Great Drives of Somerset – Fosse Way Bath to the Fleet Air Arm Museum
PUBLISHED: 15:08 13 February 2013 | UPDATED: 22:12 26 February 2013
Mark Whitcurch drives a BMW 640D SE along the ancient Fosse Way to the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton
Great Drives of Somerset Fosse Way Bath to the Fleet Air Arm Museum
With its deep tapestry of history, Bath is one of the undisputed jewels in Somersets crown. An enchanting city with international appeal, it remains today as culturally diverse as I imagine it to have been at the height of the Roman Empire. Attracted by the hot springs, the Romans established Bath as a major city along the Fosse Way, the main Roman artery that stretched from Lincoln in the north to Ilchester in south Somerset.
This months Great Drive follows the route of the Fosse Way through the Somerset countryside, heading for a more modern display of human ingenuity.
Leaving Bath, join the A367 heading south for the village of Dunkerton, then by-passing Peasedown St John on the way to Radstock. A once prosperous Somerset mining town, Radstock provides an opportunity to pause and explore the towns Museum. This charts the history of local life through the ages with a focus on the vibrant social, commercial and industrial life surrounding two hundred years of coalmining in the area.
Back on the road, remain on the A367 rising up into the Mendip foothills through charming villages with intriguing names such as Stratton-on-the-Fosse and Nettlebridge. Continue on via the quaint village of Oakhill to the junction with the A37, turning left, down the hill towards the market town of Shepton Mallet.
The A37 continues to roll its ways through the valleys and plains, with long straights and sweeping corners allowing for enthusiastic progress. Places such as Lynford-on-Fosse remind you of the roads historic origins.
At the junction with the A303, we leave the Fosse Way and follow the brown tourism signs for the Fleet Air Arm Museum, located just a few miles east along the A303.
Famed as being the largest collection of naval aircraft in Europe, the museum also boasts the first British Concorde. A thought provoking experience for all ages, this historic collection not only boasts aircraft from the Falklands, Korean and Second World Wars, but also a replica flight deck from the 1970s Ark Royal aircraft carrier, accessed by mock helicopter experience.
However the family favourite is an opportunity to board and explore the Concorde, which is still decked out with all the test equipment that helped this particular aircraft to develop the only viable supersonic passenger aircraft ever operated commercially.
From Roman road to the supersonic flight, all in a journey across Somerset.
BMW 640d SE M-Sport
Designed to cover vast swathes of countryside in comfort and style, the new BMW 6-Series captures that romantic dream of London today, San Tropez tomorrow. BMWs take on the modern Grand Tourer may not be the prettiest, but youll never forget its distinctive face, or fail to be charmed by its ruthless efficient Germanic personality.
Tested in diesel format, forecast to be the most popular, and with roofless coachwork, I soon found myself at one with this well thought out machine. Externally, BMW have calmed the design from that of the first generation model. Larger, swept back headlights and an enlarged kidney grille dominate the nose with sculpted curves accentuating the muscular bonnet. Dynamic swage lines contour the side profile, culminating in a conservative rear design which has more than just a hint of Italian flair. With more masculine brute than feminine curves, the BMW 6-Series undoubtedly makes a purposeful statement of intent.
After the exterior build up, behind the wheel pilots will not be disappointed. BMW have a reputation of exceptional build quality and innovative design. High grade leather covers the four amply sized seats whilst a driver focused dashboard ergonomically incorporates all the usual controls and driver aids of a car ready to whisk you off to the French Riviera. A superb Sat Nav system is a highlight, as is the fighter jet style heads up display, and not forgetting the paddle gear change controls that help to inject a dose of dynamism into the experience.
With the roof down and heated seats set at maximum, a winters day in Somerset can nearly feel like a cruise along the Cote dAzur coastline ish! The roar from the 3 litre six-cylinder engine is more Jurassic Park than John Deere tractor, as is performance. Electronically restricted to 155 mph, acceleration is certainly swift with 60mph from rest arriving in 5.5 seconds. However these stats dont do justice to the 309 bhp and more importantly 465 lb/ft of torque. Mated to an eight speed automatic gearbox, performance can either be relaxed or rapid at the flick of a switch. Overtaking is never a drama.
The ride quality is superb, adjustable to suit your driving mood. I found myself leaving it in waft comfort mode the majority of the time, which was perfect for smoothing out our wrinkled British roads. Steering is pure BMW; sharp, with wonderful driver telemetry between chassis and asphalt. However the 640ds party piece is to provide all of this performance and driver focused experience whilst returning over 50mpg!
Stats to make you smile like this make a ticket price of just over 70,000 a little more palatable. For me the 640d Cabriolet is a solid statement of motoring intent, a sophisticated experience that encourages the romantic dreamer in all of us.