National Rally Stratford 2012
“Batten down the hatches –
another storm is threatening to wreak havoc across the country – nearly 2” of rain - more than half the
average rainfall for the entire month – is expected to fall during Friday & Saturday” Not to mention
strong winds up to 60mph! Flood warnings were also in evidence – just what we needed at Stratford where we
had been forced to cancel a previous rally due to the river overflowing
This year the
site management had assured us that the river levels were OK and that poor management of the river sluices
etc had caused the previous floods. However, that didn’t cover
the waterlogged ground and soggy grass. Over the last few days before the rally it was touch-and-go whether
we would be allowed to camp in the rally field. The driving tests were the first casualty and, on the
Thursday, we were informed that we could camp on the rally field and erect our marquee.
lunchtime on Friday, the marquee supplier soon joined us; much scratching of heads but there was no way
their heavy lorry would be able to stray off the tarmac road; the team were forced to relay all the heavy
kit from the road to the intended marquee location. Unfortunately for them, we couldn’t site the marquee
near the road because that was a low point and very soggy indeed. After a couple of hours of hard labour the marquee was in place and we
felt that we now had the beginnings of a rally.
The hot water
boiler was soon filled and switched on awaiting Bob & Manda with their V8TF pulling their heavily loaded
trailer with the vital ingredients for our first cuppa. Bob & Manda are owed a big vote of thanks for
bringing a lot of heavy kit for the refreshments, a gazebo to cover the BBQs and much more besides.
With a few willing helpers, the gazebo was soon up
and expected to be very much needed with the heavy rain forecast over the weekend. During a normal summer,
we would have sited the three BBQs on the southern side of the marquee where we could best enjoy the early
morning sun whilst cooking our breakfast bacon, not to mention the evening sessions. However, due to the
prevailing SW wind we decided to break with tradition and position the BBQs on the leeward side and bring
the gazebo up tight against the side of the marquee for maximum shelter against the expected rain. This
arrangement worked well and provided good cover during the mass cookout on Saturday evening.
In the meantime, our signage expert, Jeff Stretch,
had been out and placed his magnificent rally signs in appropriate places so that there would be no doubt
about visitors finding the rally field.
Friday was a day of heavy showers and bright spells
with strong winds. With such a poor forecast we were not surprised to hear that a number of erstwhile
campers had decided that they were not prepared to spend a weekend under canvas and made other arrangements.
Finding that the last few static caravans had been booked by NGOC members, these members were pointed
towards a new type of accommodation, namely ‘snugs’ (see photo). There were six snugs positioned along the
boundary hedge with our rally field and so very convenient for the rally. The snugs are made entirely from
wood and are supplied with heaters, beds, fridge and not much else. For a further small fee one could hire a
camping pack with stove, pans etc. Most people seemed to bring their own camping gear instead. Several of
our members hired snugs, the last three being ‘snapped up’ towards the end of the week after the forecasters
had confirmed the wet & windy outlook. The snugs even had their own shower block – very
In spite of the weather, we still had a reasonable
number of tents, motor caravans, folding caravan & a trailer tent. Surprisingly, nearly all the members
who had booked for the weekend turned up.
On Friday afternoon, Mary Clark beavered away with
the finishing touches to a most sumptuous feast planned for the evening. When everyone had sat down for the meal, there were at least 50 people - a
good attendance for a Friday evening. Mary & her band of helpers had laid out the food in a buffet using
trestle tables in the centre of the marquee and there was soon a buzz of conversation as people headed for
the buffet & started to fill their plates, all the while taking the opportunity for a bit of ‘catching
up’ – not surprising when you think that quite a few members only get to see each other once a year at the
National Rally. Thank-you Mary for providing another marvellous meal. After the main meal had been completed we were treated to a wonderful
surprise by Barbara Hoyle who turned up with a great selection of scrumptious puds for which all present
were very grateful.
After the meal had been eaten, and a certain amount
of wine partaken of, the scene was set for our quiz. This year, Paul Bennett very kindly offered to ‘have a
go’ and what a good job he did. The questions were divided into 5 categories and, as is usual on such
occasions, caused much merriment and heckling from the audience. With a total of 25 questions, the winning
team scored 15 so quite challenging! Many thanks Paul (& Bernadette) not only for composing the quiz and
acting as quizmaster but also for generously providing prizes.
Saturday dawned dry with a fresh breeze. Donna had
driven into Stratford to collect a pile of tourist brochures so that people could visit some of the
interesting historic sites in the area. It was a pity that we didn’t have a volunteer to create a treasure
hunt this year hence there were no organised runs during the weekend.
However, one of the gems of the site was the electric
water-taxi that departed from a jetty on the campsite. The river trip is 1.25 miles of very attractive
scenery after which you suddenly arrive in the centre of bustling Stratford. A number of us took this route
into town and very pleasant it was too. For those interested in
such things, the electric propulsion motor is powered by 16 lead/acid batteries that are able to run for
most of the day before re-charging is necessary. The alarming thing was that the batteries only last for 3
years, another instance of an apparently ‘environmentally-friendly’ machine actually being the opposite when
taking into account manufacture, disposal etc.
During the morning, Donna had been to Tesco in
Stratford to buy the ingredients for the salads etc. to accompany the DIY BBQ. After delivering the
ingredients to the marquee, we went off for a walk in the pouring rain along the canal towpath with the
intention of returning to the site by 4.30pm to start the food prep. However, we reached the ferry jetty in
town about 10 minutes before the ferry was due to depart only to see it disappearing around the first bend
in the river with a full load of (7) passengers. We were obviously going to be late back to the site so a
quick call to daughter Kate and she willingly went along to the marquee to get the prep started. As is usual
on these occasions, there was soon a very willing band of helpers beavering away in the marquee. Mary also
supplied further food from the previous evening and made sure that there was plenty in reserve – what a
team! The three gas BBQs were as popular as ever for the
evening event and it makes for a very sociable activity. It doesn’t seem to matter that most of the ‘cooked’
meat looks black and inedible by the time it is deemed ‘fully cooked’!
After the BBQ meal had been completed we were treated
to further scrumptious puds supplied by Barbara. What a great end to a very pleasant evening meal, enjoyed
by about 60 people. After the meal was finished, everyone just sat around chatting and enjoying the social
interaction with friends old and new. On that subject, it was great to meet several new members who had
recently joined the club and were attending the National Rally for the first time – welcome to you
Sunday morning dawned dry but very windy; in fact
some of the gusts during the preceding night were a real test on the integrity of tents & their
supports. There were some showers during the morning & we saw further day-visitors & the usual round
of chatting across the bonnets of some very nice cars. As is
traditional, members were asked to vote for their favourite cars & we attended a prize giving mid
afternoon. Our hard-working chairman, Peter, presented the awards as follows:
Chris & Su Hore 3078
Peacock Trophy Chris
After the awards ceremony it was
time for people to start their journey home although some had booked the 3-night package for caravans and
snugs and were staying for Sunday night – not a bad option to avoid the Sunday evening
Overall, a very
pleasant weekend & many thanks to all those who helped to make it happen including those who haven’t
been mentioned in this account. A great triumph of hope over adversity; we were determined to enjoy the
weekend whatever the weather and enjoy it we did!