|Launceston Steam & Vintage Rally 2016|
The drive to North Hill, near Altarnun, was truly spectacular. For once the May bank holiday weather was stunningly clear and warm. The deserted 15 mile route I chose was a drive down memory lane, more akin to an uninterrupted journey through a wild, colourful Chelsea garden; classic motoring at its best. Squadrons of swallows danced in front of the Magnette, behaving more like flying fish trying to out-run a bow wave. However, it was not long before the dream evaporated, as I reached the dubious reality of the A30. The Launceston Rally site could clearly be seen beyond the opposite carriageway, a veritable township of caravans, motor homes, marquees and winnybagos (I just love that word!), covering a normally deserted 40 acre field.
Usually, I'm in a minority of one at this show, it is normally associated with ankle deep mud, but this year I had the company of Club members Del and Tony MacManus plus Julia and Terry Harding, not to mention Sylvia and Roger Grace who, as usual, set up shop in the large craft tent exhibiting classic model power boats. In view of the exceptional weather, this year's show was vast, and ensured a large turnout of classic cars, commercial vehicles, steam engines, and more tractors than there were buttercups growing in the field. We were treated to lots of displays in the ring, sufficient to encourage us boys to do the same with our MGs, whilst the ladies discussed the pros and cons of 'Brexit', as you do!
Interestingly, the classic cars on display were mostly from the late 60s and 70s, which reminded me that I was getting to that age when 'classics' mean cars I used to drive every day as a young man, all bling and tin. However, there were at least two I would have loved to have driven home. One, a magnificent pre-war Armstrong Sidley Belvedere, a commodious saloon, weighing in at a mere 3 tons, and lovingly restored. The other was an Aston Martin DB5, circa 1970, that appeared to have left the show room that morning. However, for me, the car that stole the show was a 1926 Citroen C3 5hp. (my rotary mower at home has 6.5hp!) Its provenance was truly amazing. Bricked up in a chateaux in 1939, prior to the Nazi invasion of France, it had not seen the light of day until discovered in 2014, when the wall was demolished to make room for an extension to the big house. The owners sold it to a Brit, who managed to get it working and brought it to this country in the condition 'as found'. Judging by the smoke emitted from its frail exhaust, I judged its fuel to be a mixture of rolled up newspapers and faggots. It was so under powered that it took four grown men to help it out of the parade ring, even with the 90 year old engine running!
In contrast to this, other displays included Ford County tractors attempting drag racing, many powered by nitro, I'm sure; motorcycle displays, all girl drumming bands (an acquired taste) and a very impressive dog show. A tiny steam traction engine puffed its stuff pulling a fully laden HM Coastguard Safari Land Rover uphill, whilst 50 young primary school children won a tug of war with a mighty Ford 3000 tractor. And so it went on….
This classic show is the first of many held in East Cornwall throughout the season, with probably more exhibitors than punters. In some ways it is in a time warp favoured by the Cornish, but if they are all as good as this, then we are in for a great year. All too soon the sun moved round to the West and it was time to wend our way home. All in our party agreed that it had been an excellent, relaxing, day out day out. You should try it sometime.
A Drive It Day & Treasure Hunt
As curtains were drawn early Sunday morning the Sun God was peeping from behind his clouds, but at least it wasn’t raining. In fact as the day went on the Sun God dispersed most of his clouds to reveal a really gorgeous day – just right for a Treasure Hunt.
Del and I planned to be at the meeting venue of TESCOs at Lee Mill about 10 minutes before the allotted time, but on arrival we found most of the participants already there, nevertheless there was still plenty of time to greet everyone and exchange pleasantries. What was nice to see was that Howard’s article in the Evening Herald some time ago had paid dividends, ensuring that a number of people had come to TESCOs just to see our cars. A couple that I spoke to hadn’t even got an MG, but still wanted to see the display – most gratifying. Anticipation of our forthcoming ordeal was growing and eventually we received our verbal briefing from Clive and Wendy, when we were informed that the departures would be strictly controlled. Whist waiting for the nod for our departure some of us attempted a quick preview of the course, but even after pursuing Wendy around the Car Park with threats of violence, nothing was revealed.
Eventually Del and I were given the route and after setting our odometers to zero we
prepared to leave. As we were about to get into our car, however, we noticed that Mike and Julie were not driving their beloved MGBGT. When asked, why not, the poignancy of the day sudden hit us like a wet fish. They had sold the MG in preparation for their emigration to Australia and also we were then reminded that this was Clive and Wendy’s swansong as they prepared for their move to Chichester. Two of our strongest couples were leaving the club for pastures new, and although we obviously wish them well, it is sad when people that contribute so much to the Club have to leave.
Wiping away the tears and drying the inside of the wind screen, we departed the car park and proceeded to the A38. The route of some 30 miles – more for some!! – took us through Ivybridge on to Bittaford, Ugborough, Loddiswell, Churchstow, Modbury, Ermington and then over the A38 and into the Hunting Lodge at Cadleigh Park. The weather throughout was superb and for those of us who still have our open top MGs (sorry Mike and Julie), caps were soon worn to protect the thinning patches!!
The scenery is gorgeous along this route, but there were 13 questions interspersed throughout , so sightseeing was somewhat limited as we struggled to find the required answers. Del and I were doing quite well until we realised that we were looking at the answer to Clue 6 before getting the answer to Clue 5!! Nevertheless the rest of the route went without incident, although the atmosphere in the confined space of an MG was a little tense after Clue 6!! The Hunting Lodge is an old favourite of ours and so we were not surprised with the high standard of the carvery. Clive and Wendy had arranged a private room for us so we were all able to sit together and soon the conversation flowed.
Because Janet was driving to Cambridge immediately after lunch, both her and Howard got their carvery early and were enjoying theirs as we arrived.
It was soon time for tea and medals, and everyone was eager to know the results. It was because of the skill that Clive and Wendy had used to devise this Treasure Hunt that most people had got a lot of the answers to the questions correct, but 6 people had got 100% (nobody likes “inky swots”). As the tension mounted, a tie break question was asked. This had to be a question that involved an estimate and then the nearest would win. The question was, “What was the highest point reached during the Treasure Hunt?” All 6 were quite close, but one couple was almost spot on at 590 feet between California Cross and Loddiswell, and they were Hugh and Bridget. The trophy was presented with the sting in the tail - a reminder that they must do next year’s Treasure Hunt. I’m sure that that won’t bother Hugh and Bridget and all our congratulations go out to them.
Clive and Wendy then invited us all back to “Chez Wilson” for tea and coffees. A small, but select group gratefully accepted and the rest of the afternoon was enjoyed in their sunny back garden accepting their hospitality. Sadly time was marching on and having said our good byes we all wended our weary way home.
What a splendid swansong for Clive and Wendy. Thanks go to them, not only for this day, but also for all the other wonderful events that they have arranged over the years. Their contribution to the club will be sorely missed, but more importantly they will be missed as people and good friends – I’m sure that we all wish them well in their new adventure.
Tony & Del