Across Somerset on a gorgeous drive
PUBLISHED: 07:00 30 November 2014
Mark G Whitchurch takes a view-filled drive from picturesque Cheddar Gorge and across the border into Wiltshire.
Find your way to Cheddar Gorge early one morning, grab a coffee and go exploring. Billed as Britain’s biggest gorge, cast your eyes up the dramatic cliffs, whilst wondering at the caverns and caves beneath your feet, which boast some of the most beautiful stalactites you can experience without donning a hard hat and getting extreme.
Stroll down the gorge to explore the quaint shops selling anything from beautiful carvings of witches and wizards to cuddly toys for the kids, as well as the famous cheese and Somerset cider. You could certainly spend a day here, exploring the caves, as well as the breathtaking cliff-top walks.
Return to the car and head up the Gorge for some spectacular views, particularly from a roofless car. Continue to wind up the Gorge road and onto the Mendip Hills and past Priddy on your right hand side. The B3135 continues past Green Ore to the junction with the B3139 where it’s left in the direction of the A37.
At the junction with the A37 it’s straight over to continue on the B3139 through Chilcompton to the roundabout with the A367, take the second exit with signposts for Kilmersdon and remain on the B3139. Pass through this charming village, under the old railway bridge and up the tree lined hill to the A362, where it’s straight over, now on the A366 heading for Faulkland, complete with village stocks.
With high hedgerows, the A366 winds its way to the B3110 and the famous George Inn in Norton St Philip. At the crossroads continue straight on to the A36, where we change course and turn left in the direction of Bath.
Before you reach Limpley Stoke, keep an eye out for signposts to the right for Freshford. Follow the signposts down into the village of Freshford, which boasts some stunning Georgian architecture, pass over the river bridge, remain on the Bradford-on-Avon road rising out of the valley. At the top take the turning to the left and follow the signposts to Avoncliff, travelling down a single track lane back into the valley again.
The road opens up to reveal a picturesque display of industrial revolution Britain. The Kennett and Avon canal can be seen to the right, crossing over the River Avon via the aqueduct directly in front of you.
Decoratively coloured narrow boats line the canal banks. There are some great walks from Avoncliff, either along the river or canal tow path to Bradford-on-Avon or back to Freshford. We timed our visit for a relaxing lunch in the Cross Guns pub that can trace its origins back to the 17th century as a coach house. Avoncliff is a fascinating little hamlet whose history is strongly associated with the Cotswold textile business with three mills on the River Avon. Within a stone’s throw of the pub, the remains of one mill can be seen on the other side of the river.
The new Porsche 911 (991 series) is the latest incarnation of Porsche’s enduring legacy. Whilst its silhouette resembles a classic 911, a shape that can trace its origins back to the 1960s, this is a much larger car, brimming with technology to take on its arch rivals from Italy.
With size you would logically expect weight, which in turn requires more power to enable a freshly launched car to out-perform its predecessors at the expense of fuel economy.
However, this all new variant fails to follow this well-established rule of motoring. Thanks to a new, high-tech aluminium-steel body and technological advances in the engine and gearbox, Porsche engineers have reduced weight, whilst still offering 400bhp from its flat 6-cylinder, 3.8-litre engine.
Whilst this all sounds impressive on paper, what it means in the real world, is a Porsche that on the motorway at the legal speed limit will return over 40mpg and its CO2 emissions are able to attract an annual road tax bill nearly half that of its rivals from Lamborghini or Ferrari.
The cabin of the 991 successfully includes classic 911 features such as the prominent rev counter in the centre of the driver’s dials, as well as integrating modern world technology, such as a sat-nav screen, cleverly disguised within the driver’s binnacle; little touches that help to keep the model ahead of its key rivals. Tactile aluminium complements soft leather, whilst a busy driver’s environment is made simple with clever ergonomic design.
On the road, this is very much a Jekyll and Hyde driving experience. Leave it in ‘normal’ mode and the 7-speed double clutch gearbox will waft you along with a gentle rumble from the exhausts, perfect for that idyllic drive to a charming pub in the country. Or engage Sports Plus mode via the centre console to release the super car hidden within.
A snarl from the exhaust, breath-taking acceleration and a punch in the back with every gear change, selected from the paddles on the steering wheel. Equally as impressive is the handling and braking performance, which helps to provide an intimacy with the road that only a 911 can offer.
The variant tested was the new Targa model that revives a historic Porsche name, as well as offering a compelling compromise between a full convertible and a coupe. Clever mechanisms allow the rear glass section to lift away from the car and the fabric panel above the cabin then folds into the rear before the glass slides back into place. A very theatrical solution to what was a manual process in Targas of the 1960s, but at the same time offers open top motoring with much less buffeting at speed.