Let the Train Take the Strain / Colour My World

Having settled the ‘van’ onto the very well-manicured and equally expensive Islawrffordd Campsite for a couple of nights we decided yesterday to ‘let the train take the strain’ and bought a brace of ranger tickets allowing us to explore the coastal railway line that follows the edge of Cardigan Bay, skirting the coastline and stopping at numerous small towns and even smaller villages along the way. The grey landscape and buildings seemed largely to be unaffected by the equally grey weather – perhaps on a bright sunny day it would have been a more uplifting experience, but I doubt it. Not that the place is depressing or dull – just a little bit, well, grey.

We journeyed north past Harlech as far as Pwllheli, did a quick tour of the town, took in a few charity shops, had a coffee and slab of bara brith cake and then hopped back on the train which chugged (I’m old enough to remember the days when trains puffed rather than chugged) its way south, past our starting point of Tal-y-bont, through Barmouth and on to Tywin, which sits on the coast below Cader Idris. There’s not a great deal to do in Tywin, so we took in a couple more charity shops and scoffed a brace of sandwiches from the local Co-op on the promenade whilst looking out for bottle-nosed dolphins – which had obviously decided to stay home for the day. Yes, I know it doesn’t sound very exciting, but we enjoyed our day.

Today was Denise’s birthday, so obviously the wind dropped, the sun shone and the temperature started to rise. Having decided to advance our itinerary by a day we drove south to Aberystwyth which came as a pleasant surprise. Quite why the Victorians decided to establish a place of higher learning in the middle of nowhere I’m not at all sure, but no doubt generations of university students have been extremely grateful for their decision to do so because it’s lovely. Or at least it is when the sun’s shining and there’s ice cream to be eaten.

The surprise of the day was Aberaeron. It seems that at some time in the 1970s one of the residents decided to paint her house a bright shade of something and the idea caught on. Now virtually all the houses in this well-preserved town are painted in bright and contrasting colours and the effect is wonderful. Perhaps because they haven’t allowed the thing to become gaudy or ‘over the top’ the colour scheme just seems to work extremely well and it’s quite uplifting that so many in the community have joined in to make something that obviously gives pleasure to residents and visitors alike.

Aberaeron Harbour
Need to work on that waistline John ….

Tonight we’re staying at Ty Rhos, a small campsite just outside New Quay, which is a pretty and as yet unspoiled harbour village just a little further down the coast. A nice birthday meal in the village followed by a short walk along the harbour breakwater convincing ourselves that we could see bottle-nosed dolphins a good half mile out to sea made for a very pleasant end to a very pleasant day.

Quiet and Comfortable – What’s Wrong With That?

There’s no doubt about it, life in the ‘van’ is infinitely more comfortable than camping. No tent to erect, no beds to make, hot and cold running water on demand and, most important of all, a large fridge to keep all that nice wine and beer properly chilled. I’m not at all sure how we’re going to cope if we have to revert to spending nights under canvas with the ‘Tufty Club’. Still, life is full of compromises – so perhaps we’ll just have to get used to occupying our ivory tower and be content to feel superior when necessary.

First stop on our Welsh itinerary was Powis Castle and gardens which proved to be a very worthwhile stopover. In the care of the National Trust since 1957 the castle has been in continuous occupation since the 13th century and was formerly the home of the Herbert family whose alumni, we learned, included Clive of India. The house/castle is fascinating (made even more so through the efforts of the many enthusiastic NT volunteers who were on hand to answer our questions) and certainly worth a visit …… but the gardens are simply sensational!

Powis Castle Gardens
Ah! So that’s where the gardeners were hiding!

Timing, of course, is everything and I think that we probably judged our visit to perfection. Just about everything was in bloom and, although we didn’t actually see any gardening staff at work, there must have been dozens of hard working horticulturists running ahead of us just making sure that everything was perfectly prepared for our visit. Highly recommended and perhaps even worth a return visit at some time in the future.

Our second night’s stopover was at Tal-y-bont, just north of Barmouth on Cardigan Bay. With more holiday homes to the acre than it’s possible to calculate without using an abacus this type of location probably wouldn’t be our first choice in high season, but outside the school holidays there’s nothing more raucous about most of these sites than the sound of pensioners gently snoring their way through Coronation Street or Eastenders. It seems that quiet and comfortable has got to be the way forward.

On The Road Again

The past nine months have been a tad difficult – not least when it came to sitting down and attempting to write an interesting, entertaining or informative blog. In August of last year I started to feel unwell and by the time I had been diagnosed with kidney disease towards the end of 2016 I was well and truly under the weather and largely ‘confined to barracks’ with little prospect of having anything interesting to write about.

These days the media seldom seems to have much that’s good to say about the NHS, however I have to say that my personal experience has been pretty much wholly positive. No doubt I’ve been fortunate to live in a part of the country where the service doesn’t seem to be permanently overloaded and in crisis, however being able to get to see my GP at virtually no notice and most importantly being able to rely upon the services of the experienced, caring and highly professional staff of Gloucester and Cheltenham hospitals has made the overall experience of being ill vastly more bearable than it might otherwise have been. I am immensely grateful for their help and support but, at the risk of seeming ungrateful, hope to be seeing rather less of them in the year to come.

Anyway, enough of all that! The good news is that as I hopefully near the end of my initial treatment (the wonderfully named Ponticelli Regimen) I seem to be making good progress and have at last been able to get back towards living a more normal existence, enjoying some of those things that I’ve been looking forward to over the past few months.

The first and most important news to report is the arrival of our first granddaughter, Gretel Lilly Ewbank, who came into this world in Nürnberg on 23rd February 2017 courtesy of her parents Richard and Collette. Gretel Lilly Ewbank She’s a beauty and a delight and no doubt will one day be a famous scientist, renowned artist or perhaps even a skilled restorer of classic cars. Who cares just so long as she remains healthy and happy?

On the automotive front I have to report that Bertie has moved on to pastures new. Although we thoroughly enjoyed our relatively short period of Austin ownership it became increasingly clear over the past year that he was just one car too many for us and that we would have few opportunities to gain full use or enjoyment from him going forward. The good news is that he’s moved on to enthusiastic new owners and that for the first time in 47 years of automotive ownership I’ve actually managed to make a small profit from buying and selling a car!

Nature abhors a vacuum and the prospect of having a little spare space on the drive was obviously insufficient reason for not going out and buying another vehicle (not sure that sentence makes sense, but you know what I mean) so we immediately went out and bought a motorhome – what else? Our first short expedition to the north Devon coast in early May was an unqualified success so as I sit here tapping away at the keyboard we’re actually parked in a field in Powys at the start of a six day break which, if all goes well and the weather stays reasonable, should see us exploring the Welsh coastline and getting to know our new mode of transport. Today Welshpool, tomorrow the world – we’re on the road again!

Move over Fangio, Denise is on the track!

Driving the TR3A on the open road is great fun but we bought it with the intention of also using it on the track from time to time, so when the opportunity came we booked ourselves onto a TR Register Track Day at Blyton Park on Lincolnshire.

Whilst I don’t think that either of us is completely ready for F1 just yet, and the Triumph didn’t seem to have quite the poke of some of the other cars on the track, we had a great time storming around the relatively short circuit trying to keep out of the way of our fellow enthusiasts.  The TR behaved magnificently throughout the day, though the smell of overheating brake linings and rapidly thinning oil reminded us that any 56 year old vehicle deserves to be treated with respect – unless of course you have deep pockets.

Denise first track day at Blyton Park
Denise on one of her early laps and accompanied by Simon from TR Enterprises – hopefully the poor chap will recover soon!

A very enjoyable Saturday was spent with the Lunt family who, as usual, were wonderful hosts, accommodating and feeding us royally and taking us off to a fascinating garden at Hall Farm in Harpswell.  Our visit just happened to coincide with an Archaeology Day where we learned the answer to the age-old question ‘when is a Saxon wall not a Saxon wall?’ and were given valuable instruction on how to extrapolate medieval living standards from a single shard of pottery.

Hall Farm, Harpswell
Far from the madding crowd at Harpswell

On Sunday morning we were once again up to our metaphorical nuts (and bolts) in Triumphs when we spent a few hours at the very well organised TR International weekend at Lincoln Showground.  What can I tell you ……… there were lots of Triumphs.

TR International - Lincoln July 2016
Now, where did we park the car?

 

Le Mans Classic 2016

Working on that age-old (and probably deeply flawed) principle that lightning seldom strikes in the same place twice, and having replaced the Stag’s steering rack after it let us down at Laon earlier in the year, we decided to chance our luck once again and set off confidently for the Le Mans Classic along with the majority of Gloucester TSSC members.

TSSC gathering at le Havre en route to Le Mans
Preparing for our own ‘Le Mans’ start as we exit the Le Havre Ferry Port – any resemblance to a convoy is purely coincidental

As it turned out the car behaved impeccably from start to finish and thanks to the perfect weather, great classic racing and some very sociable company we were treated to a memorable and very enjoyable long weekend in La Belle France  – just don’t get me started on Brexit again!

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The real thing! The start of the first race for Vintage cars – Talbots, Bentleys, Bugattis, you name it and it was racing.

Eine Bayerische Hochzeit

It may have taken Richard a little while to get around to popping the question to Collette, but it seemed to take no time at all for the big day to come around.  With Jennie and Nathan’s Yorkshire event still fresh in our minds we were really looking forward to celebrating this second family wedding in the course of only nine months.  The fact that this time we’d be doing so in the Bavarian Alps made the prospect even more exciting.

The Duftbrau Gasthaus was a wonderful setting for a wedding – mountains, forests, wild flowers, donkeys and excellent beer, what more could anyone want?  The pictures tell the story ……….

Laon Historique

Having thoroughly enjoyed last year’s TSSC trip to Spa we decided that for 2016 we’d ‘double up’ and join in with the Club’s planned trips to both Laon and Le Mans.  As we once again planned to camp it was an easy decision to take the Stag, which has enough room to squeeze in essentials such as camp-beds, extra blankets and a comprehensive toolkit.laon schedule

The attractive provincial French city of Laon sits on one of Picardie’s rocky outcrops just to the north west of Reims, and as the drive from Calais passes through the Somme region we decided that after the Laon events we’d stop off for an extra night in Albert to visit a couple of the July 1916 battlefields.

PENT9516
Now, who’s got the map .?

In company with six other intrepid members of Gloucester TSSC we crossed from Dover early on the Thursday morning and then enjoyed an excellent and fairly uneventful drive through rural France, ending up in the central square at Arras with around five hundred other classics just in time for lunch.

Arriving at our camp site just outside Laon  in the late afternoonfate intervened.  Having stopped the car for a few minutes to help move a tent I jumped back in again to find that the power steering had packed in.  Disaster!  The wheel wouldn’t turn at all in one direction and would only move jerkily (a word I never knew existed) in the other.  Doom and gloom descended as I made arrangements for the car to be recovered (likely to take weeks), cancelled our stay in Albert and contemplated the prospect of once again attending a classic event without a classic car.  Fortunately at that moment a fellow traveller (thanks Matt) made the sensible suggestion to see whether the car would steer with the power steering disconnected.  It would – albeit you quickly develop arms like Schwarzenegger.

PENT9673
Could it really be ………? Yeah, baby!

The rest, as they say, is historique.   Saturday involved a 100+km ‘topless’ route through the local countryside, whilst on  Sunday everyone congregated in the centre of Laon to show off their cars before tearing through the cobbled streets at high speed whilst the local gendarmerie conveniently looked the other way.   Overall a lovely weekend in great company with more than a thousand classic cars as a bonus.  Next stop Le Mans – what can possibly go wrong …….?Scan_20160620

A New Baby!

Yesterday was ‘collection day’ for the latest member of the Ewbank fleet.  After an early morning start, and a two and a half hour drive across to Huntingdon, the sun was more or less shining when we arrived at TRGB’s premises, though the forecast threatened rain for the return journey.   The first and only real problem of the day came when we realised that the colour of Denise’s jacket clashed violently with that of the car – fortunately she has more than one jacket, otherwise a full re-spray might have been on the cards!PENT9426

TRGB had kindly erected the hood for us in anticipation of the weather, but they also advised that we do without the side-screens until such time as we get used to the car.   As we drove the 125 miles home I thought for a little while that we might avoid getting rained upon, but this is England in April and sure enough the heavens opened big time as I took my turn behind the wheel down the Fosse Way.  I’m sure that the hood must have offered some protection from the elements, though the rain seemed to have no difficulty in getting me thoroughly soaked and cold in  record time.  That said, driving the TR3 is just so much fun that you can’t stay miserable for too long when you’re behind the wheel, no matter what the weather has in store.

We spent much of today cleaning and finding our way around the car.  Considering that most of the rebuild seems to have been done around 18 or so years ago it really is in great condition, though there again perhaps that’s not too surprising when you consider that the car has only done about 5,000 miles since most of the work was completed.  Anyway, the bottom line is that our third Triumph is now firmly ensconced as one of the family – all we have to do now is find somewhere to keep it!

Down Memory Lane

As Saturday dawned bright and moderately warm we decided to drop the top on the Z3 and drive down to Calne to take a look at the Atwell Wilson Motor Museum which sits on the outskirts of the town.  With probably no more than half a dozen other visitors in the building it wasn’t exactly crowded, and it was nice to be able to get up close and personal with some of the exhibits.  They have an ‘eclectic’ range of vehicles on display , ranging from the 1920s through to the eighties and most are in pretty good condition.

The Atwell Wilson Motor Museum

The only Triumph car on display was a Dolomite Sprint, which was apparently on loan from the Heritage Collection at Canley, though there was a nice little Standard from the late 20’s and a 1920 Triumph 550 motorcycle – which by all accounts was the model that gave Triumph their first success before they went into car manufacturing.

Triumph 550 Motorcycle
Apart from the tyres this is exactly the state it was found in after sitting in a garden for 80 years.

On our way home we stopped at Avebury to get a meal in the pub and then walk round the Stone Circle.  Fascinating place (the Circle, not the pub) and much more accessible than Stonehenge – well worth a visit.

Avebury Stone Circle
I’m pretty sure they didn’t have colour film in Neolithic times!

 

 

 

Triumphant Again!

Now, I’m not yet admitting that its become an obsession, but owning four ‘classic’ cars, three of which happen to be Triumphs, should, I have to agree, probably be thought of as something more than an ‘ enthusiasm’.  Of course, on the positive side, with interest rates routinely running some way below inflation, buying cars that we can enjoy and which will hopefully increase in value could be thought of a sensible investment.  On a rather more negative note, finding somewhere to keep these investments warm and dry is starting to prove a bit of a problem.  No matter ….. as Wilkins Micawber so prophetically said,  ……..’something will turn up’!

In point of fact this latest extravagance is really an early BIG birthday present for ‘er indoors’; and as Denise has promised that she’s going to be responsible for everything short of major repairs and maintenance,  I probably won’t even get around to opening the bonnet from time to time.  Fat chance!  Just look at the little beauty!

1960 Triumph TR3A, originally exported to the USA before being re-imported and completely rebuilt in the early nineties.  Around 75,000 probably genuine miles on the clock.  Standard other than the change to an overdrive gearbox (apparently from a TR4), the engine capacity increased to 2.2 litres (as per the TR4), and the addition of a rollbar, full harness seatbelts and Minilite type wheels.  The missing bumpers will be replaced with stainless steel versions as part of the purchase.

….holiday blogs, motoring obsessions and a general account of life in the Ewbank household…..