The idea appealed to me from the first time I heard word of an event to
celebrate 100 years of the Edinburgh Trial. This must have been eighteen
months ago and quite a lot of changes took place in that time. I thought the
original idea was to start near Borehamwood on the A1. Great, just down the
road from home. Somewhere down the line, the powers that be decided that a
start from Popham would be appropriate. Why I don't know, and what
relationship Popham has to the Edinburgh, I don't know that either. Oh well,
what's another 100 miles. The next thing to change was the date. Originally
planed for the Whitsun weekend, which I would have thought would have given
everyone the chance to enter, the powers that be decided to move the start to
a Tuesday, so as to restrict the entry to those retired or with spare holiday
entitlement. I fall into the latter in case you were wondering.
When the entry form arrived the biggest decision of all had to be taken.
Shall I enter?. Of course I will, this is one of those once in a life time
things. Next, which Car to enter. My Mkiii rear wheel drive Escort hasn’t gone
down well with the MCC Committee and this isn't the time or place to try and
upset them. Next choice my XR4i. Expensive to run. I estimate £180 + in fuel
alone. That leaves me with Sapphire, my two year old Ford Focus. Not really
the period of car I’d hope to enter this sort of event with, but I estimate a
saving of £80 in fuel and that's a saving you can spend on a half decent room
for the night. So the Focus it is then. Passenger next. Michael Leete was
unable to take part due to work commitments, so I asked Mum if she’d like to
go. Her eyes lit up, so that was a yes then.
So with hotels booked, everything was in place, even the weather was kind.
We arrived at Popham at around 3pm to be greeted by Chris Phillips who was
directing operations in the car park. With all the formalities over we were
soon lining up to start our big adventure.
First car away was Peter & Deborah Lawley in a Toyota Privs, a bifuel,
drive by wire, 21st century, technological master piece. This was followed by
a varied selection of the automobile manufactures art including, Morgan's,
Dellow’s, a Liege, Mazda, Fiat, VW, Skoda, Ford, Marlin, MG, not forgetting
the bike manufactures art represented by, Royal Enfield, Triumph, Honda,
Vincent, Suzuki and BMW.
The route out of the Popham car park was different to the normal route.
This time we went towards the airstrip and turned left into the field where
Special Test 1 was laid out. The instructions said "start on line A finish on
line B". it didn't say anything about the wiggle woggle between the cones. On
the way out we met Peter Mountain who was the first victim of the Popham
Services being closed, and had run out of petrol before he’d left the
airfield. Richard Hoskin had a spare can and Peter was soon on his way again.
There were a few problems with the route instructions to get to the first
control at Fair Mile, and several drivers and navigators struggled to make
sense of a "R" that should have been "L" and a missing roundabout. However
most crews made it to the control (eventually). The route then continued
through Marlborough, Malmesbury and out into Cotswold Country. Following a
route that would normally take competitors to Axe, but instead turned right at
the cross-roads to Observed Section One, Old Hollow. Old Hollow was a hill
used by Falcon Motor Club in the Guy Fawkes trials of the 1960’s. So as a
Falcon member, this hill was of special interest to me. It was surprisingly
slippery as well as steep, a damp surface with a sap covering from the
overhanging trees caught out a few. After Old Hollow, the route led us through
Dursley, passing the foot of "Crooked Mustard" and the top of "Crawley" and
eventually to the Strensham Services on the M5 for a 1 hour break.
Forty Seven miles further on and we were into Clee Hill Country to attempt
Section 2, "Farlow" The only surprise here was how long the organisers had
made the section. Farlow was my first ever Classic trials hill and I made a
mess of it only getting to the Seven marker if my memory serves me correctly.
This time the section was all tarmac, as were all the sections, and we cleaned
it. The route led us past the "Boyne Arms" through Much Wenlock and Stone, and
into Derbyshire to tackle Section 3, "Wetton Low" and the first restart. There
was time for a bit of ‘shut eye’ before attempting the section and I must have
been half asleep still when I stopped with the front wheels just in the box.
which was situated on the apex of the hairpin, needless to say we failed the
restart in a cloud of tyre smoke.
Breakfast at the Hucklow gliding club was to be followed by Special Test 2.
But this was cancelled because of all the cars in the car park, there was no
where to lay it out. We left Derbyshire and headed towards Holmfirth checking
in at the Heydon Control before passing the back of Nora Batty’s house as we
passed through the town. There was some slight confusion in Huddersfield when
my navigator misread the instructions and I think we went wrong just after
Keighley but we ended up on the right road to Kettlewell and Coverdale through
more spectacular scenery to Section 4 "Park Rash". This section was longer
than the previous sections and was very steep with the now obligatory hairpin.
The restart was placed on the straight leading to the hairpin and we had no
trouble getting away and cleaning the section. I stopped at the top to take
some photos and it’s then you realise how steep the hill is. We watched a few
bikes and cars make their attempts but sadly didn’t see Richard Hoskin’s
attempt in his 3 wheel Morgan, as Richard was called back to the start line
and both Richard and passenger, Andrew Hall, got out and started looking under
the rear of the car.
A further 28 miles brought us to Section 5 "West Witton". This had a
restart with a difference. The restart box was just around a hairpin but was
down hill so if you went too fast you’d over shoot the line and fail. We took
it steady and had no problem stopping. The re- start Marshall promised us he’d
make it harder next time!!
"Arn Gill" is on the Askrigg to Muker Road and was the last Observed
Section. A straight climb with a restart half way up presented no problems for
us. After "Arn Gill" there was a further 67 mile run into the lake district to
Hartop where the trial finished for the night. By the time we got to the hotel
we had travelled 591 since leaving home on Tuesday.
Thursday morning started out damp as the remaining crews reassembled at
Southwait Services (Southbound) on the M6. that was to consist of a drive to
Edinburgh and started out in spectacular style with a 1905 foot climb of
Hartside. We then followed the A689, A69, and B6318 to Brampton where another
error in the directions saw competitors passing and re passing each other
trying to sort out the way ahead. Once back on the right route we ran along
side Hadrians Wall and then on to the truly magnificent B709 to Innerleithen.
36 miles of empty road with wonderful scenery and a road surface so smooth it
looked as if were new. Coffee and scones at Innerleithen Golf Club were most
welcome before the final part of the journey, mainly along main roads to the
finish at Hopetoun House, just west of Edinburgh. We were greeted at the
finish by the smiling face of fellow Falcon member, Peter Manning, who was on
holiday and offered to do his bit for the MCC whilst he was in the area.
I read in the event programme after we got home, that the aim of the
celebration was to give the drivers "bigger mileage, much of it on lesser but
really enjoyable roads" and I have to admit that the MCC succeeded in that
aim. We covered a total of 1175 miles from Lunch time Tuesday to arriving home
Tea time Friday. As we live next to the A1 our return journey was back down
the A1. It took about seven hours, a bit different to 100 years ago.
PS - I Thought you might like a break-down on the
results from the Centenary Trial. 8 cars hit a marker (Cone) on the first
special test. 9 failed Old Hollow either by stopping or footing. No one failed
Farlow. 12 failed Wetton Low. 2 Failed Park Rash. 4 stopped (or should that be
didn’t stop) on West Witton, and everyone cleaned the last hill.
Congratulations to Class C winner, Falcons very own Peter Thompson in his Opel
A few minor anomalies on the route
card kept the crews alert, reminds me of the route cards 10 or 15 years ago.
No use following the car in front, they were probably lost as well!
As Mike Hayward reported, we ran out of petrol just after the Popham
special test; the petrol gauge has never worked since I got the car in 1968.
Luckily Richard Hoskin was carrying a gallon of fuel in this three wheeler.
Whatever happened to him, he seemed to disappear during the night run.
I remembered (too late) that Morgan handbrakes do not work on hills, so
failed at least one restart, probably more.
Later I was reminded how efficient modern cars are; the Morgan averaged
only 22mpg over the whole event and only 20mpg on the way home. We would have
used less fuel in my Omega which is twice as heavy, automatic and has a litre
bigger engine; Peter Lawley was probably doing more than 50mpg in his hybrid
What must it have been like in 1904?, with poor roads, poor petrol,
acetylene lights, punctures, infrequent fuel, etc.
As you saw in the photo, we had one minor mechanical malady, the
accelerator cable got shifted and the revs would not go below 1500, easily
cured with a cable tie, but during the wettest part of the trial. Navigator
Jim took the attached photo of sunrise at Great Hucklow.
Edward Stobbs hustles his 2CV special along at thoroughly indecent speeds
for 602cc and only 3 wheels. When we were following him there was no urge to
overtake and when he was following us he had no problem keeping up.
Nice to see a familiar face at the finish; Peter Manning took the attached
photo of us and the weatherstained Morgan at the end. There were many familiar
faces on route as well, all marshalling; thanks to all the officials.
On the way home I navigated & whilst taking an unplanned "scenic route" we
came across this delightful road just off the A68 (see photo).
I think there ought to be a special award for masochism, both Dellow
drivers would qualify; 1100 miles in a Dellow is quite a round trip.
for the results (link to MCC site)
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