It's an "Antipodean Adventure"
by Richard Prior ~ Part 1 (click here for Part 2, Part 3) and Part 4)
To enlarge a picture, click on the Thumbnail.
The Antipodean adventurers
Left to Right :Darryl Robins (TC), me, standing beside the YT and my wife Barbara, Mike and Loretta Sherrell (TC).
Not in picture is Graham Booth who will be co-driving for Darryl.
The cars leave Fremantle on 15 April & arrive at Felixstowe around 20 May, We arrive Heathrow 25 May and collect the cars on 27 May. Here are some of the events we will participate in:
- June 8 Octagon Car Club Wings Run, to Cannons Ashby
- June 12 to 15 to Le Mans, [we will be part of the Grande Parade thru Lemans on the Friday]
- June 19 MG Rover factory visit, [Longbridge]
- June 20 to 22 MGCC Silverstone
- June 23 to July 5 head north to Scotland west coast & maybe the top
- July 6 MGCC T register T party at Shuttleworth
- July 12 to 13 Duxford Fighter Collection Display
- July 14 to Sept 4 Between Duxford & Goodwood Revival back to Europe, including Germany, France, Czech Republic, Switzerland, & maybe Spain /Portugal
- Sept 5 to 7 Goodwood Revival
- Sept 12 Beaulieu Auto Jumble [traders day we hope to get passes]
- Sept 12 leave Beaulieu around 5pm & dash up to Tintern for the T Reg weekend
- Sept 13 to 14 MGCC T register weekend around the Wales England border country
- Cars back to Felixstowe 18 Sept for shipping back home and Sept 23 we fly back to Perth.
Well folks we have finally done it and sent our cars off to Pommy land, sob sob.
It should have been a day of happy anticipation of the future with some anxiety of how the cars will fair on the trip over, except it turned into a day of total stress, later relieved at the pub! I arrived a bit later than Darryl because I had a last minute visit to the Carby man to tweak the Weber, who took forever.
I was greeted by a very glum looking Darryl who gave me the thumbs down. Oh ****** what does that mean? All sorts of thoughts raced thru my head - cars won't fit? I can't remember the rest now! The shipping man wasn't exactly smiling either and trying to listen to his instructions about how to drive in and take in what Darryl was telling me between flashes of lightning and claps of thunder I was getting a bit agitated. Then after dragging my (the car's) bottom over the ramp into the container I was able to concentrate on what Darryl was telling me.
About 3k's before he arrived his motor started to rattle - nothing was going to stop him now after all the work organising the trip and preparing the car - so as long as the car kept going - oil pressure OK, water temp OK, he wasn't going to stop now. The car was already in the box ahead of the YT but we started the motor to have a listen - ew nasty! Then I had a rather stressed Mike on the phone - where are you, I can't find you - yep by then it was absolutely pissing down and Mike had the hood down. Then another phone call this time from an even more stressed Loretta - where are you I can't find you is Mike there yet? Well we got a very soggy and wet TC and Mike into the box and Loretta finally found us. More commiserations with Darryl and another listen to the motor for Mik'e benefit - yep we all agreed broken crank - far out! Well no turning back now so we discussed how we could take a ground crank and shells with us and just do a bottom end rebuild in Pommy land not to hard really and we just love playing with cars - yea but not now thanks! Darryl then decided he might just as well do a clutch change out so off to lunch and then up to Joondalup to pick up another flywheel, pressure plate and drive plate to chuck into the container before they lock the doors - whew made it!
Did our final inspection of the cars and boxes and witnessed the doors being locked and sealed -- got the seal and container numbers - then off to the pub! Ah needed that big time.
Our first exciting day and we haven't even left yet!!!! To top it all off we had to drive all the way to Gidgee for the TCOC meeting after tea - one hell of a big day - I sure slept well.
It can only get better from here.
Allow me to introduce myself and my characters. My name is Ozzie and I am going to be your story teller for the next few months, relating to you the adventures of the 6 Australians on tour in the UK and Europe in their MGs.
Well after planning for years and wondering if this holiday would ever happen, it finally has, and our adventurers and their cars have all arrived safely in the UK.
Four of the group (Darryl, Graham, Richard and Barbara left Perth about 10 minutes early (that's a change for aircraft), at 1.35 a.m. on Sunday 25th May and after an uneventful flight they touched down at Kuala Lumpa. International Airport at around 7.00 a.m. All were feeling a little shattered as not very much sleep was had in the 5 1/2 hours flying time. Oh well, maybe they will get some sleep on the 12 1/2 hours to go!!
Flight 008 from K.L left on time and they were up up and away, hoping to catch a few hours sleep. Arriving at Heathrow mid afternoon on Sunday (local time) about 40 minutes ahead of schedule. Through Immigration, pretty painless, picked up their bags and headed out to find Mike and Loretta waiting for them, looking very refreshed and awake after having arrived some hours earlier, checked into their hotel at Heathrow and had had a few hours sleep. Rachie was also there to meet them and off they went on the haul via the 'Tube' to Catford Manor! Or should I say the demolition site!! Rachael and Michael are in the process of major renovations to the bathroom — At least they can have a bath and one dunny works. Rach had organised a B.B.Q. tea for everyone and after that they were not very long out of bed. Good to lie down and sleep properly for a good 8, 9, or 10 hours without interruption.
Monday dawned bright and sunny and the boys rearranged Mike and Rach's back yard and rickety garage so that the M.G.s can be parked off the street. Also to pull the engine out of Darryl's car and fit the new crankshaft. After lunch Mike and Loretta joined us and we headed off to Greenwich Village for a look at the Cutty Sark, and up to the Observatory. Great view from the top of the hill. Back on the bus to meet Ben and Sara and have a pint and a meal at their local pub, which is only 17 doors from their apartment. Back to Catford and into bed - tomorrow is the big day to open the container and hopefully find that the cars have arrived safely.
Early Tuesday morning Rach, Mike and Richo set of to London Bridge Station to meet up with Graham and Darryl, who are staying with Ben and Sara, and then pick up the little Mercedes A Class buzz box hire car to take them to Rainham where the cars would be. On arrival at Rainham, which looked more like a junk yard than a shipping terminal, the shipping agent already had the container opened and Mike's TC in the warehouse with the YT stuck on the ramp snagged by its exhaust. This was all a bit disappointing because they wanted and had requested that the container not be opened or unloaded until they got there, bloody Poms! Anyway with a few bits of wood they managed to get the car down the ramp and then extract Darryl's car. After numerous phone calls they managed to get a flat top tow at a half reasonable price to take Darryl's car back to Catford so the engine rebuild could commence. Darryl rode shotgun with the towy and the boys faced their first introduction to London traffic which was made a little less stressful by being able to follow Rach in the Benz buzz box. They all arrived safely at Catford and made a dash for the Fridge and a stubbie of Old Speckled Hen to relieve the nerves. With the Sherrell's TC and Prior's YT in the backyard and Darryl's car in the garage by late afternoon they had the engine out and bottom end apart to confirm what was expected that the crank was in fact in two pieces at the usual place forward of No1. (Anyone who knows something about cars and engines will know what we are talking about! Those of you who don't, suffice to say the crank shaft was BROKE!!!). By tea time, still light at 8.30, the new crank was in and ready for final assembly tomorrow.
Wednesday dawned bright and sunny with the temperature expected to be around 22/23deg. Graham and Darryl arrived early and work started to get the TC in running order. The engine went back together quite easily but what would you expect with four X-spurts on the job. Well orchestrated spanners were flying at the end of well qualified dextrous and nimble hands (what a load of drivel). With everything back together the engine was fired up and it sprang into life first try, running sweetly. Darryl took the car with Mike for a quick squirt up the street and came back with the thumbs up and a big smile on his dial.
During the day
Loretta and Barbara had been cooking up a storm and fed the mob a sumptuous roast lamb and veggies, mint sauce, gravy etc plus pears poached in red wine served with double cream (yummy) all washed down with numerous Speckled Hens and Beaujolais.
Thursday saw the crew head for Catford Station and purchase their weekly travel and ID Cards. This will enable them to jump on and off trains and buses at will all week for £23.10ea, bargain. On the train heading for Charing Cross and the Link Phone Shop on the Strand to buy Pommy SIM Cards for their phones, £10 each which included £5 of calls, another bargain. If you would like to ring or text them Loretta is (0)7952 891292, Darryl 3, Barb 4 and Richo 5 how easy is that. Don't forget that will be 0011 44 and no 0 in front for you at home in OZ. From there they walked across Trafalgar Square admiring Nelsons Column and of course St Martins in the Field where our bells in Dickies Bell Tower came from. Onward to Piccadilly Circus and a phone call to Rachael to arrange meeting her for lunch. Before meeting Rachael, Mike and Loretta went to say hullo to a friends Daughter and Graham, Darryl, Barb & Richo strolled up the street and discovered the Church Markets, Graham then discovered amongst some brass plates, one that will be very useful on their return titled "Old Farts Corner".
Rachael took the gang to "the Old Coffee Shop" pub for lunch and the odd pint. After lunch they headed for Green Park and a diversion up Carnaby Street. Before Green Park the crew went and drowned in Hamleys Toy Shop. This is 5 floors of an unbelievable plethora of toys, everything from a fluffy duck to a £3000 working model of a steam operated power generator. Talk about kids and their toys our friends were just blown away. Finally reaching Green Park they took a short break lying on the grass with hundreds of other to and froms enjoying the glorious summer weather! You need to understand that our travellers were clever enough to bring a large barrel of good old Aussie weather of which a small portion is released every day ensuring absolutely beautiful weather never before seen at the beginning of the normally crap English summer.
Moving through Green Park, Buck Palace came into view and the obligatory stroll up to the gates to watch those silly buggers with a fury bucket on their heads standing in front of a dog house for over height Greyhounds that actually looks like a good old Aussie Dunny. After Buck Palace the group strolled up the bridle path of The Mall then across St James Park and to the tube to catch the train home. The trip home should have been quite simple but an earlier problem with a train and faulty points meant Charing Cross Station was chokkers with people and with no trains to catch so our intrepid fiends heeded the PA announcement to find an alternative route home. No river murries our travellers had it sorted. On arrival at Catford it was straight into the Copperfield for a pint and they thought tea but the cook was crook and the kitchen closed. Darryl and Graham still feeling the affects of the flu decided they had had enough and caught the 202 bus home while Mike, Loretta, Richo and Barb walked further up the street to another watering hole The Goose on the Green. After a nice meal and a few Speckled Hens on tap and it was time to stroll to Catford Manor.
I am not sure about you but I am beginning to struggle keeping up with this mob, never the less it is Friday and Michael has itchy feet so headed off early without Loretta followed shortly after by the odd couple (Darryl and Graham) and Richo and Barb who were headed first up to the phone shop because the Virgin SIM would not work in Darryl's mono frequency phone. Note Darryl's No is now 0774 281 0085. Next part of the tour was a visit to Harrods just for a laugh, such an ostentatious affair and grossly over priced goods but one has to do it. More important was to locate Coys and all the other specialist motoring auction houses in a number of mews in the Kensington area. This is a real nice part of town and the small mews very quant. Coys was located and we drooled over a Type 51 Buggatti, Maseratis, Ferraris and a huge Vintage Benz. Some of the other auction houses had vanished and the vehicles less impressive than Coys but still worth the effort.
After a few phone
calls it was decided all family and friends, which this time included Scott Lockhart and a mate, would meet at The Horniman Pub just near Tower Bridge and then after a few pints head for a popular pasta restaurant simply known as "ASK" a little further up the Creek — Thames that is.
For Saturday it had been prearranged that the crew would meet at Charing Cross and head for Portobello Road Markets early before the crowd. This is a small street about 2Ks in length in Notting Hill that every Saturday is lined with stalls selling food, antiques, clothing and all sorts of bric-a-brac. The amount of stuff available was unbelievable and our travellers agreed, left Freo Markets for dead. During the morning Richo had a call from Graham Rankin to try and arrange a get together. It was agreed to meet at the London Eye at 1.00. For those of you not familiar with the eye it is a huge ferris wheel with large clear capsules that hold 20 or so people. The very slow revolution about 20mins allows plenty of time for a birds eye view of the sites and happy snaps. By the time 1.00pm came around our travellers were very weary and a grassy park was found to sit and chat with Graham and Bobbie. Unavoidably a little too much Aussie sunshine had escaped the barrel and the temperature reached 30˚C. Papers were
reporting London was in a heat wave!
The Odd Couple, Barb and Richo left Graham and Bobbie along with Mike and Loretta to ride the eye and instead found a watering hole before heading home. Before departing they discussed taking the cars for a run on Sunday to run Darryl's engine bearings in and visit Graham and Bobbie where they were staying with friends down at Charterhouse/Godalming (god — all — ming).
Sunday dawned and the decision to drive to Godalming confirmed. Mike printed a route map of the computer — very fancy and in living colour! After a visit to the servo for fuel, Mike and Loretta disappeared with Darryl, Graham, Richo and Barb in pursuit but not to catch up again until well down the road. A few navigation errors required roadside reckies and close to destination a phone call but all arrived safely. The first part of the journey to Croydon was a bit stressful but at soon as the countryside opened up the winding roads and scenery were excellent. What was just as good was the sound of the exhaust note reverberating of walls and buildings in the narrow lanes through the villages. After greetings and introductions the group walked the back way to Godalming via a path following a small river. The local Weatherspoon Chain pub was reached for Sunday Roast beef and Yorkshire Pud and yes they couldn't resist a couple of pints.
Mike and Loretta headed back ahead of the group to call into the local 11th century Church St Peter & Paul, their newsletter is called the Octagon, the shape of their new proposed community hall!!!! It was then time to head for home. M & L decided to try the motorway for the return journey which was a BIG mistake. The others basically retraced their steps and approaching Croydon ran into Sunday arvo peak hour traffic, absolute mayhem and nerve racking. Two hours later for a trip of less than 50 Miles the four were finally home but M & L were over an hour further behind. A great BBQ tea and hit the sack.
The Boys at work
The broken crank
Proof we are here. L to R
Graham Booth, Richard & Barbara Prior, Lorretta & Mike Sherrell, Darryl Robins
Just a quick note to let you all know we are well and the cars going beautifully. Le Mans was huge, so was MG Silverstone, and the scenery up here on the West Coast of the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye is absolutely spectacular!!!! Sorry we haven't been in touch but have been on the road for a couple of weeks now and wont be back in London for at least another two weeks. Camping life is great and have only had one very wet, wet, wet, morning.
Talk again soon.
Lots of love, Barb and Richard and the MG Gang! 1 July 2003
Remember me? Ozzie, here I am back again, I hope you are settled back with a fresh cup of coffee and ready for a good read. Sorry it has been so long since I sent you a report but I have been absolutely flat chat just keeping up with the OZ 6 trail blazers I haven't had time to pick my nose let alone put pen to paper. Would you believe they have now travelled just over 4,000 miles (6,400km) in 5 1/2 weeks actually on the road and been from Le Mans France to Inverness Scotland and back to Catford Manor for a few days R&R before their week on a Canal Boat. Get comfortable here we go ...
The date is Friday the 6th of June and the OzMob are heading for Stevenage to spend a couple of days with Darryl's friends Bob and Mary. For something a bit different tour leader Darryl decided they should traverse the creek (Thames) via the Woolwich Ferry. This required an hour wait in the parking area but time for a yummy egg and bacon roll. After arrival at Bob and Mary's a walk was in order to stretch the legs and take in some of the new surroundings of the English countryside.
The following morning the back seat of the YT was emptied so that all 8 could go on an MG cruise of the local villages, some country lanes and a pub for lunch which ended up being the Rising Sun at Halls Green, all very pleasant in the lovely English sunshine. You see our very clever travellers had packed a big jar of WA sunshine and release just a little each day!!! The afternoon drive of yet more lanes and villages, even a visit to the home of Harkness Roses and finished with a stroll around the picturesque village of Hitchin. The following morning the back seat of the YT was emptied so that all 8 could go on an MG cruise of the local villages, some country lanes and a pub for lunch which ended up being the Rising Sun at Halls Green, all very pleasant in the lovely English sunshine. You see our very clever travellers had packed a big jar of WA sunshine and release just a little each day!!! The afternoon drive of yet more lanes and villages, even a visit to the home of Harkness Roses and finished with a stroll around the picturesque village of Hitchin.
Sunday was an early start to get across to Baldock the home of Brown and Gammons MG parts suppliers but also one of the starting points for the annual Octagon Car Club Wings Run. This was the coming out you might say or the first official event in our travellers calendar. This was an opportunity to meet new MG friends and put faces to names from the internet such as Neil Cairns of Y Type fame. The tulip arrow directions took all the crews to the lunch venue of Canons Ashby. Canons Ashby and the church across the road were built by Jacobite Monks in 13 something and now occupied by the Dryden family since the 16th Century. The field next door which had been laid out by entry number was very quickly filling up with a good number of MGs and most models represented including two other YTs that had been imported from Qld and NZ (The YT is very rare in the UK). Not long after picnic lunches were opened the heavens opened which put a dampener on proceedings but it did fine up late in the day again when the Heart of England pub at Weedon was reached for an overnight stop.
Monday 9th saw the crew heading for the British Heritage Motor Museum at Gaydon which currently features quite a large MG component including the 3 high speed record breakers, old No1 as it is known and a good array of other models and some that didn't make it to production including Barbara's favourite the EXE. Quite a few hours were spent here followed by a late picnic lunch on the boot lid of the Tourer. That afternoon the group set up their first camp in the Swiss Family Camping Ground at Henley on Thames.
After an overnight at Catford Manor the next stop was down south to Folkstone and overnight Wednesday Night rather than rush down Thursday morning to catch the "Chunnel" as it is known which is the train tunnel under the channel to Calais. At the terminal the crew met up with Ben, Sara and Rachael in the Rover 75 hire car and when called drove onto the train. This was a new experience driving a car through a large opening and inside a carriage, the Rover, 3 MGs and one other all fitted into one carriage. There are also cars on the deck above but low sports cars cannot get over the ramp. To unload all the divisions or fire doors between carriages (Rolla doors) are opened and the cars are driven through the train to the front carriage to exit. Excellent system and very quick to unload. The trip through the tunnel was only 35mins.
Calais was reached early afternoon and the run down to Le Mans even using some motorways took around 9 hours and after traffic jams, finding a camp site at the circuit then finding Darryl, Graham and Sherrell's who fell off the back of the convoy in traffic, they all fell into bed well after midnight. Even the unofficial competition between camps to see who could generate the loudest music and have the biggest beer bottle wall, the incredible noise of cars still practising didn't stop a well earned sleep. One person who did enjoy the motorway was Richo who gave the Tourer its head for a couple of bursts at 90mph (144km/h) chasing some exotic machinery.
Friday morning required a trip into Arnage to get fuel for Darryl's TC. Here the MGs were caught up in a celebration by the Bentley boys in the main street, the consolation was being handed Hors D' hovres on a silver tray as they passed, the MGs added a bit of class to the whole affair. Darryl's car just made it to the end of the main drag and the round about as it ran out of petrol, he had sufficient speed to slip between a couple of cars held up in the traffic, mount the kerb and roll down the foot path into the servo. It is amazing how courteous other motorists are to our friends in their little MG's and how cheeky they can be and get away with it. Every where they go people especially kids point, stare and often wave with big smiles as first one then another and another pass by.
A little later in the morning the crew had to be just outside Arnage to meet up with the guys at Club Motorsport to find out what was required to join the Grand Parade through Le Mans. Later in the day after meeting at the assembly point and receiving rally plates and windscreen stickers "Parade Des Pilotes — 24 Heures du Mans" the police and local Harley Davidson Club then escorted all cars into Le Mans, the MGs were parked in the roped off display area in the shadow of the Cathedral with the MGB and A Coupe from the organisers. Here our travellers had to don their Le Mans identity tags and looking very official wandered off for a beer. Returning to the cars it was a very proud moment parked amongst an incredible number of Lamborghinis, Ferraris, GT40s and Lotus when it become apparent each group was proceeded with a parade placard held by a girl on the back of a Harley. Yes folks our Aussie's had their own placard "Delegation MG Australie" and the crowd gave them all a huge welcome as each car drove up onto the start podium, were officially introduced individually by name over the p.a., shook hands with the mayor then followed on the parade through the streets. The crowd along the parade gave them a huge cheer and lots of comments like "where's ya roo-bar mate" and "G'day mate". Additional commentators along the parade had details of the group which was announced to the crowd with more cheers. The more they waved to the crowd the bigger the response with much applause and many high fives. Richo had a guy step out of the crowd with a beer which he accepted and responded with a chirp of the back wheels, which is the custom, the crowd went bananas! Nearly two hours later the MGs returned to the display area — with big smiles on their dials they all agreed - that was loody huge!!!
Back at camp Mike and his dad John had arrived and all the stories of the day exchanged with beers. Those back at camp had been entertained by all the rev heads doing burnouts and doughnuts at the nearby roundabout then it was time to cook up a storm for all 11 and hit the sack — what a day!
Next day it was time to explore the circuit and check out the action before the start at 4.00pm. During this time the Legends Race was on and previous Le Mans cars and drivers competed such as an MGB and an MGA but they were outclassed by Ferraris and GT40s. Come 4 o'clock the mob had positioned themselves at the esses after Dunlop Bridge for the start but after a couple of hours and knowing there was 22 more to go it was time to go back to camp for tea. After dark, about 10pm, they returned to the track to take in more of the action and see who was in the lead. The circuit at night is well lit and a fantastic site. Watching brake discs glow on some of the cars as they approached tight corners added to the spectacle. Some how even with the continuous noise of racing engines, loud music and the frequent boom of pyrotechnics everyone managed to get some sleep. The incredible amount of fireworks was something our travellers had not expected but it is apparently a Le Mans tradition in the camping areas particularly Houx Annexe (Houx means Holly in French). These were not just the penny bangers and small sky rockets one remembers as a kid these were serious pyrotechnics and heaps of it — more later.
After breakfast it was time to return to the track and catch up on who was in the lead. There were not any factory MGs entered this year but two of last years cars were privately entered. One of these expired during the night however the other finished but many laps down behind the Bentleys who were in the lead on the 13.2km circuit. Mike and John decided to have a go on the sling shot (no thanks) and very tame after the Ferris Wheel one would expect but the view of the circuit from high up on the wheel was excellent. After checking out all the stalls selling all manner of motoring memorabilia and some lunch it was time to elbow into a spot for the 4.00pm finish. Bentley cars 7 & 8 were still in the lead but only a couple of laps down in hot pursuit the Audis. Further back were the Corvettes, Ferraris, Porches and would you believe a team of TVRs who were getting great support from the crowd. Come 4 o'clock the Bentleys got a 1, 2 finish with much applause from the crowd. Our travellers had a great view of the proceedings standing just past the finish line where the cars stopped and a clear view of the big screen.
Back at camp a few campers had gone and Darryl, Graham and Sherrells decided to also do some miles to get a head start on the return trip. It was time to sit back and have a quiet night and a good sleep — not so! Remember the pyrotechnics and the roundabout? Well it was all on again big time. All the groups that had come with their huge boxes of fireworks were trying to out do the others — unbelievable! The music was cranking and the beer walls growing. Next day was a very early start to drop Mike and John off at Le Mans Station then head for Calais. They all caught up at the Euro Tunnel Terminal and caught the train back to Folkestone. Our travellers stayed overnight again with the white cliffs of Dover alight with the setting sun while Ben, Sara and Rach were heading for London — work tomorrow.
It is now Tuesday 17th June and the OzMob called into the Battle of Britain Memorial just outside Folkestone then onto Dover for a quick look, they hope to return here before or after Europe, then onto Canterbury and of course Canterbury Cathedral — magnificent! Later in the day it was time to head back to London and Catford Manor but on the way the wonderful English summer finally caught up with our friends and the heavens opened up just as they were crawling in traffic. Thunder, lightning, lots of heavy rain and hail. A quick exit to the verge through the witches hats and yes folks the hoods went up for the first time although there wasn't much point by then — drowned they were!
Tomorrow (Wednesday 18th) happens to be Richo's birthday (onya Richo) and the OzMob will be off to Silverstone and Episode 3 so that night everybody including the "kids" Mike, Rach, Ben & Sara went out to eat Italian style — excellent.
We are now up to Wednesday 18th June (Richo's Birthday) and nobody was in a particular hurry. The Sherrell pod on the back of their TC had to be repaired again as a weld repaired at Folkestone had again broken. Some more metal and a threaded rod did the trick.
Late afternoon the MG convoy was finally off again heading for a spot on the way to Longbridge and the MG Rover Factory. An Overnight stop was made at a B & B in Postcombe just outside Oxford and the next morning the Longbridge works for lunch. A tour of the factory had been arranged by David Pelham who unfortunately could not meet them. A group of around 20 were first shown a video then set off with a guide and were shown various parts of the assembly line for Rover 75 Sedan, wagon and MG variants. This was a very automated production facility with much of the work being done by robotic arms — an amazing sight. At the end of the tour the group came to an area where final checks and rectification were taking place and saw MG ZRs and ZSs along with the new TF being checked. Barbara had to be restrained from absconding with one of the ZRs or was it a TF she could not decide. The group returned to the onsite showroom and sales area for a bit of a play — nice motor cars!
After the factory tour the OzMob had to find something close to Gaydon as this was the starting point for the run into Silverstone the following day. Nothing could be found so camp was set up at the back of the local pub, which stopped serving meals about the time they were ready to eat. No matter an even better pub was found in the village and a hearty meal and a few pints had by all.
The next day you would have guessed they met some local MG folk at the entrance to Gaydon Museum for the run to Silverstone. An excellent route had been mapped out by Brian Rainbow who did not want to lead so Barbara was nominated as lead navigator. The route took us to a local who had quite a collection of cars including a TC and of course wanted Mike to sign his book.
On arrival at Silverstone first chore was to find the camping area and put up the tents before the rush. Back at the main marquees a special vehicle display had been set up and Mike asked to include his car. In the larger marquee all the registers had set up their stands. John James at the T Register was an important call to secure an opportunity for parade laps on the circuit. Paul Barrow was manning the Y Register stand — G'day Paul nice to say hullo in the flesh and later on David Pelham. There were many others our group met up with during the day. Out the back all the traders were setting up their stands with all the goodies for sale.
That evening the OzMob joined in with the Midland Centre for some 40th Birthday celebrations, BBQ and Birthday Cake. The next day (Saturday) the line up of pre-war and T Types continued as the day progressed as did the dealers stalls and would be bigger tomorrow, in MG terms this was going to be bigger than Ben Hur, the Aussies had never seen anything on this scale even at a Natmeet.
At lunchtime the T Register had the official cutting of the birthday cake. The OzMob were invited as guests — special! They listened intently to all special presentations and commendations and at the very end Richo managed to grab the microphone and thanked all for the very warm welcome and friendship. A presentation of two bottles of MG TC Owners Club 1000th Meeting Port (bottled in 2001 also the 40th year of the TCOC) was made to Dennis Barker the Chairman of the T Register as a gesture of thanks. Quite a few came to the Aussie table for a nip which soon emptied one bottle!
Early Sunday morning the boys had to be at the Motorkhana course to participate in the California Cup. It was starting to rain but soon disappeared. After confirming entry and a drivers briefing it was off to the first events. Six tests had to be completed but No10 was a doozie with one of the markers only a few feet from the curb. Unless you could safely negotiate a handbrake turn or with nothing to lose the only option was multipoint turns. The Aussie MGs gave it a shot but were no match for nippy MG Midgets. Some days later Richo found out he had picked up the Novice Award for the quickest first time entrant. Later in the morning it was time to line up for the parade laps. Our friends enjoyed the opportunity to drive the track but were a bit disappointed there was not much opportunity to put pedal to the metal. As the day progressed it saw as predicted even more cars and more dealers' stands — awesome! The MG Rover stand had a good assortment Xtreme cars including the new SV — Some car! Racing commenced in earnest and it was great to see mixed fields of many MG models being driven as was intended Safety Fast.
Later in the day the heavens opened and Mike and Loretta chose the wrong time to dismantle their tent - ah well "@%!$ happens" they say! By the way a little bird has told me Mike is an expert on car alarms. Apparently his was playing up so he drop kicked it over the fence but had to fetch it because it was still squawking — not going there!
At the end of proceedings the crew were invited to follow Graham and Sonia to their home a few miles away for some refreshments and picture moments in their backyard. It was then time to head for Abingdon where apparently a dinner had been organised by Norm Ewing (South. Africa MGCC) and a tour the next day of Cecil Kimber's original office and some of the remaining factory works buildings across the road. It was raining again and the crew needed somewhere to stay. Loretta pulled off a deal not far away in Abingdon itself at the Crown and Thistle. There is also an MG connection here, it is said the MG Car Co board meetings were held there. Entry to the car park of the C & T was a bit tricky but Richo found an excellent short cut although illegal access through the neighbouring Church cobblestone courtyard and some bollards just wide enough for an MG! One of the dinner guests was Don Hayter the designer of the MGB and a real gentleman he is. The venue of course was the Boundary House which many years ago before being a pub was CK's home and the MG connection appears as you would expect on some of the walls. Quite a group assembled the next morning for a drive by of Henry and Winnie Stone's home before they passed on. Next the Magic Midget Hotel now refurbished and the MG connection lost.
The best was yet to come as Cemetery Road was entered and the cars parked at Kimber House the MG Car Club Rooms and adjacent to this Larkhill House the MG Car Company Admin building and Cecil Kimber's and later John Thornley's office with the distinctive bay window. Our friends felt honoured to stand in the office, peer out that bay window to the vacant land that was the factory and reflect on the past. Before leaving a very important picture had to be taken, it was 23rd June and happened to be the YT's Birthday. Not very often you can take a picture of your car at the factory on it's birthday — Happy Birthday YT3208.
Our tour guide Barry then took the group across the road to what is now Oxford Engineering but originally A & B Block. Barry pointed out where different activities took place back in the heydays including crude crash testing into a concrete wall. The last port of call was the city market building right in the middle of town where an MG exhibition was on show. Here in glass cabinets and around the walls was an incredible array of MG memorabilia.
Where the Factory was and Oxford Eng across the road
Darryl's TC and that window
The YT in Cemetery Rd on its Birthday 23 June 1949
Inside the MG exhibition
That Monday afternoon (23 June 2003) after overdosing on MG history at Abingdon our adventurers headed for Scotland via the Cotswolds, Malvern Hills and Lakes District.
The route took them through the pretty villages of Burford, Bibury, Upper and Lower Slaughter and then Bourton on the Water, a visit to the excellent Auto Memorabilia Museum and home of Brum, then camp that night at Carp Farm. The next day via Stow on the Wold, Evesham, Worcester, Kidderminster, Telford and the walled city of Chester to admire all the black and white Tudor buildings and Cathedral. Overnight at Christleton where they walked the towpath after tea and pictured themselves on the passing canal boats in a few weeks time
Wednesday 25th the motorway was the best path to bypass Manchester and Liverpool and arrived at Clitheroe for lunch at the Swan Hotel where it is claimed over a pint, Rover sold their gas turbine engine to Rolls Royce. That afternoon they passed by the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, Kirkby, Lonsdale for fuel and on to Windermere. Here Richo and Barb became separated from Darryl and Graham looking for a parking spot but incredibly each bumped into a member of the Partridge family (Peter & Lynley) and arranged to meet up at Hawkes Head that evening. After a very pleasant drive across to Hawkes Head, a few pints and a meal, a regular visitor to the area gave them directions via the public pathway fenced with slate slabs, through the church yard and kissing gates to Roger Ground to find the Partridges. After coffees all round and a great chat it was time to walk back to camp in the late evening twilight. The next morning Peter & Lynley called into the camping ground as the campers were packing up, farewells were exchanged and tentative plans to catch up further north.
Our travellers headed up into the beautiful lakes district and Buttermere waving to the swooping RAF fighter pilots on training runs through the valleys, occasionally getting a wing waggle. Lunch was had at the infamous Gretna Green but none were interested in re-marriage particularly the odd couple Darryl and Graham and found it all a bit commercial however the lunch was good. Camp that night was into Scotland at Heads of Ayr followed by a meal and the obligatory pint at the small fishing village pub of Dunure. Again because it was still light a stroll along the beach was in order, Barbara paddled in the ocean and Graham and Richo climbed the cliff to investigate some ruins. During the night and next morning the heavens opened and for only the second time hoods were erected. A very wet camp was quickly packed and gourmet breakfast aborted for a short drive into Ayr for Barb and Mike to have their glasses repaired but also to get a new bearing for Darryl's generator. An earlier repair to a loose pulley with Loctite soon revealed a very sick front bearing. Fortunately an emergency fan belt meant the car was still driveable. After a few inquiries as luck would have it the boys found a local Lucas repairer and an old dude who had all the right bits in his treasure chest, a very helpful guy but barely a word of his broad Scottish accent was understood! From Ayr the weather did not improve and the travellers headed on through Paisley west of Glasgow, through Dumbarton and up into the highlands of Scotland to Arrochar then down Loch Long to Cove and a wonderful warm welcome at the home of Carol & Derry Dickson.
They thought they had died and gone to heaven. Such a beautiful home perched on the side of the Lock with wonderful views. After some dry clothes, the chance to do some washing they cooked their breakfast for lunch and felt more human. Later Carol had prepared a great roast dinner and Derry tempted all to a selection of real Scotch whisky only to be consumed with the purest Scottish water! After a great night sleep a four car convoy led by Derry & Carol in their Nightfire Red TC headed for the start of the "Almost Longest Day Run" organised by the Caledonian Centre. After a brief look around Balloch on Loch Lomond shores numerous greetings a gaggle of various models headed across some very scenic narrow roads to reach "Rest and be Thankful" the site of a past hill climb and great view of the valley. Pressing on across more great roads lunch at the Lochgoilhead pub was reached and who should arrive but the Partridges. After lunch a small deviation was made to a renowned fish shop at the Oyster Bar so Graham could buy some kippers. Returning to the tour of yet more scenic country and back to Carol & Derry's for more socialising with the very friendly Caledonian mob who graciously gave all 8 visitors a lapel badge.
Sunday morning came and sadly our travellers bid the Dicksons farewell and headed for the Isle of Skye. On the way they called in to the Glencoe museum to take in the nasty business between the Campbells and McDonalds such a long time ago. All very stirring with a lone piper playing on the observation platform. A quote from Billy Connolly on a bench seat created some interest, it read "There are only two seasons in Scotland, June and Winter". From here the scenery through to Fort William passing Ben Nevis became very rugged and rocky totally different from the rolling hills and locks but still impressive. The mighty bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh was crossed on to Skye including a £5.70 toll — ouch! The fact you have to pay this both ways could see a modern skirmish in the Scottish Highlands. On Skye, camp was made at Sligachan where strong winds made erecting tents rather difficult but the bonus was it kept the dreaded midgies away. These very tiny flies swarm like bees and for such a small beastie can inflict a sharp bite that itches for hours. Respite from the wind was had at the local hotel for their evening meal — yes with pints all round.
The next day Monday 30th June they drove a big loop around the Island taking in the majestic coastal scenery and ocean views. A local had recommended lunch at a wonderful cafe in Kyleakin close to the bridge and to their surprise were served by the wife of the owner who was a very friendly and obliging Aussie. After lunch the crew headed for Hamish Macbeth country at Plockton then around Lock Carron to Kishorn and then made the narrow but awesome climb to Bealach na Bà (Pass of the Cattle) 2539ft. As luck would have it we encountered a number of the long horned shaggy haired Heeland Coos grazing on the side of the road. The B powered YT made the climb with ease but even so 1st gear was needed on some of the hairpins, they could have been on Pike's Peak! From there the narrow twisting road continued across open tundra and dropped to the coast at Applecross. A big day of magic driving and scenery and over 200miles so a few pints a hearty meal were in order. Ask Darryl about his Banana Split? Our travellers were amazed and making the most of the long twilights this far north. Still daylight at 10.30/11.00 at night.
The next morning Tuesday, the MG cavalcade headed north hugging the coast to Fearnmore then across the highlands to Shieldaig and Torridon, Kinlockewe and on to Inverness. The previous night the group had decided that JohnO' Groats was going to be too far in the time available and locals had said the drive wasn't worth it although many had never been there! At Inverness which would be as far North as they would go Barbara insisted that having come all that way Lock Ness could not be missed but alas no Nessie was seen. To regroup this required a cross-country drive down some very narrow roads to Tomatin to pick up the main drag down to Perth. Finding a camping spot in Perth became a witch-hunt but of all places we found a great spot at the Perth Race Course Scone. It was here that the Oz Mob decided it was time to join the Camping and Caravan club, a wise move as their camps were good quality and membership paid for itself in discounts.
The following day was Wednesday 2nd July and next on the Itinerary was Edinburgh Castle. They spent quite some time here admiring this old structure with all its history and bugger me if they didn't bump into Lynley and Peter Partridge again - a nice surprise. A local coral group gave an excellent unaccompanied concert — beautiful voices and harmony. It was here Richo was determined to take a picture of the One O'clock Gun being fired. This has been a tradition since the days of sail for ships to set their clocks. With finger poised on the camera button the loud boom of the 25pounder triggered his reaction and a great shot with the smoke plume was achieved. They were also lucky to see a small military parade on the Tattoo parade ground, which had escorted the Senior Military Officer back to the Castle, all this while eating lunch. One of the Castle Employees even gave them some rubber cushions to sit on so they wouldn't get a numb bum from sitting on the stonewall. All commented on how small and slopping the bitumen parade ground was so different to the impression given watching the Tattoo on tele. After the Castle some shopping in the tartan shop and watch the looms at work — fascinating. This was followed by a walk of the Royal Mile and then a well over due couple of pints at Deacon Brodie's Tavern. Deacon Brodie was apparently a bit of a rogue and was the inspiration for Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde. The story goes that he robbed his friends and the wealthy with inside information of their homes to support his drug habit and when eventually caught was hanged — by the neck until he was dead!!! That afternoon they all drove to Dunbar and their overnight camp at Barns Ness right on the coast adjacent to the light house, a great little spot and beautiful sunset but maybe Graham would prefer to forget? It was here that the red poppies were probably at their best with a display like floral carpets. Ones mind wandered to those war time stories of Flanders Fields.
Thursday morning the convoy headed further south towards Newcastle. Their lunch stop via Duns, Greenlaw and Kelso was at Jedburgh the site of the impressive Abbey ruins. The owner of the Castle Gate Restaurant claimed he had absconded form Australia to dodge the Taxman. Taking a step back, the Oz Mob visited the Jim Clark Room at Duns. It is small but an excellent collection of Trophies, Photographs and film all depicting the life of a talented driver and World Champion. During the afternoon a brief stop was made to inspect the Brunton Turret a section of the famous Hadrian's Wall. Although Richo had wanted to call into the Akzo Nobel factory at Felling to see his UK colleagues it was late afternoon so Newcastle was bypassed and they continued on to Barnard Castle to camp the night. Time was running out to meet up with Douglas's and then to Shuttleworth Air Show.
Scottish Highlands approaching Pass of the Cattle
More Bloody Heeland Coos!
"Over the Sea to Skye"
1 O'clock Gun
Deakin Brodie's Tavern
A bit of Hadrian's Wall
Friday morning the 2 TCs and the YT drove across the Dales towards Whitby for their pre arranged meeting with Lyn & Bob Douglas who had visited the TCOC in Perth WA with their MG previously. The North Yorkshire Moors were disappointing because a very thick eerie sea mist had rolled in and it was all Richo and Barb could do to follow the taillights of a local bus with the others behind to find the road. The coast was reached at Sandsend, which was very bleak and cold so toilets to relieve the pressure and more clothes especially tracky daks were required. Darryl and Graham simply zipped on their detachable trouser legs. Even though it was rather chilly a young family were on the beach playing in the cold sand determined to have their day out! It was then a short drive on to Whitby but Barb and Richo got separated and made a premature visit to the Abbey Ruins on the hill looking for everyone but eventually found all in the village below. Bob was guarding a parking spot for the YT next to his TA Tickford and after greetings and a stroll of the village they passed the Brigantine Endeavour but no mention she was built in Fremantle WA. All headed for the Magpie Restaurant for a feed of their renowned Fish n' Chips. The length of the queue was an indication of the popularity of the Magpie but Barb, Richo & Darryl became impatient and went to the pub a few doors along for an equally enjoyable meal — yep and a pint! After lunch they all drove up the hill to Whitby Abbey for a picture of the cars shadowed by the Abbey and admire the coastal view and Whitby below. Next was Robin Hood's Bay and the pretty village built on a very steep slope and an excellent test of ones cardio vascular condition. Continuing on they headed across the southern extent of the Yorkshire Moors to Helmsley a brief look at the village and there said goodbye to the Douglas's and headed for Sheriff Hutton near York for the next 'Club' camping ground.
Saturday morning Richo, Barb, Graham & Darryl drove into York, parked the cars and walked into the old walled City of York. After strolling the town, York Minster and the Shambles they decided to catch a tour bus to see the rest of the sites with a narration of all the history - quite a place is York. Early afternoon it was time to head for Wilden via Nottingham and Sherwood Forest of Robin Hood fame, to the Victoria Arms the location for Paddy Wilmer's T party that night.
On the way a lonely Copper had set up a roadblock and directed is down some very narrow lanes that took forever to get back on track. They were a bit early so had a pint and enquired of the locals where they might find a camping ground or B & B. Everything within cooee was booked out and it was time to get back to the pub for the T Party, they thought they would just let providence take care of the night's accommodation. During the very pleasant evening David & Gill Butler who were going to be Mike & Loretta's overnight host heard of their plight and very kindly offered some space in their home where they could place blow up mattresses. David and Gill lead the way to their home and on the way missed some roundabouts (mounds) that caused the cars to get a tad airborne. After a great nights sleep and hearty breakfast Dave's garage and racing MGB was inspected.
Gill, Mike & Loretta went to church and the others followed Dave at a quick pace out to Shuttleworth for the Airshow and Paddy's ongoing T Party. Quite a large group of T Types had gathered and continued to arrive. A large number of aircraft had lined the perimeter fence and still more in the hangers — a huge display of only propeller driven aircraft. A stroll through the hangers was first priority to see a large array of different aircraft, engines and all sorts of aeronautical paraphernalia. Included in the display was a number of very old aircraft that were actually replicas built for the movie "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines". To see these in the air late in day when the wind dropped was certainly a highlight. One of the other major highs was of course to see Spitfires, Mustangs, Hurricanes and Corsairs doing low level passes and acrobatics — awesome! One of the commentators continued to rabbit on about the one and only airworthy Lysander, an interesting aeroplane and he finally got his jollies as it took to the air. During the day all enjoyed a sumptuous picnic lunch provided by Gill and Dave Butler. After a very enjoyable day it was time to say farewell and head off to nearby Stevenage to spend a couple of days with Darryl's friends Bob & Mary and BBQ Tea with their family.
On Tuesday 8th it was time to hit the road again and head for Cambridge Via Great Shelford overnight and pints at the Square and Compass. Wednesday morning after a brief stroll into Cambridge, a tour of The Backs in a punt was in order. The river guide, many of them students earning a quid, gave a very colourful history of the University buildings and other stories. This was a fascinating tour, as one can see many buildings not visible or accessible from the street. Next port of call was Kings Lynn and Castle Rising an area Darryl was keen to drive through, as there were some family connections. Castle Rising was a fascinating site to visit with some interesting history well explained on the audio provided. That night was spent with Royal hosts at Sandringham even if it was on the Estate camping ground. Thursday was a shopping day with visits to MGB Hive (Wisbech) and NTG near Norwich. That afternoon camp was made at Gosfield but because the pubs did not open until 6.00 a short drive to Halstead was necessary and The Maple Leaf discovered. The owner was of course a Canadian and pulled a great beer so the crew returned later for a great meal.
Friday 11th and the old market town of Saffron Walden was on the agenda for lunch and who should we bump into but Brian Woodhams The MGCC Overseas Director — what a small world! That afternoon Darryl led the way to find some old friends, Vince & Jan at Widdington with whom they would stay the weekend as Vince was to be the guide to the Duxford Battle of Britain Airshow. Tents were pitched in the backyard followed by take away Indian for tea. The following day Vince led the way to Duxford — wow what a show! To see 9 Spitfires go into the air together was absolutely awesome. More similar vintage WWII aircraft followed these; it was just fantastic to see all these aircraft still flying. The large hangers had a great assortment of aircraft on display such as a Vulcan Bomber, Lancaster and prototype Concorde. Other hangers had various aircraft on display under restoration. The American War Museum was quite remarkable with some aircraft hanging from the roof and ranged from a B 52, Spy planes and a mixture of propeller and jet aircraft. The hanger was built into an embankment and a circular walkway that was elevated at the back for a bird's eye view. The shock that stopped proceedings for a time was to see a recently restored Firefly from the Navy Airwing go in and kill the two pilots.
Monday 14th and on the move again via Thaxted for lunch, home of Dick Turpin, a small village but towered by a beautiful cathedral and a well preserved market building in the Tudor style. Passing through Saffron Walden again to the beautiful Audley End Mansion, which was unfortunately closed. Continuing on ever closer to London the next overnight stop was at Chertsey. This was a convenient starting point to go to Brooklands the next day. Arriving at Brooklands quite early and before daily activities had begun the museum attendants made the cars and passengers very welcome and the cars parked right in front of the old clubhouse. Brooklands has a fascinating history because not only was it the first purpose built motor racing circuit in the UK it also has an airfield and was the scene of Vickers Wold War I / World War II and later aircraft manufacture plus racing cars such as the 24lt Napier-Railton. The track and banking were built in record time in 1907. There is only about 300m of the banking left but it was a high priority for a picture and permission given by the Club Secretary. From pictures the banking does not look high, in fact it is 28ft 8in to be precise, but try walking to the top or getting out of you car when parked half way up!
Many of the old timber pit garages have fortunately been preserved as individual displays or facades to a larger space and a great collection of interesting motorcars up to recent F1, motorcycles and Raleigh push bikes. On the other side of the Cub House are a number of buildings with quite a mixture of aircraft displays and restoration including R for Robert Wellington Bomber rescued from Lock Ness and a Harrier Jet. Outside are quite a number of large commercial aircraft such as a VC10 and Vickers Viscount etc.
After a fun day it was time to return to base at Catford Manor for a few days R & R and then Saturday 19 July we head off again for Stratford, and a week on a canal boat.
Brooklands Club House
On the banking (1)
On the banking (2)
Early on Saturday morning 19/07/03 The Four Richard & Barbara, Darryl & Graham caught the train from Paddington to Stratford Upon Avon to start the Canal boat week. It was decided the backyard of Catford Manor was a far safer place to leave the cars and the just under 2 hour train journey far less stressful than the dreaded A205 South Circular again and a potential 4 hours by road. Also a very relaxing way to see some countryside — and it was (some of them had nana naps!).
Canal boat host and MG friend from Perth Graham Mackie was at Stratford station to meet our travellers and advised that Mike & Loretta who had spent the week in the Malvern Hills had already arrived at the boat yard. Graham had a hire car he had driven up from London so he shuttled D & G with all the luggage to the boat while R & B did some shopping for a few days provisions.
By early afternoon and a short briefing on how a canal boat works, "The Seven" were under way but without Mike Sherrell who decided F1 at Silverstone the next day could not be missed. It was not long before the first lock was reached and then 3 more and the team soon had the business of opening and closing paddles (to let the water in and out) and the lock gates (to let the boat in and out) well and truly sussed out. A bit further on the first flights of locks like staircases were reached followed by a brief stop and stroll at Wilmcote to see Mary Arden's House (Shakespeare's Mum's house). The first night was spent at Wootton Wawen but before arriving there the Edstone and Wootten Wawen Aqueducts had to be traversed. What an eerie feeling being in a boat traversing a narrow bridge full of water which crossed roads and railway lines below. It is what you would normally expect in a river but in reverse. Day 1, 7.5mls 17 locks (24.5 lock miles).
The next day (Sunday) brought very picturesque waterway scenery, hump roof cottages and novel split cantilever bridges of very small span but split from back in the days of horse drawn boats so the tow rope could pass through the bridge and no need to unhitch — clever! Later in the day the Lapworth locks had to be negotiated. This started with 10 locks fairly close together and then another 7 only about 100metres apart literally forming a staircase. The novelty of locking was starting to wear thin so much so that Richo purchased a T shirt bearing a drawing of a lock and the words "Knackered — Sod Locking" but still all hands to the winches. That night the crew reached Hockley Heath the designated meeting point to catch up with Mike at 9.00am the next day. They had done very well to reach this point and pass through 52 locks and 16.5miles so all tucked in to a few pints and Sunday Roast at the Wharf Tavern. While at the Tavern Mike arrived from Silverstone also looking for a meal. Stories were exchanged over the meal and later Mike returned to his digs for the night. Day 2, 9mls 36 Locks (45 lock miles).
The following day (Monday) Mike joined the crew but had a lucky escape as surprisingly there are no locks for the 14miles from Hockley Heath to Birmingham except for the guillotine stop lock no longer in use. However there was another aqueduct and two draw bridges that had to be opened - that was different. Also new was the 275 yard Brandyard Tunnel, rather strange and a bit scary, until your eyes adjust to the dark, navigating a boat through a narrow tunnel and although the boat had a light of sorts the best aid was the cabin lights reflecting off the walls. By now the crew had all spent time on the tiller and no longer did the boat zig zag up the canal. However, Richo likened the sensitivity of the steering to that of a TC with worn original steering box on wet Melbourne night driving on tram rails!
When the T intersection with the Worcester — Birmingham Canal was reached at Kings Norton Junction the crew turned right toward Birmingham. On arriving at the Birmingham Basin the crew were blown away with the way in which the original canal systems had been beautified and were now a major city attraction. Graham Mackie recalled a Tavern with lots of MG memorabilia right on the waterfront. Pitstop as it is now known was located for lunch and Jenny, the name of the canal boat, was moored right out in front, reverse parked too! Pitstop was fascinating, car bits hanging over the bar and lots of MG paraphernalia and grills on the walls. That afternoon Jenny went on the return journey to Kings Norton Junction passing the canal entrance into the Cadbury Factory but this time continued on the Birmingham canal towards Worcester. The next bit of excitement was the Wast Hill Tunnel of 2726yards and took about 30mins to get through. This sounds like a long time but you must remember the canal speed limit is 4mph and the boats are not capable of much more. A little further on were the Shortwood and Tardebrigge Tunnels of 613 and 580yards and then the 32 locks of the Tardebrigge lock system. As it was getting late and it had been a big day our travellers decided to negotiate part of the lock system then moor to the bank in one of the mid lock passing bays. You can virtually moor your boat anywhere you like on the towpath side of the canal and where public moorings aren't available you drive steel stakes into the bank, these are provided on board along with winch spanners for the locks. Day 3, 28mls 8 Locks (36 lock miles)to Bridge 54.
Tuesday morning dawned and the remainder of the Tardebigge locks negotiated to achieve an overall change in water level of 217feet. The remainder of the day was not too hectic with locks, 5 at Stoke Prior and again at Astwood both for a 42ft change in level. Then the 236yd Dunhampstead Tunnel and another 42ft change in level at the 6 Offerton locks. Further on single locks of Tolladine and Black Pole for 7ft each and dual locks of 14ft at Bilford and Gregory's Mill. During all this the idyllic scenery of the Malvern Hills, sleepy villages and lush woodlands was being absorbed as Jenny slipped into the back door of Worcester. The crew used the remainder of the day to explore Worcester this included a lengthy stroll passed the Cathedral, Porcelain Works and along the banks of the Severn. Walking up the canal towpath a feed of wild blackberries could not be denied and a stroll through the boat yards back to Jenny. On return Graham Mackie introduced all to the Dutch couple in the neighbouring boat who knew of Harry and Deirdre Pyle. Day 4, 16mls 47 Locks (63 lock miles).
Wednesday morning the two Grahams and Darryl had Jenny underway just after 7am as usual only to be thwarted at the Digilis Canal locks to find them literally locked and had to wait the pleasure of the lock keeper to unlock them around 8 or so. These two locks drop the canal 18ft to the Severn River. A short distance into the Severn River is the Digilis River Lock, which is quite large, and the locks controlled by traffic lights and opened and closed by hydraulic rams operated by the lock keeper. Initially the scenery down the Severn is rather bland with the odd Motor Yacht Club to view but high banks and a big wide river are a contrast to the narrow treed canals. The only bit of excitement was an enforced stop at one of the motor yacht clubs to have Jenny's toilets pumped out and witness the launching of a new canal boat by large mobile crane.
Further on the rolling Malvern Hills came into view and lush farmlands. On reaching up ton upon Severn the crew disembarked to explore the town and a little treat from Graham Mackie who supplied everyone with their choice of some home made ice cream from a local shop of renown opposite the town clock tower. Next point of interest was the rather ornate Mythe Wrought Iron Bridge built in 1825. A short distance on the keeper operated Lock at Tewkesbury put our crew into the Avon River and another opportunity to explore a lovely little town. Not much further up the Avon was the manned lock at Strensham, which is double the size of the canal locks and Jenny shared the lock with another narrow boat — like two peas in a pod. The Avon meanders through the countryside and much of the time Bredon Hill is in view with its stone tower on top. The hill is just short of 1000ft ASL and in the 18th century some eccentric built a tower so he could admire the view at 1000ft above sea level. There is only one other lock before the overnight stop at the next town of Pershore. This was at Nafford Lock, which required the crew having to open a swing bridge as well as the lock to enable Jenny to pass. Day 5, 31mls 9 locks (40 lock miles).
Thursday morning dawned and Jenny resumed her voyage along the reedy banks of the Avon, numerous rickety fishing trestles amongst the reeds, assortment of ducks and waterfowl with their young and patches of lily pads with bright yellow flowers. All sounds like the opening scene of a Beatrix Potter story! Shortly after leaving Pershore the entrance to Piddle Brook was passed and yes folks they arrived at the town of Wyre Piddle and also passed Tiddle Widdle Island - now I ask you? Never mind!
This upper part of the Avon also has numerous very nice houses with beautifully groomed lawns and gardens with the obligatory launch moored at the end of the garden — there is money here! There are also a number of beautiful multi arched masonry bridges still standing from way back when. It is not long before the town of Evesham comes into view and it was here the crew again disembark for some more exploring. Before disembarking the picturesque Lock at Evesham with it's 'A' frame lockkeepers cottage decorated with flower boxes and spanning the adjacent sluice had to be negotiated. The Evesham Lock is the division between the Upper and Lower Avon.
Evesham is a reasonable size town but has kept many of its beautiful old Tudor style buildings. It was here that Barb, Richo & Graham could not resist beautiful home made Pasties, Richo had a second on the way back. Even older is the beautiful Bell Tower built by Monks between 1326 — 32 but very little of the monastery has survived. Equally pleasing to the eye are the nearby Church of St Lawrence and the little cottages housing the museum with their flowerbeds. The museum had an excellent assortment of artefacts from the monks and local history not at all boring like many museums. After a few hours it was then time to make tracks to Bidford on Avon for the night. Bidford was reached not that late in the afternoon, which gave sufficient time to locate the best pub for the evening meal and check out the antique shops. Day 6, 18mls 7 Locks (25 lock miles).
Friday morning and our last full day on the boat but more of the beautiful Avon River still to enjoy. Today would be a leisurely day for the crew as it was planned to arrive not too late at the Stratford Basin to be assured of a mooring and still allow time to explore Shakespeare's birthplace. The Basin was almost completely full of canal boats on arrival — quite a site. Jenny was moored expertly by El Capitain Graham Mackie right in the shadow of Shakespeare's Statue. This was most appropriate as it was some Shakespearian history that was on the agenda for Richard & Barbara. First port of call was Shakespeare's Birthplace, which included a walk through Shakespearian history museum then the actual house. Incredible to be in the very house Bill was born in! After a stroll through the Tudor lined streets a visit to Nash's house and next door the garden where once stood 'New Place' the house that Bill purchased in 1597 and where he later died in 1616. Unfortunately the house was demolished in 1759 but the site preserved by well-kept gardens. Across the road is another wonderful Tudor building Harvard House the home of Katherine Rogers, Mother of John Harvard founder of Harvard Uni. The crew all met up again late in the day for the last supper at the local Weatherspoon Pub, good value for money, and later wandered down the street for a nightcap at the interesting Dirty Duck Pub with its walls of actors pictures. Then a short stroll back to Jenny at the basin and a good nights sleep. Day 7, 10mls 7 Locks (17 lock miles).
Bidford upon Avon
Shakespeare's birth place
Saturday Morning and a short trip up the canal and only a couple of Locks to return Jenny by 9am for her next adventure, very sad to leave her but her toilets were full again, an indication that all ate well and drank numerous pints and Merlot! Pack the bags and head for the station to catch the train back to Catford Manor. We did have some time though to browse a trash and treasure market where Darryl managed to add a mug to his collection. Goodbyes all-round especially to Graham Mackie our wonderful host who we would not see again until back home. A fantastic week of fun and serenity and if ever the opportunity arises for you to spend time on a canal boat I personally would walk on broken glass to get there!!! That's a great quote from someone who didn't know what he was going to do with himself for a whole week on a canal boat!!! Grand Total just over 100miles and 133 Locks, (a total distance in lock miles of 233 — not bad for first-timers — webmaster) Wow!!! And I need another pint! Will need a rest now before starting the European adventure. Ozzie