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‘A Flying Visit Back to the UK’ (BLOG 23rd November 2023)

A Flying Visit Back to the UK   ( BLOG 23rd November 2023)

It all began on Tuesday the 14th of November.

After a weekend off from  what remained of the North American racing  season. I was ready for my next adventure. 

Around 2-30 pm I left home in Cornwall, Ontario  with bags packed into my Chev Impala . I was heading for the Park N Fly at the Montreal Airport, to catch an Air Transat over-night flight to London.

I was setting off on a Whistle Stop,  one week tour to the UK visiting family and friends.

The plane had plenty of spare seats, so I was able to use the spaces next to me and stretch out for more comfort.

It took off soon after 9-00pm (Eastern Time)  and I was landing at Gatwick Airport  just  before 9-30 am  (GMT)  on Wednesday morning.

DAY ONE

I was well rested by the time I picked up my HERTZ rental from the airport.

It was a very nice Vauxhall Mokka.

Once in my hands, I drove to my sister Anne’s place in Milton Under Wychwood ,  Oxfordshire.

I was there around lunchtime and after a short break and a cup of tea we took off in her Mini Cooper to nearby Bourton on the Water , to visit one of my favorite places in town, the Car Museum.

I had no need to go inside this time, as I was there only last year,  but I wanted to check out their gift shop to see what diecasts were available.

I came away with a 1/43 scale Morgan to add to my collection.

We then drove back to Anne’s where I relaxed for the rest of the day.

DAY TWO

On Thursday , I took off in the morning to visit my buddy Robert Sellar at his work shop in Charlgrove , Oxfordshire.

I’ve known Robert for many years,  and he’s got a passion for restoring and building vintage stock cars from the 60’s and 70’s,  (the greatest era of UK racing in my opinion) 

He’s built a few cars over the years, and on one of my previous visits he was in the middle of building the # 375 George Ansell replica.

FLASHBACK TO MY MARCH 2017 VISIT

This time he had two projects on the go.

The Spedeworth Superstox of Martyn Brand , and the BriSCA F1 of Ian Durham # 311.

Before Ian Durham raced the ex Doug Wardropper # 5  built car,  it was raced by Gerry Weir # 13 .

The body work originates from an E93A Ford Popular and Rob has a 394 cu in Oldsmobile Rocket engine to go in, just like the original.

A while back,  Rob ordered a gasket set for the Olds  from a company in the USA , and I brought it over for him on one of my trips.

In the afternoon Anne and I visited my late mothers special place and laid some flowers

DAY THREE

On Friday morning , I took a drive to nearby Witney , a town where I once lived, before making a supper time visit to Oddington , to see some old friends.

If you turn the clock back nearly 50 years you’d of found all four of us out on the stock car tracks of England, having lots of fun.

Ann Skinner, ( formerly Aldridge # 406 ) and her husband Fred # 228 had arranged for a get together at her brother John Aldridge’s  # 211 place. It’s only a few miles from my sisters.

We had a really great night talking about the good old days.

A big thanks to John’s wife Erica for preparing a lovely meal for us.


 

DAY FOUR

I was out of bed early on Saturday morning , and after saying good bye to Anne and my brother in law Pete , I was on the road again.

My first stop of the day  was in the village of Molesworth in Cambridgeshire.

In the last Rick @ the Races Blog, I mentioned meeting up with Mick and Charlie Sworder at the Charlotte World Finals.

I’d told Mick at the time,  I’d be in the UK in the next few weeks and he invited me to drop by their work shop.

I was at their yard just after 9-00 am in the morning , and it was none other than Dick Sworder, Mick’s dad who was there at the gate to meet me.

COVENTRY PROGRAM SCAN

 

If you read my last Blog,  I explained ‘the history’ I have with the family , and you’ll know that Dick raced at the same time that I did.

We had a good chat until Mick and Charlie arrived

Charlie had to take off early , as he was guest driving a Banger at the Foxhall Stadium in Ipswich that night,

After chatting for a while at the work shop , I drove down the road to Mick’s house to say hello to his wife Zoe, her mum Theresa and their younger son Harry.

From there , I headed off to Boston in Lincolnshire to the Premier Inn . This was to be my accommodation for Saturday night.

Not long after checking in, my buddy Colin Herridge from Dunstable arrived to pick me up in his Peugeot .

Our destination was the Skegness Stadium about a half hour drive away.

It was the final night of racing in the 2023  BriSCA F1 season

Now , please bare with me, while I digress, 

On Tuesday 14th of June 1977, a new stock car track opened for BriSCA Stock Car Racing , at Orby in Lincolnshire, just out-side the seaside resort of Skegness.

The idea of running on Tuesday nights was to attract the holiday makers. 

It was a paved 300 meter oval and the promoter was Frank Hughes (the brother of Nev Hughes , a veteran racer from the early days of the sport).

At that time in my life , I was racing a BriSCA F2 and travelling all over England to race it . My day job was a ‘shunt driver’ for a transport company in Dunstable, Bedfordshire,  and it was easy to get off work early.

I was very excited when I heard about this new track and wanted to race there. The first BriSCA meeting was for F2’s and the F1’s were to make their debut two weeks later.

In those days Skeggy,  as it became known was about a three hour drive from Dunstable. I reckoned it would be possible to make it there in time for the first race if we could get away at 4-00 pm.

I had the car all loaded up at work and ready to leave,  just as soon as I was done .

I picked up my buddy, the late Mick Black, who lived just around the corner , and off we went.

We got to the track just as the racing was starting.

There was thick fog and it was difficult to see the opposite straight from the other .

While the first heat was taking place my car was unloaded and scrutineered , then it was straight out on the track for heat two.

I can’t remember much about it, but I recall qualifying for the final that night.

After the races , we had a beer in the nearby Red Lion with a couple of the other drivers of the time, Alan Warriner and Robin Randall, followed by Fish n Chips outside one of the holiday camps. Then we had the long drive home.

I think we got back to Dunstable about 4-00 am 

So, back to the present.

On this UK trip , I was planning to re-visit the old place.

A lot has changed

I’ve been back a few times over the years , but not since Rob Speak became the track promoter.

Rob is not only the new promoter , but also a multi ex World Champion in both F1 and F2 stockcars.

While I’d been at the Sworders, that morning, Mick had arranged Media Creds for me with BSCDA official Sophia Clarke.

So after checking in with Sophia , I was all set to have a wander.

Unlike here in North America , the UK  has to deal with a lot of B/S from the ‘dreaded’ Health & Safety officials. ( even around towns over there,  it seams like everybody and his dog is wearing Hi Viz vests LOL )  

It’s all very sensible and necessary stuff for photography at race tracks , but the on-track photographers also have to be ‘licensed’ and they are limited to just a small amount allowed on the middle. (A lot different to here in Canada and the USA, when considering our racing is much faster )

Here’s me and one of my UK ‘tog’ friends Ian Bannister

Anyway , I was quite happy to take a back seat ,  chat to old friends and enjoy the racing. It was great to meet up with so many friends again that night 

Frankie Wainman Snr was in the pits helping out his grand daughter Gracie Squire.

Bert Finnikin was there with his son Craig and grand daughter Lilly 

 Another of the lady racers taking part , was Catherine Harris , sister of Tom Harris.

John Aldridge, who’d I’d visited the night before had his nephew Tom Birchenough # 211  racing in the V8 Hot Stox formula

Most of the nights racing I watched from the outside of turn two or the warmth of the bar.

It was a great night of socializing and I made just one visit to the middle to take the Victory Lane pics.

Congratulations to Will Hunter on  winning the final BriSCA F1 race of the 2023  season.

When the racing was over, Colin dropped me off in Boston while he continued home to Dunstable (I’d be catching up with him the next day)

DAY FIVE

I left my room at the Premier Inn around 10-00 am on Sunday morning.

My first port of call was an old stock car racing landmark , that I had to check out.

For many years there’d been a great little stock car track located in Boston on the Hammond Beck Road. It had a reputation as one of the best action tracks in the country .

I visited the Boston Stadium on many occasions over the years.

My first time was in November 1974, and the last time was in 1993, the year it closed.

The land was sold to make way for a retail park, and now  the TESCO, LIDL and B & Q stores operate on the land.

I had to revisit the site, and I even bought a coffee in the TESCO cafeteria. 

I was then back on the road again, and heading for Bedfordshire.

By 1-00 pm , I was in the Dunstable/Leighton Buzzard area, and my first stop was in Billington.

My long time friend Ian Dominey has his business there, and he’d asked me to drop by his yard. 

For over 35 years he has been operating his towing company, Bedfordshire Recovery.

He used to race BriSCA F2 and he quit racing around that time to concentrate on his company .

One of his contracts back then, was to haul the wrecks off the Brafield track and I helped him a bit with that.

He also loaned me his F2 stock car one night to race at the Kings Lynn track.

So , when asked to drop in, how could I refuse.

Bedfordshire Recovery is still going strong and he has a large fleet of heavy equipment.

One of the other things I’d come to see, was his latest acquisition.

After all those years away from the tracks he made a return this year.

He’s got himself a BriSCA F2 Heritage car, and has already raced it at a few events.

We had a long chat over a cup of tea before I took off in the direction of nearby Dunstable.

Next stop was to visit my brother Chris and his wife Sue. 

This would be my accommodation for the night and while I was there , my nephew Tom, dropped in to say hello.

Colin , who’d accompanied me the night before, to Skeggy,  and his wife Kim live near to Chris and Sue, so I also took the opportunity to pop in and see them.

I’ve known them both for many years.

DAY SIX

I left Chris’s at 9-00 am on Monday morning, bound for Hampshire.

My next stop was in Havant, just outside Portsmouth. This is where my long-time friend Lynn , lives.

We’ve known each other since we were teenagers, when we were both living in Totternhoe , Bedfordshire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We lost touch in the late 1970’s but got reunited again in the late 1990’s.

Since then we’ve met up on numerous occasions and she often visits me in Canada.

I got to her place just before mid day, and in the afternoon we went out to see one of her local tourist attractions.

The HMS Victory , Lord Nelson’s flag ship that beat Napolean in the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar.

It’s on display along with other exhibits at the Royal Navy Dockyard in Portsmouth .

Unfortunately it’s under-wraps for restoration work right now, so I wasn’t able to take any good pictures.

I had to be content with buying a post-card.

The guided ‘on-board’ tour was still operating so we booked to go on that.

It was very interesting and something I hadn’t done since my mum and dad took me as a kid.

After the tour we had a look around the docks before heading back to Lynns.

Back there , I had time to re-connect with Adam,  her youngest son before we headed out for supper.

Lynn had booked a table at a local pub where we were joined by her good friends Pete and Des.

DAY SEVEN

My trip was coming to an end , but didn’t need to leave Lynn’s until lunch time, so we had the morning to do a bit more site seeing.

She drove me over to Hayling Island , where she once lived, and I  saw something you don’t see everyday in the UK .

A garage that specializes in selling cool old American cars.

From here we went down to the beach and had a coffee before heading back to Havant.

I said my good bye’s to her and Adam , then it was time to head towards Gatwick Airport. 

The Vauxhall was dropped off at Hertz , then took the short walk to the adjacent , Premier Inn where  I’d booked a room for my final night.

It’s perfectly located opposite the North Terminal, so all I had to do in the morning, was cross the road.

DAY SEVEN

My AIR TRANSAT flight back to Canada wasn’t until 10-30 am but I needed to be there a few hours early to check in.

I walked across the road as planned and my flight was on time.

Once again there were a lot of spare seats so I had plenty of space to stretch out and snooze.

I was back in Montreal at 1-30 pm (Eastern Time) ,  and was quickly through customs and picking up my Impala.

The only downer , was a 30 minute delay driving through Dorion . It looked like someone had taken down a set of traffic lights and the transport crews were having to replace them.

After a quick stop for coffee at  Timmies in Lancaster, I was home in Cornwall for 3-30 pm.

What a great trip I had , It’s now time to take break and relax a bit