I often say that every private hire job I do with a heritage bus is an adventure and a wedding duty I did recently was another chapter in my story. The tale began innocently enough when I met up with my friend Paul at Crosville’s depot in Weston-super-Mare. He was rostered with ‘Bosworth’, the ex-Crosville Bedford OB coach that I took to the Trowbridge area a few weeks ago. We were to travel together to collect a wedding party from the Bristol Airport Holiday Inn, not far from the village of Churchill. One of our first tasks was to top up the Bedford’s tank with fuel (petrol) so we called at BWOC on the way to the pickup point. I was driving ex-Bath Services LD6G L8515 (969EHW), which already had plenty of diesel on board.
Travelling via Congresbury, we soon arrived at the Holiday Inn. As the guests assembled, we had several conversations with folk who were very impressed with the buses. It’s amazing how people are transported back to their chidhood when they see buses from another era. “I went to school on one of these…” is one of the most frequent comments!
We set off southwards for Cheddar and, although the Lodekka has an overdrive gearbox, it still couldn’t match the Bedford’s speed! I think Paul was aware of this and held back so that we arrived at the Roman Catholic Church in Cheddar together (see photo at the top of this page). After the guests had filed into the church, Paul and I moved our buses, with assistance from my conductor Simon, into the church car park. This had been kept empty for us but the entrance is narrow and we didn’t want to risk getting stuck with passengers on board! As it happened, we managed without any fuss and settled down for a break and some lunch.
Bizarrely, as we sat inside the OB chatting, we heard a familiar noise. Then, as if it was an every day occurrence, another green Lodekka rumbled past! It was Crosville’s ex-Southern Vectis FS6G, on its way to another wedding, no doubt. Its conductor just had time to wave at us before the bus disappeared around the corner.
With the wedding ceremony over and confetti thrown, the passengers boarded our vehicles again and we retraced our steps back to the A38, this time turning eastwards at Churchill. The A368 Bath road is not very bus-friendly. In fact, after a couple of earlier attempts to use it when travelling Bath-wards, I abandoned it as a suitable route because it is so narrow and winding.
But we used it today and it was positively spacious compared to the tiny lanes we would have to squeeze down soon. We were heading for a place called Aldwick Court Farm, which lay deep in the countryside. Access was via the quaintly named Emley Lane which I had viewed with a sinking heart a few days earlier on Google Maps. It is without doubt the narrowest lane I have ever driven down in a bus. There was even grass up the middle! I had to use all my concentration to pilot the Lodekka safely through the ‘narrows’. The OB was in front of me but I think Paul had the advantage of a few inches due to the Bedford’s slightly narrower body. I slowed to walking pace, feeling the edges of the road grabbing at both front tyres. On the way we were fortunate not to meet any oncoming traffic but we were not so lucky coming back again.
There was a tight turn into the venue which the OB could negotiate but I could not, so I let my passengers alight at the entrance before turning round in a wide farm entrance a few hundred yards further along the lane.
After a break, during which we admired the quiet beauty and rural surroundings of the venue, we headed back the way we’d come. This time we met traffic. Not a car but a tractor and trailer. I spent one summer driving tractors and I know how difficult it is to reverse with a trailer in a confined space so I took pity on the driver and started reversing the bus. Simon, who was now travelling on the Bedford, jumped off and walked behind to warn any following traffic. At last we reached a junction where the tractor could pass. Onwards again, through the narrows and back onto the A368. However, we soon met our next obstacle, bothersome bovines!
The Friesian cows, comfortably relaxed after their appointment at the milking parlour, wandered across the road in a seemingly endless stream. In fact I began to wonder if some smart alec was herding them back across the road behind us for another crossing, just to annoy the motorists!
Eventually the way was clear, except of course for the inevitable cow-pats, for us to proceed. The rest of the journey was easy and uneventful. As I sat and completed my paperwork in the cab back at the depot, the heavens opened. The weather had stayed fine for the wedding and pre-reception drinkies, thankfully.
Next, look out for news of a change of plan for the Crosville Bus Rally.