There are a dwindling number of locations that you can still get some decent Mercedes Minibus action in the UK, now that the Optare Solo is becoming ever more popular, and with the Wright Streetlite also starting to make a mark. Plymouth of course has now lost theirs, along with Paignton's main operation of the type now also gone. Of course Western Greyhound still run a sizable number of Varios, but even these are slowly disappearing with the introduction of more and more Solos. Taunton still operates a fair number of 709s and 711s, in my opinion, that bit more interesting than the Varios. Taunton still operates a fair few of the type on core town routes, and on country trails through rolling Somerset, giving some really interesting journeys around the region.
I took the chance to sample a couple before they do disappear from the streets, and they certainly don't disappoint! Firstly was a town trip on P182 LYA, a Mercedes 711D, new to Southern National, so presumably has run in Taunton for much of its life. This one really performed well, and made some lovely whining, so here's a video for you to enjoy! This size of bus is ideal for the route, there are some very tight manoeuvres around housing estates and in car parks, only a 'mini' Solo would be able to do the same work as these can.
The second trip was on another one new to Southern National, P447 KYC. This is a Mercedes 709D with Alexander bodywork, and was somewhat more sluggish than P182 had been. Still a nice little bus, and a great route! Single track roads for most of the journey taking us through some beautiful little villages along route. Again, a route you could only fit small buses onto, and therefore the workings for the day were a 709 and a Vario.