DOZENS of children made a dramatic escape from a coach moments before it went up in flames on a busy route through the New Forest.

Young Cub and Beaver scouts were on a day trip to Brownsea Island on Saturday, travelling along the A31 near Stoney Cross, when a motorist pulled up alongside the coach to warn of a blaze enveloping the rear of the vehicle.

The coach driver pulled over in a layby where all 57 passengers were successfully evacuated before the emergency services arrived.

Staff from the nearby Travelodge and Little Chef rushed to the scene to help, and fire crews arrived within minutes.

A spokesman for Hampshire Fire and Rescue confirmed that the service received multiple 999 calls at 9am as eyewitnesses watched the Wheelers Travel coach, which had started its journey at Chandler’s Ford, become engulfed by flames.

“Two crews were sent to the scene and on their arrival they found the coach well alight,” the spokesman said.

Police then closed the road as the firefighters, who wore breathing apparatus, battled against the flames using hose reel jets.

One lane remained closed for much of the morning as the fire crews stayed at the scene to damp down the coach, which was left completed gutted by the blaze.

Scouting assistant district commissioner Julie Spiller was on board with her pack from Chandler’s Ford when the fire started.

She said: “All the people, all the kids are safe.

“They came off the coach within moments and we were then looked after by the Travelodge and Little Chef staff.

"The fire brigade and ambulances were there within minutes.

“The driver pulled over safely as quickly as he could.”

The incident resulted in queuing traffic and congestion back to junction 2 of the M27.

The fire service said the cause of the blaze is not yet known.