Thankfully the early morning mist had cleared by the time we got to Thetford for the start of a three car convoy to Duxford. Christina had declined this trip in favour of her father Frank. With her lads Nick and James it was going to be a ‘boys’ day.
A nice drive down in the sun changed when we got to Duxford as the clouds came over and the wind blew up. First stop was the tea tent, run in a donation system, then booking in for a valuation, the outcome of which was a very pleasant surprise.
This was followed by a wander around a good selection of around 80 Triumphs while we waited for the lads to arrive.
With Colin (who convoyed down with us in a red spitty) joining us, the first stop was hanger one for a look at Concorde amongst other planes. We then went on to the American hanger via the Triumph stand for another fuel top up and lastly on to the Land Warfare hanger (my favourite). We missed out quite a few other hangers, Duxford being a rather large place. It was great to see a couple of Spitfires flying over regularly, one of which offered 30 minute flights for just shy of £3,000. It must be quite an experience. But a tad too much for me.
Having made a quick turn around since returning from Rutland, we were ready to get back on the road early on Thursday morning for the much longer drive to Newbury. Paul had found a stop-over about half way, which we thought was an American Diner but turned out to be a lorry stop. So, we found ourselves driving across a pot-holed yard between massive lorries, then joining a very male-dominated café for an all-day breakfast. Although a little intimidating, it was much cheaper than a regular motorway services, and we did get some admiring glances from the truckers!
We arrived at the showground just after 3pm and were thrilled to be met by Christopher of the Retro Caravan Club (RCC) who directed us into a prime spot right at the front of the row. There were already several caravans there (soon to be over 80) and we soon got ourselves set up and went off to chat to friends. Friday was the main day for exhibitors to arrive and it was interesting to watch as the various stalls were set up. There was music in the evening in the Black Hanger marquee and most of the food outlets were open. We had quite a bit of interest in the combo, from other exhibitors who were walking round and, despite the cold weather, we had a good day. The RCC had organised a Hawaiian themed party for the evening which was fun, although the cold wind sent us back to the warmth of the ‘van before very long.
Saturday and Sunday were the proper show days and from 10 am on both days there was a steady stream of visitors into the show. Being at the front of the row meant that we caught the eye of most of them and so we spent lots of time chatting and answering questions, sharing reminisces etc. We also had time to leave our pitch to look around the show and picked up a few bargains (best one being Christina’s 1960’s coat which was definitely needed on the Saturday when the cold wind continued to blow) and listening to music in the various marquees, our favourite being the Ricky Tic where we danced to 60’s and 70’s Mod/Ska/Reggae bands. We were reluctant to leave on the Sunday, but had to get back for Monday morning, so we packed up and were on the road by 6.30 which meant a late drive home, arriving back just after 11.00. A great weekend and one we will definitively do again.
Paul had attended the Sunshine Rally several times many years ago, when it was at its first venue of Stanford Hall, and so when our friends Nigel and Jenny said they were going we decided to join in too. We had a good journey to Rutland Campsite, arriving at about 3.30. We soon got set up and went for a cuppa at the site’s teashop as Christina had been too busy with the new house to bake. We declined the offer of joining the fish and chip run, but joined the others in the hospitality tent later for the quiz – which a variety of reactions as nobody seemed to quite understand how it worked! The following morning we were up early and collected our route map in the hopes that we could get round before the forecast rain. The route had been well thought out, with some interesting stop-offs. We were probably the only ones to stop at the Herb/Garden Centre, but we wanted to have a look round to get inspiration for the gardens that we need to plan. Unfortunately the rain caught up with us and we drove to the main stop point at Launde in quite a downpour. We enjoyed a cup of tea and cakes at the Abbey with other TSSC members before braving the showers to look around the gardens before setting off to complete the run. We got back to the campsite for a late lunch then both managed to nod off for over an hour, woken by someone coming to tell us that the BBQ would be ready in half an hour. Another quiz followed and the evening ended with our team, the NFN’s coming third!
On Sunday the plan was for the cars to be put into the middle of the field for showing, before we were all taken by bus to Oakham for a Treasure Hunt. This proved to be better than anticipated and we spent a good couple of hours searching for the answers to some quite cryptic clues before having a picnic lunch in the castle grounds. We got back to the campsite and packed up the caravan before going to the marquee for the raffle draw and results of the car show, which saw us leaving the weekend coming second in the People’s Choice and then being awarded Car of the Show as the Herald was judged to be the ‘most used, loved and enjoyed car’ in its combo with the Viking. A happy ending to a great, well-organised weekend.
Having moved the day of the fete from Saturday to Sunday in order to move to a bigger venue to cater for the amount of interest, there seemed to have been a slight lapse in communication about the arrangements. We arrived at the Bell for the car run, only to find that there was only one other car and no route, so after a search around the village we gave up and went home to return to the fete for midday. There were a few other cars there and with no one to direct us we lined ourselves up. As we had taken the caravan, several people came to say hi and to tell us they had seen it parked in the drive and were interested in having a good look at it.
We first heard about the Holkham Country Fair at the Drive-It Day run which ended at Holkham Hall. After making a few enquiries we got ourselves booked in to the car show and then booked the caravan into the campsite for the weekend.
We arrived at Holkham Hall on the Friday evening and had a wander around the developing Fair. Back at the campsite we went to have a look at the only other vintage ‘van, a Cheltenham with a Rolls Royce tow car, then returned to our pitch to find the owner looking at our set up!
After a good night’s sleep, we hitched up and towed the caravan around to the car show area. We managed to get ourselves a prime position just below the Hall and with a fantastic view of the Main Arena. There was some great entertainment throughout the day, with the “Cossacks Horseback Riders” being one of the favourite. The car show was well attended and our caravan created a lot of interest from young and old alike. Having found ourselves in such a good spot, we got permission to stay where we were for the night rather than go back to the campsite, which meant that we were still having breakfast as the show started up around us the next morning! The weather was not brilliant over the weekend but it cleared enough on Sunday for the parachutists to land in the arena, and then brightened up just in time for the spectacular Red Arrows Display. We thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and will certainly look to attend the next one in 2019.
Just an evening’s run for fish and chips by the sea, we had arranged to meet up with other TSSC members at Dereham, taking Nick with us for his first classic car experience. We didn’t have long to wait before the others arrived from Norwich so once we had agreed routes we were ready to go. Unfortunately, when Paul started up the engine there was a burning smell and smoke coming from under the bonnet. Just as Christina was wondering if there was a fish and chip shop in Dereham, all the men gathered like bees around a honeypot to investigate and offer advice. Luckily it wasn’t a serious problem, nothing a bit of card and ductape couldn’t fix, and we were on our way. The weather was a little on the chilly side, especially for the passenger sitting in the back, but the fish and chips were lovely and a pleasant evening was spent by all.
We were both looking forward to meeting back with some of the friends we had met in Holland, although we had heard some horror stories about the steep hill into the campsite so were feeling a bit nervous about that. We had a good journey and it was lovely to be greeted by some familiar faces. The campsite was indeed down quite a steep slope with a very loose gravel surface which Paul navigated carefully after Christina had jumped out of the car, opting to walk down the hill! We had a lovely weekend doing very little other than chatting and relaxing. We visited the National Herb Centre which gave us some inspiration for our new garden, lovely lunch of homemade quiche and an ice-cream.
The weekend also included the club’s first AGM which was well attended and successfully summed up the fantastic growth of the RRC to date. Our departure early on Sunday afternoon caused great interest amongst the other members as they debated whether or not the Herald would be able to tow the caravan back up the hill. Of course, with his usual meticulous research, helped significantly by his friend Google, Paul made it look easy and the videos evidenced the encouragement and cheering that accompanied our ascent! A fantastic weekend and more friendships made and renewed.
Although we have attended the North Norfolk Railway Vintage Vehicles Day twice before, this year we decided to make a long weekend of it and stay at Kelling Heath holiday park for a few days before the show. This was a bit of a trip down memory lane for Christina, who had stayed there on a few occasions when the boys were younger. We met up with others from the Phoenix club and enjoyed a BBQ, a tea party, a curry and a beer festival over the weekend. In order to justify all this indulgence, we also went for a couple of very long walks on the Friday and Saturday, exploring the local area.
The car show was on the Sunday and this year we were showing the caravan with the car. The weather was lovely and as in previous years we combined the show with a trip into Sheringham on the Steam Train.
So, the time had finally arrived, the night before we were due to set off for our trip to Europe. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, back in November, when we realised that the European Classic Caravan Rally in Wanroij, NL and Laon Historique in France were being held on consecutive weekends. “We could go to both, and have a holiday in between, it will be an adventure!” we said. Now, on the night before our departure, all we could think about was how good it would be to be back home and able to say, “we did it, and survived!”
After declaring he wasn’t going to get up ‘that **** early’ Paul was actually first awake the next morning, which meant a leisurely tea and toast at 3.45 and some last-minute packing before setting off to the now infamous phrase “…this is it then?”
The journey all went well, with Paul ever-grateful that we had managed to source a pair of solid wing mirrors and Christina pleased with the help of the new TomTom, meaning that we arrived at Campinglaan1 at 20.45, as predicted. We stopped at the reception and were told that the rally was down at the far end of the campsite. This is where the problems began! We drove down what we hoped was a road, dodging small children on bikes and scooters, and avoiding glares from their parents, until we got to the area that the receptionist had directed us too. There were some vintage-looking Citroens in the bottom few pitches, but nothing resembling a field of classic caravans. We got a round of applause as we drove through the middle of them but by this time we had realised that this was not where we should be. Even the best tower/reverser would have struggled to turn around at this point so the only way was forward – through the washing up area, around a family BBQ and, piece de resistance, right through the middle of a children’s football pitch with wide-mouthed spectators too shocked to stop us. Eventually a very nice Dutch lady came to help with the words “you seem to be a little lost”. After a few more embarrassing moments we finally made it to the ECCR rally where we were delighted to have Lyndsay introduce herself as our neighbour by thrusting two glasses of Pimms at us!
The embarrassment of our arrival was soon forgotten as we set up and sat down to enjoy the drink and a sandwich (declining the invitation to join the RCC quiz) and so began a fantastic weekend in the company of some really lovely people with their equally lovely caravans. The weather was perfect (maybe even a little too hot at times) and we enjoyed getting to know people who until now had been names on Facebook. The Rally hosted a ‘caravan jumble’ on Saturday and an ‘open-van’ day on Sunday which helped everyone to chat and share ideas for their caravans.
We departed the ECCR on the Monday, attempting a convoy with 4 other RCC members to a campsite in Belgium, but we struggled to keep up with them in their modern towcars and, about halfway into the journey, experienced a really scary ‘wobble’ as 3 lorries in succession passed us, causing the van to start snaking. After that we decided to slow down to our own pace, and met them at the next campsite. Another spectacular arrival followed, this time involving 5 classic caravans trying to turn around on a single-track road very close to the edge of a lake, whilst being given very loud encouragement/instruction/advice by several Belgians. Our stay at Klein Strand included a bus ride into Bruges, and lots more lovely, sunny weather.
On the Wednesday we broke off from the RCC and went solo to Manoir de la-Bas for 2 nights, before meeting up with Nigel and Jenny on Friday for the final destination, Laon.
We arrived and got set up just before the threatened storm arrived, a torrential downpour with accompanying thunder and lightning which lasted for well over an hour. We opted out of the 100-mile tulip route as we felt we had done enough long-distance driving, and instead did some sight-seeing and shopping in the town. Sunday was the day that Paul had been looking forward to, with the high-speed chase all around the town and up and down the hills. The reality was, at first, a slow-moving traffic jam, but eventually as cars began to drop out, Paul managed to get up enough speed to cause slight screams and just a little expletive from Christina as he whizzed round the hairpin bends.
Finally it was time to head for home. After the obligatory searches as we passed through customs, we managed to board an earlier ferry and arrived in Dover by 4pm. As arranged we stayed at the Premier Inn in Whitstable and spent a pleasant evening with Nigel and Jenny. Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse overnight meaning that it was unsafe to drive home in the high gusty winds, so we had to hang around all day, storm watching, until we decided it was safe enough to set off at about 6pm. We eventually got home at 11pm, exhausted, and went straight to bed.
As we turned off the light, just before sleep overtook us, we were finally able to say….
“…we did it, and survived!”