A Mini Adventure.
A Country drive in the 1948 Land Rover heralds the start of Spring.
Advertisements for the new Mini imply that every journey should be a ‘Mini Adventure’. I like the idea and the adverts are fun, but the only time I drove one was to Gatwick Airport in the rain. The adventure was not the stuff of legends. We did stop at a motorway service area to top up with petrol and buy a Kit Kat, but that was as exciting as it got. No disrespect to the car. They are great, but still just cars. Any journey, no matter how trivial, in an 80 inch Land Rover becomes an adventure purely by virtue of it’s presence and impracticability as daily transport. With the first warm days of Spring finally here after what seemed an eternity it was time to remove the canvas tilt from my 1948 Land Rover and go for a spin purely for the hell of it. My pal Lorna had recently bought an old ‘Bay Window’ VW Camper, largely on the grounds of it being pink! Lorna was itching to show me the VW and I had not given her the thrill of 80 inch motoring before, so we agreed that a pub lunch was required. Lorna’s Dad’s farm is on the old Gartree Road.
Once a Roman road, this byway was, for a long time, a great and challenging green lane, favoured by all Leicester’s off road fraternity. It’s pretty tame now, but does offer the chance to be in real countryside within 10 minutes drive of the city. I opted to go for the full, flies in the teeth, effect and dropped the windscreen down onto it’s bonnet rests. Pottering out of Leicester it was a delight to feel the wind in my hair and hear the flatulent sound of the exhaust as I made the gentle climb along ‘B’ roads to the beginning of the track. Once on the track progress was easy on hard baked mud, reinforced by gravel, out to Lorna’s.We both showed wild enthusiasm for each others vehicles before Lorna donned a silly hat and off we went. We rejoined Gartree Road heading east, first to Glooston, then on a variety of minor roads to the northern shores of Eyebrook Reservoir, then on to Lyddington and a feast in The Old White Hart. (Excellent if you are in the area 01572 821703). After lunch we lurched out into the car park where the old Land Rover was drawing attention from the county set, who expressed polite surprise that such a vehicle was still allowed on the road. Their children, without exception, drooled as all children do at the Tonka Toy design.My aim was to return by a slightly different route, but the southern shores of Eyebrook were restricted to a footpath so we had to detour south through Caldecott then back west along lanes that border on being tracks. A healthy strip of grass pushing up through the middle of the road and only the odd tractor for company, the driver giving us that familiar ‘I used to have one of those’ looks and a cheery wave. It was on a field road near Slawston that we stopped at a derelict caravan, it’s windows smashed and bodywork gradually biodegrading. Inside were the original foam mattresses, very scruffy, but intact. They were just what Lorna wanted for her VW so, carefully climbing through the broken windows, we duly liberated them from the caravan and stacked them up in the back of the Land Rover. Piling four big foam mattresses into the back of an 80 inch is not easy and the unstable, bulging, load made us look like one of those overloaded trucks you see rumbling around India.
With the help of a few bits of string they were secure enough as long as we didn’t go too fast and as a concession to load security we put the screen up for the remainder of the journey, Lorna leaning back to hang on to what was to become their bed in the camper.Back at the farm, Mick, Lorna’s Dad, gave us a ‘what the hell have you got there?’ look as he poked around at the damp bits of foam half expecting a field mouse to wriggle out. Telling him the full story he burst out laughing. He knew the owner of the caravan. It used to be used by fishermen sheltering from the weather so we all took a vow of silence as, realistically, it’s days as a shelter must have been sometime in the last millennium. The Ad men can say what they like, but you’d struggle to have that adventure in a Mini. Just not room in it for four stolen mattresses!