Last month, it became 20 years since I passed my driving test – at the wheel of a Vauxhall Corsa resplendent in British School of Motoring livery. This fact startles me a little. How is it two decades ago already?!
As luck would have it, I found myself yesterday driving on the roads I sometimes used when learning to drive, and very often used once I had cars of my own. Roads in what was Hereford and Worcester back then, but is a mixture of Warwickshire and plain old Worcestershire now. I remember how much fun these roads were. How fabulous then that I was getting to enjoy them from behind the wheel of a Porsche 911T – you’ll have to wait quite a while to read my full report on that I’m afraid. You can drive the car yourself at Great Escape Classic Car Hire.
Alas, there was disappointment, for it seems that many of these roads have now had 50-mph speed limits imposed upon them. Even when driving a Porsche, I’m very reluctant to exceed a speed limit. This was frustrating. I should have remembered really, as these are much the same roads I used when I tested a Tesla Model S last year!
To get my 60mph kicks, I was often forced to take smaller, twistier roads where even in a 911, I didn’t really dare do 60mph. Visibility was insufficient for a start, but this is the countryside, which means horses, walkers and tractors. It’s too dangerous to drive at full chat.
A far cry from my journey home then, which saw me tackle three absolutely outstanding and very challenging roads. The first is the A4117 that goes from the A456 at Callow Hill, through to the A49 at Ludlow. As well as the staggering views from Clee Hill, the road chucks occasional very sharp bends at you, and rarely manages to be straight for any length of time. In the peaceful, dusky conditions, I was able to drive the XM very briskly (within the speed limits). It was an absolute hoot.
After a short spell on the A49, it was time for Challenge Two – the A4113 that takes you through the pretty village of Leintwardine. Before that, it is another twisty challenge, with many bends that can catch out the unwary. Concentration really does have to be set to maximum. Some bends are tight enough to require second gear.
From Knighton, I then headed along the A488 to Pen-y-Bont. This road is another vigorous test of driver and car, and I’ve been witness to the aftermath of no fewer than three accidents along its length – albeit one of those was in snow. One of those cars was on its roof though! Again, plenty of challenges all at entirely legal speeds and with suitable consideration for stopping distances – you cannot drive a public road like a race track, because you don’t know what’s lurking around each corner.
Not that the rest of the journey home wasn’t interesting. I took the Elan Valley Mountain Road for the final leg home, and encountered many foxes in the dark. I was pleased that the sheep were not attempting to sleep on the road. This cannot be guaranteed.
It all left me feeling very glad that I was driving my XM. It has fabulously secure handling, and the low-revving engine lugs you from corner to corner without screaming at you. While it certainly seems that you have to travel a fair way to find good driving roads, I’m glad that twenty years after passing my test, it is still very possible to have a good time on British roads.