UP until 18 years ago, my worst nightmare would have been being set upon by a pack of rabid dogs. But that was before I endured the journey from Hell with four young children.

Ever since then, were I a prisoner being interrogated in the basement torture chamber of George Orwell’s Room 101, the mere mention of the M25 would break me within seconds.

So, when my husband, organising a trip to his family home in Kent, announced recently: “There’s no other way round it. You’re going to have to drive down with Albert and meet me and the other boys there as I’ll be down South already,” I instantly broke out in a cold sweat.

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Following my traumatic experience, I have refused to drive on Britain’s busiest and most congested motorway, also known as ‘the road to damnation’ in our house.

“Have you forgotten the full horror of what I had to endure back then?” I bawled.

Just as we were about to return from a trip to his family home in Kent back in 2000, he got a call from work and announced he had to catch a train to London at the last minute, leaving me to drive back home with the children on my own.

“It’s easy, follow the M11 North and you’ll end up on the A1,” he said.

Since the eight-year-old had been projectile vomiting through the night, one of the others had come out in chicken pox and the baby was suffering from diarrhoea, his sudden need to get to work did seem mightily convenient to me.

But we had to get home, so I had no other option. Used to driving on North Yorkshire’s lovely open roads, with largely courteous drivers and straightforward signage, the congested South-East is always difficult to navigate.

My journey on Britain’s busiest motorway, which encircles London and has six lanes in parts, was made even more unbearable than usual with four sick and squabbling children in the back.

Although I stopped where I could to clear up sick and change nappies, it wasn’t always possible and, after the Dartford Tunnel, to a chorus of: “Mum, it smells. He’s hitting me. Ugghhh, he’s just vomited again, I want to get out,” I momentarily lost sight of the sign saying ‘M11 North’.

I suddenly hit an unforgiving junction where I could either veer right for Stansted Airport or left for London, with no time to think in impatient traffic.

Not wanting to end up in the middle of an airport and knowing the A1 went straight into London, I veered left, reckoning I could probably pick up the A1 from there. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Without the benefit of Sat Nav, and with no map in my husband’s car - since he knew the route off by heart and didn’t need one – I found myself driving through central London, with no idea of how to escape.

By now I was crying too. After what seemed like weeks, I saw a sign to Manchester, so followed that then, eventually, ended up near the more familiar territory of Leeds. I was shaking by the time we got home, which seemed a lifetime after we had set off. It was a miracle we all got back in one piece.

That was when I swore I would never drive on that road again.

Unfortunately, a train was out of the question last week, as we needed a second car in Kent. So I started Googling ‘How to avoid the M25’, in a desperate search for a circuitous route via another part of the country.

The boys thought I was being pathetic and weak. One of them even had the cheek to suggest I should ‘man up’. Short of hiring a helicopter, there seemed to be no way round it anyway. I had to face my demons.

And I did it. Although I missed one turn-off, drove round some roundabouts several times and arrived two hours later than I should have, I actually did it.

Now I feel such a sense of achievement, like I’m a fully grown adult driver, capable of anything.

But still, I don’t want to do it ever again…