We have a vehicular right of way through the wood; nominally following the route of the Fosse Way (if you want that ‘nominally’ explained we’ll need another article!). Horse riders, cyclists and motorcyclists, but not cars, have every right to use this track, although anywhere else in the wood they are trespassing. The committee felt that a sympathetic improvement would ease the passage of these riders through the wood while removing the often-repeated excuse for leaving the track ‘Well where the devil is the right of way supposed to be, then?’ Various methods were tried, including a couple of very effective sessions of handwork by Trail Riders Fellowship volunteers and we were nibbling away at the problem steadily but slowly when a cunning plan was conceived.
A regular feature at steam fairs in the West Country is local agricultural engineer Alan Connock and his vintage road up gang. Under normal show conditions they cannot really use their antique road mending kit because organisers are precious about how their showgrounds are returned, so when Alan, a keen Beacon Society supporter, was asked if he’d like to use his machinery in anger he and his crew jumped at the chance.
The date of Saturday, 26/7/03 was agreed. After a long period of dry weather it rained heavily on the Friday before; knowing that dryish ground was necessary everyone was dispirited by this. However Saturday dawned dry; it was felt that conditions were ideal and that the damping was ‘just enough’ to make the ground workable. A few passes were made with the grader, but by mid morning it was beginning to rain seriously and the attempt was abandoned as it became increasingly evident that the ground was getting too sticky and the weather showed no sign of lifting. I went up late morning, just as this was becoming evident and met Peter Banks there; upon having the position explained we agreed that there was no point in expecting any useful work that weekend and left the team to ‘bivouac’.
They did not expect to charge even the agreed expenses in the circumstances and, despite the rain, enjoyed themselves and are happy to come back again. For my part I felt that they presented an interesting and attractive show with their period dress and ancient machines to anyone who stumbled on them; the little they achieved before the weather beat them seemed exactly what we expected and there was no mess after the event.
They were busy with prior engagements for the rest of the year; however I recently (mid September) asked Alan when they could come back and was told that they felt next April or May was probably the next time the weather could be relied upon to any degree. Once we have formalised a date you will be notified and I would recommend that you make an effort to go and see them in action.
David Gardiner 12/03