Somerset Weekend
November 2021

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  Southern Section diary

The autumn evenings were drawing in but a possibly optimistic thought was hatched, could we fit in a weekend away before the Christmas madness set in. Various websites were trawled and the site brought up Haselbury Mill near Crewkerne. An easy ride for November so the idea was forged at the club AGM.
In the end there was a group of nine, a nice number. Haselbury Mill is a converted C18 mill beside the little River Parrott. The mill is converted into bars and restaurants and the Mill managers house converted into a hotel with a couple of extensions. There are also an eclectic collection of historic gypsy and traveller vans which you can also stay in, all scattered around the extensive grounds with quite a collection of collector cars, lorries and buses. Oh, and a proper army tank for good measure.
Such are the risks at the moment that with a dry warm November due to break that
weekend and Erica having to isolate, just four of us were on our bikes.
Mike and Lesley, Helen and I met up at the Departure lounge near Alton for a late breakfast. Mike worked his magic with his satnav and lead us across to Yeovil via Winchester. Storm Arwen was on its way, but most of the way the sun shone, right into our eyes! However, Mike masterly navigated around occasional black clouds and large rainbows, what little rain that fell on us was thankfully used to wipe our grubby visors. To say that out bikes were dirty was an understatement. Helen got too close to Mike bike and got a few generous dollops of something across her jacket!
We stopped for a quick break at the Haynes Motor Museum but will have to go there another day as we wanted to be settled in before dark. We arrived at the almost magical setting and were warmly welcomed and taken to our rooms by the owner who is their very own Father Christmas look alike.
Storm Arwen blew through that night, rattling the slates and rocking the vans, but there seemed to have been no damage in Somerset. However, it was still pretty rough in the morning so we erred on caution and cancelled the ride to Weston super mare. Before we made a move, we went to look around the spectacular tythe barn which sits across the river in its bend. One member of staff was finishing cleaning up after their first Christmas party and we had a friendly chat and wonder around. We were stunned to find it was only 12 years old, it looked as if it had been there for centuries. A major investment, after last year’s disastrous season they have been doing five weddings a week and are now doing nearly as many Christmas parties. You get the feeling that Haselbury Mill is one slick operation, but you never feel in a hurry.
At this point we had heard from Chris and Sally who have moved to Somerset and who were going to join us on Saturday. Chris had spotted that Ariel Motors were nearby and agreed that we would meet up there on the off chance that we might see something. You are supposed to book a tour which costs £10 each. So, we got on our bikes and two minutes later arrived at the works beside the A30. It is an unassuming smallish brick complex with absolutely no advertising. By the time Chris and Sally turned up, a member of staff had stopped to talk and because the boss was away happily agreed to let us in for a few minutes.
45 minutes later we had had the tour of the showroom and workshops. You can hardly call it a factory. Each car or motorbike is made by one worker, with a customer’s check sheet that means that no vehicle is alike. Again, it must be the Somerset air, the young work force was as engaging as they could be. Good thing there is a 2.5 year waiting list for the cars and a year for the motorbikes! They only make about 10 bikes a year, so I think that makes them rare!
So, with the weather still pretty bracing we continued with plan B and went to see the National Trust Montacute House, a barely altered Tudor mansion. Probably one of the best Trust properties I have ever been to, and with it being not very busy the staff were really engaging. One group of visitors thought we were really sensible to turn up in our bike kit as they were envious of how toasty we looked. Once we were finished, we headed back as the temperature was dropping rapidly and were back in half an hour. Time to relax and to meet up for a beer and a good meal.
In the morning after another relaxed and very filling breakfast we all went our separate ways, four off in their cars, Mike and Lesley down the A30 and we went off to see some Dorchester friends via the Cerne Abbas giant. He was looking a bit chilly but we made it home just in time because the first snow of winter was on its way.

Portland Bill in a gale but not stopping a bit of exploration
Winter's sunshine and damp roads, but not spirits
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Ian and Audrey met us there having driven down and we all met in the bar and then had a really relaxed evening eating and talking. No pressure and good non fussy food was served by the friendly staff. The whole weekend we were looked after by the warm, friendly and efficient staff. There must be something in that Somerset air.