A mid-week diary because I’ve finished work for the week prior to our hols. We are off to Cornwall for a couple of weeks in search of Poldark and his scythe (for wife and daughter) and Cornish pasties and clotted cream (for me). The clotted cream is for combining with scones by the way, not pasties but there are probably many ladies up and down the country who wouldn’t mind combining clotted cream and Aidan Turner. My wife’s sister’s husband’s sister (hope you kept up with that) might be one of those ladies. She rallies the troops via Facebook just before every episode (“Come on Ladies, get comfy, glass of wine at the ready…..”) and then I think they keep up a “shirt off” count as the story – and Ross’s clothes – unfold. Apparently, you can get a Poldark app which tells you where they filmed which scenes in Cornwall. Fortunately it took up too much room on my daughter’s phone so she had to get rid of it. Unfortunately that means we will have to spend two weeks looking for the clifftop that Mr and Mrs P gallop along six times every episode. Who knows, we may even bump into the man himself – probably having a chat with Doc Martin about a nasty scythe injury (oh dear, the Doc’s just passed out). Anyway, here’s what I got up to in my shortened working week:-
Monday: New Land Rover Discovery 3.0Td6 HSE Luxury; Jaguar XE S supercharged 3.0 V6 (340hp); Jaguar F-Pace S 3.0TD V6
Tuesday: Bentley Bentayga diesel, Crewe, Cheshire to Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire; Volvo XC90 R-design D5, Lutterworth, Leics to Gaydon, Warwickshire to Leicester
Wednesday: Volvo XC90 R-design D5, two Bentley Bentayga diesels and a Ford Transit Connect in and around Leicestershire
After more than a year of doing this driving work, I have driven a car which I actually covet! Up to now I have only lusted after a van (the VW Transporter Kombi) but the Jaguar XE S is a car I really would like to take home – discrete looking but fun to drive. The journey from Bruntingthorpe airfield (where the local JLR dealer had been displaying some cars at a show) is quite short but covers several miles on twisty country lanes. Perfect territory for the XE. I have driven a couple of manual diesel XEs and described in an earlier post how well the XE goes round corners. However, I wasn’t that impressed by the manual gearbox (despite normally preferring manuals). But this XE S was a very different proposition with a decent automatic box and some fairly serious petrol power. So, think of all the clichés you can about feeling a part of the car, fine handling, balance, grip and turn-in and add smooth gear changes, sprightly acceleration and a decent sound. The sound is not in the same league as a Bentley V8 but interesting enough. A more revvy engine than the lazy V8, it reminded me a bit of a motorbike but with a deep voice. I was following a colleague who said the XE just totally looked the part in his rear view mirror as it negotiated the bendy bits.
By contrast (and I know I shouldn’t really compare), the new Discovery was a bit of a fish out of water on the country roads. Like the Range Rover I drove a few weeks ago, it wallowed round corners and got thrown around by the lumps and bumps. Ironically, it presumably finds its niche on much bigger lumps and bumps off-road and no doubt it would be right at home on the motorway where there are no bumps at all (or rather where there’s not supposed to be any bumps). It was nice inside though.
A fairer comparison would be between the Discovery and the F-Pace so it was interesting driving them back to back. In short, if you like going round bends and must have a 4×4/SUV thing, buy an F-Pace. More accomplished and confidence-inspiring….. unless, you have serious off-road requirements in which case (by reputation not my own experience) you’ll probably want a Land Rover product. It was whilst contemplating the issue of bumpy roads and their effect on the Discovery and the F-Pace that I realised I couldn’t remember bumps registering with me at all when driving the XE. So, along with the Ford Fiesta and my Sprite, I think I have a new favourite car. And guess wot??!! We won the Premium Bonds this month!! So …….. unfortunately, it was only £50. But I suppose that will buy quite a few pasties and tubs of clotted cream. Possibly with some left over for Poldark and Demelza action figures for my wife and daughter.
Finally, a few photos from Birdingbury Country Show that I went to on Sunday. Classic cars, commercial and military vehicles, steam stuff plus loads of tractors. This meant a sixty mile round trip in my Sprite to the venue just south of Rugby. The Sprite performed perfectly.
Monday: Kia Optima Sportswagen 1.7 diesel, Coventry to Wakefield, South Yorkshire
Tuesday: Ford Focus 1.5TDCI Zetec estate, Rotherham, South Yorkshire to Peterborough
Wednesday: X-wing fighter, I mean Ford Transit Connect van, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire to Brentford, Middlesex
Thursday: Mercedes A220d AMG Line auto, Leicester to Thurmaston, Leicestershire; Mercedes E220d AMG Line auto, Nottingham to Newark, Nottinghamshire; BMW 520d auto (2013), Newark to Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire
Then a big day out today at the Practical Classics Classic Car and Restoration Show at the NEC in Birmingham. I had intended to take lots of photos so I could include a few in this post but there were so many fantastic cars and I couldn’t take photos of them all. Plus I didn’t want to spend the whole day looking at the cars via the screen of my phone, waiting for people to get out of the way…… blah blah. In short, I took virtually no pictures at all so here’s a photo of an interesting classic downloaded from the interweb :-
Sorry, that was really cruel. I hope there are no young children reading this because they may have nightmares. Actually, I think there was an Allegro there, in a corner with no-one near it.
The show was huge with virtually every type of classic car you could think of and a few more of questionable classic status (a Hillman Avenger?? Come on….). It is difficult to pick out highlights, but I will have a go:-
Downright gorgeous: Jaguar XK150 plus so many others too numerous to mention
Eye-opener: Aston Martin DB6 – non runner, very shabby interior and suspect paintwork, a snip at £220,000
Best oddity: Rover P5 coachbuilt motor caravan
Nostalgia trip: Matra-Simca Bagheera S – as a very young kid on holiday in France, I remember being astonished when I first saw this futuristic car. A three seater sports car from the Seventies. I tried to persuade my parents to buy one so that we would have to get rid of my sister. I had almost forgotten this car existed until I saw one again today.
Of most personal interest – two Spridgets. An Austin-Healey Sprite in marginally better condition than mine but on sale for a lot more than I paid. Encouraging. Also, a superb looking MG Midget in an original BL colour which I think is called Damask Red. I have often thought whether or not I would change the colour of my Sprite if I ever had it re-sprayed (which it probably needs). My Sprite is a non-original Nightfire Red, a metallic colour from much later MG Rover days. It does look good (if you ignore the blemishes) but reverting to an original period colour may be nice. Have to broach this with the wife though……..
Monday: Mercedes C350e saloon (plug-in hybrid), Leicester to Derby
Wednesday: Mercedes C350e saloon (plug-in hybrid), Derby to Leicester
Friday: Volkswagen Caddy, Kettering to Bury St. Edmunds
The Mercedes plug-in hybrid was interesting – might be a full post in due course.
Meanwhile, we had a day out in the Cotswolds last weekend, an area of south central England famous for its quintessential Englishness. Rolling green countryside and picturesque towns and villages whose buildings have been chiselled out of solidified honey. We stopped in a couple of the more well-known places, Moreton-in-Marsh and Bourton-on-the-Water, the charms of which are well-documented. However, I will mention the rather brilliant Cotswolds Motor Museum and Toy Collection in Bourton, a wonderfully ramshackle place where you are guided through the history of motoring from its earliest days to the 1960s and 70s.
The cars on show include Austins, Morris’s, MGs, Jaguars, Rileys and a 1938 BMW 327. The information accompanying the BMW explained that the first BMW cars were Austin 7s manufactured under licence. Every day an education! The car that caught my eye, simply because of its name, was a 1911 Alldays and Onions. These were probably manufactured under licence from the German company, Jedentag und Zwiebeln GmbH. Or was it the French company, Chaquejour et Oignons SA? Not quite sure.
In addition to cars, there are motorcycles and old caravans and an astonishing array of memorabilia and old enamel signs covering virtually every inch of the walls. The memorabilia and signage are not just limited to cars. There are artefacts and advertisements for all sorts of things, plus of course the substantial collection of old toys. This is not just a journey through motoring history but a truly atmospheric and nostalgic look back at life in bygone eras.
Away from the bigger villages/towns, we also came across a couple of interesting places off the beaten track that are probably missed by most people:-
Longborough. This was really the main purpose of the trip – to look around the church in this quiet, pretty little village. My wife and daughter are heavily into genealogy and had traced some ancestors back to Longborough in the 18th century. These ancestors went by the family name of Tombs. So there we were looking around a graveyard for Tombs. I kid you not. Apparently, there was a Scottish branch of this family – the MacTombs – who were well-known race horse owners in their day. Unfortunately, the search was in vain because the older gravestones had eroded very badly. However, the village was charming and came complete with an inviting looking pub – the Coach and Horses Inn – but we had no time to sample it.
Donnington Brewery. En route from Longborough to Bourton-on-the-Water we drove down some interesting, narrow country lanes. Descending a small hill, we glimpsed what we thought was a large old house below us. It was nestling snugly between the hill and a lake. As we drove past, we saw a sign “Private Road Brewery Only” and then “Donnington Ales” on the side of the building itself. Wow! Is this the UK’s most scenic brewery? We didn’t stop but I have since looked it up. It is based in a 13th century watermill and the mill wheel is still used to drive machinery. The same family has brewed beer there since 1865. Unfortunately, there are no tours of the brewery but, according to their website, you can stop there and buy the beer! There is also a 62 mile circular walk (the Donnington Way) which goes past the brewery itself and 15 of the brewery’s tied pubs. Might be a bit wobbly by the end. The abovementioned Coach and Horses Inn in Longborough is a Donnington Brewery pub.