Recce – A very cold day in February found a somewhat under-dressed group of Syncro Committee members hunched in the biting wind wandering the gnarled and ridiculously steep rocky outcrops of a Mendips hilltop farm… watching unlimited Land Rovers of dubious parentage attempting ‘impossible’ trial courses. A few actually succeeded but more staggering was that without windows front or sides, many of the drivers were gloveless -the words hatters and mad sprang to mind, not that they bothered to wear one.
Rain on the wind eventually ‘forced us’ to take refuge a few miles up the road in the Queen Victoria, and over lunch in front of a smoky but warm fire we thawed and chewed the fat… Ok, looks doable with caution, warnings and plenty of barrier tape ! Let’s go and look at the ‘proposed’ campsite…
There we saw wide open fields (read exposed), plenty of well built long-drop toilets (we thought) and in the late low winter sun the picturesque glint (some without feeling might say) of flooded Somerset levels.
Thursday – Arriving at the Mendips hilltop campsite late afternoon in a cloudburst we were surprised to find the campsite field was surrounded by black clouds but clear overhead and dry underfoot.. that bode well we thought.
Friday – Jenny, Clive and Patrick set off for final recce and setup of the driving site, later joined by Richard and Mark. Excellent lunch area, good field for general induction but plenty of areas that could trap the unwary and overall potentially damaging for a Syncro.
By late Friday evening this was looking like a very well attended first event with a large area packed with Syncros and a few other supporting vehicles packed in like sardines (for cosiness, conviviality& warmth presumably, as the field is enormous!) =
Saturday – a fine day and improving. By now 25 Syncros had arrived. In convoy we set out for the farm driving site a few miles away. After introductions and a safety talk from the clerk of course (who else?), vehicle scrutiny the drivers split up into groups for three driving areas. Newcomers were welcomed and then interrogated (or was it the other way around), and given a short induction on the nursery slopes, before being pointed at the terrain proper.. where some were taking it steady amongst trees and dips and dells, with the remainder having disappeared to test their metal and their mettle in rough country.
Nice to see a few locals drop in to watch us, some parents and grandchildren, spouses. Dave Lowe called by to say hi… made a very relaxed sunny lunchtime on the park there. Afternoon – a free for all challenges amongst rocky ravines and steep climb-outs plus an Aidan inspired skill trial around those strange holes, easy to enter but not to escape… Some excellent driving; great climbs by Baz backwards, PeninsulaRich. Mark and Al. Someone in a blue truck got stuck sideways & steep– great recovery though!
Others got Sunburn! Or was it windburn? More others sat for an hour or more enjoying the first warm sun for a long time.. and laughed at the crazy antics (and male egos).
A very bustling campsite and an increasingly cold and unrelenting wind got up – we suddenly realised what being on the leading edge of an wing must be like for a wing walker in winter ! Because that’s exactly where this field was if the wind was in the south.
Sunday – Assembled and drove in convoy to Brean Sands, via a long ford with a traffic jam, via a stop & line-up at Cheddar Gorge (to take in the circus like procession of cars bikes and buses) then another lineup at Brean leaving after a drive along the sands (gently gently as required). Richard & Lee departed for WelshWales, feeling homesick at the sight of the Severn Estuary.
Syncronauts rather like a bit of artisan food and drink, a group stopped to take advantage of a summerset sider (farm) shop before returning up Cheddar Gorge – now teeming with cyclists, walkers, runners and climbers dangling from unimaginable places dressed in unimaginably expensive looking kloth using unimaginably flashy kit – and we think our pastime is expensive.
Stopped at Queen Victoria for a pint or two and then a group meal there having scrubbed up (supposedly). The wind was even worse around a very unsatisfactory brazier that night… ugh! But hey… was a good night at the pub.
Bank Holiday Monday –A good number of green lanes and old tracks along and behind the Mendips had previously been recce’d and revved up for the Monday. In groups we set off at different times aiming at a free lunch wherever the group found itself… eaxh group seeming to ‘discover’ some ‘magic’ lunch spot that the others would be envious of. It turned out over a pint later that they were all within spitting distance and had recce’d each other’s but given it a miss.
Those with long onward journeys had forked off before lunch, so after merging into one group at a particularly ‘heavy duty’ afternoon lane, the weather closing in, we set course for the Queen Vic (our main and steady reference in the wonderful but disorienting world of the Mendips
Many of us found this a largely unexplored and pleasant area with a distinct feel and atmosphere of its own. Fortunately there are many more lanes & tracks that we did not get to, so… here’s to next time!
The committee and members thank Patrick, Richard and Mark for the donkey work involved in bringing us to Somerset and the Mendips … a really lovely and previously undiscovered region for many members.