New Years Day out in Winchester

New Years Day out in Winchester

What does Ebeneezer do for New Year? He goes to bed early so that he can get to Winchester for 08:30 on New Year’s Day.

Family commitments kept me in Sheffield until New Year’s day until the death of my mother about three years ago. A 'Friends of King Alfred bus' virgin until then, I have been each year since and this year we were blessed with the best weather yet, and also one of the best days.

It says a lot that, each year, that strange breed – the gricer – will bestir himself, and herself, in such numbers on the day after such traditional festivities. It also says a lot for the organisers that they manage to provide us all with an incentive to keep coming back with such a well organised day.

There is, literally, something for everyone – including shopping for those who happen along for the wrong reasons. King Alfred brings his friends from a wide area – Birmingham, Taunton, Southampton and many other places – and I went to Chandlers Ford to travel in with one of these friends (LOW 217 Southampton Guy Arab III). Before arriving at Winchester I alighted to get the King Alfred Tiger Cub (WCG 104) on its short local route.

I could continue with a boring list, but I won’t. As an AEC man I could have felt short-changed with only three, but I think there was only the Southampton Regent V that I missed. We went on a magical mystery tour when Steve Morris went off route and confounded a connecting service by ending up in the wrong place – but he certainly has mastery of the ex Crosville Regal TA5. The King Alfred Renowns are always good value – and always seem to be well driven (595 LCG). [I can get boring on driving – being both an Advanced Motorist and part-time coach driver.]

A friend of mine who is a Stagecoach director has often said that he and I are a dying breed with our stick-shift licences and experience. With one or two exceptions, the standard of driving of these heritage vehicles – many with crash boxes – was superb. I’ve mentioned Steve Morris, but his son – who cannot ever have driven such vehicles in common service – gave an equally outstanding example of driving on the Crossley (EVD 406). Unfortunately, the old girl let him, and us, down by losing her electrics on her last town tour. Everyone had to get off and push to jump start her and then, with glances all around in the gloom for Hampshire’s best, we limped back to the Broadway without lights.

I noticed, at Leatherhead in September, a non PSV owner driver who did not use his mirrors once between Leatherhead and Dorking. Is there a school for non PSV owner- drivers that teaches this method? There was another (different vehicle, different driver) doing the same. To someone like me, this style of driving is very disconcerting. He certainly wouln’t have passed his PSV test but he drove instinctively and without harm to his vehicle or his passengers. Phew! What other high lights? The Aldershot and District Reliance showed that, fifty years on, there isn’t much to be learned about building smooth and quiet running buses – and how many Dennises and Volvos will still be around in 2060?

New experiences? My first Crossley, despite being around in the Crossley era of Sheffield, Rotherham and Chesterfield. My first ever BMMO bus. The most impressive? My late father always maintained the absolute best lorries were Fodens and I have come to regard them, from documentary evidence, as similarly regarded buses – despite only building seriously from 1947 to 1956. I experienced Warrington OED 217, superbly driven, it also oozed quality. You instinctively knew it was put together well, despite most components being the same as many contemporary buses. Wedded to a well built and well finished East Lancs body this was a credit to so many people – the owner, the restorer, the driver and the original builders.

I only had a forty minute drive from my home in exile but there were people there from Doncaster, Rotherham, Sheffield, Rochdale, Manchester..... Never been? Its’s one of the best day’s out and worth the journey. Will I be there next year? God willing, certainly.

David Oldfield



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