The Derbyshire Dales Drive
“Are we going to be lucky with the weather?” That seemed to be the question on everybody’s mind on Sunday 4th June as the sixty cars and crews assembled at Abbotsholme School just outside Rocester for the fifth running of the HRCR Midlands Region’s Derbyshire Dales Drive. Certainly the weather forecast suggested the day might well be something of a lottery in terms of where the predicted “scattered thundery showers” might appear. However the prevailing bright sunshine at nine o’clock that morning put everyone in an optimistic mood and drivers of fixed-roof GTs looked on slightly enviously as elsewhere hoods were being lowered.
At one minute past ten the first car was away, Tony Walker’s immaculate 1952 MG TD with the Rev Paul Taylor, chaplain to the High Sheriff of Derbyshire, in the navigator’s seat courtesy of an auction bid made by the High Sheriff herself. The route was up to the usual DDD high standard, the first section winding its way northwards to enter the Peak District National Park at Blore, swinging around to follow the River Manifold as far as Ilam before looping around Dove Dale to arrive at the mid-morning coffee halt in Tissington. Here we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by none other than Tony Barron doing sterling service getting the cars parked in an orderly fashion on the green.
It was during this break that Paul and Arlene Burton, running ahead of us in their Healey 100/6, came over to express their concerns regarding the upcoming Tissington ford; apparently nervous after clerk of the course John Ball’s comment in the drivers briefing about a van being recently washed away there. Having successfully negotiated this without any problem the previous year we told them not to worry but clearly they still had doubts, waving us passed as we approached the ford. Admitting afterwards that, not convinced by my earlier assurances, they’d decided to watch us go through first on the basis, if the MGB didn’t vanish without trace, they too should be all right! Pleased to report we both came out the other side.
The route continued through Youlgreave, Monyash and around Bakewell by which time ominous clouds – that’s the category somewhere between cumulus and nimbostratus – had started to gather on the horizon suggesting the answer to the weather question was going to be “no”. Sure enough the first spots of rain started to fall about a mile before we reached the lunch halt at Brosterfield Farm, Foolow, and for the most part the picnic chairs remained in the boot although one or two hardy souls were seen outside their cars squatting under umbrellas.
Fortunately it was only a passing shower and the sun returned (cue hoods down again) as we started the afternoon section of the tour. And shortly, for us at least, it was to become a case of déjà vu after our unintentional detour on this event last year, suddenly coming upon a temporary road closure at Miller’s Dale. A total surprise to the tour organisers, it not having been in place when the route had been checked the previous Friday, and all due apparently to the local Council deciding to mend potholes in this popular tourist location on a Sunday afternoon, what’s more with no signed diversions in place. With no choice we and several other ‘tour’ cars had to turn off the route and go – well, for a moment who knew where. Seeing little point in just blindly following the car in front we duly pulled over to be joined a few seconds later by Peter and Joan Hickman and together we worked out our own “scenic tour” to get us back on the road book. A chance for some proper rallying, my son Richard, navigator for the day, said eagerly as he got to grips with the OS maps.
This incident was to produce a typical rally comedy moment as for the next few miles cars passed each other going in all directions, many of the crews looking somewhat bemused. The plus for us was our revised route took us along that lovely winding section of the A6 going east from Buxton alongside the River Wye passed Topley Pike before arriving at Taddington where we could to re-join the DDD route.
Now back to the weather. It was at this point the rain arrived with a vengeance – the “scattered thundery showers” proving to be a prolonged deluge of truly biblical proportions – and for the next mile or two we passed a succession of Healeys, Triumphs and MGs, the crews hastily trying to get hoods back in place before they became soaked to the skin. Which meant all of a sudden at least one smug fixed-roof GT crew found they had the road to themselves, just in time for a blast across the moors, wipers working overtime, splashing through puddles that were rapidly taking on the proportions of Tissington ford. Looping north-west from Earl Sterndale the route returned south-east down to Longnor before heading west again across Morridge Moor, the highest point in Staffordshire. The views made all the more dramatic against the backdrop of the almost impenetrable dark grey clouds.
And then, just as quickly as the rain had started it was back to sunshine once more. Just in time for the descent via Warslow and Butterton, leaving the National Park at Winkhill, the final leg of the route being a more relaxed drive through Froghall, down to Croxden before a final loop around Denstone, Ellastone and thus back to Rocester for a well-earned meal in the school dining hall and the usual banter sharing experiences of the day before, for some of us, the long drive home.
So another very successful round of the Scenic Tours series. Thanks as usual to John Ball and all the team at the HRCR Midlands Region for an exemplary tour which despite the confusion caused by the unforeseen diversion and the subsequent downpour, nonetheless seemed to have been enjoyed by pretty well everyone.