Yesterday – in case you missed it – was one of those autumn days that’s cold enough for the jacket liner but bright enough for sunglasses. Pip was off to London for a course, so I had the whole day to ride. So I sat down and tried to see what I could find on Google. I don’t usually just ride for the hell of it; I like somewhere to go. A purpose.
So, options… National Motorcycle Museum, Sammy Miller’s, Duxford (always a favourite), Brooklands for a look at their Hurricane? Bath for a decent lunch? Couldn’t settle on any of them. I was a proper mardy little sod. Brooklands needed too much motorway and A road to get there. Bath’s a sod to park in and lunch isn’t lunch without a bottle of something. Sammy Miller’s would be too crowded. Moan, moan, moan.
So, angry with myself for being so ungrateful for a beautiful, late September day, I pulled the GS keys off the hook and just decided to ride and see where the road went.
So, out past Brize (where the XM655 – the Vulcan – is currently parked up – and gorgeous she is too), through Burford and out on the Stow road. By the time I’d filtered through the Range Rover-clogged streets of Stow I’d ditched the mardy mood and was grinning. So I carried on. And that’s where serendipity gave the bars a bit of a tug and turned the bike towards Moreton in Marsh.
“Worcester,” I thought, so took a left just by the Market Hall. Then I spotted something – a propeller propped against a Cotswold stone wall. And a couple of aircraft landing wheels – from a bomber by the look of them. So I stopped. And I found the Wellington Aviation Museum.
Conceived, founded, managed and still manned by Gerry Tyack MBE, this single-room museum is filled to every corner with RAF Moreton in Marsh artifacts, aircraft parts, German insignia and decorations (labelled large as “the symbols of tyranny” – no PC fannying about for Mr Tyack), aviation art and documents. For me, it was like walking into Aladdin’s cave and discovering he’d flown on 617 Squadron and had saved the pictures for me.
We got talking. Mr Tyack and I. Turned out he was interested in my bike. He’d sold BMW cars in Moreton in the early 1980s and remembered loony-toons stuff like the 2002 Turbo. Rather than flying Wellingtons, he’d been one of the men keeping them in the air. And the passion for machinery wasn’t dimmed even slightly by 87 years.
We talked bikes, cars, planes, old airfields and the rather sneaking feeling we both had that there’s rather too much interfering in everyone’s life nowadays. It must be hard for a man who’s worked straight 48 hour shifts in -12, keeping fighting aircraft in the air, to willingly fill in risk assessment forms for a WWII museum.
Just before he shut up the museum for lunch, Mr Tyack suggested I take a look in the back garden of the building. He said I might be surprised by what I found. I was.
It’s not every day that one walks into someone’s back garden and finds a complete geodesic Wellington rear section propped up on bits of scaffolding poles with a bird feeder hanging from one of the control surfaces:
And so I rode on, finding more lanes to explore and getting thoroughly lost, finally leaning the bike onto the sidestand at Hailes Abbey near Winchcombe. A walk around the ruins (thanks, Henry Tudor – you were a fine tennis player but an architectural philistine), revealed that graffiti is nothing new, even from the clergy:
I sat in the sun at the farm cafe just up the road, with coffee and apple cake and watched the planes from Staverton buzz overhead, and wondered if anyone else, anywhere was having such a wonderful day. And on getting back to the bike, I realised I’d parked next to the farm shop. And that they sold sausages. Rude not to, really. So I did.
So this morning’s breakfast, sizzling away behind me as I write this at the kitchen table, is brought to you by serendipity and Gloucester Old Spot pigs.
And I realised, writing this, that I’m truly, truly rich. I had one of the best days ever for the cost of half a tank of fuel, £2.50 for a museum I didn’t know was there and the willingness just to go exploring. And £3.34 for some of the finest sausages I’ve tasted. They’re ready now.