For my private hire duty to Brympton House, Yeovil I decided that I would use my Tilling summer dust jacket, it being early May. I believe this was usually the time when bus crews would hang up their heavy winter uniforms in favour of the lighter jackets. With bright, warm weather having been forecast, this turned out to be a good decision.
I was up with the lark (or alarm clock, due to the unreliability of larks in South Devon) for the journey up to Weston-super-Mare. My allocated bus was Southern Vectis 573 (Bristol FS6G YDL318) which, as regular readers will know, has a top speed of 30mph. With a 50 mile empty journey to make before the pickup, an early start was essential. However, stress levels began to rise when my bus, together with the one my fellow driver was to take, were nowhere to be found. We soon learned that Crosville had run out of space in their main garage and had begun renting space in a huge industrial unit (once an aircraft hangar) nearby. Our buses were stored there, along with several others from the Crosville heritage fleet. With checks done I was keen to be on my way but we had to make a detour to top up with fuel. This meant that I would be watching the time anxiously all the way to Yeovil.
There’s a saying that goes “A watched kettle never boils” and I told myself, as the miles slowly passed by, that it was pointless checking the time as I would get there when I got there. In other words, checking my watch wouldn’t get me there any quicker!
After travelling south via the M5, A358 and A3088, I arrived on the outskirts of Yeovil and soon found Brympton House. I was a few minutes late but guests were still assembling on the gravel drive in front of the beautiful old house. It made a change to have plenty of room to turn and park the bus!
Soon we were on our way. This bus is a delight to drive in comparison with the Bath Services LD6G with which I had my last trip. Despite having endured several years’ use as a driver training bus, this one drives like it was brand new. Not that I’ve ever driven a brand new Lodekka, of course. It just seems to slip into gear with a minimum of fuss and feels quite well mannered.
Our destination was the Parish Church of St Peter & St Paul at Charlton Adam, a quaint village near Somerton. On arrival, I found that the other bus had arrived ahead of me. It had picked up guests from another village nearby. The groom’s family had thoughtfully arranged for us to park the buses in the nearby recreation ground while the wedding took place so, with help from the conductor on the other bus, we reversed through a narrow gateway and parked side by side on the grass.
Lunch was eaten, old times were recalled and photos were taken while we waited for the guests to re-appear. It turned out that the other driver used to own an ex-Crosville Bedford OB coach called ‘Bosworth’ and, many years ago, I had photographed it in Torquay just after he had re-licenced it to operate in his new venture, Vista Coachways.
A 5-bell peal began to ring out from the church tower and soon the wedding party made its way down the lane to re-join the buses. During our break the conductor had been playing around with the blinds and they no longer showed the same destinations as they did before. This was very confusing for the passengers, some of whom weren’t sure which bus they had arrived on. I’m not sure why it mattered because both were going back to Brympton House!
Finally the newlyweds arrived, closely followed by a photographer who was snapping away merrily. I wonder how many frames these guys take on a day like this? Hundreds, I imagine. That’s the beauty of digital photography, there’s no cost of film to consider!
Champagne was dispensed and the nod was given to proceed so we carefully edged out onto the lane again. Travelling at a stately 30mph, our green convoy drove down the A303 and A3088 back to Brympton House. There is a long avenue of trees lining the approach road of the house and both the other driver and I had expressed concern about the low hanging branches we’d seen on Google Street View but we were assured by the management of the house that the trees had been cut back since the Google imagery was taken in 2009. And so it turned out, although we did go very gingerly underneath one of two of the trees which bore the scars of having been hit by high vehicles before.
I felt very grand, driving through the stone gateway and up the gravel drive between two immaculate lawns as various cameras captured our arrival. We parked our buses at an angle, creating a mirror image of each other either side of the doorway. The wedding party was in no hurry to go inside, perferring to stand in the sunshine chatting, taking photos and sipping more champagne. We took the opportunity to take a break, wander round the imposing grounds and take some photos of our own, as you can see here.
Finally the guests disappeared so we moved the buses a bit closer together for one last ‘symmetry’ shot.
It was time to head for home, so the Bath Services LD6G left first, being the faster of the two buses. A long, uneventful journey later, I parked outside a new unit which Crosville has rented, behind the other Lodekka whose driver had already left. Ironically, also parked outside was ‘Bosworth’, the Bedford OB coach that I mentioned earlier! It is also sharing the garage with some of the other Crosville vintage buses. As I was sitting in the cab doing my tacho chart, a spotless ex-Crosville Bristol L5G pulled up. Both dressed in our Tilling uniforms and standing beside the group of green and cream buses, its driver and I started ‘talking shop’ just as The Boss arrived, commenting “Cor, it looks just like a 1960s bus garage!”
All too soon soon our nostalgia-fest was over and we parked the buses inside and I set off for South Devon. My next duty isn’t for a fortnight but I may post something different in the meantime. Thanks for reading!