10 - 15 September 2002 or
"Nineteen go to Brittany",
by Jerry Birkbeck, photos by Jack Murray
footnote by David Pelham
Double click the thumbnails to open the pictures
We were going to go to Kirrin Island ... However, Red Leader [David Hague] agreed some while ago to organise a 10th Anniversary Visit to Brittany on behalf of the Y Type Register. Learning from the experiences of that trip, the ferry and accommodation organisation was placed in the hands of MST Travel. David's role was one of co-ordination and selecting a route that picked up the three centres that had been visited before.
The day started early on Tuesday 10 September as a band of Y Type Owners [together with an MGB and TA] made their way from Petersfield at 6.30 to the Ferry Port at Portsmouth to catch the 8.00 am Brittany Ferry for Caen.
The group had all met up at David Hague's and Jack Murray's respective houses on the Monday evening and gathered together for a meal at a local pub to renew and make new friendships. Andrew and Arlene Coulson [YA] had travelled 280 miles from Ripon, Alan Chick and Mary Wilkinson [YB] some 160 miles from Cardiff and Jerry and Jo Birkbeck [TA] 120 miles from Leamington — all in foul weather, perhaps a precursor for the week?
The others who gathered in Tesco's car park in the morning found a very favourable change in the weather with the promise of warm conditions in Brittany. Our three travelling couples were joined by David Pelham [YA] with navigator Rob Gammage, Chief Executive of the MG Car Club, Jack and Molly Murray [YA] and David and Barbara Hague [MGB]. One felt some real sympathy for David, who would of course have been in his YB had it not suffered a broken camshaft in the South Downs Run the previous weekend. Fortunately, he had his other car, a red MGB, available [hence his title!].
A line of 6 MGs must have set the heart of some of the early morning commuters fluttering, though others may have had different thoughts! Nonetheless, the convoy was moving at a steady 50 - 55 mph and not causing any hold ups.
At Portsmouth we met up with two more of our party Peter and Suzie Arnell [YB] together with Ron Smith, John Patman and Ken Wheeler all together in Paul Rundell's old YA [which had been on the first Y trip to Brittany in 1992] and who later became known as the Three Musketeers.
MST had done us proud as all eight cars were berthed together on the boat. Portsmouth-Caen is one of the longer crossings, around 6 hours. Lots of talk and eating and getting to know sessions took place. A calm sea and wonderfully warm weather for early September set the standard. Although, the ferry `Quiberon' was obviously getting well past its sell by date compared with the latest range of ferries. Nevertheless, it served its purpose and we arrived on French soil at 3.30 local time.
Hoods down for Red Leader Hague's MGB and Jerry's TA as we set off and the group of eight vehicles made their way to the first stop at Pegasus Bridge, a key point in the liberation of France of 5/6 June 1944. A few snaps and then we were off to Falaise where a reception had been arranged by the local tourist board. It was here that we met up with Victor and Evelyn Rodrigues in their YA. Eventually after a photo call, sampling of the local calvados and a guided tour
round a local museum we set off for the next stage of the journey to our overnight stay at Mortain.
Ron Smith's YA, was exhibiting some alarming noises from beneath the rocker box [certainly more than tappet rattle].
Everyone finally arrived at the hotel by 8.45 with J and J's T coming in last, after a detour around the Falaise by-pass.
Then hotel has made an effort to give the guests a real sense of exclusivity — special room and a table large enough to seat all nineteen of us. The menu was stylised for the Y Type Event, which was a nice touch. The evening wound up by 11.00 pm as most of the party were totally knackered.
The following day fine weather welcomed us and after breakfast and a presentation by David Hague to the hotel management of a Y2k model of Y Type which was warmly accepted, it was bonnets up and ensuring that the old girls [the cars] were suitably watered and fed to start the next stage of the journey to Ploermel, a distance of about 125 miles. Ron discovered his problem was a broken rocker arm. He decided to phone up Brown and Gammons to arrange for the necessary parts to be shipped out before the weekend so that the car could be repaired. He then hired a car for the rest of the week.
Red Leader took us through the first stage of the journey and then David Pelham and Rob Gammage took the lead to guide us through the Normandy/Brittany countryside. Rob was great at sussing out suitable stops for a coffee /beer/fag (cigarettes to the Americans) stop and he found an excellent café next to a roundabout on a minor road for a much-needed stop.
During the day the convoy met up with Andrew and Arlene who had decided to do their own thing and were picnicking in woodland clearing next to the road, waved us down and told us of their splendid lunch of wine, cheese and baguette that they had just enjoyed.
David Hague had suggested a stopping point close to Loheac for us to meet up and commemorate 11/09. Somehow we lost him and stopped in a village square next to the church as David Pelham set to work on trying to resolve a charging problem with his regulator. Whilst he was doing this and the rest of the group were lounging around, enjoying the sun and eating ice creams a number of local people dressed in black turned up. We thought it was perhaps something that had been arranged as a mark of respect for the twin towers tragedy. Not so as it turned out. A black transit van turned up, the doors were opened and flowers emerged together with a coffin ... . We had found ourselves in the middle of a funeral! I guess only David Pelham could begin a story with the line ` I was changing my dynamo and suddenly I found myself in a funeral and then... .'. We paid our respects and then moved on to meet the others at a motor museum outside Loheac.
The final stage of the journey was to our hotel in Ploermel, which was a modern building set up as a centre for conferences and attached to an extensive lake and golf course. We were to stay here for three nights and the events that occurred were shall we say interesting, but that would be another story! David Hague had some difficulty in explaining to the hotel management that our stay had been paid for but eventually matters were resolved. The first meal had something of a Faulty Towers feel about it — the house red was suddenly off after 4 bottles had been ordered [but we do have an excellent wine, monsieur, which is just as good — but 7 Euros more], there was no gin and there was a problem with a distinct lack of cutlery. However, there were a lot of bread rolls!
The next day was a free day and Jo and I decided to team up with a group travelling across to Port Navalo on the south Brittany coast. A great experience as a group of 12 of us — 4 Ys, TA and MGB followed Blue Leader Rob Gammage in David Pelham's YA made our way across country by way of C and D roads, some of which were single carriageway and very rural, grass growing through the carriageway, but generally well maintained.
Rob sussed out the needs of the group once again and we arrived in Rochefort en Terre, a fantastic small town that is well worth a visit and we lunched in groups of 2 [smokers and non smokers]. As always, someone in a party meets a friend / friends out of the blue — and Rob jumped up as he noticed, I believe, Easter and Edward Kirkland [T typers], who have a property nearby to where we were lunching!
As we moved off for the coast we managed to loose Red Leader — his MGB unable to keep up with the pace of the Ys! So we arrived at Port Navalo where we took over a very small parking area and more had a coffee and rest before setting back to Ploermel. A long but enjoyable day with over 125 miles covered.
Friday was left to individuals to do as they wanted but we agreed to meet at Josselin, approximately 10 miles from Ploermel for an early evening gathering at another of the venues visited ten years previously. Rob gained the Purple Heart [or something like that] for walking from the hotel to Josselin. Mind you he wanted a lift back — part-time walker obviously! Later we had a fascinating time at dinner when there was the formal handing over of a Nissan wheel by Victor to David Pelham ... it's a long story upon which I could not possibly comment. Victor then made a little speech to everyone — thanking in particular David and Barbara Hague for organising and the event — and gave each of the crews a very special memento. Three cans of Swiss beer with each can carrying the Y Register logo, a note of the 10th Anniversary Tour of Brittany, 10th — 15th September together with the logo of the Zurich MG Car Club. Thank you Victor and Evelyn a very treasured memory for all of us.
On Saturday we began the return leg of our journey ably lead by Red Leader we decided not to visit Mont St Michel and go directly towards Villedieu-des-Poeles, which was the overnight stop. The Three Musketeers drove back to Mortain to repair Ron's Y with the aim of meeting up with us at the
ferry port. The main party followed David Hague and were all gagging for a coffee by late morning — without success. However, after a roadside tete a tete an alteration to the route was agreed. By chance we crossed a canal, complete with lock keepers cottage and an excellent photo spot. Well Victor got talking to the family and out came bottles of wine and we enjoyed an excellent aperitif and some excellent banter together with some photos which no doubt may figure inSafety Fast some time in the future.
We were still seeking some lunch and after passing through several villages we came into St. Brice [I think] by this time it was well after 2.00 pm. We found a restaurant, which despite some rising of eyebrows found a special room for 14 us! I am unsure whether Andrew, who had already lunched there, advised David and if the place had been pre-booked. It did seem a remarkable coincidence!
At our dinner at our hotel in Villedieu, Andrew and Arlene collected the answers to a fiendishly very nasty quiz that they had set. The standard of the replies was not especially high as Andrew was a hard taskmaster [would do well marking A level papers]. Somehow the Birkbecks's won the competition with a success rate 0.0015 better than the next and were awarded a splendid print of Stirling Moss and Bruce Maclaren battling it out in the 1961 British Grand Prix.
The final day started early as Victor and Evelyn set off on their three-day journey back to Zurich with everyone sad to see them go. The remainder of the party then made their way to Ouistreham for the afternoon ferry. Several went via the World War 2 landing beaches. We chose to visit Bayeux where we visited the cathedral and the tapestry — both fantastic and really worth spending more time in.
We arrived at the ferry port to find the others already there. It was particularly good to see that Ron's YA had made it — and he was well pleased with the car's performance from Mortian. We were parked among some exotic classics, E types, A-Ms. Healeys etc. that had just been taking part in the Dordogne Rally and all this added to the quality of the experience. The ferry was late arriving at Portsmouth and whilst most had a fairly short journey home Andrew and Arlene decided to travel the 280 miles back to Yorkshire, arriving back at 4.00 am. We took the 140 mile trek back to Leamington arriving back at 1.00 am — and Jo went to work at 6.00 am, later on that morning!
A brilliant week with a lot of fun and fantastic weather, new faces and new experiences and a chance to catch up with existing friends. Thank you David and Barbara for all your hard work very much appreciated.
David Pelham writes (briefly):
These pictures were both are taken in the square in Josselin, Brittany. The first was taken on the inaugural Tour of Brittany in 1992, and the second on the latest 2002 Tour. Unfortunately the flags were not out in 2002 but we will try and get this sorted for the 2012 Brittany Tour!
Y7011, Josselin, 1992 Tour of Brittany
Y7011, Josselin, 2002 Tour of Brittany