To Northumberland and Beyond! The post- (almost) Covid Summer of 2021
Yorkshire Representative, Ian Fey's travels with a band of intrepid E-type Club members through Northumberland following the lifting of lockdown, Summer 2021...
If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans, writes Ian Fey. The plans were simple. COVID restrictions were to be lifted totally the week before our jaunt. The Great North Classic Car Show was to take place on Saturday 3 July and we had a dedicated area just for our E-types. A run to Kielder Water, the largest man-made body of water in Europe was planned for the Sunday. Such was the demand that we booked out every room in the hotel, with a banqueting room reserved for our exclusive use for meals. Then Murphy’s law went into overdrive! COVID cases were climbing so the Government delayed the relaxation of the restrictions, thus limiting us to six people as a group. The organisers of the Great North Classic Car Show cancelled the event (there goes Saturday). Then, to add insult to injury, the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club chose the Sunday for its event at Bicester celebrating the E-type. Do we cancel? Would it be fair on the hotel who had done us a fantastic deal and had bent over backwards for us?
We had opened up this event to everyone and had people from Scotland, Cumbria, Cheshire and Derbyshire coming, as well as those from our own region. Decision time! Anyone who owns an E-type is used to dealing with problems. Time to call in reinforcements. A quick phone call to John Shaw (a member in the Northeast who has attended every event we have put on) brought gold dust. He swiftly managed to arrange a private viewing of Aston Workshop and the Car Barn at Beamish (the site of the proposed show) on the Saturday. My undying thanks go to him and Alex Henderson at the Car Barn who arranged, and personally conducted, the tour – even though his daughter was getting married the following day.
The day dawned with a row of E-types, an S-type (the original version), a Series 1 XJ6 and a Porsche. On arrival at Aston Workshop, we were turned loose in the showroom where there was a plethora of Aston Martins for sale, including a coach-built one with a price tag of £3.5 million. We were shown around the restoration workshops, with projects varying from the proverbial basket cases to ones being made ready for shipment to foreign shores. We then walked down through lavender fields to the Car Barn, where all the non-Aston classics are sold. Here there was a fine selection of cars from the ever-faithful Morris 1000 to a beautiful Series II fixed-head coupé finished in Ascot Grey.
As a final flourish, there is even a pub on the site selling hot food. We left the Car Barn and drove up to Otterburn for lunch and then through beautiful scenery to Alnwick, with its splendid castle, on to Druridge Bay and then down the coast though Cullercoats, Whitley Bay and Tynemouth, followed by a quick blast through the Tyne Tunnel (glorious sound from the exhausts) and back to the hotel for a delicious evening meal. Being the European Cup match with England playing, the hotel marquee and its grounds were full of ‘merry’ football fans and more than one of us were worried about the safety of the cars, but all the customers were very respectful and didn’t go anywhere near them without asking permission.
Sunday dawned and after a ‘full English’ we prepared our cars for the Kielder run. The weather looked a bit gloomy, but many soft-tops were dropped more in hope than expectation. Coffee stop was at a delightful tea shop in Simonburn, then on to the many viewing points on Kielder Water. We drove across the dam wall and finally arrived at our lunch stop, where Northumbrian Water had reserved parking places for us at the waterside. While we were eating, a quick squall passed over and, after lunch we set off northwards to the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway before heading south over the moors and back to the hotel. The sky suddenly darkened and after a rapid ‘hoods up’ stop it rained. When I say it rained, I think someone dropped the contents of a large swimming pool on us. When we arrived back at the hotel for a much-needed cup of tea, I found three inches of water in the footwells (and I thought I had sorted out my car’s leaks). Many people heading home experienced this all the way. Despite all the setbacks, and the weather, everyone seemed to have a very enjoyable time.
I would like to thank John and Linda Shaw, Alex Henderson at the Car Barn, Chris and the staff at the Angel View Hotel and Peter Pattinson at Northumbrian Water for all their help and assistance. There must also be a quick mention for SNG Barratt who, after a frantic 4:00pm phone call, managed to get some spares up to a member in trouble by 9:00am the following morning. Commiserations also go to the member whose electronic distributor failed and had to be relayed back to South Yorkshire. Finally, to all the members who came from all points of the compass and travelled many miles to take part, thank you. It is you who make events like this such a pleasure to organise.