedral and as part of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Springboard team. He has also written widely on evangelism, spirituality and discipleship.

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