The Unplanned Tour That Lost Its Bearings!

It seemed like only yesterday we were getting lost on our way to Anglesy on the 2017 Unplanned Tour with the South Wales Land Rover Club. Back then I remember some of the other club members miss-fortune and thinking I’m glad it wasn’t me. But little did I Know, eh, that in a years time I’d easily trump those minor niggles.

This time it was all about the scenery, the bearings and (so Amanda says) the toilet stops! And obviously, what with it being an unplanned tour we had no idea where we would end up on Friday evening or that we would make it to our intended final destination of Celtic Camping just outside St Davids on the Saturday.

Our meeting point was Bearmach at 3:30 on Friday but traffic was bad through Caerphilly so a few of us were running late. For those of us that made it in time we were given a quick tour of the Bearmach warehouse by Richard before we left. If you’ve only ever seen the shop one could be forgiven for thinking they just had a few shelves with parts the other side of the shop door, not a mammoth international operation running inside a warehouse big enough to play a full on 15-a-side rugby match. So Bearmach tour over we set off from Bearmach HQ shortly after 4 on Friday and headed North…….hang on, aren’t we meant to be going West!

The weather forecast looked ominous from the off but Lis and I packed shorts anyway, we like to play the optimists game. And in fairness for the most part it wasn’t too bad, it was pleasant enough for us to be able to sit outside and have our usual camp fire on the Friday. We ended up at the Whitehouse campsite in Builth Wells, which incidentally, is the same one we ended up in on our way to Anglesy last year too. It’s right on the river with a view of the Builth bridge in one direction and resident swans bobbing about on the river in the other.¬† We put the drone up for an aerial circular shot of the campsite which worked quite well – vlog will be on the OLO and SWLRC You Tube Channels shortly. Bolognese and some lovely tiger bread was on the menu (thanks Dave and Wendy who took care of the communal cooking yet again – legends they are) and very nice it was, fortunately so as Dave was quite adamanat that extras were compulsory as none of it was going to waste.

All was looking good as we set off on day 2 of our grand [Unplanned] Tour 30 minutes ahead of schedule on Saturday morning. The forecast told us the weather was going to be fine when we arrived at St Davids which we expected to happen shortly after lunchtime. Little did we know what lay in store. All was going well until a request came across the radio ‘shall we see if we can get the drone in the air to follow the convoy?’. Naturally, I was super keen on getting some aerial footage from the Mavic Air for the vlog. So we stopped a little further down the road to check the wind speed, could I put it up in this? With that Tom shouts ‘Marc have you seen your bearing?’. What bearing! There was no bearing left on the trailer, completely disintegrated, gone! This was going to be a massive problem and we all knew it. Our trailer simply couldn’t continue without a fix. So whilst Wayne, Tom, Gary and Dave G got their hands dirty and I supervised and took pictures we gradually realised that our options were slim. We were in the middle of the Elan Valley with no mobile signal and at least a good few miles from anywhere. Two vehicles moved away towards Rhayader in the hope that we could locate some replacement parts but not knowing what axle/hub assembly was on the trailer this was going to be no mean feat.

After hitting Rhayader and visiting many garages we eventually came across E T James, a quad/bike supplier who couldn’t have been more helpful. ‘There’s my store-room and there’s my press’ he said. ‘Get what you need, help yourself’ he said. I wish I had taken his name, what a top bloke. Life-saver even. Unfortunately though we were only able to source one of the two replacement bearings I needed. The ever resourceful Tom though figured out a way to use a half a Land Rover bearing which I happen to be carrying in my toolbox as replacement for the one we couldn’t replace in Rhayader. It was a real bodge but hey not only did it get us to St Davids but it got us all he way back home again too. I always seem to need to offer thanks in these blog posts and this time is no different, so I offer lots of thanks for lots of things but especially to Wayne and Tom for making the fix happen. To Dave, Wendy and Tom and Pauline for cooking. To Paul and Pauline for letting us make Alys’ bottles in the cravan and to Sarah for the tea and to everyone else for just being a part of it.

Upon arrival at Celtic Camping at 7:30pm, just 6 hours later than expected, we soon realised that Saturday evenings weather was going to be rather less conducive to a roaring fire and sit down outside whilst watching the sun set over the horizon. That is, unless we fancied battling the gale force winds! I was ever so grateful to see our Planned Tour friends already setup with kettle on the boil (thank you Sarah for that, you make a great cuppa). So after much deliberation and plenty of ‘bearing’ jokes it was into the rather welcoming Celtic Camping barn for the traditional SWLRC quiz and a few beers in the dry. I’m sure there was some dodgy scoring techniques by Wayne our resident quiz master which lost me a few points but it’s OK, I took it like a man and let the other team take the title this time. I’ll be back on top form next time though, I do like a good quiz. Pete, Gary and I still found ourselves sat outside drinking our beers at midnight though, like the mad men that we are, whilst everyone else had the sense to head off to their nice warm beds. We slurred peacfully through the noise of the wind rattling our jackets and put the world to rights.

If you’ve never traveled through mid and west Wales with the sole intention of trying to avoid the busy A roads you really should give it a try. The scenery is easily equal to the imposing frontages of the North Walian mountains in places and is very tranquil and quiet to boot. The Elan Valley is a particular favourite of mine, for it has an abundance of wilflife and raptors in particular are a big feature.

I have so many memories from this weekend that I’ll keep with me and I could carry on writing about for ages but I’ll leave it there for now and share them with you when we next catch up. Bye for now, if I don’t see you before. we’ll see you at Billing.

P.s. Keep an eye out for the flag! You won’t miss us ūüôā





 

 

Happy 40th Birthday to Marc @ Malvern Land Rover Show

Only a short insert this time folks and I’ll start with the negatives, birthday celebrations aside I felt the show this year was a bit lacklustre. So this is more a thanks to the members of South Wales Land Rover Club whose stand we were on for the weekend, for keeping us entertained more than it is a writeup about the show itself.

Overall both Lis and I are starting to feel that the shows are becoming a bit of ‘same old, same old’.¬† Two shows in particular are the exception to that rule though and whilst others may disagree, these are our thoughts. The¬† Adventure Overland show with its interesting people that are always happy to impart their wealth of skills and knowledge, not to mention the plethora of vehicles in all their different shapes and sizes that are on show, Tom Mc does an astounding job of organising such a large event and now potentially twice yearly too with the introduction of the Spring event. And the Billing 4×4 Show that’s run by a family whom I have had the pleasure of meeting on several occasions and are as friendly as they come! Compare those to big company operated shows such as this one and you see how it can be done differently as soon as it is removed from the confines of commercialism. Though in the case of Billing there is the small matter of that tremendous off-road course too which I’ve no doubt attracts the crowds. Plus this year, the potential to break the Guinness World Record attempt for most Land/Range Rovers in a single parade.

Most of the rest of the shows on the circuit have almost blurred into one. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great opportunity to bump into friends you probably wouldn’t otherwise see because some of the exhibitors and visitors come from far and wide. Ron Wood and his Liverpool Land Rover Club popped over to say hi this weekend for example and we bumped into Edd and family from 4×4 Response. But for the most part we can often say we have seen it all before.

That said, Challenge South West always put on a good arena display at Malvern and keep the visitors entertained (note I don’t use the word crowds there as there was a distinct lack of them). Though, one thing that bothered me about the arena displays was that there was no itinerary posted. I often only want to see certain things in the arena and if I don’t know what time they are on I’m less likely to hang around and wait to see them. In my own opinion though this year saw a notable decline in both visitor numbers and trade stands on last year. One trader apparently outright blamed Brexit for that, not sure a LR show is the place for politics personally so I’d have quickly parted company with that conversation where I one of its participants.¬† Incidentally, a number of traders started packing up early on the Sunday and they appeared to end the arena schedule an hour ahead of time suggesting to us at least that the show actually closed early!

Nevertheless, we will no doubt be back again next year as it is our local show and South Wales Land Rover club always has a good turnout of members because of that too. Let’s hope that with plenty of continued support Malvern can grow again and become the show it has the potential to be. Mark Woodward if you happen to be reading this, I’d suggest more advertising wouldn’t go amiss either.

So onwards and upwards to Friday and Saturday nights festivities. Well, that is, what I remember of Friday night anyway. I certainly don’t remember making it to bed! And Saturday was a struggle, especially in the 25 degree heat of the day. I had, however, recovered enough by the evening to consume a few more¬† ciders whilst sat around a fire, well 3 fires actually¬†and a lot of wood to burn having spent the whole of Friday night in the marquee having a right old laugh! I seem to recall the marquee being packed until the wee small hours of Saturday morning but come midnight on the Saturday there were just 5 of us left sat around the fire. The night before obviously having taken its toll!

On Friday I was graced with birthday cake, card and a cup. None of which I was expecting so big thanks to all at South Wales Land Rover Club that came along, that entertained, that cooked (must not forget Dave and Wendy’s mammoth effort who cooked for the whole club on both days). People say your only 40 once, well I say I am only every age once but I’ve got to say that with my family by my side doing one of my very favourite things (travelling that is not consuming) and my extended club family all around us you really did make it one to remember. So if I haven’t said it already massive thanks to you all.

One more thanks you before I sign off until next time. Last but by no means  least thanks also to Mam for putting on a mini birthday spread at home when we got home on the Sunday. You are the best!

Carpe diem! 

EDIT: Excuse lack of quality pics this time. Camera broke!

 

 

 

The Not So Secret Brecon Wild Camp Spot

There’s a secluded field in the heart of the Brecon Beacon in the Cwm Llwch valley right at the foot of Pen y Fan, the largest mountain in Southern Britain.

On Saturday night I just happen to mention the great forecast for¬† Sunday and so came about a spontaneous overnighter that we hadn’t really planned. It was a bank holiday weekend, the forecast glorious and so far too good an opportunity to miss we thought.

¬†On the drive up we worked out that I had been coming back and for this site on and off for the best part of 24 years.¬† The first visit back at the age of 15 with a school friend. Parents dropped us in Libanus on the Friday and arranged to pick us up at Pont-ar-Daf at 4 on the Sunday. And that was back in the days before mobiles. How times have changed, eh! Even though I’m of the opinion that the dangers in the mountains have hardly changed in that¬† time I still struggle with the idea of leaving my kids out alone for that length time.

Mind you I do have two girls and perhaps that makes a difference. But it just goes to show that the most beautiful places on our Earth are often not only on our doorstep but are a  draw that keep pulling you back time after time.

So we arrived and Lis (with it being her first visit to this place) picked our camp spot quickly. A nice flat spot with a view of Pen y Fan to the South and what would develop into a glorious sunset to our West and just a few feet to our right beyond our campfire we could see and hear the gentle ebb and flow of the Cwm Llwch stream. If you’ve never been and you don’t mind roughing it then I suggest you get Google open and start searching for this place. When I say roughing it mind I do mean that, literally it is a field with a view. I’d suggest packing either a good shovel or Imodium!!

On Monday we took a walk up through the meandering valley towards Pen Y Fan and a little over half way up after several kilometres you are again blessed with another beautiful sight in the form of Pen Y Fan pond. Another hidden gem that you cannot see from the valley floor, but after many false ‘summits’ it finally creeps up on you and I tell you on a beautiful day you wouldn’t feel out of place popping the swimming shorts on and having a wild swim, as indeed many where when we were up there. I however, wasn’t brave enough for any of that.

So, here’s to the next 24 years of visits to this beautiful hidden gem.

Classic Land Rover Show

Day 1

We arrived late due to me over-running in work and immediately¬† upon arrival we remembered our ‘point to note’ from the 2017 show! Do arrive early so you can get on the show side of the camp site. You see whilst the show is one of our faves, the campsite is less than ideal. That is to say it is sort of divided in two by a huge earthen mound. If you happen to find yourself arriving late you will almost certainly end up having to stay on the car park side if the camp site (yes, I said car park, literally!). And from that side you have no view of the show at all until you’ve climbed the earth mound which is vast enough for many campers but than you have a full unbridled view of the rest of the campsite and the fabulous showground being watched over by the equally magnificent British Motor Museum and the Collections Centre. Anyway, it was setup tent, get baby fed and off to land of nod, pour few swift vodkas and with not even time for a fire bed time for us too.

Day 2

We spent most of the day watching the excellent selection of classic and historic vehicles in the arena. The Classic always manages to pull in such a great selection. On more than one occasion I feel my mind wandering off to our own Welsh Festival of Land Rovers that’s organised for Mid May and I think to myself if we can even muster a fraction of what this show can we’ll have done ourselves proud. At this point I wish I had brought my drone, thinking that I would have got some great aerial shots but the thing I always worry about is falling foul of the law when flying too close to crowds with the minimum being 150 meters away. Too far for any decent shots to show the vehicles off at least.

At the Adventure Overland Show the DJ in his converted Land Rover came by the name of 4×4 Traks, this time it was the turn of Beat n Trak. Great ideas, basically a Land Rover 110 Defender with a raising roof and a set of decks thrown in the back. I also got to meet Nick Enston of Instagram landroverphotoalbum fame no less (www.instagram.com/landroverphotoalbum). Little did we know that we’d soon meet again after that on a trip down a popular Welsh lane with the team form a rather well known Land Rover mag.

Day 3

Lazy morning followed by another visit to the arena where¬† today’s events looked slightly different to yesterdays. Beat N Track had competition today with the regular trio and the amazing sounds of My Favorite Things, a period group that perfectly suits the show. Last but by now means least what trip to this show would be complete without a visit to the museum and having the opportunity to walk past the iconic 166 HUE. By the way whilst a visit to the museum is a must many of the people I spoke to seem to have missed out the collections centre all together where actually there are some Land Rovers in there that’ll really knock your socks off. Honest, you absolutely must go into both buildings.