It was a dark and stormy night, the wind whistled through the trees and the rain lashed down, turning the roads into rivers as the unwanted visitor from the Atlantic arrived at our shores. That must mean it was time for the Welsh Weekend, Jill and John Bowman’s weekends are legendary so a little bit of weather was not going to stop us.
We have had nice weather in Wales, but this year it was not to be. Those that drove over on the Wednesday had less rain but had to dodge falling branches, we went over on Thursday and a submarine would have been more appropriate transport. I am seriously considering baling buckets for the Hundred, I was still drying carpets and trim 3 days after our return, the joys of classic motoring! On arrival at the Princes Arms the warm welcome soon made distant memories of the journey [the bar was open] and lots of banter ensued, catching up with friends and exchanging views on the weather whilst looking at photos and videos of past Welsh Weekends, this was the 39th event that had been organised by our hosts and John Bowman and Bob Kemp have been taking photographs incessantly, with Joe Beaumont supplying additional video footage so there are many moments covered for reminiscing. After unloading the next task was sorting dinner, the food here is brilliant so the only difficulty is choosing what not to have. The evening’s discussions covered what was planned for the weekend, Friday was essentially a “free” day but if we wanted Jill had arranged a visit to an old Quarry village, rescued from demolition by a group led by a local GP Dr. Carl Clowes who wanted to use it for the Welsh National Language centre. An Alpine style road leads down to Nant Gwythern nestling on the side of a cliff affording wonderful views across the sea, there is a café so you can enjoy a drink whilst soaking in the scenery [there was a veranda if you wanted to soak whilst in the scenery], the restored cottages also offer BnB and self catering options so would make for an interesting base for a holiday . Fortunately the rain had eased but the wind was still very strong so it was not advisable to go too near the edges of the cliffs. There is a museum in the old chapel charting the history of the village, it is a spectacular setting and well worth a visit if you are near Caernarfon Bay. After a coffee and scone some went off to do some sightseeing in the area, we headed back towards Snowdon as I wanted to maximise my use of the local roads, living in Norfolk means I don’t get much opportunity to drive hills so I needed to stretch the Hundred’s wheels a bit.
Friday evening is really the start of the weekend, more participants arriving and the handing out of the weekend pack means we have to start answering the quiz questions and identifying obscure photos that John must take hours finding, with anagrams to solve and vintage film stars to identify as well as the odd [really odd!] vehicle there is something for everybody, this year there was also “build a Frogeye” which was a printed card model to slice and fold. The model was a reprise from years back when there were young children attending, this year it was just the young at heart playing, some taking it really seriously venturing out to buy scalpel and colouring crayons, the rest of us just used what we could find in the car or handbag. Another great meal was followed by visits to the quiz boards trying to work out the clues hidden in the questions, there was also a video running showing previous Welsh exploits featuring a soundtrack that gave more clues if you knew the songs and artistes, all very cerebral. For those of us without brains the bar was open for inspiration and it all made for a very enjoyable evening. I should think Jill and John must have spent a major part of the last year devising all these amusements.
Saturday is traditionally the Welsh Ramble covering wonderful roads and scenery. This year we headed south towards Bala for the first coffee stop at Gorwelion. We had the privilege of parking the Healeys together in front of the café for a photo call. We ended up with 13 cars comprising 5 Frogeyes, 1 Sebring replica, 2 Square Sprites [one was really a Midget but it is still in the family], 4 3000’s, an HMC and a 100. There was another 3000 back at the hotel as John Keener navigated for Robin Astle for this run. After the inevitable coffee and cake there was a chance to wander round and enjoy the artwork and the beautiful views. There was a longer route back to the hotel to make the most of the great roads and stunning scenery around Snowdonia and included a lunch stop at Eric Jones’ Café which was a location in the recent TV Drama “Hidden” and serves very nice soup [other delights were available!]. From here we wound round more great roads passing through Bedgellert which in most years is a compulsory stop for ice cream as they have a superb parlour, this year though we felt we were cold enough so we didn’t partake of the delicacies. This gave us time to stop off at the Woollen Mill Shop near the hotel for essential purchases such as handbags and soft toys. The soft toy actually went on to win a prize, the handbag didn’t!
Saturday evening we had the main event, more delicious food, followed by more quiz questions. Joe Beaumont performed the Stanley Holloway monologue "With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm". The Quiz answers were then marked and the winning Ladies team [the one with the professional researcher] was presented with a bottle of wine. There was a tie-breaker situation for the runner up position which was to name Noel Edmonds’ Saturday evening TV Show, the way it was remembered caused much laughter as it was said that looking in the mirror reminded them of “Crinkly Bottom”. That comment was hard to follow but we had the raffle and the rest of the evening was spent with more conversation, fun and frivolity.
On Sunday there is always a short drive in the morning, this year we followed the route over Pen Y Pass and Llanberis Pass to end up on Anglesea at the National Trust’s Plas Newydd. This is a super house on the banks of the Menai Straight with a huge Rex Whistler mural in the dining room featuring the members of the household in a Mediteranean style scene, it really looks three dimensional even though it is a flat wall. The collection of Whistler’s sketch books are fascinating and show what a talent he was from a very young age. The gardens provide a nice walk with views of the bridges across the Straights and a chance to do some Red Squirrel spotting. All too soon it was time to return to the hotel for the customary vote for the “Peoples Choice” which is the car you would most like to take home, and the Best Mascot. The winding up ceremony was held in the Hotel Foyer this year as the weather couldn’t make up it’s mind what it was going to do, in the morning it was looking fine, so promising in fact I took the roof off the Hundred but had to stop a couple of miles down the road when the heavens opened. The prizes were handed out [hopefully there will be a list of recipients added to this write up] all of which were richly deserved except the “Best Hundred”,-- ours was the only one there! By the way the Frogeye model build was won by Robin Astle winning a jigsaw, the two runners-up received a pack of marbles each, I must try not to lose mine before next year! The winning Mascot was a soft toy duck called Quackers, you had to be, to be out in that weather!
Farewells were said and most started to wend their way home and we could all reflect on another great, fun weekend in spite of the weather [there is no bad weather just bad clothing!]. The common bond of Austin Healeys [and Mazda MX5’s, Honda S2000 and Mercedes] ties us all together and this form of Social Networking is so much better than facebook or forums. I learnt lots, my SatNav has a tripmeter function [thanks Tony], Sebring Sprites are so pretty, especially with Superchargers, and some of my Mk4 Sprite questions were answered [I think mine is a Friday afternoon defect] so thanks to Nigel for phoning round to get some photos taken.
Many thanks to Jill and John for working so hard to provide us with another great weekend, and thanks to all the participants for making it so enjoyable and such a laugh.
As a postscript a few of us stayed on for the Sunday evening, this proved a good plan as Monday was dry so we actually got to do 240 of the weekend’s miles with the roof off. Hurray!
Dave and Sue Holman