Our trip to Somerset started with a visit to Thornley Kelham, the famous car restoration company in Cirencester. They specialise in Lancia’s, but had more than 50 other cars in various states of restoration. Thornley Kelham began life in 2009, at that time they were just three, now they employ 35 people and offer many apprenticeships for young people to learn their craft. Their mantra is Beauty – Durability – Drivability – that is what they live by, and that was most apparent as we drooled over beautiful Italian cars and ground-up projects for Aston Martin, Porsche and Jaguar. Following our wonderful visit, Nick Carr presented Simon Thornley with a bottle of 18 YO Masters Cask malt whisky, with thanks and good wishes for a healthy future.
On Friday, some of us took a meandering drive through the foothills of Cheddar Gorge, whilst others visited Wells cathedral before arriving for lunch at the 17th century Holecombe Inn. We then made our way to the Somerset Cider Brandy Company were we were met by the owner Julian Temperley, who entertained us about the background of his business, which originally produced just cider but now, as a result of obtaining in 2009 a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) the Somerset Cider Brand now has to have a minimum ABV of 40% and has to be aged for a minimum of 3 years.
Following Julian’s animated introduction, we visited the Cider is fermentation vessels and the Cider distillery. All were housed in a number of very rustic buildings, with explanations of all the processes given by an equally enthralling and rustic Julian. A tasting followed with a range of styles and ages of brandy, which were very enjoyable. A really interesting visit, made especially memorable by a passionate owner.
Saturday was all about aircraft, with a visit to the Royal Navy Air Station, Yeovilton, (a previous home of Past Master David Raines), for their annual air display. On arrival we were made most welcome and proceeded to the VIP enclosure of the Navy Wings Charity.
This proved a comfortable retreat for those who wanted to sit and enjoy the flying, have a chat, and enjoy a light lunch, but also on hand were (mainly) retired airmen who accompanied small groups to view the classic and historic aircraft on display, One can only marvel at anyone who was prepared to fly an open cockpit bi-plane, in winter, in the arctic, to protect our shipping and hunt down and kill the Bismarck.
The flying displays were spectacular, with everything from a man in a jet suit (very James Bond), to an unbelievable acrobatic display by a Pitts Special S2S. This followed helicopter demonstrations, an incredibly noisy and fast Lightening Mk2, and the jaw dropping F35, to be followed later by the Red Arrows Display Team who gave a stunning performance.
Back at the hotel we had time to relax before a Bollinger champagne tasting on the hotel terrace overlooking beautiful countryside, by kind courtesy of Liveryman Alan Montague-Dennis from the family firm of Mentzendorff. Alan gave us a fascinating insight into the company and its celebrated founder Madame Lily Bollinger. The range of wines offered were truly excellent, including two pink champagnes which were very welcome on a warm summers evening. Nick Carr, our car club secretary duly thanked Alan and Paul Finch welcomed the Master to his first club outing, and thanked all those who had made the weekend such a success, in particular Nick Carr. Apart from a collapsing chair under one member, the dinner was hugely enjoyable, and the following morning before departure we all took part in a photo shoot, coincidently and exactly where the Somerset & District Motor Club met 1906. A truly “Summer Special” for the DCC.