Welcome to our report on the 2014 Wessex Classic Car Tour - the second running of this tour, jointly organised by the CMO (Classic Motoring Organisation) and the IVCVC (Ile Valley Classic Vehicle Club). This was a new event for us and being quite close to home was a real bonus - just a 23-mile drive to the start venue at the Stonemason’s Arms, Ilminster. 

This was a perfect start venue - large car park, good room facilities for documentation and plenty of space to mark up the road book, whilst enjoying a bacon bap and coffee!

The area that this 100-mile tour would use was in the counties of Somerset and Dorset, using OS Maps 193 and 194. There were 43 crews entered, with 42 making the start. As with most of the tours these days, there seem to be more and more interesting cars appearing. Car 3 was the immaculate 1962 Ogle SX1000 1300cc crewed by David and Margaret Ogle from Bideford. 

There were a brace of Royale Sabres - one fixed and one drop-head - entered by the Morrises and the Gurtons from the Bristol area. Now when did you last see one of these cars on the road or a tour? It was certainly a first for us! Other interesting cars included the beautiful Lancia Delta of Chris Pain/Keith Hadley and the well-used Hillman Super Imp driven by Pete Bane with Ian Griffiths guiding the way. This car is used on a regular basis but is still looking in showroom condition. Another notable car not seen very often these days was the Datsun 240Z of local crew Peter and Matthew Davis.

At 09.31 hours, the start marshal released the first car from the main control: the Austin Healey 3000 of Geoff and Jonathan Lee, with the remaining entries following at minute intervals. Leaving Ilminster behind in a south-easterly direction, we passed through Roundham and onto Clapton, which has had a water mill since the 13th century, but sadly it ceased working in 1991. From here, the route crossed over the county border into Dorset and travelled through the villages of Kittwhistle, Blackdown and Birdmoorgate. Unfortunately, the autumn mist was taking a long while to clear and this did spoil the views. 

The sun did show for a while at Broadwindsor and the nice stone houses here were a delight. Next on the agenda was the small town of Beaminster, which was followed by a very pretty section of road that crossed the main A356 and brought the cars to Evershot, known from Hardy’s stories and, more recently, used as a film location. From Evershot the tour continued south-east, passing through Cattistock, famed for the annual Dorset Knob Throwing Competition! The record for throwing the spherical biscuits is held by Dave Phillips at 29.4m., recorded in 2012.

The route now turned to the north-east and the high roads were offering far-reaching views as the mist was replaced by sunshine. This part of the route contained a ford and the organisers had thoughtfully given a short re-route for those entrants who did not want to get their cars wet! Fortunately, due to the dry summer, there was very little water - just a quick splash and we were on our way!  

The next point of interest in the itinerary was to stop and view The Cerne Abbas Giant - carved out of the hillside chalk stone and measuring some 180 feet high. No prizes for guessing which gender the giant was! Leaving the giant behind, the next port of call was the delightful village of Minterne Magna, where the Church, gardens and autumn colours were all something special. A short section then took the crews to the first break on the tour at the Hunter’s Moon Public House in Middlemarsh.

Rest over, the route then continued via Buckland Newton to Alton Pancras - a charming village with flint stone-built houses and a stream running along the roadside. More gems were to be seen in Piddletrenthide - this time properties with thatched roofs. Passing through Cheselbourne and Puddletown, the tour took a very nice forest road in an area that looked to be good for walking, before continuing to the centre of Dorchester, where the Colliton Club was the host venue for the lunch break. The original building was built by the Churchill family in the 16/17th centuries and also has connections with Hardy’s work in this region. Today, the building serves as the local council offices and a club. A nice ploughman’s lunch was served, followed by a raffle with some very good prizes on offer. All the proceeds were to be given to the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance and, due to the generosity of the entrants, over £500 was raised.

There was now an opportunity to stay a while in Dorchester to look around the town or, at 14.00 hours, to restart on the last leg of the tour. We opted for the latter and left Dorchester to the south-west via Winterborne St. Martin and then the steep climb to Hardy’s monument. Dippy did get a little breathless on the gradients(!), but, once on the top, the hard work was worth it, with stunning views across Lyme Bay and Chesil Beach a real delight. 

Compared with the morning’s more open, flowing roads, these were now real drivers’ roads and the descent to Abbotsbury was just fantastic - the views just got better and better. Passing through Swyre and Burton Bradstock on the high coast road gave the crews more splendid views across the valleys to the right and the beach and sea to the left. The famous rope and net-making town of Bridport was next on the route and then across Marshwood Vale to Bettiscombe and Birdsmoorgate. Following a run through tree-lined roads that looked superb in the afternoon sun, we crossed the Somerset border at Winsham.

A further 4 miles brought the tour to an end at Cricket House, Cricket St Thomas, where driver Mike can remember doing stages through these grounds on road rallies in the early 70’s. The final control was just outside the impressive front entrance of the house where each crew was presented with their finishers’ awards. This was followed by excellent home-made cakes and drinks - a very fitting end to the tour. 

Congratulations to Annie and Neil Roden, Claire and Philip Lawson, plus the team for a very nice, value-for-money tour. The road book was clear with very accurate mileages and, for new tour entrants, there was no need for a tripmeter. A final thank you to Norman Winchester of Brit Assist Breakdown Support - we hope the cars didn’t give you too much work!


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Our sincere thanks to Peter Field house for all his help in proofreading and editing our report.