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 🙂