by Gar Cole
The tyres had barely cooled down on my little Fisher caravan following a blisteringly hot long weekend at the South Cerney steam show, just 3 days later I was packing up again ready for the 'Steam and Scrumpy' tour of Somerset, work has an annoying habit of getting in the way of our car hobby which dictated taking the caravan to the Cheddar campsite on the Thursday and setting up my pitch and the group banner, it did mean an additional 260 mile round trip but I didn't think my customers who I was driving to Southampton docks Friday morning would appreciate arriving at the luxurious Queen Mary cruise liner in a taxi pulling a 58yo caravan.
I've always loved Somerset and spent many happy family holidays around the Cheddar Gorge area and I always feel better once I've crossed the Avonmouth bridge , Petruth Paddocks campsite is a conrods throw away from Cheddar village and the owners are petrol heads and were very excited to be hosting our group, upon arrival I was greeted by Thomas Jenkins, his girlfriend Emily and their mate Thomos , thank goodness for the one letter difference or it could have been confusing, TJ's MK2 Granada looked as well polished as ever surrounded by 3 tiny pod tents. Having recently been given the moniker of 'Old Mother Cole ' I decided to fuss over the kids and make sure they had enough food and not just biscuits, I need not have worried, modern mobiles have something called 'App's and before I knew it fresh made hot pizzas were being delivered direct to the site, the wonders of modern tech, I bid the 3 intrepid campers farewell and headed home while tucking into my pre made Cornbeef sandwich, no Apps for this old dinosaur.
Arriving back at camp Friday afternoon I was pleased to see the expected biblical downpours had not arrived, also the campsite appeared to have entered a worm hole in the space time continuem, the front row was filled with classics from Jag XJS, Triumph Stag, Granada and Zephyr and gave the illusion of a campsite from at least 30 years ago, other campers were naturally admiring the cars and asking questions. Tragically I had arrived too late once again to help put up the Coleman shelter and it stood filled with table and chairs, we were still waiting on Mike Peake in Poppy the Herald and Last Minute Liam in the Rover P6 V8, the intrepid Debbie Fizz Berrimen had unfortunately suffered a mechanical issue on her Morris ambulance campervan and was awaiting recovery to Gloucester services.
Hungry faces started looking at me like a pride of lions looks at a steak so Old Mother Cole swung into action preparing a Chicken Chassuer for 12 people, Phil Allin was sceptical I could produce enough for everyone and in a reasonable time in my wee caravan, I shushed him up and set him to work chopping veg, which was soon taken over by wife Lorraine as he was making ' a pigs ear ' of it, just over an hour later a Cauldron full was bubbling and ready with more faces appearing at the door saying ' ooarr that smells noice ' in increasingly stronger and more bizarre Somerset accents, by the end of the night we all sounded more like Pirates ( Aharrrrr Jim Lad )
Arriving last was ummmm Last Minute Liam, with family in tow, we were all impressed watching their vintage 1960s inflatable tent being erected, way ahead of its time, in an effort to be helpful I pumped up the double airbed for them, it didn't occur to me it wouldn't fit through the narrow opening door into the tent, but the thought was there, as the evening drew on those of us in caravans looked eviously at Bernard and Ian's Caravan that was connected to the mains supply, and was boasting such luxuries as a working fridge and heater and lights, those in tents looked eviously at those of us in caravans that boasted such luxuries as a comfy bed, toilet and a waterproof roof ( but more of that later )
Poor Debbie had been messed around all day by the RAC and were now relaying her to Gloucester services where she would have to spend the night in the Morris camper until a suitable low loader could be sent first thing in the morning, having myself driven over 500 miles in 2 days I was the first to retire and left the others happily chatting around the campfire enjoying drinks and scrumptious gluten free cakes made by John's Ticehursts wife.
Saturday arrived in what seemed to me the blink of an eye , I slept a little too well and appeared to be the last to rise, lucky for me other cookers were making breakfast so I made myself a couple of cheeky bacon rolls and packed a bag of essentials for the tour (wine gums etc)
Word reached us from Debbie that she was expecting the lowloader at 9am so we made the decision to await her arrival so she could still join the tour riding shot gun in another car, as I was doing by riding in the back of Ian and Bernards Zephyr for the day. Sadly once again the RAC let Debbie down so she signalled for us to carry on without her, our climate changing convoy of V8s, V6s , Inline sixes and 1 four pot rumbled and thrummed our way out the campsite with that unforgettable smell of unburnt hydrocarbons, there had been concerns the annual Balloon Fiesta in Bristol would make it difficult to reach the SS Great Britain, however after a very pleasant 18 mile drive using the back roads into Bristol the traffic turned out to be remarkably quiet and we pulled in the ship's parking area.
We found a nice empty row and formed our own small classic car display, coach parties just arriving started taking photos before heading towards the ship, we were thrilled to be joined for the first time by 2 group members driving a stunning Austin Sprite, I'm hopeless remembering names sorry but I'm sure his name was Kevin , were always trying to encourage more local members to join us if a tour is passing by your town.
The SS Great Britain lived up to its reputation as one of the UKs best museums, you cannot fail to be impressed by the size of her and the engineering that went into building this ship 174 years ago, you are able to descend below the water line of the ship in its dry dock, a glass case encircles the ship with a thin layer of water on top which really creates the feel of being under water, huge dehumidifiers keep the fragile iron hull from rusting any further. The ship has been restored 1 area at a time in remarkable detail, we marvelled at how small the bunks and cabins were, even in 1st class it must have been quite the voyage on the 6 weeks trip to Australia, in contrast the first class dining room is a grand sight to behold, long banquet tables, gold gilded columns and paintings and even a piano. 1st class or not a tour of the galley kitchen complete with rats running around the cupboards was quite the eye opener, the whole ship is a fascinating glimpse into another time , for those of us who are admirers of Brunel's heavy engineering we found ourselves mesmerised at midships at the sight of the engine, a 4 cylinder monster taking up 3 decks in height, we estimated the stroke on the pistons to be over 12ft, seeing it all in motion again being driven now by electric motors was a real treat and we could only marvel at just how it must have looked in full steam with the pistons shooting up and down, steam hissing everywhere and the floors vibrating, you really must visit this ship if you get the chance.
We bid the SS farewell, after hearing the good news that Debbie was now safe at the campsite we decided to do the route in reverse so we could collect her from Cheddar, the convoy headed off to collect Debbie, however the ' 3 hoods ' in the Zephyr as we were described accidentally took a different road, knowing Debbie was being rescued by the rest of the party we trundled on our way towards the village of Priddy at the top of Cheddar Gorge and it was pure luck we arrived half hour before everyone else and were happily tucking into cheese n onion baguettes and pints before the rest turned up in what was now pouring rain, Bernard, Ian and myself practised our ' innocent smiles '.
Suitably refreshed we said our goodbyes to our new friends in the Sprite and the lovely olde world Victoria Inn and headed down the winding and twisting road that snakes its way through the Gorge, i was sat in the back of the Zephyr in total comfort and took the opportunity to film the steepest segment, as much as the rain, steamed windows and vacuum wipers would allow. Unfortunately at this point we lost Giles and John in the Stag after they suffered an overheating issue, which seemed strange as we were descending the Gorge not climbing it, being so close to the campsite they decided it was sensible to retire and limped back, it was later diagnosed as only being a water pipe not being tightened enough and they had slowly been losing all their water.
From here we drove through the picturesque countryside between Cheddar and Watchfield passing through several pretty but rain lashed villages, Watchfield is home to Richs Cider Farm, another place I've known about from childhood holidays, it has a lovely shop selling not only ciders but all manor of alcohol, exotic cheeses and jams and preserves, Debbie was more than happy to try a few samples of cider after her 24 hour ordeal at the hands of the RAC, the place also has it's own museum with 3 of the biggest oak barrels you've ever seen, one containing over 10,000 pints, plus a vintage tractor and restored delivery vehicle wearing the firm's livery, after helping swell their coffers we took a few photos in the rain and headed for ' Burnham on Mud ' as Lorraine 'Ooarrrr' Allin insisted on calling it. Let's be polite and say Burnham has passed it's heyday, the once impressive Victorian buildings along the sea front now looking faded and with peeling paint and green streaked plaster, in the gloomy rain filled skies it had a forlorn feel to it, undeterred we parked up along the front and headed for the fish and chip shop, the Battered Fryer produced a very decent meal from yet another tired shop front , the rain mercifully stopped long enough for us to enjoy our food and ice cream.
The drive back to Cheddar passed without incident and all cars performed faultlessly, however.... on returning to our campsite we found young Thomos tent had got soaked through, the same had happened to Liams inflatable tent soaking everything inside, living only 8 miles away and with an unhappy partner who doesn't really like camping he did the sensible thing and threw everything into the P6 and retired to a comfy warm home, we all sat in the Coleman shelter with rain drops forming on the roof poles and dripping on the table thinking Liam had the right idea, my reputation for inviting rain fall on our tours was well and truelly cemented, so nothing was left to do but crack open snacks, wine and other goodies and ignore the puddles building up all over the campsite.
Sunday drive out to Haynes museum.
Debbie had asked the more mechanically minded members of our group to have a look at her engine before we headed to the Haynes museum in Sparkford, now our regular blogger and admin Mike 'Fat Bloke ' Peake has recently had some success with the cars he's worked on, mine included, and in the absence of Gus Brooks A.K.A Super enthusiast man, he manfully offered his services, diagnosing the points as the cause of the loss of power and popping back through the carb, as the cover was removed from Debbies engine was removed we expected to see Mike fly past in a blaze or red and white, cape flapping in the Breeze, however Gus is a tad more slender than Mike and he ended up waddling past in star spangled hot pants and red boots, to the theme from Russ Abbots comedy show, all together now ' dun dun dun da dahhhhh, Blunder Woman ' .
I'll give you all a moment to delete that image from your mind 😎
Despite the tightness of the working area in the Morris engine bay and the chafing of the hot pants, Blunder Peake had the points changed in no time and the engine fired up and sounded sweet, a test drive showed Morris to be driving better but still down on power over 35mph, at this point myself and Tom Jenkins agreed it might have a blocked carb jet so I nipped out for a bottle of Redex, we put a whole bottle into only a quarter of a tank of fuel assuring Debbie that it might smoke a bit but would help clear any gunk out of the carb, as a final offer of advice Ian Woodward said the engine sounded retarded and Debbie should have the timing advanced at the first opportunity she had at a garage, feeling confident our convoy headed off on the scenic route through wells and Shelton Mallet to the museum, this time I was passenger in Andy Permans Allegro VDP auto and what a complete treat it was, I've not been in one of these for 36 years and usually when I get back into a car that we had in my childhood I'm always surprised how small they feel, my SD1 a prime example, but the VDP has great headroom and leg room galore, the wood and leather interior is a pleasant place to be and I can see why Andy loves it and is in the process of restoring a second VDP, Debbie's Morris camper seemed to be having no trouble keeping up at 50 mph so we pressed on to Sparkford.
You will not be surprised to hear it was raining at the museum, but now immune to the soggy feeling of wet clothes we lined the cars and camper up for some photos, the museum has been greatly extended since my last visit 7 years ago and is well worth a visit, something for everyone there and a great restaurant, a good place to meet up with friends on a cold winter's day.
At this point we had to say goodbye to a lot of our fellow campers who had to return home for that dreaded word 'WORK'
This left just the 5 of us, me with Bernard and Ian in the Zephyr and John and Giles in the V8 Stag, shortly after our friends departed the sunshine reappeared, not wanting to waste a minute we diverted into Wells, parking in the ancient square and enjoying a walk around the grounds of the Cathedral, I also showed the guys the filming locations used by the Film ' Hot Fuzz ' that was shot entirely on location in the city, Giles very kindly offered me a drive of the Stag back to the site but I politely said no but could I ride passenger, what an absolute treat being driven in this iconic car with it's V8 engine singing off the high stone walled roads, I loved it and can see why owners and enthusiasts hold these cars in such high regard, the evening was a real treat enjoying dinner at the excellent Brent Cross carvery and getting to know each other better as only spending quality time together can do.
A great weekend that triumphed over the weather with determination to enjoy it, oh and in case you wondered, Debbie did have her timing adjusted and made it all the way to Lands End, between 4 of us I think we sorted Morris motor home out 😀
By Mike Peake
WOW! THAT WAS AWESOME!. What a weekend. This is, in my opinion, the best static show that we attend as a group and that I have ever been to.
It is also one of the biggest. Just how big became apparent when I arrived on Thursday evening to find the exhibitors campsite section nearly full already. We were parked up by Marshals as we arrived, so it was impossible to reserve spaces for members arriving later. Fortunately we weren’t so far apart that a short walk couldn’t bring us all together for an evening chin wag.
The Brooks were first on site and caused panic and mayhem when they told us they’d seen a sign to say that gates were locked between 8pm and 8am. This caused me to rush around like a lunatic in order to have both cars and caravan onsite before the deadline and Gar to decide he’d have another night in his own comfy bed and join us Friday morning. (BTW, The gates weren’t locked at 8PM)
Campers the 1st night were Gus, Tosh and Bella Brooks, with the Austin Big 7, Jason Wright with his Triumph Herald 1200 Convertible, Poppy and me. A pleasant evening of chat and alcohol was spent and an early night was had.
Friday dawned a perfect summers morning. We were all up bright and early to set up the stand and were joined by Gar and Hattie Cole with his Fisher Holivan Junior 8 which was pressed into service as the pitch café providing many a tea, coffee, hot chocolate latte etc.
We were also joined by Darren and Karen Williamson with their rather lovely Morris Ital 1.3, one of 3 Itals Darren owns. It was great to see this nice couple hadn’t been scared away on the Peaks tour and had agreed to join us again.
Being Friday, the show was a bit quieter with fewer visitors and exhibitors than were expected for the actual weekend. Many of the Car Club stands were completely empty.
However there was still acres of fine old oily stuff to see with the working steam engines, commercial vehicles, buses military vehicles, tractors, small industrial trucks, motor bikes, emergency vehicles, as well as animal displays, a huge trade area and radio controlled model aircraft. Like I’ve said before, this show is MASSIVE!
Of course, my old favourite was there too. A 1941 Diamond T 980 Ballast truck.
I’ve made no secret in the group that my Grandad drove RT and Routemaster buses for London Transport. What I haven’t made such a fuss about is that it was the Army that taught him to drive and then sent him to North Africa where he spent a brief time driving Austin K2 ambulances, (Yes, just like “Ice cold in Alex”) before being transferred to tank transport and recovery using Scammels at 1st but then the Diamond Ts - a far superior vehicle as far as he was concerned.
Realising that our tanks struggled to drive themselves the large distances required over the rough terrain of the North African Desert, The British Army decided that they would need a lot more tank transporters. Scammel, their supplier at the time couldn’t mass produce the numbers required so the Army approached the American company and commissioned them to supply the Diamond T 980 and 981.
I have seen this truck a few times at this show now. I have always loved this particular Diamond T because it is the only one I have found that was actually in the desert at the same time as my Grandad, but this year it got even closer. One of my Grandad’s war stories was how he was in the team of drivers that unloaded the 1st batch of “Ts” to arrive in Alexandria and in fact, drove the 1st one off the boat.
Well, there was some new information on the show board this year. This particular “T” was in that 1st batch delivered. Well, that is close enough for me to say that it is highly likely that my Grandad actually drove this vehicle 77 years ago (In fact I have decided that he did). Therefore, I have even sat in the same seat he did all that time ago.
Sorry. I went off on a bit of a tangent there. I hope you don’t mind and weren’t too bored, but I was so excited to find this truck was even more closely connected to my Grandad, that I had to share it with you.
We took it in turns to man the stand and wander off to sample the show’s delights but all too quickly the show ended for the day and it was back to the campsite to await some more fellow members. We were expecting Phil, Loraine and Lucas Allin.
We couldn’t wait to hear about Loraine Towing a caravan at the speed of light, trying to keep up with Phil in his newly purchased XJS. The ever intrepid Chris Ball who was bringing his MGB all the way from Cricklade (about a mile and a half from the site) and of course our really intrepid mile muncher, Eric Dalton who was coming all the way from deepest darkest Scotlandshire.
The Allin’s and Chris made it but Eric’s Ambassador finally threw a strop and was heard shouting “I’m an old lady Eric! Have some respect!” as she coasted to a stop near Keele services on the M6.
Missing Eric, the rest of us settled down to a lovely chicken and beef stew provided by Old Mother Cole. Jolly delicious it was too.
Some time had passed, some wine was drunk and chats and laughs had and most of our gathering took themselves off to bed. However, Phil produced a bottle of gin and another of tonic. Well you know me - I’m never able to resist temptation, so I was severely led astray by Phil who kept me up until 2AM drinking sociably and putting the world to rights. (I will be introducing a “Brexit Swear Jar” for future events though. I Know, It’ll be me that fills it. Sorry about that.)
Saturday morning was another perfect summer dawn, I believe. I certainly wasn’t early or anything approaching bright but I did notice that Hattie, Gars dog, must have been at the gin bottle we had left out as we didn’t drink that much and Hattie spent the whole day asleep so that proves it.
As I couldn’t face even the thought of breakfast at that stage, I was blearily peering at my hood, trying to remember how to lower it when Gus bounded up like Tigger and said “ we need your car to put the banner up”. Before I knew it, he had my keys and was driving Poppy up to our stand with a partially collapsed hood and my microfiber cloth still drying on the boot rack.
Resisting the urge to go back to bed, I fell into Chris’s MGB and was driven up to our pitch to supervise the setting up - only to find most of it was done and all I had to do was arrange the remaining cars to arrive. I left them where they landed until I felt a bit better and did some rearranging.
The new arrival on our stand and new to our live meets was Steve Roberts and his MG Metro. Phil Rendle was also supposed to join us with his Morris Traveller but got a bit confused on entry and ended up parking with all the independent owners.
Chris Ball took pity on me and took me off to look at the classic cars on display and search out that magic cure-all that is known as a bacon bap. An hour later I was back at the stand and halfway through manfully taking my medicine when I noticed that Mrs FB and my daughters had arrived on the stand. I was well and truly busted. Now if it was just the bacon bap, I could have talked my way out of it. However, I could tell by the nasty grins on my “friends” faces that they had taken the opportunity to fully grass me up in my absence.
“Hello Dear” I said as brightly as I could manage whilst trying to dodge that “Wait ‘til I get you home!” glare that was directed at me. Then inspiration struck. “Shall we go and look at Minis Emily?” I said whilst moving quickly but trying not to look like I was running away.
When I was finally cornered, I took it like a man… and blamed it all on Phil.
Another day was spent chatting to members and muggles that came on our stand, chatting to each other and looking at old oily stuff in a field. Immense fun was had by all and we even had a parachute display team land in the main arena.
4PM arrived and it was time for the classic cars to tour the arena. I have to say I was very impressed at the marshalling and organisation in getting us from our stand to the arena without killing any Muggles and it was great to drive around with a sea of people all pointing waving and smiling. I do have to say though, that the new commentator tried hard but needs to brush up on his knowledge.
Emily was desperate to drive Poppy again so the keys were passed and I sat in the back for the first time in my ownership. I had also closed my ears ready for the expected grinding of gears on the 2nd to 3rd change which can be tricky for the uninitiated, but no. Smooth clean changes all round.
Many of my fellow stand members seemed to find it hilarious that Mrs FB and I were in the back while our daughters took command. I have no idea why it was so funny but it did mean that there are plenty of photos. It also bought home just how long I’ve had Poppy and how much a part of the family she is.
Well, with the arena tour over it was time to head back to the campsite for a bit of a relax and some tea before heading up to the steam fair. Or so we thought.
One of the arenas has a live demonstration of steam traction engines running a saw mill. This was running for the entire day and as you can imagine, quite a pile of sawn timber was accumulating. Well Tosh, being from Yorkshire Tha’ Knows, couldn’t resist and soon negotiated the purchase of a proportion of the pile knowing that as he’d sold the Austin he would have an empty trailer going home. So, at the end of the day, my CR-V was hitched up to the Brooks car trailer which, let me tell you, seems an awful lot bigger when hitched to the back of my car!
Four of us then headed up to the saw mill area and started loading… and loading… and loading! Well, let’s just say that the weight of the loaded trailer gave the Honda’s clutch a good work out on the way back to the camping pitch.
Knowing how supportive all the chaps would be, I was a little nervous when I discovered I was expected to reverse the trailer back onto the extremely narrow gap between the Brooks camp site and their neighbours. I needn’t have been though as I managed to show my epic towing skills and dropped it back, millimetre perfect in one go! Time for a well-deserved beer then. (After last night I still couldn’t quite face wine.)
Mrs FB then cooked us a lovely BBQ in the van. (it was too dry to have a real BBQ, we’d have set the field on fire.) it must have been nice because Hattie ate most of it.
After our meal, we all set off for the steam fair and exhibitors party. All except Gar who was off to do a taxi run and wouldn’t be back until Sunday PM. Chris Ball also left as he had other commitments on the Sunday. You could tell they didn’t want to go as Gar got into the car and those sad doleful eyes looked back at us to say goodbye. Hattie looked fed up too but she’s a Basset Hound and they always look like that.
If you look closely, you might see a Fatbloke.
You could tell Gar didn’t organise this trip. For the 3rd day running dawned another perfect summers day. In fact it was still “Bloody Hot” to quote the Standard British Temperature scale.
Sunday is THE busy day of the show with every exhibitor space crammed to overflowing and Muggles a-plenty. Our stand was no exception - we had 13 cars and a caravan on display.
We were joined by Andy Perman in his VDP, John Malley in his Piper, which is true dedication driving a car with no opening windows on a day like that. Mark Wilson and his E-Type Jaguar also arrived along with Windy Woodward, Berbo and Ian’s son Johnathon in the Zephyr. The real surprise however, was the special vehicle they were towing but I’ll keep you in suspense about that for now.
Phil Rendle and his Morris Traveller managed to find our pitch this time and bought his mate and fellow EBMV member, Scott Morris and his Tahiti Blue Triumph 2500S Estate. Dave Britton was also on the stand with his rather stunning Rover P5B. Along with Steve Roberts and his MG Metro, This was the 1st live EBMV meet that these 4 chaps had attended, So I hope you all had fun and will be joining us again in the future.
The Woodwards wanted to be with us all weekend but Ian’s daughter decided that she would get married this weekend and, rather selfishly I thought, wouldn’t move the date for us. But it was really great that they came down for the Sunday. It wouldn’t have been the same without them and we wouldn’t have got to see the “Special” that Ian towed down.
Well what can I say? Out of all the fantastic oily stuff that was on display it was this that got my attention. It doesn’t really fit into either of our groups but WOW! I was even allowed the honour of driving it around show field and I was amazed at the out and out power of this single seater. All right! All right! I’ll tell you! It’s a Pihslang 888NR with a 2.5 motor. Never heard of it? No, me neither but click below to reveal this awesome vehicle.
Ok, OK, its a 2.5 KW motor. What can I say, I couldn’t resist it. Sorry. When I heard Ian was bringing this, I wanted to decorate it with tin cans on string, ribbons and a “Just Farted” sign instead of “Just Married” but Mrs FB thought it would be poor taste to mock the afflicted. (I guess she doesn’t know us that well does she?) I hope you get well really soon Ian and the Pihslang can be laid up safely for future generations to admire.
Another great day was had by all as we deep-fried ourselves in sun tan oil. It really was a great show with great people. You can’t really describe the size and variety of this show other than to say that there really is something for everybody and if you’re coming next year, you will need more than one day to see it all.
Because of the traffic problems leaving the show last year, The Allins, Gar and I elected to stay on another night and leave on Monday morning. The organisers had even laid on a party with live music and cheaper beer. Unfortunately all the vintage fair and steam engines had already been packed away and only one food outlet was still open, so we had a nice baguette and a chat and watched another sunset.
To quote a rather clever chap, “WOW! THAT WAS AWESOME!. What a weekend. This is, my opinion, the best static show that we attend as a group and that I have ever been to.” [Me, at the top of the page. EBMV 2018]
Huge thanks to all those that supported me on our stand you all really made the weekend special and I hope you had as much fun as I did.
SVTEC (the organisers) have already announced that they will be back next year on 2nd to 4th August 2019 so put the date in your diaries and keep an eye on our events section for more details. I will be doing my damnedest to get us another stand at this show.
Finally, It wouldn’t be an EBMV event without a photo of our beloved Fat Controller eating now would it?
Well thanks for bearing with me through yet another Blog. Poppy and I will be off on our adventures again on our group’s Steamships and Scrumpy tour this weekend. Please join us if you can we’d love to see some new faces in real life.
All the best.
Poppy and Fatbloke.
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