After five season of trying Charlotte and I finally bagged a Gold medal on a car trial! We missed one by literally a couple of feet last year on the Lands End but on the first weekend of March 2023 we completed the Falcon Motor Club Anniversary Trial with a clean sheet, no penalties, and secured one. Happy Days!
This one-off event to mark the club's 75th anniversary ran through the Cotswold Hills and took in a number of historic old trials hills that had not been used in years. The opener at Saintbury, near Evesham had first run over a century ago. The final hill was also first run in the 1920a and others like Postlip Hill had featured in the 1950s and 1960s. Postlip was notable for other reasons - it finished on Cleeve Hill where we used to walk our dog, Barney.
After two events with stand-in navigators the old team was back together as this was a rare Saturday event and not affected by Charlotte job in the local pub! The Sunday lunch shift has kept her out of the passenger's seat recently . It was great to be back on a Dad-and-Daughter adventure. And the ‘extreme crochet’ was back to - Charlotte picking up the wool and the crochet hook every time we had a bit of a wait on route.
We lined up for scrutineering at Honeybourne airfield just behind the blue BMW Z3 run by Rory and Ian Fitzgerald who we bought our car from back in 2019. The entry was very diverse and included a lot of older machinery that we hadn't seen previously. A Pre-war Ford ‘Pop’ , a 1963 Skoda Octavia and a late 1920s Lagonda (below) among them.
It also included a lot of serious ‘moderns’ and a smattering of motorcycles. There was even a three-wheeler… the Reliant 'Super Robin' , a remarkably effective device but with ‘looks only a mother could love’….
The Super Robin …
The first few sections wound up into the Cotswold hills and through some strikingly pretty villages where the honey coloured local stone gives every cottage, gate house and barn a warm glow, even on a very grey day like this one!
Passing Sudeley Castle and dropping back down into Winchcombe, where we enjoyed a ride is a vintage Bentley last summer, things came to an abrupt halt when we encountered almost the entire entry parked up at Postlip Hill where it seemed a communications hiccup had led to the marshals arriving later than expected… later than the competitors at any rate!
The Queue for Postlip Hill
This gave us all a chance for some food and socializing as we waited. The long line of cars started to move and then it was “can you all reverse please?” as a horse was descending the hill and needed a bit of room to get past. One of those cases where once something starts off wrong, it just keeps on going wrong!
Kevin Sharp's MR2 with a Ford Popular, Leige and Rickman Ranger, all backed up to let the horse through!
Then way beyond the end of the section we came up behind a Mk2 Escort struggling to make any forward progress . We got out and tried to give it a push. But it wasn't having any of that so we had to leave it to a following runner who had volunteered to tow it up to a safe location for repair or rescue.
Descending Cleeve Hill and cutting through the outskirts of Cheltenham the route climbed steeply back up the other side to three sections around Fry's Quarry. The vista over the town below was spectacular - but so was one of the hills we had to climb, and more to the point the stop-restart line just before the summit.
The ‘Impossible’ Restart (where the R marker is)
It looked impossible. It was. Cue lots of wheelspin and tyre smoke , all to no avail. Well for most of us. Luckily if a whole class fails a hill like this it gets discounted from the results and that happened here. We were still (unknowingly) on a nice clean score sheet as we headed off towards Andoversford, and on out towards Cirencester.
The route took us down a great many unsurfaced ‘green lanes’ that twisted and turned their way through woods and valleys, through fields and farm yards, across fords and into locations you do not often get to see by car. It all felt a little bit naughty and as such was all the more enjoyable. Coupled to that was the Cotswold scenery which was ever changing but invariably lovely . In our own corner of Gloucestershire we just do not have these kind of ancient ‘chocolate box’ hamlets, unspoiled (in the main) by post-war housing developments. There were however, a few very peculiar modernist GRAND DESIGNS-style edifices up here, it has to be admitted. Mostly they seemed to resemble giant 1960s TV sets, with all the ‘grace’ and 'elegance' that evokes. You do have to wonder in such cases…what ARE they thinking?
We also had some animal encounters. There was a farmer on a quad bike ahead of us as we splashed through one of the fords and balanced on the back were two collies,
Later a troop of immaculately attired riders, trotted their equally immaculately groomed horses towards us on one of the lanes (all very polite, they waved acknowledgment of our pulling over to let them pass) .
Further on we got towards the end of one section to find a stray sheep trotting up to the finish ahead of us. Then down in the depths of one tortuous green lane we found a field full of the cutest black and white cows you can imagine (Belted Galloways), looking exactly like they had been crossed with Giant Pandas!
While a lot of the sections we did were fairly straightforward there were a few tricky moments and one a well hidden lane was both so narrow and so bumpy that we spent half the time almost up on two wheels over huge roots whil avoiding overhanging trees. Actually it was great fun!
The Suzuki heeling over at 40 degrees to avoid a tree out of frame to the right…
Finally as the light faded we reached the final observed section…or thought we had…Where was it? Like a scene from a mad film comedy we and several other competitors found ourselves criss-crossing a hill above Nailsworth in search of people in hi-viz jackets and signs saying “SECTION BEGINS” without any success. The road was painfully narrow and hemmed in by walls, with road works and signage adding to the constriction. In the end we gave up the search and made for the finish, only to find out the section had been cancelled! It transpired the road works we saw had over-run their schedule and were located right in the middle of the 'section ' itself. But a communications breakdown meant the information had not been passed onto us all. Ah well, it happens! No harm done. And several days later the result come through confirming we had come back down from those hill with a gold medal ! The whole event now seems to have been blissfully perfect!
Our thanks to Falcon Motor Club on what turned out to be a memorable and enjoyable day's motor sport.
Peter Thompson & Joanne Easter's 1928 Austin 7 Chummy
Dick & Sally Glossop's Liege SS with Gill Hayward's Ford Escort having it's tyre's deflated up ahead
Mark Hobbs/Amanda Ferrin's Troll (which won the car event overall) and others wait to ascend Postlip Hill
Everywhere we went there were amazing Cotswold stone houses
Rory and Ian Fitzgerald's BMW Z3 with their previous car, our Suzuki X-90, in the background
George Osborn & Celia Walton's bizarre Reliant Super Robin (overall winner of the motorcycle & three wheeler part of the event) with our Suzuki