Saved from a hedge – new life for rusty old horsebox in Bawdeswell, near Dereham

With comfy seats, carpets and not a whiff of manure, it's hard to believe Tony Hood's vintage-style bus was once a horsebox.

The dilapidated trailer was rescued from the scrap heap earlier this year and the industrious 80-year-old has spent six months converting it into a double-decker to be proud of.

Now Mr Hood, from Bawdeswell, near Dereham, hopes to use his colourful creation for the good of the community – and have a little fun.

'It was stuck in the hedge at my nephew's place,' he said. 'I've reused most of the horsebox and added the glass windows and seats. Somebody helped with the wiring but I've done it all myself, really. You've got to keep going.'

Tucked away in a hidden compartment at the front of the bus is a camping stove and kettle – perfect for picnics by the roadside.

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The great-grandfather has received several offers to buy the eye-catching vehicle since it was completed but after all his hard work he is more than reluctant to let it go. 'Not likely!' he joked.

Bawdeswell residents were treated to their first go on the bus at a weekend fun day he and his wife Chris, 78, organised to raise money for a new village hall.

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Mr Hood, a member of the village hall committee, delighted people of all ages with short rides, pulling the bus with his colour co-ordinated International 434 tractor.

With average speeds of 10mph, the open-topped bus gives passengers the chance to enjoy leisurely views of the Norfolk countryside as they travel in style.

'People think it's wonderful,' he said. 'A lady went up there for a ride and loved it – and she's 82.'

'It's ever so comfortable,' Mrs Hood added. 'I've been out in it and it's lovely. It's gone down very well in the village – the kiddies love it but the grown-ups do, too.'

A collection box is installed on board and passengers' donations will go to the Brian Cross Memorial Trust, a charity set up in memory of a local man who died from a brain tumour.

The retired stonemason, who worked at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire for a number of years, has previously built three carriages and two traditional hearses.

Last year he and a friend from the village restored a horse-drawn sleigh donated by Bawdeswell Hall, which had not been used for more than 90 years.

The finished sleigh was central to the village Christmas celebrations, accompanying carol singers, Santa and his elves as they distributed sweets to youngsters in the village.

'There was snow on the ground and the horses couldn't do anything,' Mr Hood said. 'So we put wheels on it and I pulled it with my tractor. We'll definitely do it again this year.'

The couple, originally from Gressenhall near Dereham, have thrown themselves into village life since they moved back to Norfolk to be closer to family five years ago.

Their Bawdeswell extravaganza raised more than �1,500 for the village hall and they are already planning next year's event on September 2 – when the bus will be back by popular demand.

? The double decker will make its next appearance at Swanton Morley Tractor and Bygones Weekend, near Dereham, this Saturday and Sunday.

Classic cars, engines, shire horses, tractors and a children's funfair will all be on offer at the event, running from 10am to 4pm at Hunter's Hall.

There will also be refreshment stands, a grand prize draw and entertainment from Norfolk funnyman Keith Loads on Saturday evening.

Entry for adults will be �4, children under 16 go free. Call Hunter's Hall on 01362 637457 for more information.

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