So how was the tour?

Every year since about 2004 the club has organised a tour, some one has been asked to write a piece for the magazine. The main reason as I see it, is to let every one know we all had a great time and to encourage other members to join in. I wasn't going to bother this year! What’s the point in writing an article telling how good the Northumberland tour was? The members that took part already know! I don't think any other members are bothered in knowing, or are interested in going on tour, but I have been asked for a magazine article.

So how was the tour? Well Northumberland was fantastic, though before we got that far we had an overnight stop in Huddersfield. Carole and I travelled up with Andy and Ali Heaton, Steve Kodz, Chris Fairlie and Robert Greig. Paschal and Nuala Carrol had made it to hotel all the way from Ireland, before we got there. Paul and Judith Fennings then arrived about an hour later. The hotel was called the Huddersfield Central Lodge, a strange name but a super place with very secure parking. The staff were all very helpful, we had a pleasant evening and all slept very well. Feeling refreshed and after a good breakfast, we headed out of the hotel car park and headed north. Andy and Ali took the lead, navigating out of Huddersfield in light rain, after half an hour or so the sun came out and the rain disappeared.

Just before we got as far as Scotch Corner we unfortunately had a breakdown. Andy's saloon, Lord Q, was having trouble getting enough diesel to keep running. We all scratched our heads and tried a few things to fix it but Andy had to call a rescue truck. It arrived promptly to much amusement as the driver was a spitting image of the club's very own Les Patterson. 'Les' got his tool box out and got it running, suggesting Andy take it for a test drive while he waited to make sure it was ok. A few minutes later Andy phones to report Lord Q has stopped again, so the truck goes of to load him up and take him off to our first hotel.

At this point the rest of us leave Andy and Ali to the rescue truck and continue our journey north. We stopped for lunch in Alston, then we took a look at a very old church clock that I played a small part in restoring over 40 years ago. Then up over the moors on some great roads with spectacular views, to our first hotel. The Warkworth House Hotel, we arrived just minutes after Andy and Ali, Lord Q having been dropped of at the local garage.

Before we had finished unloading our cars or booked in we were joined by Mark and Helena Perry with Steven and Ellen Perry not far behind. Once we were all settled into our rooms, we met down in the bar for drink before we had dinner.

After a good sleep we made our way down for breakfast, every one was impressed with the hotel and the quality of the food. Today we go the furthest north we will go, to Holy island. We made our way across the causeway not long after the tide had receded, a few puddles remained which was fun for the two Xtremes who were travelling without doors on. We parked in the visitors car park and walked into the village. We had a good look around the island, the castle, the priory and the shops! Then found a really nice café for lunch. Back to the cars and off back over the causeway, turning left to Bamburgh to visit the Grace Darling museum, run by the RNLI. But unfortunately and much to my personal disappointment the museum was closed due to a lack of volunteers. So we thought we would take a look around Bamburgh castle, but guess what, that was closed to, as a production company was using it for filming. Oh well it was a nice warm sunny afternoon so we made do with the lovely beach.

Back to the hotel, via a coastal route for a nice meal, then the local pub for a pint or two before bed. Next day after another slap up breakfast, we set off to a local micro brewery for a tour and some beer tasting. We drove through some beautiful country side on the way to the farm where the brewery is located. The tour itself was very good, entertaining, informative and the guide was obviously very enthusiastic about the beers that they brew. Then came the sampling, a selection of very tasty beers. Difficult to decide which one to choose to purchase a few bottles to take away, but we had time to make that decision while we tucked in to a tasty lunch. After some of us had packed a box or two of beer in the cars, it was time to leave the farm brewery. We head off to visit a motor museum on the outskirts of Newcastle, it was tucked away but well worth the trouble to find. What a little gem, housed in a former drill hall, and later in the fifty’s and sixty’s a dance hall, its full of all sorts of veteran, vintage and classic cars. We were the only visitors and were invited to have a good look around the hall. Even given special permission to sit in any thing we like, except 2 or 3 that are locked because they are on loan to the museum. Us boys had a fantastic time, Ali and Judith joined in to, while the rest of the ladies sat and watched with some amusement. They said later we looked like a load of school boys running around in the playground. Then we were given a guided tour around the museum workshops, more interesting stuff. Back to the Warkworth House Hotel for our last night there before we move on in the morning.

Today we are of to visit the Woodhorn Colliery museum and on route we had our second breakdown of sorts. Paschal and Nuala's 2+2 suffered a puncture, the wheel quickly changed and back on the road again. So once at Woodhall we split into little groups for a look round, lots to see outside and even more inside the museum. We all meet up again for some lunch at the museum cafe, very nice. Now its off to our next hotel, in Bellingham on the very edge of the Kielder Forest park. Arriving in plenty of time to check in to our rooms and unpack before visiting the bar to check the local ale! While others made use of the swimming pool. Then dinner and even more wonderful food, then a walk into the village for the exercise and it would be rude not to visit the local inn wouldn’t it? Back to the Riverdale Hall hotel for bed and next morning another great breakfast.

We all agreed it was another first class hotel. Meeting at the car's at around 10 o'clock we set of to Jedburgh to visit the old jail, where we all enjoyed a good look around. It was very interesting, well presented with lots of facts and local history. We now needed some lunch, so we made our way into town of Jedburgh to look around and find a café. I won't name name's, but one of our party actually had a jacket potato with a Haggis filling and washed it down with a can of Ironbrew! Paschal made use of the lunch stop to have his punctured tyre replaced just down the road from the café. To get back to the hotel we took a very nice drive though the middle of the forest park, along side Kielder water, stopping of a one of the view points to admire the wonderful scenery. Back at the Riverdale, time for more swimming and/or beer before dinner.

Next morning and our last day here in Northumberland, we return to Kielder water. We head first to the Kielder Birds of Prey Centre, they have a large collection of magnificent birds. They also have a section for rearing baby birds, abandoned, lost, injured or born at the centre. You can help feed them if you wish, if your not to squeamish to pick up bits of dead mouse with tweezers. In the same area you are invited to stroke slightly older birds, mainly Owls. Apparently a lot of owls raised in captivity like to have a bit of pampering. The one little owl I tried certainly did, I gave him little tickle behind his ears and he loved it. He even made a little noise that sounded almost like a cat purring. We all wanted to watch the flying display, but they only fly the birds in the afternoon.

So having checked the display time and saying we would be back we went off for a boat trip on Kielder water. This was very enjoyable and gives you a very different view of the scenery, the recorded commentary has lots of interesting information. Then back to shore, no time for a proper sit down lunch today, so its just grab what you can when you can. Back to the bird flying display, which was absolutely fantastic, really well done with lots of audience participation we all thoroughly enjoyed it.

We then made our way further along Kielder water to the Kielder castle visitor centre, to look round the exhibition, it covers local history, archaeology and lots of stuff about all the nature, animals and bird life. Personally I would have liked to see some stuff about the damming of the water and how it was done, but that's because I find that interesting. It had been planned that we would pay the small toll and take the long way back via the 12 mile forest road. It does say though that one should check with the visitor centre before going, as some times it should only be done in a 4x4. The lady said that officially that it was passable with care in a normal car, but then added she would not do it in her car! This put most of the group off and they decided to take the main road back.

However Steve and I are made of sterner stuff and driven by the spirit of adventure, we were going for it! At this stage Carole decided to accept Chris' offer of a lift back to the hotel in a nice comfy Jag. So with our £3 each for the ticket machine, Steve in the Xtreme and me in the 2+2 set off on our perilous journey into the unknown.

I wondered what on earth all the fuss was about, as the 2 miles or so were tarmac, then the tarmac ended! The next 10 miles of the road way is made of crushed stone, the conditions varied from good to a bit rough and bumpy. This I suspect depends how the logging lorry’s have driven over it, some was as a normal road that has just been resurfaced before they collect all the loose chippings. Overall nether of us had any issue with the condition of the road and thought it a shame that the others had missed out. Steve and I stopped along the road on a couple of occasions, switched of the engines and just listened, we could not hear any artificial noise at all. Just all the natural stuff, wind in the trees, birds and the occasional animal noises. The only problem that one would have to mention is the dust from the road, we both needed a shower when we got back to the Riverdale and the cars were covered! It was worth it though, the best fun I have had for £3 in a long while.

So our last night at the Riverdale and our last night on tour, I hate it when it's coming to an end. At dinner there where thanks from the group to the organizers Carole and myself, though I did say at the outset that I had done very little this year. A thank you to Steve Kodz was also given, very well deserved. May I say that without Steve's help this years tour may well not have happened, he took on all the work that I should have been doing, so a HUGE thank you from me Steve. After dinner it's of to the bar one more time, then soon it's time for bed, another tour almost over.

Breakfast next morning is as good as ever, but every one is a little quieter, After breakfast we all go of to finish our packing and hand in our room key. We meet around the cars for some quick photo's, then we all have to say our goodbyes. Going of in our different directions to make our way home.

There we are then, any takers for next year's tour over and above the regular participants? Any new faces would be most welcome, you might even fancy organising it!

Geoff Ward former events coordinator