Past Events
May Bank Holiday Weekend - Skipton - 2nd-4th May 2014

Northern Centre May Bank Holiday Weekend at Skipton 2014

In April I was starting to feel more than a little concerned that my Healey 100, GSK 116, was not going to be fully recovered, fit and well, for the Northern Centre May Bank Holiday Weekend at Skipton. Repairs to GSK, necessary following a relatively minor front-end collision on the 2013 Chasin' The Haggis Rally, had commenced in June 2013 at The Northern Healey Centre and had gradually escalated into a full nut-and-bolt rebuild. I will divulge the reasons for that in a future article but suffice it to say that Paul Grogan at NHC was fully aware of and committed to the May deadline but was fuelling my concerns by letting the job timescale slip from comfortable, through tight, to definitely uncomfortable. Fortunately it never reached impossible and on the Thursday before the event start on Friday the 2nd May I travelled over to Yorkshire hopefully to bring GSK home at long last. On the final test drive around Castleford before the journey home Sod's Law took over and several previously sound parts (brake light switch, brake master cylinder, etc) chose to play up and pack up. This required a trip home healey-less to return the following afternoon on the way to Skipton hoping that NHC had managed to put in a long and fruitful shift to perfect GSK for the road. They had and by mid-afternoon I in GSK and Pam behind in the daily-driver were making painfully slow progress through Bradford on our way north to the Coniston Hotel at Coniston Cold, Skipton. We/I chose the wrong route and we were later minded to complain to the powers that be that to call the road we chose the Bradford West Bypass was criminally deceptive. Suffice it to say that we did not enjoy the drive through Bradford's suburbs but GSK did cope admirably in the hot and difficult conditions; a challenging work-out especially just after a rebuild!

Having, as Centre Secretary, minuted discussions about The Austin Healey Club Northern Centre May Bank Holiday Weekend at many Northern Centre Committee Meetings over the years and also having written about the event in previous Rev Counter articles, I am frequently minded to think that we could and should put our heads together and come up with a shorter and more imaginative name for the event. "The Daffodil" or "The Haggis" for example are much easier to literate and are far more charismatic. I'll include an item on our next meeting agenda and see what we can do. However in the meantime it was good to see the AHCNCMBHW resurrected after a three year break since the Lakes Weekend in Bowness in 2010. Looking back in my book of records for GSK and her predecessor VTC 951D (a BJ8; does anyone know what became of that car? I sold it to Tim Wheeler, resident of Battle, in 1997 but have never heard any more about the car since the sale), I recall that we have attended continuous May events since our first one at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Grasmere in 1992, interrupted only by the foot-and-mouth epidemic in 2001 and in 2009 when no event was organised. This year it was good to see our Healey friends back in the north and to renew the companionship that the event has built up over, for us at least, two decades. Worrying how quickly time flies by isn't it?

Friday afternoon and the evening dinner that followed were catchup time and we all hoped for a continuation of the good weather for the drives on the following days. On Saturday we had lunch at the Rendezvous Hotel in Skipton and recalled that the whole event had been based there in 2003 and 1998. The hotel allowed us to use their car park in the morning so most of us drove there, parked up and walked along the canal into the centre of Skipton where we found a very busy town centre in the throws of a canal festival. After lunch we followed a planned drive that took us on a 50 mile loop to the west of Skipton through Gisburn to the edge of the Forest of Bowland at Dunsop Bridge and then back to Coniston Cold via Slaidburn and Long Preston. After our evening dinner we were entertained by the process of what I think is called a "Cornish Raffle". Members of the HDC and regulars at their Perranporth and Dawlish weekends seemed fully acquainted with this form of raffle where the tickets are allocated to specific prizes of the entrant's choice, but it was all new to us. This is probably why our table did not win a thing but a good time was had by all and the proceeds were donated to the charity CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young).

On Sunday morning the weather had changed and it looked as though we were in for a wet drive and a good soaking. There was a fairly long day's drive planned, just over 100 miles, so an early start was required and Tim Valentine and I started first as, having planned the route, we wanted to be sure that there were no hiccups to spoil anybody's day. The weather could have been better but it wasn't too wet and did show signs of possible improvement. When we passed through Buckden, about to head north-west over the moors to Hawes, we came across a road closure and traffic diversion that for Tim and I gave a moment or two of concern that our best laid plans would be thwarted in that the road diversion would cut out the Hawes loop, and that for Pam and I recalled anxious memories of the last time we had encountered a diversion in GSK that led us to the site of our accident in Scotland. Needless to say we need not have worried because almost immediately the diversion took us back onto our chosen route and onwards without delay. Unfortunately the moors over to Hawes were shrouded in a thick mist that denied us the best of the views but, by the time we got down to lower levels through Aysgarth and, for the four of us at least, a coffee stop in Leyburn, the weather was improving and stayed fine for the rest of the weekend. After coffee it was onwards through Bedale to the lunch stop at Masham where we were booked for lunch at the The White Bear followed by a tour of the Theakston Brewery at the Black Bull, Brewery Reception and Visitor Centre. It was arranged that we park our Healeys in the Brewery Yard before walking to the White Bear to return after lunch for the Brewery Tour. I think many of us were surprised how interesting the tour was and were also surprised to learn how little the process, the equipment and the buildings, has changed over the last 187 years. The brewing company was founded in 1827 at the Black Bull and the brewhouse, still sound, working and fully fit for purpose, was built in 1840. Despite the drink-driving restrictions I think most of us also felt able to partake of the free sample of the product that was included in the entrance fee and enjoy it. Although I am not a beer drinker (an epiphany converted me from bitter beer to lager in my 40s) I had heard of the Theakston flagship brews and was surprised to note that "Black Sheep" is not one of their own but is rather the product of a wayward family member who set up his rival concern, also in Masham, and had a sense of humour; hence the name if his flagship brew. After the tours we headed homewards through Healey (we really meant to stop for a photo opportunity under the village sign but never actually managed it; something to do with tiredness after a good day's motoring at our age!), Pateley Bridge and Grassington to Coniston Cold.

Out of the car I managed my customary snooze, necessary after a full day's driving, before the evening meal and then enjoyed dinner and the craich before being royally entertained by Stuart Turner, our after-dinner speaker. His unique brand of after-dinner speech managed to entertain, amuse and inform in equal part about his passion for motorsport, in particular rallying, and safety in motorsport. Many of us would have heard Stuart speak on previous occasions and indeed he spoke at the European Meeting in Crieff last year, but, to me, he always seems able to inject a freshness and vitality into his presentation and fully deserves his accolades as an award-winning after-dinner speaker. We owe him a debt of gratitude for continually supporting our club and for donating his fee to his favoured charity; concerned with motorsport safety I think.

And so, all too quickly as usual, the event was over. After breakfast the following morning most of us, excepting those who were extending their stay in The Dales for another day or so, were heading homewards. The weather was lovely and warm as we headed back to Castleford and The Northern Healey Centre, this time via a much more pleasant route through Ilkley, Once at NHC I presented Paul with a list of mostly very minor niggles compiled over the 240 miles of weekend motoring in the Dales. An agreement was reached for us to return later in the week to collect GSK ready for her more strenuous work-out on the "Chasin' the Haggis" later in the month. I was well pleased with GSK's performance fresh out of the box and particularly pleased with the quality of the Reno Red paintwork that I cannot fault.

I would like to take this opportunity to express our thanks to our Healey friends for their companionship on the event and to Ken Broster for his selection of the hotel and his organisation skills. Hopefully the Northern Centre Committee will be discussing a venue for the 2015 weekend at our next meeting.

Ivor Davies

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