This is the 20th Spring Weekend for M.G. Y Types which started in 1997 when I was approached by the then Secretary of the MGCC Y Register, the redoubtable Dennis Doubtfire (a splendid name for a splendid chap!), to consider organising an event to mark the 50th anniversary of the `Y’ Type.
This I did and I learnt many things about organising a car event with a run included. Not the least of which was the use of the `Tulip’ system for describing the route. I had relied upon a series of A4 Ordnance Survey extracts with the route identified in colour along with simple route direction, together with a smaller scale map showing the route in its entirety. Simple, I thought. However, when I drove to the first check point after flagging all the cars off, I expected to see all the cars passing through. Only one out of 47 starters had reached this point and he was someone from work!
The problem it transpired was that most of the navigators could not read a map! (Remember this was before the widespread use of `sat navs’!). I guess using plans and maps daily in my working life I had forgotten just how map/plan illiterate many folk are. It is of interest that many of today’s generation who are IT savvy and use a post code and sat nav to get themselves from A to B also cannot read a map and do not have a clue where they are going once they are outside their comfort zone!
The following year having got to know Brian Rainbow he introduced me to the `Tulip’ system – and still folk get lost! Although for most it’s a straightforward and universal method, though on occasions either there is no overall map provided or is too small a scale to be legible! Thank you Brian for that bit of sensible advice.
The Y Spring Weekend – A few reflections
Following the apparent success of that initial foray in Ys across parts of Warwickshire and Worcestershire there was enthusiasm for one the following year. I agreed to look into this and one of the participants Richard Dick, who owned a lovely YB, and lived near Shipston on Stour, asked if he could help. Richard was and still is an enthusiastic rambler and knew several areas of the West Midlands very well. We set out as an enthusiastic partnership with Richard selecting a route and driving whilst I acted as scribe. This resulted in the production of a route book with a location map provided and a list of riders and runners with details of each car and of course Rally Boards.
I also appreciated that it would be valuable to contact the police to ensure that any event didn’t cause problems for other road users. It was pointed out that there was a need for an MSA (Motor Sports Association) approval form to be completed. This is a Permit or Certificate of Exemption. The latter covers Touring Assemblies and Treasure Hunts whilst the former is for competitive events.
In essence this involves the organiser contacting the relevant dedicated officer within the Police Authority through which a run is intended to pass. It enables the Police not only to be aware of what is happening but also to ensure that there is no clash with other rallies or runs being organised by other clubs. The aim being to minimise disturbance to residents when a run is scheduled to pass through a `honey pot’, that is an especially attractive area or settlement. With Richard’s help we organised all the Spring Runs, until the area of interest was widened and the event moved further north and west.
A change in the format
All the runs up until 2007 had been one day events. However, it was suggested to us that perhaps accommodation could be considered as many participants came from as far afield as Yorkshire and Lancashire, Wales, South West and South East England and they would normally break the travel time staying in a B and B near to the start point of the event. This meant that an opportunity to meet up and chat with owners was limited to just the beginning and end of the run.
The Diamond Jubilee
2007 marked the Diamond Jubilee (60th) of the birth of the Y and we found that the Charlecote Pheasant Hotel, near Stratford could provide accommodation, an evening meal and a gathering point for the run. The venue was excellent and around 65 Y typers and partners joined up. Sadly some of the 48 cars booked for the run were thwarted by awful weather and it rained and rained. We started the run from Charlecote Park, a National Trust property opposite our hotel. The run was only 40 odd miles but the weather meant that a good number of folk made their way home and sadly several had to cry off on the day.
That was a disappointment but it clearly showed that there was an interest in including accommodation as part of what has now become a weekend activity. It is far much better as a result and I have to thank Paul Gresser, a former YB owner, for making the suggestion.
What an organiser now has to do
The implications have been a need to not only sort out a venue for a route and a destination but also suitably priced accommodation which can supply an evening meal for 50-60+ guests. This is never easy and in 2012 we arranged for a start point at Ledbury Rugby Club, which has a decent sized car park and also provided coffee and tea (another essential). The hotel we had selected had recently been taken over and the new owner was seeking ways to upgrade its reputation. He made a big effort and when the information was sent out I was contacted by Paul Thompson (the former Technical Advisor in the Bulletin ) and his wife, whom I met at the MG Day at the NAC. They advised me how poor the meals were and had I seen `Trip Advisor’? I explained that we had seen the place and that the owner was more than aware of its former reputation. In fairness to Paul he did mention that his experiences had been under the former management and was more than happy to see how it had changed. What this demonstrated is how you have to carefully manage individual’s expectations. As it happened the experience was fine.
A change for the future
I announced that after being involved in organising fourteen consecutive events 1997-2012 (in 2001 all motoring events were cancelled due to Foot and Mouth Disease) that I was standing down and I hoped that someone else would come forward. Almost on cue Chris Callaghan came forward, during the Dinner, and said that he and Annette would undertake future Spring Weekends.
This he has done and venues have been sorted out within a month of the previous event. (In comparison I never got round to organising the subsequent year until around September/October!). C and A are far more efficient and this year’s event in Bedford was their fifth. It was a great example of cooperative working with the accommodation being suggested by Peter Sharp and organised by Chris and Annette, whilst Peter and Neil Cairns used their local knowledge to come up with a marvellous route from Bedford to Old Warden and the Shuttleworth Collection.
The Bedford Spring Weekend 2018
Jo and I have never really discovered Bedford and Peter and Gillie’s route, with an input from Neil Cairns, drew on handy local knowledge. Twenty Ys participated with 9 YA’s, 7 YB’s and 3 YT’s. We seem to well supported by YB’s when it recent years the numbers of YA’s has been in slight decline. The presence of YT’s has generally increased over the years although this number showed a fall compared with last year.
Why more YT’s
It is fascinating to reflect that in the very early years of the Spring Run there were very few, if any YT’s. The numbers present in the UK in 1997-2000 were in single figures and from memory none appeared in any of those events. The most well known YT at that time was owned by Mervyn Davies, who with his wife Mary sadly died in a coach crash in Asia. His cream YT had been featured regularly in the Bulletin but sadly did not appear in any of our runs. It was Mike and Sue Silk in their Irish YT who became one of the first at a Spring Run in 2004. Andrew and Arlene Coulson flew the flag in their YT, which came to them through the late David Pelham. Andrew and Kathrin Morland, Glen Whitehead and Peter Vielvoye’s examples were Australasian imports and several others have arrived by that route. So by the mid to late noughties YT’s became more `commonplace’ and perhaps now even more so. I would imagine that by now (2018) there are around 50-51 YTs known of in the UK – some on the road and others being restored, most of which were from Oz and the US. Although I owned a YA in 1972-79 I had seen an example in Greenwich (UK) where I was living and it may have been one that the late Barry Bone owned. I never saw another `in the raw’ until I came across Mike and Sue’s example in 2004.
An early foray into YT ownership that came to nowt!
I had come across one in an advert in Exchange and Mart in June 1973 in Colchester with an MOT and an asking price of £105. I tried to suggest to Jo that it would be a great buy and where we were in Suffolk was less than 30 miles from where the car was located. She said `No’, although in fairness it was on a Thursday and we were getting married on the Saturday! Umm – opportunity missed I thought but it would have tempted providence had I insisted on looking at the car so perhaps she made the correct decision for me!
Sunday 13th May: The Run – Bedford to Shuttleworth
This took us from Clapham, immediately north of Bedford to Old Warden, eight miles to the south east of the city, where the Shuttleworth Collection is housed. We passed through some diverse and surprisingly rural landscapes for over 25 miles before crossing the River Great Ouse near Roxton and following narrow roads to Cardington and thence east through Old Warden to Shuttleworth. The slightly more remote areas of the run included a mix of tiled and thatched properties which contrasted with the run of the mill `anywhere’ areas of formless new build that showed a complete lack of understanding and awareness of their setting and utter disregard for sensitive design. `Hey Ho’ we are in 21st Britain!
We completed the 35 mile run at the Shuttleworth Estate. This is a contrast between the airfield, historic planes and museum and the Swiss Garden.
The Shuttleworth Collection is an aeronautical and automotive museum located at the Old Warden Aerodrome, It is one of the most prestigious in the world due to the variety of old and well-preserved aircraft including the charismatic Rolls Royce engined Spitfire.
The Swiss Garden covers 9 acres. It was the inspiration of Lord Ongley, whose family had acquired the estate in the 1690’s. It reflected the regency period in English design and includes nine listed buildings within its use of earthworks, tree and shrub planting to create a range of vistas. It went into disrepair in the late 1970’s but sensitive restoration and Heritage Lottery Grant helped to recreate its majesty and splendour. Well worth a visit.
A part of the Dinner is the presentation of awards. There were just two:
Car of the Year Award
This went to all the participants in the Round Britain Relay a number of whom were present.
The Jack Murray `Helping Hands’ Award
After discussions with Jack’s widow Mollie it was fully agreed that one individual deserved this award for coordinating and participating in the very successful Round Britain Relay and that was Maggie Grafham
Awards on completion of the Spring Run
At the end of the day the following awards were made to the cars that we all thought we would like to take home with us.
Bill and Jan Taylor collected this for their exceptional YA (LLF 773).
Bill Atkinson Award
Alan Chick picked up for his YB (HGK 16). Alan took over the YB from his uncle – also Alan Chick, who sadly died in 2016, and had owned the car since 1959. Young Alan had been driving his uncle to some events prior to his uncle’s death and he helped to maintain it. The car is now in excellent condition and a worthy winner.
The YT Award
Mike and Sue Silk’s wonderful YT deservedly took the award in this category. Mike has owned the car since 1971 and undertook a long restoration process. Back on the road since 2004 it is now fitted with a 5 speed box and rebuilt engine by former Y owner Chris Pick.
The Piston Broke Award
This is normally awarded to any poor unfortunate who has a breakdown on the run. This didn’t happen. However, on their way home to Abingdon Chris and Annette Callaghan’ YB suffered a mechanical breakdown and had to be rescued on the back of an AA flatbed recovery vehicle. So it seems fair that they received some recognition of their unfortunate state of affairs and were duly awarded the Piston Broke Award.
Our numbers then dispersed back to their homes as far afield as Pembrokshire (Dave and Helen Jones), Herefordshire (Paul and Maggie Grafham), Cheshire (Bill and Helen Bennett), Yorkshire (Mike and Sue Silk), Cardiff (Bill and Jill Mellem), Hampshire (Sue and Mike Gibbs and Janet Edwards), Gloucestershire (Peter Vielvoye) and London (Bill and Jan Taylor, Reg Dixie and Linda Veryard and Derek Moore). The rest were relatively local.
Another year, another Spring Run. Where to next year?