The September MGCC Midget Register Run organised by Dennis Wharf is always a favourite of ours as it means combining an expertly organised run by Dennis, taking in carefully chosen countryside, with a weekend away for Sharon and myself in Cheltenham. This year’s event held on Sunday 2nd September 2012 was to be no exception.
Leaving Tenby early on Saturday morning, we headed off in our 1964 MG Midget Mk11 aiming to cover the first 120 miles up to Monmouth in time for our coffee stop. Choosing to use the M4 followed by the A449/A40 dual carriageway up to Monmouth was an easy choice as our Midget is fitted with a 1.8 K series engine, making such roads light work. Following coffee, next stop was Cheltenham and before long we were booked into our hotel and the car stored safely away. Following an afternoon of shopping therapy for Sharon and a meal at Chiquitos in the new Brewery development, it was time to meet up with Anthony Cutler (K Series Registrar) and his wife Lesley for a night out at a local club where their friends, Swansea band ‘Final Demand’, were playing. It was a great night.
Morning dawned and we were up and at it, keen to get going. The drive from Cheltenham to Toddington, where the Run begins from, is always a pleasure with the view from the top of Cleeve Hill, amazing. Not many cars at that time of morning but lots of horses and cycles on the roads.
We were one of the first cars to arrive at Toddington Railway Centre, pulling in at around 8.15am. Whilst rain threatened, I was determined to have the hood down for the Run and so first step was to get it packed away in the boot. Next we made our way to the adjacent ‘Flag & Whistle’ Tearooms where we were booked in by Dennis and provided with our Tulip diagrams and Rally Plaque, this year kindly sponsored by Frontline Developments. As always, Dennis made us feel very welcome. We were soon chatting away with old friends, Midget stalwarts Mike Halliday and wife and TF owners Tony & Jane Childs. The Tearooms soon started filling with participants and so we headed outside to look at the cars. Of the 46 cars booked into the event, this year a record 17 Midgets were due to attend. It was great to see so many Midgets of all descriptions taking part. Whilst being unable to speak to all the Midget owners in the car park, I did chat with David Housley from Penarth near Cardiff who had his black ‘J’ Midget, a car he had owned from new and to Tim Storrar from Cheltenham with his AH Sprite. Mike Parker also came over to have a chat. A small shower threatened to dampen the spirits before the start but this soon blew over. We also had a guest appearance from Anthony Cutler in BRB, his K Series Midget, resplendent with freshly renewed and painted nose cone. Whilst being unable to take part, Anthony had still come along to wish everyone a good Run. Whilst he was chatting to James Thacker, Sharon and I decided to head off.
Now the funny thing is, when following Tulip diagrams, at the end of the Run I never know where I have actually been! Strange but true. So this year I utilised an App on my iphone called ‘Map my Ride’. Whilst primarily intended for cycling, it is just as capable of plotting a driving route and so when we set off from Toddington, the App was running. It also provided an accurate trip for the all important Tulips.
It was clear from the start that Dennis had chosen a great route. We loved every minute of it and also the distance was a sensible one. The views along the way were outstanding. As we drove along the various lanes we came up behind other MG’s that were making the most of their day. I would photograph their car, to capture the moment, before overtaking safely when the opportunity arose as I like to make progress on Runs.
The route included travelling along grass laden lanes and ascending hilltops such as Beacon Hill which provided a splendid vista of the adjoining Cotswolds countryside and the opportunity to visit either the Broadway Tower built in 1799 by Sir William George, the 6th Earl of Coventry or the adjacent once secret Nuclear Observation Bunker used by the Royal Observer Corp between 1959 and 1991.
We continued ‘making progress’ before taking the left turn signposted Todenham. A few hundred yards down the road was a sign ‘Road Closed’. A bit late for that I thought so we carried on undaunted. A short distance further on we fancied a cup of coffee and so took the opportunity to call in to the Allain Rouvere Gallery. This was an interesting little place with a strong Himalayan and Tibetan theme selling glorious hand woven carpets and Tibetan fancies. The Vegetarian Madras Spices caught our eye and are destined for a future meal in the Thomas household. Continuing on our way we passed delightful little hamlets, lanes with ponies grazing on the verges next to their horsedrawn caravan, ducks crossing the road and the site of the Rollright Stones. These consist of 77 unhewn stones varying from ground level to 7 feet in height and arranged in a perfect circle of 100 feet diameter. They are believed to have been positioned 4-4500 years ago. Our Spridgets have a way to go yet.
Next interesting spot was Traitors Ford. Apparently it dates back to the English Civil War of 1642-46 and featured in the film ‘Three men and a little lady’. Locals here believe ghosts are abundant by the Ford! Carrying on, following the Tulip diagrams, we soon left the little lanes and were soon approaching our final destination, Charlecote Park. Approaching a junction we came up behind a group of MG’s, the one immediately in front of me being BRG Midget NPX10M. Within moments we both saw the ‘V’ bomber parked up at Wellesbourne Airfield. This is Avro Vulcan XM655, the third from last of the Vulcan bombers produced for the Royal Air Force, being delivered in late 1964 and was part of the UK's nuclear deterrent force throughout the 1960s and 1970s. It is now owned by Wellesbourne Airfield, and is looked after by 655 Maintenance and Preservation Society (655MaPS) which is a volunteer organisation of Vulcan enthusiasts. We pulled in to the airfield and with permission of the staff got up close and personal, taking lots of photographs.
A few moments later we were entering Charlecote Park, the home of the Lucy family who have owned the land since 1247. We were welcomed at the private entrance to the Estate by Dennis. He did indeed look very regal himself we thought. The parking area set aside for the Spridgets was adjacent to the gatehouse and provided a perfect finishing location. It was now time to chat to other owners, compare notes and discuss the Run. Dave Storer popped over for a chat and as I spoke to different owners everyone agreed it was a cracker of a Run. The entry fee included access to the house, gardens (designed by Capability Brown) and carriage house and this was not to be missed. It provided a fascinating insight into the history of the estate and how life would have been hundreds of years ago. A certain William Shakespeare was allegedly caught poaching rabbits on the estate and taken before magistrates. Will later sought revenge by depicting one of the Lucy’s as a character in one of his plays. We were particularly impressed by seeing Oliver Cromwell’s signature in one of the displays!
It was then time for us to make our way back to the South Wales Riviera, aka Tenby. We said our goodbyes and hit the road. My App by the way was able to provide an accurate record of the route taken during the Run and clearly showed, on a map, the exact route we had taken. The darkness had been lifted!
Thanks Dennis and helpers for a brill event. See you again next year.