The Welland Valley Wander 2017 – the view from the other side
Early on the morning of Sunday 13th August all was quiet save for a traction engine getting up steam when we arrived at the Great Central Railway Quorn and Woodhouse Station. At first sight not a lot going on to suggest this was the start location for the next event in the HRCR Scenic Tours series, the fifth running of Loughborough CC’s Welland Valley Wander.
Once again my son Richard had joined me as a travelling marshal and as has become customary our first task was to check off the cars as they arrived and issue numbers to the entrants. Easy enough to keep pace with the trickle of cars that began arriving shortly after eight o’clock. It was when the trickle became a virtual tidal wave – a bumper entry list of eighty-five cars this year – things became a little more hectic and for the next hour we had our work cut out ensuring the right numbers went on the right cars. Slightly confusing when a couple arrived still bearing last year’s numbers on their windscreens and an anticipated TVR had mysteriously morphed into a Porsche.
The route began by taking the cars on a loop around Charnwood Forest and included the ascent of Beacon Hill, used as a hill climb venue back in the early 1900’s, then crossing Swithland Reservoir – cue the first of the day’s viaducts – before reaching the coffee halt at the Carrington Arms in Ashby Folville. Continuing east the crews then had the choice of lunch venues, Launde Abbey with the opportunity to have a picnic or snack at the café, or continue into Uppingham, park in the grounds of Uppingham School and visit one of the local hostelries. The latter was our next location, our job to organise the parking in the school quad for those opting to lunch in the town; as it turned out a job not too onerous as only about twenty crews took up this option.
Few they may have been but they still attracted plenty of interest from passers-by especially as the majority of the pre-war cars had parked there, looking particularly appropriate against the backdrop of the old buildings. I have to confess my knowledge of cars dating back to the 20’s and 30’s is limited but at least having their respective year of manufacture noted on the entrants list meant I was able to bluff my way through most of the questions we were asked.
Leaving Uppingham the afternoon section headed west taking the cars around Eyebrook Reservoir, renowned for being used for the final practice runs of The Dambusters, before turning east once more and thus into the Welland Valley. With the cars having departed from Uppingham we set off once again, indecisive at first about how much of the afternoon route we could do and still be in Stamford before the first car arrived back; eventually deciding to cut the Eyebrook loop (doubtless confusing a few of the tour cars as we passed them going the opposite way) and re-join the route just west of Harringworth. So at least we were able to drive under – and yet again marvel at – the Welland Valley Viaduct before following the route the rest of the way to Stamford.
Arriving at the water meadows there was a few minutes lull, time to be the first to sample the tea and to watch a kingfisher, initially perched on the pedestrian bridge only a few yards away and then demonstrating his fishing skills, diving into the river and emerging with a fish in his beak. And then it was back on duty for our last job of the day, Richard putting the finishing stamp on the crews ‘carnet de route’ whilst I attempted to create some semblance of order getting the cars parked in line. Once more the cars attracting many admiring glances from the other visitors strolling around the meadows who again wanted to know all about both the cars and the event. Who knows, we may have a few more wanting to take part next year.
As always it was a pleasure to help out at the finish, to see the smiles and to receive the plaudits from crews who had clearly enjoyed the day, many apparently surprised to find the Leicestershire countryside so scenic. This part of the country may not be as spectacular as some areas of England and Wales but it does have a charm all of its own and as several people commented, it was refreshing to drive along virtually empty roads and be able to enjoy the views rather than negotiate single-track lanes between high hedges. Just what a scenic tour should be and as Andrew Duerden proved yet again, he knows where to find the very best the Shires have to offer.
Whilst being non-competitive there are always three awards at the end of the WVW, this year going to Paul Coombs and his 1952 Armstrong Siddeley Whitley for the most original car; Michael and Liz Holding for the furthest travelled crew having brought their 1974 Alfa Romeo Spyder up from West Sussex; finally the award voted for by the other crews, the car most people wanted to take home, by a considerable margin going to Roger and Morag King’s AC Cobra.
You want to come back again in 2018? Very pleased to report planning for next year’s event is already underway.