| How many
couples can boast having organised the same annual Austin Healey event
for 25 years? Jill and John Bowman reached this remarkable achievement
this year when the Welsh Weekend, with its usual fully booked entry
set off from Trefriw in the delightful Conway Valley this September.
The hotel, Princes Arms, has deservedly gained a great reputation
for its friendly atmosphere and excellent food. Unfortunately for the
many who would also like to join the event it can only accommodate 15
couples. The restriction on numbers, however, enhances its appeal with
most entrants re-booking year after year.
It was fifteen years since we last entered the event, then it was
larger and based in Llandudno. We had planned just to join in the runs
and operate from a nearby B&B. Fortunately we were able to join the
others for the meals, quizzes and other activities and the B&B was
only a five minute stroll away and my wife and the landlady were both
born in Stockport, so we were well established straight away.
Despite our long absence we were pleased to find that we knew the
majority of the entrants, and even one member to whom we were
introduced and we were sure we did not know, turned out to be Denis
Welch's brother in law Ralph who we last met thirty odd years ago!
Another, who I had failed to recognise as he was not wearing his usual
flying hat that evening, turned out to be he who handles my Healey
insurance, viz. Peter Higgins.
We had had a great run over from the Peak District on the Friday
with lovely weather all the way. However, the Saturday run started
dull and misty and the spectacular runs had their views shrouded in
mist. A coffee stop at a white water rafting centre proved interesting
but there were no takers.
Then it was a run to the coast for lunch and a long walk around the
picturesque village of Portmeirion. It was almost fifty years ago
since I was last there in my teenage cycling era and it had not
changed a bit. At last the hood came down and an enjoyable run back to
the hotel followed.
We drove back to Trefriw in convoy with a 'compulsory' stop for
homemade ice cream at Bedgellert. One of the frogeye Sprites turned
out to be the centre of attention for one elderly couple who had done
their courting in an identical one some forty odd years earlier.
Denis Welch drew the short straw as guest speaker, and he had us
enthralled with tales of his racing career. Having known Denis longer
than I care to remember, when he and I were racing and rallying Ford
Anglias respectively (he had an X in the rear window in those days.) I
learned a lot about his exploits of which I had previously been
Denis led the applause and presentation of bouquets and souvenirs
to Jill and John and elicited an undertaking that they would put on
this enormously popular event again next year. A late night was
'enjoyed' by all.
'Bright' and early the following morning we headed off through
Snowdonia, hoods down and enjoying the sunshine. We arrived at Bangor
and strolled down the pier for a coffee stop, it was very blustery
conditions out there and you needed to hold tight on to your hats. Our
racing man Denis spotted a ‘racing car’ outside the café, and felt the
need to indulge, having been deprived of a weekend’s motor sport in
favour of a bit of touring, much to the amusement of the onlookers.
A spectacular drive followed through the Snowdonia National Park.
Mid afternoon and back at the hotel following lunch and prize
giving, (We won ‘best modified!’ - never won a Healey prize before!)
several couples were heading for home, but nine couples stayed on the
extra night and had a really friendly, relaxed evening, the highlight
of which must have been Phillip Thorpe's tales and jokes.
We drove over to Anglesey on the Monday to visit some old friends
before heading home. Our abiding memory of the weekend was the
camaraderie, the food and the enjoyable driving.
Well done, Jill and John, hope to join you again next year.
Mike and Ilma Smith.