For the ten years between 1983 and 1993, Stroud’s bus services operated under its own unique brand, ostensibly its own bus company, Stroud Valleys. The decision to rebrand Stroud’s operations came at the point in 1983 when the Cheltenham & Gloucester Omnibus Company split from the Bristol Omnibus Company. The new undertaking had inherited four very different markets and depots in Stroud, Swindon, Cheltenham and Gloucester. Recognising this and reinforced by a 1986 privatisation management buyout, managers decided to brand separately.Gloucester was very much a workaday sub-regional centre with extensive new housing and a local government focus. Cheltenham had long developed into an elegant bijou leisure & discerning upmarket shopping destination. Swindon’s ‘new town’ prosperity emerged from its high-tech industry & overspill accommodation. Here, buses needed to differentiate themselves from Thamesdown Transport. And Stroud? Stroud was fast becoming an area of two halves, rural & urban. Residents of the now increasingly gentrified Cotswold villages surrounding Stroud were more likely to use their 4x4s than the bus. A residual population in the town centres and parts of the semi-urban valley settlements still relied on bus services. Here, in the 1980s, population densities were still sufficient to secure a decent bus service. Young people from all parts increasingly felt that Cheltenham was the destination of choice, often using the bus to do so. Stroud’s chosen livery was fittingly retained as green, whereas Gloucester went blue and both Cheltenham & Swindon, red. The impression created at Stroud as elsewhere was of a locally owned, managed and operated bus company. And it worked. Head office gave direction but as many decisions as possible fell to local discretion. The optimism and enthusiasm thus generated was emphasised even further upon the management buy out of 1986. Thereafter, Stroud’s buses began to appear with a privatisation livery of what at the time was a rather racy yet fashionable stripy scheme, if you please! The so-called “Starsky & Hutch” application of a brash mustard flash against the conservative background of darker green spoke of progressiveness, modernity, forward thinking within the context of a conservative rural area. Directors admitted that it owed much to Badgerline’s design, then appearing to Stroud’s south. But there was no harm in that. Publicity reflected the brand changes. In the early years, this was accompanied by a caricature of a smiley bus.The livery, identity, branding and the local pride these engendered lasted till 1993, when Stagecoach bought the parent company. Thereafter, repaints were progressively in Stagecoach’s original “white ’n’ stripes” livery, though till 2003 Stagecoach retained the fleet name as ‘Stagecoach Stroud Valleys’. The last green bus ran out for the final time in July 1996, ending over three quarters of a century of green bus operation in the town, since the National arrived in 1919. Understandably, there was some sadness, among managers, employees and the general public. It is interesting that the former Ebley Bus operation now known from December 2007 as Cotswold Green has revived this once ubiquitous colour. Once again, at least some of Stroud’s buses are also now painted in green.
The double deck variant of the post-1986 livery, at Nailsworth’s at-the-time nose-in/reverse-out bus station
Saloon livery at Miserden on the deeply rural 563, which once provided a scenic alternative between Stroud and Cheltemnham