The Lotus Drivers Club forum is such a useful tool. Our friend Eddie King posted up his intention to organise a club weekend away in the South West of England. It seemed a good idea to us to support Eddie and meet some other friends who have journeyed to join us in Pembrokeshire in the past. So 3:00pm Friday, the Exige fueled and ready to go, I collected Sian from her work and headed a very short distance to join the M4 at the Swansea junction, traffic is stationery on the motorway! Further traffic carnage at Port Talbot, Bridgend, Brynglas tunnels, Avonmouth to Weston made for an incredible journey punctuated by numerous unprintable expletives, but 5 and a half hours later we pulled into the car park of our weekend retreat to park among an eclectic collection of Lotus hardware.
After the necessary booking in procedure and a very swift visit to our room the first port of call had to be the hotel bar and a pint and glass of wine. Everyone else of course by this time was seated at the high table awaiting dinner. We arrived to greet everyone grabbed a menu, placed our hurried order and drifted into the convivial conversation. To our, and everyone else’s, surprise and embarrassment Sian and I were supplied with our supper while everyone else sat awaiting theirs. A great time catching up with old friends and a chance to make new acquaintances followed in the bar prior to a well earned rest.
A hearty “English” breakfast set us up well for what would be a great day out. In the car park the fun began. As Sian and I decided whether to have the air con on or off and where to set the temperature we watched the debate of others as to “roof on or roof off” while the dark clouds gathered. Decisions made we all headed out to South West Lotus. With the traffic lights on red just down the road from the hotel the heavens opened. Our chairman then demonstrated great Lotus innovation as a very large golf umbrella appeared above his car to shield himself and Frank the dog. As he proceeded to SW Lotus with umbrella firmly in place one could only wonder whether Colin or Frank was actually propelling the Elise along.
We were all very warmly greeted at SW Lotus whose workshop was a joy to wander around. Never before have I seen an Esprit in so many bits. Coffee, tea and biscuits were much appreciated as was the conducted tour of James’ stores. I can only say that Sian will never again complain about my collection of Lotus and FRP spares scattered around our house. As we toured the SW Lotus emporium so the number of Lotus outside seemed to exponentially expand with local members coming to join us on our tour. With the group photo on the forecourt taken it was away time with route guide in hand to join the convoy for our tour of Dartmoor and surrounding area.
What a superb tour ensued, superb relatively quiet roads through pretty Devon county villages led onto the splendor of the open ruggedness of the Dartmoor National Park. This was so reminiscent to Sian and myself of the local countryside that we enjoy on our doorstep at home.
The lunchtime break for cream teas or glorious sandwiches in an idyllic setting demonstrated the ability of some of our members to take up a new occupation as car park attendants. The subsequent photographs taken of the assembled vehicles showed just how organised things were.
Lunch consumed it was back on the road and off to visit a local Vineyard. At this point it became apparent that a large number of South West Club members must be employed by the local constabulary as at junction after junction traffic was stopped to allow our convoy of plastic cars priority over other road users. It was at this point that our journey started to get more interesting as the fuel gauge dropped to two and then one of those funny bars that apparently tell one how much petrol remains. One thing soon became apparent Devon does not have vast numbers of petrol stations in the countryside! As for Eddie Kings Sat Nav that made for one of the best Lotus convoys I’ve ever seen! Turning left off a main road onto what could be mildly called a back road saw the convoy follow the green grass in the middle of the road down into a valley bottom then steeply up the other side to rejoin a main road and finally arrive at our appointed stop.
Once again on arrival at the Vineyard our car parking attendants got us all organised and we were led on a fascinating tour of the south facing hillside where the vines were flourishing. The exercise was personally well received as my legs require a fair bit of stretching after driving the Exige. I also now know a lot more about the effort that goes into producing Sian’s favourite tipple. With the furthest extent of the hillside reached it was time to return and sample some fine wines the return pace of our members to the sampling shop was a joy to see! The product was very well received by Sian who managed to swallow both her and my samples. Needless to say a bottle of White and a bottle of Rose returned to be consumed in Pembrokeshire at sometime in the future.
This was the point at which things went somewhat pear shaped for me, with most of our friends moved off we jumped into the Exige pressed the start button and the engine cranked over but would not fire. A distinct lack of fuel seemed to be the problem due to the awkward angle at which we were parked. With Eddie and the gentlemen from the vineyard to push me ignominiously down the hill to the bottom car park faith in my trusty steed was restored with all four cylinders firing. It was a somewhat fraught short drive back to Lifton in company with Eddie (thanks Eddie) where luckily the local petrol station was open and able to fill the car up. Never again will Sian allow me to let the petrol gauge drop below two of the dreaded bars!
Yet another superb meal at the Lifton Hall Hotel in the company of our hosts from the South West region rounded off a great brilliantly organised day that encompassed all that the Lotus Drivers Club stands for. A few pints of amber liquid planning for the next get together seemed a fitting finale to the day.
Sunday, sadly it was time to say goodbye to all and hit the road back to west Wales. 60 miles in a straight line would have been great but unfortunately the Bristol Channel was in the way. Up the M5 over the bridge, reluctantly paying a toll to go home, and all the way to the end of the M4. This was a somewhat quicker trip than the other direction the preceding Friday! Car tucked away to await our next adventure and time to reflect on a superb weekend spent in the company of old and new friends.
These club driving adventures could become addictive me thinks.