Rare coach helps Downham Market family-run business step back in time

Following the death of her husband, Dolly Harrod was forced to get behind the wheel of her beloved 1969 Bedford Bella Vega to help keep her family-run business afloat in the 1970s.

In doing so, she became one of the first female coach drivers in Norfolk to take people to events like darts and dominoes matches and group outings to London.

But as her company, D & H Harrods, based just outside Downham Market, grew from being a one-vehicle business, new coaches were added to the fleet and the Bella Vega was sold.

Now four decades since Dolly first boarded her elegant coach, her granddaughter Laura Harrod has found a rare 1969 Bedford Bella Vegas to help her family turn back the clock.

The hunt for the 41-seat Bedford saw 20-year-old Miss Harrod and her dad Derek, who runs the business with wife Anne and their son Paul, took in the width and breadth of the country.


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But the pair's hunt was eventually ended after years of searching when they were told of one being kept in nearby Holbeach.

Miss Harrod said: 'My grandmother was one of the first female coach drivers in Norfolk and the 1969 Bedford Bella Vega was the vehicle she drove around in the 1970s.

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'I was determined to find the same coach she had driven to help me connect with my family's past but I found out it had been scrapped so we searched everywhere for one that was the same model and size.

'We searched for years with no luck so you can just imagine our shock when one day we got a phone call out of the blue saying there was one just up the road.

'It was so exciting to go and see it because I had seen pictures of it but I wanted to see one in real life and it just felt like stepping back in time when we found it parked in a little corner of a garage.

'It's a great feeling to have helped bring our family history back to life and I am very excited to have found it because it is perfect working order and has got a great vintage feel to it.

'It also means a lot of my dad because he can remember seeing it growing up so it really is a dream come true for him.'

Miss Harrod believes the vehicle, which has clocked 61, 919 miles, is probably the last of its kind in the country.

The Wormegay resident now hopes the classic vehicle will be able to offer vintage transport and hire to weddings.

She added her grandparents had started the coach firm in 1920s and it still operates the same service from Wormegay to Lynn every Tuesday and Friday that her grandfather, Herman, started back in 1927.

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