A Road less travelled.

A Road less travelled. Meandering north on B roads in my 1948 L.R.

A Road less travelled.Meandering north on B roads. Words and pictures, Toby SavageThe call went out from John Carroll that perhaps a few of us contributors and staff should meet up in North Yorkshire for what roughly translates as a Classic Land Rover Magazine ‘editorial meeting’. We were invited to join The Yorkshire Land Rover Owners Club at a campsite at Newton near Helmsley. YLRO were hosting a Green Lane event on Saturday and a Trial on Sunday. We were made most welcome by all the members present and enjoyed remarkable weather and some excellent fun on the local Green Lanes. The evening was filled with the heady aroma of barbecues, beer and some lively evening banter where exciting plans were discussed for future escapades.The challenge I faced was to drive my 1948 Land Rover from Leicester to Helmsley - a distance Google maps confirmed was 160 miles, then drive approximately 40 miles of green lane and return the next morning. I am embarrassed to confess that I do not use the 80 inch nearly as much as I would like but when I do, it usually performs well and gives me great pleasure. With the top removed all the noise evaporates into thin air and 45 mph feels like 70! With the canvas tilt on though, it is a little like driving an old hen shed! Noise, drafts and general discomfort mean it is a situation to be avoided if at all possible. However, with rain forecast on the Saturday morning I was left with little choice. Either fit the tilt and door tops or arrive wet through, cold and miserable. With the added factor of a rear tub full of camping gear and food to keep dry I reluctantly fitted the tilt.

My other quandary was over which route to take. An 80 inch Land Rover running a 2 litre petrol engine is not popular on motorways and dual carriageways and is quite frankly a bit scary! I have always tried to use roads that would have existed back in 1948 to try and get a feel for what motoring was like when our old Land Rovers were new. With a combination of Google maps and a paper map I plotted a route that would avoid as many major roads as possible and take me north, ‘the pretty way’. Along the way I could pause at interesting sites and see small towns and villages normally missed in the quest for speed. The downside of this plan was that it would add at least an hour, if not more to my journey time.

The answer to this was to start off a good two hours earlier than I needed to. I had packed and prepared the Land Rover the evening before so that when the alarm went off at 05.30am all I had to do was gulp down some strong coffee and jump in. We headed first for the old market town of Melton Mowbray, famous for Pork Pies and Stilton Cheese, but not at 06.30am when it was viewed through the murk of persistent drizzle cleared by the one and only 8 inch wiper blade ponderously making its way from left to right across my side of the screen.From Melton I took a variety of ‘B’ roads directly north through the Vale of Belvoir through Scalford, Eastwell and into Belvoir itself, skirting around the southern edge of the famous Belvoir Castle long before the 11th Duke of Rutland had even thought about putting the kettle on. It was all I hoped for. Pheasants dashed for cover at my approach, a thin sliver of warm daylight appeared between the heavy clouds and the horizon to the east, as I put the next destination into the Sat Nav.

It was very important to add each village name, one at a time, or the technology would try and take me back to a bigger road, but by breaking it down into small sections I was never more than 10 miles from the next waypoint. I found myself criss-crossing the Viking Way - an ancient Byway now classed as a B.O.A.T. in places and could not resist taking a short diversion along its historic path, rejoining the road some 3 miles further along. It looks as though much of it is drivable and I made a mental note to research it and return another day when I had more time. But from this rural idyll it was a shock to have to join the A1 for about 6 miles past Newark as it really was the only practical option. Once clear of the mayhem I was soon on the far smaller A1133 meandering up through Collingham and Girton to Newton on Trent. Here we joined the slightly bigger A156 to Gainsborough. It was driving through one of these small villages that I saw a sight you could only ever witness passing through rural England early in the morning. A gentleman of a certain age was bump starting his B.S.A Bantam down the high street. It clearly fired up without hesitation and he leaped on with the agility of a man half his age and sped off in a small cloud of blue two stroke smoke! A delightful snapshot of life!Approaching Gainsborough I was seeing signs welcoming me to the Isle of Axholme.

This was a new one to me and I have now looked it up on Wikipedia. It refers to the low lying marshland that once dominated this part of North Lincolnshire between the rivers Don, Trent and Idle. The regular flooding from the River Trent in combination with a peat rich soil makes this land very fertile for farming with wheat and sugar beat crops being the ones that had just been harvested as I drove through. Entering the town of Gainsborough one of the dominant architectural features is a large brick and stone gateway called Marshall’s Yard. Now the home of supermarkets and fashion shops, it was, in its heyday, the engineering works of Marshall, Sons & Co., makers of many of the steam engines we see belching out smoke and steam at Country Fairs etc. today.I was finding that my journey of exploration was taking even longer than I had expected as each new settlement was so interesting I stayed too long to absorb what was on offer, both culturally and visually.

I had to resolve to stop less and drive more! I floored the throttle and upped the cruising speed to a heady 50 mph taking the A167 to the west of Scunthorpe and north to the charmingly named Swinefleet on the River Ouse, then on to Goole which proudly boasts being the U.K.’s furthest inland port. It is a remarkable feat of Civil Engineering with three locks to keep the water in its 37 acres of floating dock. It has been in continual use from the time of its construction between 1826 and 1912 to today. Well worth a visit another day.By now I was clear of North Lincolnshire, I’d skirted around Humberside and was entering South Yorkshire on the B1228 under various titles such as Birk Lane, Fog Lane and General Lane - all leading to Sutton upon Derwent and a distant glimpse of the Yorkshire Air Museum at the former RAF Elvington site.

No time to stop this time as our afternoon green laning trip would not wait. Driving to the east of York through Stamford Bridge avoided the York traffic and offered a less hectic pace. With one last haul up the Howardian Hills where I had to change down into 2nd gear, I was closing in on the planned meeting point at Nawton.I arrived at 12.30 - exactly as planned following the increase in pace for the final 50 miles. Warm greetings were exchanged with fellow contributors and conversations continued from where we left off the last time. I had enjoyed my run north immensely and had seen and experienced a parallel universe to the fast lane madness that is the norm these days. It was a relief to find that the quaintness of rural England still exists and that by choosing the road less travelled it is all there laid bare for us all to enjoy.

The green lanes of the North Yorkshire Moors offered a great afternoon out as well, and is reported elsewhere in the magazine.Captions001A drive through rural Lincolnshire reveals a life that has largely disappeared in the quest for modernisation, leaving faded clues to once ambitious plans00206.30 in North Leicestershire and persistent drizzle reassured Toby that he had made the correct decision fitting the canvas tilt003The original Butler headlights are not good for night driving but fine in the early morning light.

Captions - in no particular order!

Along the way there were many tempting diversions.Some left and rejoined the planned route and were ‘explored’ with a view to returning sometime. Toby found himself crossing The Viking Way and could not resist driving small sections of it wherever it was accessible.   Although a long distance footpath linking Humberside with Rutland many sections of the Viking Way are Byways Open to All Traffic. High above the speeding traffic. Toby’s serene view of the A1008.  A pause on the banks of the River Ouse navigable by ships as far as the docks at Goole. Under the M62 and a brief diversion across a stubble field conveniently linking one ‘B’ road with another. Finally in Yorkshire. Land of wooden signposts and descriptive village names.  The rain had stopped by the time Toby reached Yorkshire, but autumn colours were evident, heralding a sad end to Summer.  All you need for a 400 mile expedition in 36 hours. A 2 litre 80 inch Land Rover and a spot of imagination. Destination successfully reached and parked up next to Emrys Kirby’s 80 inch, ‘Rocky’


Reproduced courtesy of Classic Land Rover Magazine.

Toby Savage September 2016 toby@tobysavage.co.uk