Round Britain Coastal Drive Blog – by Philip Porter
Round Britain Coastal Drive Blog – by Philip Porter
Stage 1 (Day 1). Nine months ago, it was just a crazy dream. Now it is no longer a dream. It’s still crazy, though!
Fantastic sight to see 70 cars lined up at Goodwood House, TV there, loads of snappers, great atmosphere, spirit of adventure – felt like pioneers! – and the great Derek Bell to flag us away. Does not get much better.
Quite a bit of suburbia to get through first but then the joys of the New Forest. After lunch at Sandbanks, we crossed on the ferry and headed for Dorset. Breathtaking coastal drive along Jurassic Coast – that will take some beating. Not only were the views stunning but it was a perfect illustration of what this unique event is all about.
Very special to have several of the amazing Eagle E-types and their incredible variants on the trip together – surely a first – plus Henry Pearman and Paul Brace. Also have racer Mile Wilds with us, doing several days. Fabulous support.
CRY ran perfectly, apart from ******** cigar lighter not working and so no satnav! Had to use phones. In morning, navigator was Octavia Pollock from the Country Life and The Field. In the afternoon I had the first of my paying passengers who had heard of the event through a Classic & Sports Car Facebook mention. More funds for Prostate Cancer UK. Great stuff. Really nice guy, and good navigator, thank goodness.
Finished at Lyme Regis Gold Club, greeted by the Mayor. Dinner, lot of happy people, all the hard work by Louise and the E-type Club office team worthwhile, collapsed shattered and now off this morning to Penzance.
Photo montage: courtesy of Peter Johns.
Stage 2 (Day 2). Hottest day of the year forecast. Started from seafront car park in Lyme Regis in one hell of a thunderstorm. Not the plan. Brisk trade in E-type Club umbrellas! I asked around to see if anyone had any spare goldfish because they would luxuriated in the private pond quickly developing within CRY. Headed off, virtually unable to see. Had another charity-paying passenger and, thankfully, he did not seem too fazed by it all. Gradually weather cleared and so hood came down, which caused it to rain again. Putting hood up succeeded in halting rain. This sequence was an ongoing one during the morning and was excellent exercise. Reached the delightful town of Dartmouth and caught the short ferry (second in two days: becoming the tour of the ferries) and small bunch of us stopped shortly after for excellent fish and chips. In the afternoon, we hit so much traffic it was not true. Seemed every road-worthy car in Britain was in Devon and Cornwall. Not much fun. Using traffic updates, afternoon navigator Octavia did a great job tying to beat the jams and we ended up going down singe-track lanes and, as if it wasn’t wet enough, through a ford!
Had to stop to do another radio interview en route. Finally, arrived in Penzance in yet another thunderstorm – it had followed us. Rarely known rain like it. Roads now rivers. Need bilge pumps! Superb evening at lovely, historic Trereife House, a warm welcome from the family, whose home it has been for many generations, a fine dinner and hilarious talk by Paul Abadjian completed a challenging day.
Just hope the forecast today is for horrendous storms and we should have glorious sunshine. Out photographing early and looking good.
“First of all a massive thank you for all your energy and effort in arranging such a fabulous event – all in such a good cause. We thoroughly enjoyed our 2 legs and wish we could have joined you for more. Perhaps the club could do something of this ilk again in the not too distant future; worthy cause, Iconic cars, excellent company, drives through some stunning scenery.” Neal and Talitha Brewer
Stage 3 (Day 3)
Stage 3 (Day 3). Started in lovely weather for a change. As still no power to satnav, followed great friends Richard and Fatos Carter in their Fixed Head and Paul Abadjian in a red Roadster. First town was blocked by a lorry, so retraced our wheel-tracks and circumnavigated the problem. Lovely coastal scenery and delightful twisting lanes. Proper Cornish stuff. Then had to take to a couple of main roads and horrific traffic, luckily most of it going the other way. The Great British holidaying public have to realise there is more to Great Britain than Devon and Cornwall – which are full! With Brexit really kicking in next year, the mind boggles. It will be standing-room only.
Made good progress for the rest of the morning but struggled to find anywhere for lunch and then, of course, we had the added the challenge of pubs stopping serving at 2pm. I have always said: ‘Such pubs are the only businesses in the world that turn away sales. Unbelievable.’ Lost the Carters in the search but Paul and I finally found a great 13th century pub down a long lane and had an excellent swift repast. Paul then headed for home in Dorset and I was on my own, navigating and juggling phone, cameras, map, dictaphone and sun tan lotion!
Bodmin Moor was superb. Then headed for Porlock and found a bobby in the road: turned back as three trees in the road. About 10 miles back but great roads. Finally made it to Combe House Hotel near Bridgwater and a much-needed pint. Non-motoring challenge is getting connected – no phone signal and modest wifi which keeps dropping out (four times while writing this – trying to upload photos and video but impossible). Another gripe: this is a Third World Country for such technology. How can we compete in the world until this is sorted?
Off to Tenby shortly and looking forward to the stunning scenery in Wales.
Stage 4 (Day 4)
Stage 4 (Day 4) – Long day yesterday in terms of mileage – nearly 250 – but shorter in terms of time. Weather was kind and, at times, seriously hot. Left Bridgewater at 10am and headed up the east side of the Bristol Channel through Weston-super-Mud (as I recall one of my masters at school rudely nick-named the town). Appropriately, we went through Weston-in-Gordano. The significance? The first body Malcolm Sayer designed was built by a bunch of Bristol enthusiasts and named the Gordano.
They are clearly a superior crowd around Bristol as, in a matter of a few miles, I waved to a Spridget, an old Mini and a Rover 105 (or similar) and all declined to reciprocate. They clearly looked down their noses at a bunch of E-types. Finally, a Morris Minor treated us as equals and gave a generous wave!
Had a nasty fright late morning. Pulling away from some lights in heavy traffic, a cloud of steam, or smoke, burst out of the right hand bonnet louvres. Immediate thought was, ‘My God, I’m overheating.’ Instant look at water gauge suggested all was well. Watched it like a hawk for some miles. My theory? A generous puff of exhaust smoke from the car in front percolated through CRY’s bonnet mouth and liberated itself through the louvres!
Most unfortunately, a weary driver filled up with diesel by mistake when we stopped for liquid replenishment. Most fortunately, he did not start the engine and the AA did their stuff and he only lost an hour or so. I had been following these chums. As I was on my own, I lent my map to another car and followed them. As they headed off in the wrong direction and then made a number of mistakes, I questioned my wisdom but had no choice but to follow as they had my only map. Tricky.
However, all was well and we arrived at Trefloyne Manor at Tenby in good time for a pleasant evening. Incidentally, I forget to mention that the previous day’s proceedings had concluded with eminent racer Mike Wilds, who was with us for a couple of days and great company, entertaining us with some stories of his 51 years of racing. One of the biggest joys of this event is the camaraderie. Today, the really serious scenery starts as we head round the Welsh coast to Criccieth.
Stage 5 (Day 5): Best day so far. Superb. The driving was really enjoyable, the scenery spectacular and the weather pretty kind.
Headed off from Tenby at 10am and found myself following three red E-types – there in a row and a bonus red E-type! The red brigade.
We soon saw the sea which is the whole point of this exercise and did so many times throughout the day. Route took us down some exceptionally narrow lanes – well off the beaten track. There was not just grass growing in the middle of the road but long grass! And mud. Went past a farmyard and heard someone shout, ‘Look, E-types, five of the them … six.’
As our book printers, who have just printed Stirling Moss, The Definitive Biography Vol 1 for us, were virtually en route, they kindly invited us all for lunch and a quick tour which everyone seemed to find very interesting. Welsh TV were there. Not sure what they said about us!
Then it was up the coast, past Aberystwyth, Machynlleth, Dolgellau and then west through Barmouth and Harlech, and finally to the finish at Criccieth. Although I know quite a lot of Wales and often use it for tours and drives, much of this was new territory and terrific.
Definitely the best day yet. Off to the original home of Swallow/Jaguar – Blackpool – today.
Just wanted to say what a fantastic time we had on the RBCD stage 5.
It’s such a shame that we could only do one stage – we have really got the bug now and if this happens again (which we are sure it will) we will endeavour to do many more stages.
Kind regards and good luck with the rest of the trip
John and Deborah Shepherd
Stage 6 (Day 6): We started with breathtaking scenery and views as we were led by local XK member David Watson to the point of the peninsular at Aberdaron – fabulous.
Lovely run up the coast and on to Bangor. Briefly joined the A55 but soon came off to go through Conwy (dreadful traffic) and Llandudno (rather stylish), through Towyn (ominous!), caravan land (must be several million, or probably more), Rhyl, Prestatyn and up through Wallasey to the new tunnel under The Mersey. We got lost in Liverpool due to road closures but were soon on our way to Southport (very stylish) and Blackpool (what can I say that is not libellous?). Took half an hour to do three miles along promenade. Don’t think I ever want to come back here again, even if it is the place in which Swallow/Jaguar has its roots.
Thank you for all your and your teams hard work in organising the round Britain run. We really enjoyed our stage of the event.
Robin and Jane
Firstly thank you to everyone who was involved with the organisation of the RBCD, we thoroughly enjoyed our three legs from Holford to Blackpool.
Secondly we have just watched Heno on S4C for Monday 19th via BBC Iplayer about 10 minutes into the programme, and seen the report for the lunch rendezvous. Frankly we didn’t understand much of the dialog but the report was very well produced with some great pictures of all the E Types. Many thanks to those who organised a fantastic lunch and factory tour.
Thirdly it’s a small world in an E Type. We arrived at Blackpool on our third day after a fabulous drive along the welsh coast and through Cheshire and Lancashire. We entered the lounge at the Hilton Hotel for some refreshments and to our total surprise standing on the other side of the room were Geoff and Sheila, friends for many years and fellow participants in the sport of Speed Hillclimbing. Geoff lives in the north and we live in the south and except for one foray to Croft Racing Circuit all our meetings are at Shelsley Walsh not far from the home of the E Type Club. Geoff drives a Triumph TR3A or Cougar Jaguar at the events and I drive a Triumph TR6. The surprise of it all was that I didn’t know that Geoff had an E Type: it must have never come up in conversation!
Thanks once again, sorry we can’t still be with you.
Roger and Sally McEwen
Stage 7 (Day 7): We first assembled on the seafront (where apparently SS used to test their cars) and, with a ukulele-playing couple (see video), we were flagged away by member John Barnett, who is High Sheriff of Lancashire.
We began with a fine convoy and although the first part was a little tedious, we were soon into the country and enjoying some brisk motoring. Lake District was splendid, of course. Quick bowl of soup for lunch in Barrow and then the motoring was superb. I am loath to share this information as I want to keep it to myself. I jest, of course, but the stretches from Barrow to Millom and then through Bootle were made for E-types and other cars that enjoy a good road: a mix of fast sweeping bends, tight snaking sections. long straights, delightful undulations and with glimpses of the sea on one side and stunning serious dramatic hills on’t t’other. Ay, eet were reet good! This was a driver’s day.
In similar vein the road from Maryport through Allerby was straight and very fast, as we hugged the coast as much as possible before ending a superb day at the Crown Hotel, near Carlisle. In the evening Michael Quinn (Sir William Lyons’s grandson) joined us, having driven up from London. He is doing two stages which is great.
Just dashing off to Carlisle Castle for this morning’s start, and then up into Scotland. Should be brilliant.
Can I draw people’s attention to our online auction for a seat with me in the Italian Job E-type? I’m getting lonely! Also pretty challenging on my own (my wife’s driving the support Discovery very kindly lent by the Sturgess Group) so I would welcome some company. Scenery is going to be breathtaking. Please get bidding.
Stage 8 (Day 8)
An amazing day. First and foremost, the driving was just fantastic. Carlisle Castle was a splendid venue for the start as we gathered within the walls. We were soon into the country and then stopped at a spot with great views of the beach. Here our TV guys and a crew with a drone did their stuff as I and about another six cars drove past. The drone guys were keen to do all they could to support us because the father of one of them had sadly died from cancer. This is typical of the amazing support we are getting.
I did a little more driving up and down with other cameras, and was now well behind schedule and on my own but what the hell. About an hour on, I received a call inviting me to view ‘a couple of E-types I might like to see’. They were not far off our route. I then visited a veritable Aladdin’s Cave – a private collection of about a dozen 1961 Roadsters – absolutely extraordinary. Surreal. For security reasons, I can say no more at present but I took a load of photos and hope to cover the visit in our E-type Club magazine anon.
The owner and his friend (who was in his rather hot Roadster on Webers) then offered to lead me and another participant who had been the catalyst in this ‘other world’ experience for the next section. I thought they meant five or 10 miles. We must have covered at least 50! Combine the stunning route, and it was truly fabulous, with their knowledge of the roads and we ‘flew’. I had to work quite hard but had the biggest grin on my face that I have had for a long time.
As we stopped to say good-bye, and continue very rapidly to our evening castle near Largs, we all commented on what fantastic cars E-types are. An amazing day.
Stage 9 (Day 9)
I must start with an apology to my readers, both of you! I could not get connected yesterday morning. Having arisen at 5.30 am to download a few hundred photos and write my daily drivel, that was pretty frustrating. When will the UK understand that if we are going to compete in the world, we first need the most basic tools – Broadband everywhere. I am now struggling this morning so I fear my blogs may be history before they become available. Just hope you like history.
If Day 8 was amazing, Day 9 was even more so. The fabulous roads, combined with some of the most stunning scenery on this planet, equaled driving heaven.
One section of several miles was like nothing I have ever experienced: it undulated violently, with the alternating ‘danger’ of taking off and bottoming in quick fire order, combined with constant snaking, narrow sections and a very solid stone wall on the nearside. Julian Barratt of SNG Barratt and I were in convoy and that was quite testing but very different fun. The roads then opened up and were very fast. When we met traffic, which was rare, overtaking was easy and satisfying.
With 140 miles to cover in the morning, we left earlier than usual as we were due at Classic Fabs, master-builders of exhaust manifolds that are both works of art and serious pieces of kit. The owner Jimmy Stewart showed us round and then took us to the Ben Nevis Distillery where they had laid on a very Scottish buffet. Superb. And en route at Fort William.
I have a concern with CRY and fear a wheel-bearing may be on the way out. This is adding some stress I could do without. Apart from that, it was an incredible day, which ended at the Kyle of Lochalsh.
Stage 10 (Day 10)
I am running out of superlatives: it just gets better and better. The driving yesterday has to be as good as it gets. We had a combination of roads with firstly slow, single-track stuff (but blessed with loads of passing places) with endless stunning hills and mountains, and delightful ribbons of road skirting the water’s edge. This was then supplanted by many miles of fast, absolutely clear roads with a very good surface. Once again, this was a driver’s day and incredibly enjoyable.
I am greatly heartened by the way the whole RBCD has developed. Frankly, with all the traffic in the south and the spells of slow crawling, I wondered if this was nothing more than a publicity stunt. It is indeed that but it is so much more. In fact, the slow stuff is becoming an ever smaller proportion of the whole. It has turned out to be a spectacular driving tour.
Meanwhile, the fund-raising is going really well, which is brilliant and the serious side, and, with our intrepid film crew of Luke and Ed capturing some stunning footage, we hope we can really share our adventure with a wider public and so achieve our main aim of raising awareness.
CRY has a resident tortured mouse but the poor thing’s cries (no pun intended) are getting no worse. In fact, Ed may have semi-cured it. He travelled with me yesterday afternoon to capture some in-car footage and, with some added weight in the passenger seat, the mouse took something of a rest. Work that one out if you can. We’re all puzzled.
Today we go round the top and have been invited for lunch at Dunbeath Castle which looks stunning. The sun is out, shining on the hills and shimmering on the water. The forecast is superb. We are lucky people. It’s good to be alive. Guys: get yourselves checked for prostate cancer early.
Stage 11 (Day 11)
Yet another extraordinary day: equally breathtaking but in another way. On the whole, the terrain was very different and rather more barren but no less stunning for that. Often we had water on both sides: sea and lochs in plentiful supply. The weather was utterly glorious which made it even more special. We were so lucky; it was bliss. In fact, several of us commented we were on another planet, the very north of Scotland is so different.
After some narrow, winding roads, they opened up to be fast with long straights and sweeping bends. Initially, we kept together and had a wonderful c. 10-car high speed convoy.
Then the day became even more magical: we had been invited by an E-type owner to have lunch at his Scottish home: Dunbeath Castle. On the internet, it looked stunning. In the ‘flesh’ it was more than doubly so. Our host and hostess showed us the fabulous gardens, took us round the fascinating Castle and wined (a very modest amount, of course) and dined us most splendidly. Perched on the water’s edge, many photos were snapped, and the drone escaped captivity again as we departed. A very special couple of hours which will linger long in the memory.
Heading for Inverness, we came across some traffic and I became quite grumpy about this until I reflected – this was reality. What we have experienced in the last few days was just unreal. I am overjoyed it is all going so well. The only sour note is a lack of a decent internet connection (for four days now) which is frustrating my desire to share the images and videos. Heard last night, entry is up 200 cars – always the target. Amazing!
Stage 12 (Day 12)
Heaven on earth is finite: clearly it could not last forever. Yesterday’s drive from near Inverness to Montrose was pleasant, and indeed the middle part superb, but not up to the extraordinary standards of the few previous days. En route, we visited the little coastal village of Pennan where Local Hero was filmed and snapped CRY by the famous telephone box. The driving in this area was twisty, undulating and fun. After a quick lunch at Rosehearty, we headed for Aberdeen where we had been invited to have tea at the eight-week-old Reg Vardy JLR dealership, apparently the largest in the world. It was amazing. Poor Julie, who is driving the back-up Discovery kindly loaned by The Sturgess Group, became completely snarled up in the traffic. We suffered as well and, as it started to rain, I put up my E-type Club umbrella whenever stationary which caused some amusement. I have not had the hood up since the storms of Cornwall, which is just a dim and distant memory now.
I have been asked how we prepared CRY for this event. Simon, ace mechanic, gave the car a very thorough check over, changed all fluids and such like. As my wire wheels were showing their age, I fitted a very smart new set of stainless wires from Motor Wheel Service (MWS). On these I have a set of Blockleys and I am most impressed with them in every way. We have now done well over 2000 miles together and get on famously.
We have been exceptionally lucky with the weather but I fear it is changing. Today we leave bonnie Scotland, the land of Queen Nicola as I am told she is known to some locals, and head back into England and overnight in Berwick. Two-thirds done; one-third to go. Touch wood, it’s all good.
Stage 13 (Day 13)
Yesterday was not as sparkling as some of the other days, but you have to take the occasional rough with the overwhelming smooth. And talking more literally of ‘rough’, many of the roads were in poor condition and I spent much of my time avoiding all the lumps, bumps, potholes and manhole covers – full-time job. Throw in the largest selection of speed bumps in captivity, and you will get the picture. It’s tough on the suspension but, touch wood, the E-types continue to be utterly reliable with only the odd hiccup.
Frankly, much of the scenery did not inspire and was, on the whole, pretty flat and the weather did not help. Fortunately it remained dry, though threatening, but was very grey – grey combined with flat is not a good combination. Sadly so much of this part of Scotland seems desperately rundown with many buildings of character boarded up. Going through St Andrews was a high spot and we had stretches of fun driving. Every day has some attributes.
I am writing this in our hotel just outside Berwick-on-Tweed. Once again I am hampered by an internet connection which is a joke. Cannot share the videos as yet. As I have grumbled before, Broadband coverage and speeds in GB is a national disgrace.
After several fabulous days with us, Julian Barratt of SNG Barratt, who has been such a fantastic supporter, signed off and headed for home. It was great to enjoy his company. In the evening, we were delighted to welcome Peter Neumark, the CMC Chairman, who had driven all the way from North Wales to join us. Another great supporter.
We are now back in England, by a matter of yards, and today we head for Bridlington, travelling down the Northumberland coast, which should be lovely, round Newcastle, for which the same adjective may not be appropriate, along the Yorkshire coastline and through Scarborough. Weather-allowing, should be another very special day.
Stage 14 (Day 14)
An interesting and enjoyable day. I think we saw more seaside towns than any other day so far. Sunderland and Scarborough stand out and Whitby was stunning. It was splendid to be in convoy with 1600 RW, the old ‘Lofty’ England Roadster, the fourth right hand drive example. So, we had numbers four and 12 together. 1600 RW was restored by CMC a few years ago and I must give credit to Andrew Tart who did much of the work on CRY in the early ’90s.
I had an extraordinary experience when we were struggling to find somewhere for a quick bite at lunchtime. As I drove down a country road, I was aware of a tractor with a high load on a trailer behind proceeding in the opposite direction. Suddenly, CRY was struck by a rifle shot, or so it seemed. The screen took the hit: a larger splat of unmentionable substance. I have never known anything like it – the sound, the force and unpleasantness. It could have been worse as I had the hood down, of course, and the side window lowered.
Talking of ‘hood down’, we were again blessed with weather which ranged from pleasant to superb. Our luck has been extraordinary.
My reader – I fear I am down to one – will not recognise this blog if I do not have my customary moan about connecting to the internet. Waking at 4.30 after five hours’ sleep, I could not relax sufficiently to return to slumber so soon rose to start my daily battle. I just could not get my laptop to connect until a receptionist arrived at 7am. She was clearly a battle-hardened veteran and eventually cracked it.
The hotels have varied so much in character and, above all, quality. My bathroom at this present one in Bridlington has a bath cold tap that is continuously running (another reason for a bad night) and a basin cold tap that yields nothing. I have to stand in the bath to clean my teeth! Lovely see view, though, and glorious sunrise this am.
Still on hotels, I have just heard that the delightful Rhiconich Hotel at Kinlochbervie has not charged us for our rooms as their contribution to Prostate Cancer UK – amazing and wonderful. Today we head for Cromer – Sayer country.
Stage 15 (Day 15)
My apologies for not writing this at the beginning of the day but I had to do BBC TV and radio stuff early on which delayed me fatally, though did my ego no harm! I am now at the end of Day 16 and due at this evening’s dinner in two minutes’ time.
So Day 15 was rather different, again. The section after leaving Bridlington was good fun, with short and long straights and some serious bends. In fact, it seemed like the day of the 90 degree corners, with much gear changing up and down the ‘box. Then we hit traffic heading for Hull and the Humber Bridge. The Lincs countryside redressed the balance back in favour of good driving.
At one stage, I went past The White Horse pub and – you will not believe this – went round a bend to see two white horses being ridden along the road. I heard one rider say, ‘That’s three of them’ which was useful, as it confirmed I was on correct route! A few miles on, I went past The Black Horse pub. I did not see any black horses, but I did see a black dog. A few miles on, I passed The Bay Horse – obviously the horses round there like their pubs!
The heroes of day, who wore the Yellow Jersey (caps), were Ian Wotton and Jonathan Hick who have raised no less than £3000. Brilliant.
As to the weather, it was all too good to be true and could not last. Just after Skegness, I was caught in an absolute cloudburst – whipped hood up and, while doing so, the right hood clamp fell apart, water pouring in, eventually managed to re-thread the hook into its home but towels needed everywhere. It rained hard from thereon. The wipers were doing a reasonable job apart from one spot. That spot? Right in front of my eyes!
Long day – 242 miles – no lunch, and curiously saw little sea today. I want my money back!
Finally arrived in Cromer, birthplace of Malcolm Sayer and his daughter Mary gave a fascinating talk after dinner.
Stage 16 (Day 16)
I had the great pleasure of Mary Sayer riding with me for the day. Mary, as previously mentioned, is the daughter of E-type designer Malcolm Sayer. I made Mary work hard as the satnav route was not always spot on and an old-fashioned concept called a map proved rather useful. Over 30 cars gathered at the start at Cromer, a fine tribute to the unique Malcolm Sayer. It was good to also have his very enthusiastic grandson Sam with us. An impressive convoy headed off at 10am. Our Yellow Jersey (caps) were again two chaps: brothers Rick and Bruce Bourne, two of no less than three brothers participating.
Following the coast was very rewarding as we visited a succession of delightful towns and villages. Southwold and Aldeburgh stood out for us as exceptional. We both particularly appreciated all the muted red brick buildings in this area. Weather was great again and actually quite hot at times. A road closure inconvenienced us but Mary soon navigated us round and back on to the route. All the twists and turns, and some filming requirements, put us a little behind schedule and then, of course, all the pubs had stopped serving food. We finally found a very rural watering hole where the owner took pity on us and kindly made some sandwiches.
Throughout I have had two constant companions from the animal kingdom: the Sturgess Group kangaroo, who never complains, and my resident mouse who now squeaks rather less frequently. Indeed, touch wood, we now co-habit in harmony.
What was left of the afternoon consisted of some main road routes and B roads as we headed for Maldon and a reception at J.D Classics. Not surprisingly, our E-type crews were incredibly impressed by the J.D Classics operation which just keeps expanding and is truly amazing. The day had a perfect ending when Derek Hood, who has built up and runs J.D Classics, handed over a company cheque for £5000 – yet another example of the wonderful support we have enjoyed.
Stage 17 (Day 17)
The penultimate day. The Mayor flagged us away from the start at J.D Classics in Maldon and our great host Derek Hood was there to wish us well. The sun was shining. We had over 20 cars. It was really warm. We were asked to go down the High Street as the media had said we would be doing so. We even had little crowds on street corners. Lots of goodwill. Some 160 miles today with a deadline of 3.30pm for an assignation with a drone at the White Cliffs of Dover. This meant no lunch for me as the time was tight if one was going to do the proper route.
In fact, my satnav was a little too enthusiastic today and took the coastal drive principle too literally. Without a navigator, I could not know when to overrule it so it took me out to Canvey Island and back on the same roads, and repeated the exercise for Sheerness. Interesting experiences, though. Initially, it had all been dual carriageway, and I thought it was going to be going to be absolutely ghastly, but then the route diverted towards the coast and found small lanes and places of character. After Sheerness, there was a lot of traffic for many miles and it was rather boring. I reflected at the end of the day that it is actually more tiring to be in slow traffic than pressing on. Later, it improved considerably again.
Around Ramsgate, the dreadful British road surfaces finally got to poor old CRY which developed a horrible loud rattle. I wondered what was about to drop off. So near, surely we can’t fall at almost the final hurdle. It was a bonnet catch which had sprung open. Thank God.
With occasional stops and examination of the map, I was trying to memorise the sequence of towns: I thought I will have no problem remembering ‘Sandwich, Deal’!
I was then taken (full marks satnav) to a great little coastal route which was actually a toll road between Sandwich and Deal. Deal is a delightful place.
People are asking if we will do it again, my stock answer is, ‘Definitely, but not next week’. I am starting to relax a little and feeling proud of what we have ALL achieved. What comes over is the wonderful atmosphere and fact that everyone is pulling together.
Nearly there. One stage to go. Up at 5.30 to write this. Off to start at 6.30. Leaving at 8.00 today to be at Goodwood, we hope, by midday. Nearly there!
Stage 18 (Day 18)
The final day was pretty tough. Julie, Louise, Simon and I kept to our early morning schedule as outlined in yesterday’s blog, only to arrive at the steel gates at the venue for the previous night’s finish and meal, and where we had left various cars, including CRY, to find the gates shut and no-one answering the intercom. This in spite of having arranged access and phoning the hotel. You can possibly imagine my mental state at that moment. After much shouting, they finally opened the cursed gates.
By this stage, as we collected in a field opposite with lovely views (in theory), the weather was closing in. Initially, it was just spitting (no manners the weather round here). With over 70 cars participating in this stage (a record), they started pouring in, which was a stirring sight. Our deadline was the Goodwood circuit where we had been offered a concluding lap of the circuit (providing it was not raining) if the timings worked because a client had hired the track for the day. Our ‘window’ was to be somewhere between midday and 2pm, to be decided.
With early morning traffic and a route of something like 150 miles, it was going to be quite a challenge, hence the earlier-than-usual start. Multi-tasking, as ever, and so short of time, I did a live radio interview while video’ing the cars arriving. It was then into CRY and off. The rain was now getting worse and the views had been cancelled. Initially, the coastal route took me (I was on my own – both in the car and on the road) through what appeared to be marshlands (not sure as couldn’t see them) before finally reaching the main A259. I then headed off again for the coast towards Lydd. As this time, I was trying to use a combination of satnav, road signs and my overview notes. Then the signs ran out; then satnav became confused. The route mileage suddenly went up from 117 to 127. Was I going the wrong way? No pressure.
I was also agonising over whether I had enough fuel for the whole journey because I did not have time to stop. I also had to rendezvous with the film crew en route. I turned round and headed for Lydd Town Centre which seemed to impress satnav with regard to distance but not timing which now showed an arrival time of 1-47pm. No pressure. It was now raining quite hard. My notes, though tucked under my right thigh so they would not fly away, were getting wet. I regained the A259 and satnav told me to turn right – inland. Not helpful.
Then, my dictaphone batteries ran out and I had to search in my camera bag for replacements and do the necessary swap. Not easy. Around the same time – I was keeping busy – I rebooted the satnav in the hope of getting it onside again. The mileage started to come down but the arrival time began to go up, in spite of proceeding at a reasonable pace. Curious logic.
I stopped for a quick dash behind the hedge and realised the rain was now heavy and driving. I considered putting up the hood but insanity prevailed. The bleak seafront wall on my left gave way to a super stretch of road through Fairlight, which had a few very sudden, tight corners to keep me awake. Through the wooded sections, it was almost pitch black. Rain was sploshing off the trees. Water was dripping from the top of the screen on to my knees. Soggy knees are not one of life’s great pleasures. I was getting cold and realised I should have put on my waterproof but had had so much on mind at the start. However, I must have set a ‘competitive time’ through the twisty stuff as the arrival time came down a little. Meanwhile, I was regularly on the phone re. the film crew rendezvous spot.
Talking of multi-tasking, throughout the last 18 days I have been juggling satnav, phone, maps, cleaning sunglasses, taking several thousand photos, doing my pelvic exercises, making notes on my dictaphone, occasionally apply sun cream, oh, and driving. Noticing the top of the dashboard was dusty. I dealt with this. So, I have even done the dusting! Not bad for a male?
The rain eased a little in Hastings and after Bexhill, I stopped for a fuel ‘splash and dash’ and gained a cameraman passenger who, rather disconcertingly, proceeded to film me from every angle. Should I smile (and look inane), appear stressed and harassed (not a good image) or maintain no expression whatsoever (and look boring)? Life is full of such decisions. Of course, the poor chap, could not do much filming of our progress as the conditions were utterly bleak with the cloud base seemingly at ground level.
On we went and finally we arrived, in sunshine, at Goodwood about 12.30, mercifully in time for our slot which was now to be at 1pm. The man who briefed us pointed out we had a very short window as the track had been hired by paying clients at which I had to point out we were also paying for the privilege. ‘Yes, sir, but only for 15 minutes’.
We proceeded behind his pace car in strict single file as forcefully instructed. In spite of the low speed, everyone seemed to enjoy the experience and we then had a very jolly gathering at which I said a few words and expressed our very sincere thanks to many.
As to CRY, the old girl performed magnificently. By the end I was struggling to obtain reverse without a horrible crunching but otherwise had no real problems. As to me, after 18 days and around 4,000 miles, I felt pretty good. I had had an eye problem one afternoon and a few back spasms but my ankle, which I sprained about a fortnight before the start, held up very well. Ironically, today I can hardly walk on it! Timing is everything.
As to the fund-raising, this will go on for a while. Ross Brawn, who very kindly joined us for this last stage and has just bought Martin Brundle’s Eagle E-type (making three E-types in his stable), very generously said he would make up any shortfall to ensure we reached our £50,000 target. Fantastic.
I have stressed three things throughout this whole adventure. It was a massive learning-curve. All the hard work was done by Louise and our colleagues in our brilliant E-type Club office, and I was supported massively by my wife Julie. Above all though, this was a team effort: sponsors, Supporters, Prostate Cancer UK, colleagues and over 200 great participants, plus all those who have donated. The atmosphere throughout this pioneering event has been wonderful and the camaraderie inspiring. There will be a film and copies will be available to purchase. We will run the event again. Oh, and the main rule throughout? Keep the wet stuff on the left!
We are a team. We have done it together. WE DID IT.