When severe traffic delays threaten to ruin your day even before it has begun, you need to have a Plan B up your sleeve. This was one of those days.
It was while drinking my morning cup of tea that the ever-vigilant Mrs Busman John saw a social media post saying that the M5 motorway, which I was planning to use on my route down to Maunsel House near Bridgwater, had been completely closed southbound following a serious collision the previous evening. I would have checked Google Maps anyway but this gave me advanced warning and brought Plan B into play.
Maunsel House is a modest 15th century country estate just outside the village of North Newton, whose Parish Church was the location for the wedding ceremony. I was booked to arrive at 12 noon, to be in position for a 12:20 departure for the church. With the M5 shut and all other alternative routes clogging up fast, I girded my loins and arrived at the garage more than an hour earlier than originally planned.
Fortunately my allocated bus was ready to go and presented no issues so within 20 minutes I had locked up and was ready to leave. LFM320 was fleet no KA244 in the Crosville fleet when delivered in 1950. Its Leyland E181 engine drives through a 4-speed crash gearbox and, despite having a juddery clutch, provides a reasonably smooth ride.
Avoiding the M5 motorway completely, I motored southwards on the A38. Having long sections with a 50mph speed limit, my top speed of just over 40mph did not hinder following traffic too much. As I approached Highbridge I met a long queue of traffic which disappeared out of sight into the distance so I changed to Plan C, a B-road that I often use on various school routes. It did seem strange to be driving a 1950s half-cab bus instead of a school coach!
After all this ducking and diving, I was relieved to arrive at Maunsel House with time to spare. I had time to wander in the grounds and take a few photos as the wedding guests gathered for drinkies on the lawn. Soon a Beauford limousine (seen in the main photo above but a different one to the one I had seen at Priston Mill) burbled down the drive to collect the groom and best man.
The Parish Church was less than a mile away in the village of North Newton but the lanes were quite narrow so we trundled along cautiously once the guests had boarded. As per the plan, I returned to Maunsel House to collect a second load of passengers. Fortunately there was a space right outside the church to park the bus while the wedding took place.
It is usual to hear the church bells ring out when the wedding ceremony is complete but I was disappointed to hear what seemed to be a recording instead of the real thing. In conversation with the Beauford driver though I found out that I was hearing tubular bells, operated by a man pulling on a set of ropes.
The two return journeys were quite straightforward, apart from the time I had to pull over sharply to let a tractor pass by. These agricultural types seem to hurtle along the lanes as if they are rally drivers! Crunching over the gravel, we arrived at the house and deposited the passengers near the front door. Several people commented on the presentation of the bus and the fun of the journey. There was even one wag who asked what time we would arrive in Llandudno, as proclaimed by the destination blind!
When the coast was clear and I had quenched my considerable thirst, I pointed the PS1 northwards and home. The M5 northbound was clear so I settled down for a 40mph sprint (!) back to Weston.
In other news, A few days later I was out with LFM320 again but this time with Mrs Busman John for company. Although the wedding at Milverton was a solo duty, we used it as an opportunity for her to learn the ropes because she has joined the Crosville roster as my clippie when I’m using an open platform bus. I’ll post more about this new venture after our first official joint duty.