Safety Fast November 2019

Welcome to the MGB Register Newsletter

published in the November 2019 Safety Fast

Rally Day at Castle Combe

The Register was invited to display the Marathon MGB on the “ British Women Racing Drivers’ Club” stand at the Castle Combe Rally Day held on September 21. The BWRDC was formed in 1962 and the connection between the car and the club is Jean Denton who was one of its early members. Jean, of course, was the owner of the Marathon MGB which she drove on the London to Sydney Marathon in 1968. The car was also used for racing before being entered on the Marathon.
The club was founded to promote the interest of women racing drivers because it was felt that they had been treated in a rather derisory manner. The object of the club was “ Prestige” i.e. initially only drivers with full FIA International Licences could join.
There was great interest in the car throughout the day from all ages. It’s very eye-catching and stood out from the majority of Escorts, Subarus, etc on display. Some younger visitors had not heard of the Marathon and were amazed that such a car could compete and finish in such a gruelling event. Without doubt the car helped to promote the club.

MGB Register Weekend

Upholding personal tradition on MG events, Kate and I arrived last at the Ufford Park Woodbridge Hotel, Suffolk on Friday evening for this year’s MGB Register Weekend September 13-16.

After changing in record time we joined the others in the restaurant, just in time for a ribbing from Roger Boys followed by John Watson’s brief but important presentation on the horrors of Sepsis.

This was followed by a brief presentation by George on the weekend’s routes, a longish 90 miles around South Suffolk’s rural landscape on Saturday, with a shorter coastal route for Sunday. Both days had fantastic recommended stopping places, of which more later. George personally assured me that no one should get lost.

Saturday morning brought more glorious weather, and most of the MGs had left our dedicated grassy car park by 10.00am, leaving the ‘Speckled Hen’ and ourselves as the rear guard. We managed to recover from a premature left turn on the second stage and progress to Earl Soham. The route through rural Suffolk rural scenery was lovely. The houses and cottages were quite distracting. After Earl Soham things went to Hades in a Hand Basket in the navigation department. After a brief exchange with Speckled Hen, we declared ourselves mutually confused, and pressed on guided by Google Maps. Irrespective, the roads and scenery were first class.
We caught up with most of the group at the spectacular village of Lavenham. Prospering from the wool trade in the 15th and 16th centuries, it was reputed to be the fourth richest town in the country.

The early architecture was preserved by the townspeople falling on hard times, as their textile market was lost to others. They could not afford to upgrade or rebuild their properties. That is to our benefit today. The Guildhall, now in the hands of the National Trust, was our personal favorite.

Continuing our journey through Kersey, which provided the obligatory Register Weekend ford, then Hadleigh, we eventually arrived at Flatford Mills. Those who enjoy John Constable’s work will find this a fascinating place, with the Mill itself and the 15th Century Valley Farm. The cottages and scenery here are famously captured in Constable’s paintings.
Returning to Ufford Park, we congregated in the bar to swap navigation disaster stories before John gave a briefing on the background and restoration progress with the Jean Denton London to Sydney Rally MGB. Following dinner the raffle was held to raise further restoration funds, (the pot is nearly dry!). There were many prizes donated by Register members on offer, including a pair of Petrolhead MG socks, apparently reserved for me. I am very much enjoying them. An unusual prize went to our good friends and regular attendees from Germany, Thomas and Ulrike, tea cups with MG motifs!

Bentwaters Cold War Museum on the old RAF/USAF base at Woodbridge

Sunday dawned with a bright blue sky. The group set off to cover the short distance – using a number of novel routes – to Bentwaters Cold War Museum on the old RAF/USAF base. The restored ‘hardened’ command post contains a war operations room and ‘Battle cabin’ as well as many exhibits explaining the history of the base. During the Cold War it was used by the USAF to provide A10 ‘Tankbusters’ to NATO as part of the West’s initial response to armoured incursion from the Eastern bloc. Retired Master Sergeant Bob Hale, who was part of the War Room team at the time, offered a detailed description of how this was achieved. A retired A10 along with a Phantom and a Harrier where on display outside the museum.

Two hours passed quickly and we decided to make haste to Sutton Hoo. Others followed the full coastal route north to Aldeburgh and Snape Maltings, a leading centre of music founded by Suffolk composer Benjamin Britten. Aldeburgh was once a thriving fishing and boat building community, before storms eroded the east coast. By 1790 many of streets had gone. However the tourist trade revived the town in the 1800s.

Sutton Hoo, the final stop, is the site of 6th and 7th century Anglo-Saxon cemeteries. This site is famous for the discovery of the undisturbed ship-burial and many important artefacts. The new exhibition hall, cafe and the restored Tranmere Hall make this a very worthwhile place to visit. Fascinating to think that the discovery of the long boat in mound 1 during 1939 was the result of the Hall owner, widow Edith Pretty, commissioning a local archeologist Basil Brown on a spiritual hunch.
Back at the hotel a good crowd assembled for drinks and dinner to discuss the day’s adventures. The MGB Register weekend had delivered great company, excellent weather, great roads, fantastic places to visit and a few navigation challenges to keep us on our toes. Kate and I even found time to try the driving range…
Many thanks to John and his team for another fantastic MGB Register Weekend.
See you next year in the Scottish borders,I hope!
Malcolm Dunn

North Coast 500 Route in the Boneshaker

Derbyshire was our first stop for the night during this adventure, and with slightly overcast conditions we set off from Newbury. Our plan was to meet up each evening with our friends, Ian and Sue Deverall, at the hotels rather than travel in convoy. This worked well during the holiday. It was amazing how many times we “bumped” into each other throughout the trip, either in garages or at coffee stops or most important the call of nature! The first hotel was absolutely brilliant, The Lamb at Chinley, near Buxton. When we arrived, Ian and Sue were sat outside in the sunshine taking in the rays with an aperitif. Only three rooms but excellent; well done, Sadly this was to be almost the last of the sunshine that we were to see on our June holiday. It was generally on the cool side 11-12C or just simply cold 7C and damp. Nicky acquired the nickname of “five coats” in an attempt to keep warm. Yes, we did have rain but at a guess we had the roof off for 70% of the driving time.

When we set out the following morning from The Lamb it was raining. We were optimistic that as we progressed to just north of Newcastle we would find some better conditions. It was going to be an eventful day! When Nicky and I were travelling through the heavy traffic of Keighley in Yorkshire, the Boneshaker, our 1964 MGB, who had not been performing too well, finally gave up the ghost and stopped at very busy set of traffic lights and refused to restart. We managed to push it to the side of the road. As we were looking under the bonnet there were huge trucks, coaches and cars speeding by. I decided to check for a spark with my checking tool, after making sure there was fuel in the fuel filter bowl. I turned the starter over and was amazed when suddenly the engine fired up. “Right, let’s move,” shouted Nicky over the noise of the traffic. We struggled through the traffic, fighting to keep the engine running. It was very apparent that the car was not happy running at slow speeds. We stopped in the first layby we came to and Nicky checked on the internet and found that there was an MG specialist in Harrogate, some 16 miles away, so we rang and were told to come over. Thank goodness we did, as the diagnosis was a failing 20-year-old electronic ignition system, which was replaced. So, four hours later and a tidy sum of money gone from our holiday spending fund, we were on our way again. Peter Norman of Snowdens of Harrogate had saved our holiday, as there was no way that we would have been able to travel all those miles and complete the NC500 without him. Our problem, however, was not completely over for the day as when we checked with “Doris the satnav” we found that we had some 92 miles to travel to our hotel north of Newcastle, and it was pouring with rain. Fortunately she found the way to the A19 and we were on our way to the Tyne Tunnel. It took just over two hours to complete the nightmare journey but we made it to the hotel to be greeted by a relieved Ian and Sue. We slept well that night!

The following morning the rain had turned biblical but with optimism in our hearts we set off to Peebles where we were due to join the rest of the party, ready for the main tour. The rain did stop and the roof came off for some of the trip. The evening was fun as we found our fellow travellers, introduced ourselves and had a drink before enjoying dinner together in a room set aside for our group, two Triumph GT6s, a BMW MINI convertible and a Mazda MX5. We were expecting a Porsche which we found out was due to join us the following day.
Saturday we were due to travel up to Inverness to start the actual NC500 route the following morning. The NC500 is a clever marketing idea to promote Scotland in general by focussing on the wonderful coastal drive. This runs for 500 miles from Inverness to Inverness, via Dornoch and Wick, using the A9 which hugs the east coast virtually all the way to John O’Groats then along the north coast to Thurso in Caithness, the northernmost town on the British mainland, and then down the west side of Scotland, passing Lochinver, Ullapool and Gairloch with the islands on the right. Then comes the jewel in the crown, Bealach na Ba meaning “pass of the cattle” , featuring the spectacular road to Applecross, before climbing up and then descending Scotland’s most spectacular road down from its highest point of 2,053ft down to sea level close to Fort William before turning back across country to Inverness. The route is a shade over 500 miles of glorious coastal driving, narrow roads with passing places almost all of the way when you pass John O’Groats, brilliant views ,lovely coastal areas, interesting villages – great fun in any car but wonderful in an open top MGB.

There were lots of great memories but one stands out. It occurred as we were making our way towards Braemar. We were driving on the A9 through some glorious open scenery at a steady 50 miles per hour in fifth gear, the roof was down, we were on holiday enjoying ourselves, when suddenly I felt that the car was beginning to play up again. It was slowing down even though we were going downhill. I didn’t dare tell Nicky! I changed down into fourth and the engine was still struggling so I went down again into third and the revs immediately picked up. It was then that the penny dropped: we were in fact climbing. It was the most amazing illusion; I had been convinced that we were going downhill! In the evening I spoke to Ian and he related exactly the same experience. I have subsequently found out that it’s a well-known fact that open, expansive scenery without a clear horizon can produce this effect.

Our route home was via Carlisle and the Peak District. During the whole of our trip we had a fabulous time with an excellent group of people. We laughed a lot, saw some wonderful scenery, drove on some brilliant roads, all the cars including the Boneshaker performed well, despite the initial problems. It was a well-organised event using some excellent hotels, lots of food, and above all leaving us with some great shared memories. Nicky and I thoroughly enjoyed the 12 days that we were away. We completed 1,750 miles at a shade over 30mpg and Ian did a few more miles, 1,890 at an excellent 34mpg.
Add the North Coast 500 to your bucket list, you will not regret it.
Roger and Nicky Boys