20 April 2023
Gary Pusey investigates a new show with a difference
I read about it on social media – a new, one-day event called The Rover Social. It almost sounded like an informal pop-up thing, but since it was only a few miles down the road from home and the sun was shining, I decided to go. It gave me an excellent excuse to dust off the Stage One 88 and give it a run.
My brother decided to come as well, in his immaculate 1990 Discovery, and we managed to persuade Philip Bashall to bring something interesting and topical from the Dunsfold Collection. He chose the Darién Range Rover, fresh from its glamorous week at the Royal Automobile Club. We had quite a convoy.
Loseley Park made for an impressive backdrop
Well, what a wonderful day it turned out to be. The Rover Social is the brainchild of Land Rover enthusiasts Simon O’Leary and Ian Higginson, who were chatting over a pint in their local earlier this year when Simon announced that he’d always fancied arranging a Land Rover show. Unlike most things that get discussed over a beer, this idea actually became reality.
“We wanted an event that embraced the pleasures of Land Rover ownership and what we see as the evolving Land Rover lifestyle.” Ian tells me. “There’s a community of Land Rover owners out there who have a shared love of the outdoors with a dash of adventure thrown in. We want to encourage owners to try new experiences and find new friends with like-minded interests.”
“We think there is space for a new kind of Land Rover event,” adds Simon. “There are plenty of people buying older Land Rovers now that are new to the enthusiasts’ community, and we think an event like this is a great way to introduce them to each other, and to the lifelong fanatics and the people who are buying into the growing restomod market.”
An open bonnet never fails to draw the crowds
Were they successful? Well, there was certainly a good turnout at the Social, with many well-known faces and vehicles, but there were also a significant number of visitors who were attending their first Green Oval show, having bought their first classic Land Rover in the last year or two.
The location was perfectly chosen. Loseley Park near Guildford is a stately home, a working farm and an events venue, and The Rover Social was set up on the field in front of the big house, which provided a suitably smart backdrop.
Philip Bashall kindly brought along the Darién Range Rover
For a first-time event there was an impressive list of exhibitors which certainly seemed to chime with the aims and ambitions set out by Simon and Ian: there were companies offering high-end outdoor and camping gear and camping and EV conversions for classic Land Rovers and specialists in restomods, 4x4 training and tours, vintage clothing, and high-end mountain bikes and e-bikes. Several local Land Rover clubs attended as well, and there wasn’t an autojumble stand in sight.
Bob and Joe Ives made a welcome guest appearance
There were also a lot of familiar faces such as Nick Dimbleby, Bob and Joe Ives, Mike Bishop and Alex Bescoby of The Last Overland fame, and Simon and Ian hosted interview discussions with them during the day in the marquee dubbed ‘The HQ’.
Alex Bescoby answers questions in 'The HQ'
A non-damaging off-road course had been set out around the estate and anyone interested could join an escorted run around the circuit. It didn’t bear comparison with the off-road courses at places like Billing, but that was the point. It was about introducing people to off-roading in a safe and friendly way and judging by the constant queue of vehicles waiting to join, it was achieving its aims.
Don’t worry, this was officially sanctioned…
There were some awards, sponsored by show supporters Car & Classic, including a popular People’s Choice Award, and plenty to entertain the kids including mini Land Rovers, radio-controlled vehicles, e-Biking, a find-the-lost-Land-Rovers search, and a drawing competition.
There were a few glitches… A power failure meant the only coffee stall couldn’t open for an hour, by which time there were a lot of thirsty showgoers, and some of the food vendors were overwhelmed, but for a first attempt by a team with no previous event management experience, it was a brilliant effort.
I don’t think I’m alone in hoping it becomes a regular in the show calendar.
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