Thursday, 31 May 2012

4/4 to Ripon Races

With a superb weather forecast and temperatures soaring into the mid 20's, my wife and I were preparing for our 3 nights away with particular relish.
Ready for off

It was decided that we would dispense with the need of a suitcase and use a soft bag for our clothes which fitted snugly behind the driver's seat alongside another small bag that contained all those vital female accoutrements that remain relatively unknown territory to the average male! A picnic bag was placed at the feet of 'her indoors' without restricting her legroom and thus, almost fully loaded we set off.

With the sun beating down we drove on the A59 to Skipton, branching off through glorious scenery through Ilkley and Otley, soon smelling the hop and malt laden air of the brewing town of Tadcaster and on to the York by-pass, eventually turning on to the A1079 leading to my sister's home town of Beverley.

Beverley is a beautiful medieval market town with a glorious Minster and well known Racecourse. We spent a lovely afternoon and evening in my sister's house that is in a Mews development, close to the Westwood an area of common land where cattle freely roam, much to the chagrin of local residents when the beasts decide to stray down the streets and into gardens!

I was delighted to hear that my sister's 88 year old lady neighbour had admired the Morgan as it sat outside her property, thinking that my sister's husband had gone upmarket and traded in his Porsche!!
Bishop Burton en route for Harewood

The following day saw us retracing our steps to Harewood House where we were to meet my wife's cousin. The house was built between 1759 and 1771 for Edwin Lascelles whose wealth was a result of slave trading and lending money to planters in the West Indies. It is still home to the Lascelles family.

Harewood House
We stayed for the next two nights in the lovely Crown Inn at Roecliffe where the accommodation and food was first class.

The Crown Inn, Roecliffe

Ripon Cathedral

The sun continued to shine as we set off to Ripon, an ancient market town founded some 1300 years ago and also a cathedral city where monasteries have stood since the 7th century. We had an hour sightseeing before making our way to the Racecourse, where we enjoyed the first four races that added a massive £5.25 to the family coffers, due to the undoubted prowess of my dearly beloved as a punter!
Ripon Racecourse

The final tussle in the 3.40 at Ripon

On returning to our accommodation at around 4pm we decided to go on a short walk to the river before our traditional G&T's. We'd looked at the 'Roecliffe Ramble', outlined on a large map by the gateway to the church, but failed to appreciate fully the distances involved!

The footpath alongside the River Ure
One hour later, on the walk by the banks of the River Ure, my wife who was wearing the equivalent of ballet shoes on her feet, had the audacity to question the sanity of our position and indeed the sanity of the leader of the party, politely asking whether it might be a good idea to turn back. A unanimous decision was reached by the leader, who was convinced that it would not be long before we would be on the homeward leg. So on we went, on and on, on and on, with the leader himself  now having severe doubts as to his own judgement.

Two hours and 5 miles later we got back to our room and straight into a bath to ease our aching limbs, before enjoying the welcome liquid refreshment we had fantasised about in the searing heat of the 'route march'!!

Our final visit before heading home was to Newby Hall , designed by Christopher Wren and home to the Compton family. Full of Robert Adam furnishings and Chippendale furniture and set in beautiful gardens and grounds of 25 acres it is well worth a visit
Newby Hall
The route home was on the A6265 from Ripon to Skipton via Pateley Bridge and Grassington. It should be a wonderful road, but due to the inability of successive governments to concentrate on road repairs, it is an absolute horror in a Morgan, uneven with a pothole seemingly every few yards, an utter disgrace. I suppose if every politician had to drive a Morgan over the roads of Britain and experienced the real truth about the road surfaces, perhaps something would be done! But do I really believe that?!!! Bankers and Politicians, phah!

As we approached Pately Bridge I noticed that the fuel gauge was hovering around 1/4 full so, because I do not have a lot of faith in the accuracy of the thing, I thought we had better stop for fuel and were directed to a Petrol Station, the like of which I have not experienced for years. The pumps were manned by an Attendant whose manner I found a little disconcerting as she shambled towards me and grasped the nozzle of the pump, with a sloppy and casual disregard towards the task she was about to embark on ie., filling the petrol tank of a highly precious, mollycoddled classic with a tank that takes an inordinately long time to fill (at least with old type pumps).

As she could not provide the high octane fuel that we desired, in fact there was nothing high octane about her at all, we settled for the 'bog standard' stuff and I asked for only £20 worth, on the basis that the shortest time she was attending the needs of my car the better!

Sure enough, some five minutes later the nozzle was carelessly removed and petrol was sprayed over the back of the car. I gave her the money and did not wait for a receipt, God knows what we paid for the fuel!

Finally arriving in Skipton we picked up the A59 and headed for home, noting when we arrived that we had covered 315 miles.


Thoughts on Morgan Hoods

This is a further contribution to my blog from my Morgan chum, Dennis Duggan

When Stephanie and I took delivery of our 4/4 Sport in January 2009 we were Morgan virgins, and perhaps a little apprehensive at the thought of living with such an idiosynchratic motor car.
One area of concern was the traditional hood, which looked like it could be a potential minefield.  Those unfamiliar with the breed might like to know it is secured to the car with fourteen lift-the-dot fasteners, six turnbuckles and eight press studs - a total of twenty eight items to deal with each time the hood is removed and refitted.

At the time I fervently wished the car had come with one of those easy-fit hoods advertised in Miscellany, as they seemed a lot more straightforward, but three years and 15,500 miles later those doubts have proved unfounded.

Dennis's 4/4 Sport

During that period I estimate the hood has been taken off and put back on some two hundred times, and there has been a problem only once.  We are now so expert that it regularly takes us a mere fifty five seconds from removing the hood from its storage behind the seats to unfolding and fitting it to the car.  Removal takes around thirty seconds, though converting it from a four-foot square mass of shapeless material to a neat package takes somewhat longer!At classic car shows we have observed that owners of Triumph Stags, some Mercedes and the like have a right old tussle to erect or stow their manual hoods.  The job, which usually seems to involve two people, looks to be very fiddly  and takes a considerable time - certainly a lot longer than fifty five seconds!

Advantages of the traditional hood include:  easily removed and refitted by one person; has a large rear window;  has transparent panels at the corners, which improve visibility and allow more light into the interior; does not spoil the flowing Morgan lines when stowed away.

Disadvantages include: can be difficult to refit when cold and wet (on one occasion in winter I was unable to fit all the fasteners) takes up storage space when stowed behind the seats; access to the storage area very difficult when the hood is erected, though to be fair that must surely be a problem with most sports cars fitted with head restraints.  However one firm who advertise an easy-fit hood solve that by allowing access via the rear of the hood.

Last year we accidentally stumbled on a useful wheeze.  When parked at a show, and the weather looks a bit iffy, we remove the hood then refit it to the five lift-the-dot fasteners at the rear of the car.  The hood can then be folded neatly so it sits behind the seats, resting on the bodywork, and in the event of a sudden shower it takes only seconds to whip it over the frame and secure it to the windscreen with two or three lift-the-dot fasteners.

That is a quick method to keep the rain out whilst parked, though obviously it would not work when the car was in motion.

Incidentally, when stationary our Morgan traditional hood is 100% watertight.  On the road in torrential rain it is 99% watertight; an occasional drip might work its way past the seal where the hood joins the screen but that's about it.

So our traditional hood is a credit to the Malvern ladies who made it, well done to them.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

SUV's - Seriously Ugly Vehicles!

It occurs to me as I drive around that there are some quite hideous designs of car on the road today.

Apart from the numerous, characterless, small saloons, the main contenders, in my humble opinion, for the 'Ugly Prize of the Year' competition must be SUV's and some ghastly 4x4's. Allowing for the fact that it has got to be difficult to create a beautiful design for a vehicle with such a high centre of gravity, there really are some horrible beasts out there.

I have also noticed, particularly since the introduction of these unpleasing lumps, that some of their drivers seem to bear an astonishing resemblance to their cars, rather like dog owners I suppose.

On that basis, by driving a Morgan, I must be one of the most handsome men on the planet!

Monday, 21 May 2012

First picnic of the year!

At last the English weather gave us the opportunity to drive for a picnic in the 4/4 and what is more I think that the weather this week is expected to get even better.

Ready for off!

The village of Scorton ready for the Queen's Jubilee celebrations

We visited one of our favourite spots, around 20 miles away, in the area known as the Bowland Forest, much of which is owned by the wealthiest Englishman in Britain, the Duke of Westminster. Anyway a quick phone call, mentioning  that we would be arriving in the Morgan, was all it needed for him to agree to let us visit!!

Our driver!

What better way to spend a few hours!

There is no doubt that we are lucky to have such lovely countryside and wonderful driving roads so close, although occasionally I do need reminding of this...perhaps familiarity breeding contempt!

The photographs we took tell the story, but did not capture the sound of a cuckoo that was lovely to hear.

The road home.

Sunday, 20 May 2012 a red rag to a bull.

This is a contribution to my blog from my friend Dennis Duggan.  I know that it will be of interest to all Morgan enthusiasts. 

To a certain type of person, the sight of a Morgan ahead of them is like a red rag to a bull.  They seem determined to demonstrate that their car (however humble) is the faster so overtake at the earliest opportunity.I am more than happy to help them get past, it is no fun having someone glued to one's rear bumper.

But sometimes, in the right mood and circumstances, on a suitable stretch of road, it is possible to have a harmless interesting 'dice' with a fellow motorist.  Two recent occasions spring to mind.

A couple of weeks ago we were travelling along the A49 between Craven Arms and Ludlow.  As we approached the roundabout where we turned left to Cleobury Mortimer I spied something interesting behind us.  It was an all-black Aston Martin, low and menacing.  I was reminded of a scene from Bullitt. 

Two hoodlums in a Dodge Charger had been following Lt Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) through San Francisco but he shook them off.  At a T junction the bad guys stop and wonder which way to go.  Then we see the rear-view mirror through the driver's eyes, and Bullitt's Ford Mustang slowly appears over the brow of the hill, looking very mean.
Dennis in action
Anyway, the Aston also turned off and followed us at a respectful distance.  I could not resist pressing on a little, and the distance was maintained.  Fear not, with my wife Stephanie in the passenger seat there was no question of anything too exciting happening!

Whatever speed I did, the Aston did the same.  Then, on a straight bit of road there was a sound I can best describe as a piece of calico being ripped and the Aston flashed by as if we were standing still.  He slowed down again after pulling back in, and I gave him a friendly flash of the lights as he drew away from us.  I did not see if the driver acknowledged the flash, as the car was fitted with privacy glass.

Once a week I travel from Welshpool to Llanfyllin (Chlan vutlin)  and back.  It is a nice run, 11 miles each way, on quiet roads with some interesting bends and a couple of steep hills.  Sometimes there is a friendly 'dice' with another driver as happened last week.  Leaving Llanfyllin there is quite a long stretch with an apparently pointless 40mph limit, hence it is widely ignored.  But I always try to stay within a speed limit, so do not exceed 40.

Sometimes a car comes up close behind, and I know the driver is thinking, 'Silly old fart, what's the matter with him, why doesn't he get a move on.'  In which case, as we approach the derestriction sign, I drop her into third and floor the throttle so we take off like the proverbial scalded cat up to 60mph.  That usually catches the following driver by surprise, which I find mildly amusing.

Last week I spotted a Mondeo in the mirror, he was not pressuring me but I had a feeling there might be some fun in prospect.  The usual plan worked a treat, but he soon caught me up and followed at a safe distance.  Up the hill into Blwch Y Cibau (Bulsh Uh Kibby) and obey the 30mph sign through the village.  At the derestriction sign there is a series of sharp bends, which I always take carefully as you never know what might be just out of sight.  A tractor, push bike, broken-down car etc.

Turn right very briskly at the tee junction, with the Mondeo following, then I put my foot down to enter the lovely sweeping right-hand bend onto a straight.  But a left turn is not far off, so soon easing off, the Mondeo still there.  The left turn takes you onto an arrow-straight stretch of road for approx 3/4 mile, when it narrows over a bridge followed by another lovely right-hand bend and another straight.

But by now I had tired of the game and proceeded at a sedate pace along the straight, assuming the Mondeo would whizz by.  But he didn't, and I just knew he was waiting for me to put my foot down again - but this time he would be ready!!  So I gave one click of the n/s indicator and the driver took the hint and went by. 

Just a bit of harmless fun, no danger, or ill-will on either side.

Dennis J Duggan
MSCC 14197

Saturday, 19 May 2012

A fish called Wilson!

You know how it is! There I was, feeding the leather in both the Morgan and the Volvo, and my thoughts settled on another feeding operation that I had completed a couple of weeks ago.

My wife and I were once again at our youngest daughter's home in Warwick, doing a spot of baby-sitting, that not only involves attending to our two lovely grandchildren, but also includes giving due attention to their goldfish, or should I say solitary fish. For that is the situation at present, a veritable shoal of fish, well three or four actually, has been reduced to one.

In the beginning, when they bought their fish globe some two or three years ago, there were four colourful fish happily enjoying their somewhat mundane existence, swimming round and round, waiting for the odd charitable flake of food to drift their way. Amongst this motley collection was a fish called Wilson!
Perhaps a couple of weeks later the group had been reduced by one, who had deemed to shuffle off this mortal coil and this was followed, with astonishing regularity by the remainder, except one,.... Wilson!

He was clearly surviving very nicely thank you, so the family, who were concerned that he was lonely, went to the shop and bought another three fish. All went well for a few weeks, until they too started dropping like flies, or rather floating upside down to the surface, with the exception of one,.... Wilson!

Not wishing to deplete further the existing national stocks of goldfish, by introducing any more to what amounted to certain death, Wilson remained alone for a number of months, happily enjoying his monastic existence.

However, as the family wished to add a bit more colour and interest to their aquarium, they decided to buy more fish, this time from a different supplier to avoid possible further disease. But as there were now distinct murmurings amongst  family members, suggesting that perhaps Wilson, a somewhat miserable and now possibly depraved specimen, had played no small part in the demise of his fellows, it was decided that he should be placed in solitary confinement in a large jam jar on the kitchen window-sill, a move that was tantamount to him being placed in a death cell!

For many months the new arrivals swam happily around the aquarium while Wilson swam around his jar, being fed half-heartedly, in the hope I think that perhaps the family would sit down one morning for breakfast  to find young Wilson, accused without trial, to be no longer alive! However, on one of our visits, and to my  immense delight, because I was growing to feel a lot of affection for this little fish that resembled a small whitebait that had broken its back, Wilson seemed to be, although a bit rough around the edges, extremely healthy.

Came the day, when it was suggested that as all the new fish had survived splendidly and Wilson had had a dose of whatever you give to fish with an inherent disease, he should be re-introduced into the aquarium.

No doubt Wilson gave a sigh of relief when this decision was reached, but it is very questionable what the reaction of his new friends was, to the arrival of this rather drab, reclusive little individual into their idyllic lives, but any suspicions that they may have had were manifestly upheld some days later, with the untimely death of one of their number, to be followed by the others sometime later.

Now, months after that cataclysmic event, there is just one small fish remaining in the tank, a little fish called Wilson, a born survivor or perhaps a merciless serial killer!!!


Sunday, 13 May 2012

4/4 to Giggleswick.

The Met.Office assured us that Saturday was going to be sunny, granted the temperature would only rocket to 11 degrees, but at least the seemingly incessant rain would stop. As we sat eating breakfast, in my case a kipper, to fortify my ageing wracked body, the threatening clouds above us suggested that perhaps they were wrong again.

Once I had extracted the various rogue kipper bones from my teeth, cleaned them and partaken of a mouthwash, not wishing to alienate us from the rest of the village, I checked their website again and found that the cloud was expected to clear by ten, when the rest of the day, both here and in the Yorkshire Dales which is where we intended to head was going to be good.

The Morgan was made ready, appropriate clothing donned, for it is still a mite chilly in these parts and off we went to the tumultuous acclaim of the solitary resident propped up in the bus shelter opposite.
Coffee Break!

Our route initially took us along the very well worn route to the A6 and then across the moors to the east of Lancaster, via Quernmore to Caton in the Lune Valley. It was obvious by the amount of traffic that it was       weekend, a time that we would normally avoid like the plague, not because we are necessarily antisocial, but  being retired, we do relish the opportunities that arise to revel in the peaceful delights of the countryside and landscape while other poor souls are working.
East towards Ingleborough Hill

It wasn't only cars on the road, but motorcyclists driving passed at breakneck speeds, to meet up with their fellow bikers at Kirby Lonsdale, a weekly meeting venue. We hoped, as we turned off the Kirby road towards Wray, a small village that holds a regular 'Scarecrow Festival', that things would get a lot quieter, and so it was.

Soon after passing through Wray we turned right onto a narrow country road in the direction of Settle. Lying to the east of the Tatham Fells, this was a road we hadn't used before and it was delightful, affording far reaching views across the moorland towards Ingleborough Hill and Pen-y-Ghent.

As we drove along we passed under bridges that carried the famous Settle to Carlisle Railway Line, probably the most scenic line in the UK., and a 'must do' for anyone with the slightest interest in railways.

Before setting off from home I had already identified a likely looking hostellry where we could enjoy a beer and a bowl of soup to sustain us and this is where we headed.

'The Black Horse Hotel', a 16C coaching inn, is situated close to the church in the centre of Giggleswick, a village near Settle, and home to Giggleswick School, a boarding and day school where Richard Whiteley of TV show 'Countdown' was a pupil and Russell Harty, the former TV personality, taught English. Sarah Fox, the internationally renowned soprano was born in the village and also attended the school.
Church of St Alkelda, Giggleswick

Our little lunch was excellent and well served, so, well nourished, we made our way to the beautiful church of St Alkelda next door. It dates mostly from the 15C, although excavations have shown that there was a building here before the Norman conquest.

We are not religious people, but find that on our journeying through the UK and abroad, we always seem to find ourselves visiting churches to be rewarded with the peace and tranquillity that they engender.
Looking north on Slaidburn road from Long Preston

With our spirits revived we leapt into the Morgan!.... wait a minute, I'll rephrase that! We lowered ourselves gently and carefully, slumping down into the blissful comfort of the Morgan's luxury seats and headed off to Long Preston, on the upper reaches of the River Ribble where we would take a right to Slaidburn.

The road was in the process of being repaired and as such, it seems to me, must represent another major  milestone in the efforts to restore  British  roads to the standards that exist elsewhere in Europe!! Trouble was, it was being done in sections, only the really bad bits were being renewed, so there were deep ramps that had to be taken at extremely low speeds to avoid bottoming  the Morgan.
Dunsop Bridge Church and a lovely Morgan

Just after Slaidburn, we passed through the village of Newton and spotted a couple of original Morgan Three-Wheelers that looked as though they had been dressed for wedding duties. Dunsop Bridge came next, the nearest village to the centre of the British Isles, where I stopped briefly to take a shot of the Morgan by the church and a rather lovely cherry tree.

Finally, we passed through the Trough of Bowland and back home after a very memorable drive of some 100 miles.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Anchors Aweigh!

Before the Morgan was bought, I pursued what has always been an enduring interest in boats and sailed in a variety of sailing craft on Windermere and Ullswater in Cumbria.
'Mirror' opposite Gummers Howe

This was during the period when my wife and I were running the family newsagents business and as a brief respite from what might have been an 'eight day', 5am to 7pm job, I took a day off to satisfy my love of sailing and boating.

My first little boat was a 'Mirror' dinghy that I bought from a friend, repairing and restoring it before spending many happy times sailing Windermere from a base at the southern end of the lake.

The next craft was a 15'6" 'Drascombe Dabber', a much more substantial dinghy with excellent sea-keeping qualities and an engine, for those days when the wind died or was too strong for sailing. The joy of spending a day, almost always alone, amidst the splendour of the lakeland hills was immense, and of course because of my situation these visits were made between Monday and Friday when the rest of the population were at work. In fact, very often I was the only boat on the lake, apart from the steamers!
Picture taken by my father from  a  Steamer

The 'Dabber' at her mooring
Stiff breeze on Windermere

Following the 'Dabber' came my 'Cornish Shrimper', a 19 footer that was also called 'Catherine Charlotte', culled from the second Christian names of each of my lovely daughters. This boat was an entirely different proposition  from the two previous ones, being much bigger but also, in addition to an engine, it had a cabin with sleeping accommodation, cooker and a toilet. Very civilised indeed!

I slept aboard overnight on a couple of occasions and remember on one of them being wakened at some unearthly hour by the noise of a flock of Canada Geese that had decided to roost near my mooring. They are quite prolific on the lake, not only are they noisy but they are very messy indeed and I can well understand the need for a moderate cull by the local Council to reduce the amount of excreta in the more important tourist areas.
'Shrimper' on her mooring
Towards Ambleside
On jetty at Bowness looking north
Eventually, as is often the way of things, it was sold to a lovely couple who now live in Woodbridge, Suffolk and are stalwart  members of the Shrimper Owners Association, We still exchange Christmas cards and it is then that I receive a full account of their adventures in the boat, exploits that have included a Channel crossing, cruising in the Outer Hebrides, the 'Round the Island Race', etc.,etc. The boat is having a much more demanding life now than it had in my ownership!

'Sandpiper' was a 'Sea Otter' double-ended yawl built by David Moss,, a renowned traditional boatbuilder whose yard is just a couple of miles away from my home. It was bought by me when a degree of financial stability once more descended on the 'Chuckers' household, in other words, when the kids left home!
'Sea Otter' at Glenridding, Ullswater

Heading south on Windermere

Built totally of wood and proudly displaying all the skill of its builder I enjoyed many a pleasant day sailing on both Ullswater and Windermere, the boat attracting justifiable attention whenever it was seen. The following is an extract from 'Sandpipers' log dated Friday 5th May 2000.

"Arrived early on a beautiful sunny day. Light to moderate easterly wind. My original intention was to sail at least to the north of Belle Island. This I did quite speedily under full sail and it was when I was opposite 'the Old England Hotel' (Bowness) that I realised that a full-bloodied dash to Ambleside was on the cards. It took approximately 50 minutes. A beautiful broad reach all the way, but it was very cold and as soon as I had picked up a mooring I changed into more appropriate clothing. I'd started off in shorts and a 'T' shirt and my teeth were literally chattering!
The return was equally as excitng with the 6 miles from Ambleside to Storrs Hall (it's mooring) being covered in an hour and ten average speed of around 5 knots or around 6 miles an hour. Wonderful day. Once again I picked up the mooring under sail...I've only used the oars once and the engine never!"

This extract encapsulates the pleasure I had during those halcyon sailing days when I was 12 years younger and somewhat fitter!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Plastic Carrier Bags

One thing that I didn't mention in my recent post about our trip to France, was the pleasure I gained from the fact that the Carrefour Group of Supermarkets, as well as all their competitors, have banned totally the issue of plastic carriers in their stores.

Meanwhile, in the UK, regardless of all the calls by politicians for a more environmentally aware society, they are still available for a derisory sum at the checkout and being used by the million, despite the damage they are causing.

Given due notice, as the population of France were, they could be totally withdrawn and, oh dear me, our utterly coddled community would have to remember to use their own shopping bags, when doing the weekly shop.

If France can do it, why can't we?

I'm now off for a drive to get the wind out of my hair!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


I'd always wanted to visit Brooklands, the world's first purpose built racing circuit, constructed at Weybridge in Surrey and the birthplace of British Motorsport and Aviation.
The Clubhouse, Brooklands

The opportunity arose this weekend, when we were completing our duties as grand-parents at our eldest daughter's family home in Camberley. So, on a rather gloomy Sunday morning in May, we drove there to visit the Museum and the renowned banked circuit, at least what remains of it.

First port of call was the Malcolm Campbell Shed, formerly his workshop and showroom which now contains primarily Brooklands racing cars and amongst those, as expected I should add, were two Morgan three-wheelers.
Morgan Model 'F' Two-Seater

The Model 'F' two-seater was built in 1937 and had a 1172cc four cylinder side-valve Ford 10 engine and could be bought for the princely sum of £130. Up to this date the Morgans were powered by a variety of 'V Twin' engines, Anzani, Blackburne, J.A.P.,Matchless, M.A.G. but this new 'F' model had a new chassis, interconnected front and rear braking and powered by the four cylinder engine. They enjoyed huge success at Brooklands. In 1937 the factory was of course also manufacturing the new 4/4.

The Clive Lones Morgan was built to that gentlemans special requirements and raced at Brooklands from 1929 to 1935. It achieved 37 World Records and in 1930 was the first Light Car to lap the outer circuit at 100mph for which it was awarded the Gold Star by the British Motor Cycle Racing Club.
The Clive Lones Morgan

Interestingly the car was also part of the Morgan team that in 1931 experimented with pits-to-driver radio contact. The loudspeakers were defeated by noise, but the occasion attracted significant press attention!

Having looked at all the interesting exhibits in that part of the Museum and extracted my 3 year old grandson from the drivers seat of a McLaren F1 car, we moved on to the aeronautical buildings which house some wonderful historic exhibits, including a replica of the 'Roe 1' biplane, the original of which was used by A V Roe to carry out pioneering flight trials on the Finishing Straight in 1908, a Wellington Bomber, a Vickers Vimy, Hawker Hurricane and displays of Vickers' guided weapons and Barnes Wallis' bombs.
The Members Banking

The 'Concorde' which is an outside exhibit brought back many happy memories for me having flown in it from Manchester to Heathrow, sub-sonic of course!

The London Bus Museum was next on the agenda followed by a very long, steep climb alongside the Test Hill, 1 in  4 and 1 in 5, to the Members Bridge for a view of the Members Banking, the steepest part of the track, which reached nearly 29 feet high before descending onto the Railway Straight on the other side of the river. Those drivers were certainly courageous.
On the Members Bridge

This was a most enjoyable visit and although we spent only a few hours there, due to the obvious constraints of a junior member of the party, in different circumstances we could have spent a full day soaking up the atmosphere.

Highly recommended, and remember too, that 'Mercedes World' is just across the road if you fancy charging around their circuit or pitting your skills on their skid pan! Unfortunately I can't imagine that they will allow me to use their facilities in the Mog!

East Anglian Mog Mishap!

This story was sent to me by my Morgan friend, Dennis Duggan who asked me if I would like to include it in my blog. Quite frankly, as long as anything is legal, decent, honest and truthful it can be included, as long as it is Morgan orientated of course! 
So here it is, the story of a drive to Suffolk that Dennis and his wife Stephanie made in their 4/4 Sport.

My copies of Miscellany are eagerly awaited, and read from cover to cover more than once - including the small ads.  Perhaps my favourite items are the accounts of Morgan holidays, whether taken as individuals or part of a group.

Stephanie and I took delivery of our new 4/4 Sport on January 2nd 2009, and from the outset I had a desire to use the car for a touring holiday.  But for various reasons that never happened, and apart from three occasions the 14,000-plus miles have been racked up on day trips.  The exceptions were an overnight stay with family in Yorkshire, and overnight stays at weddings in Rutland and Suffolk.  Very nice, but hardly a touring holiday - just there and back!  And two of those trips were in the depths of winter, with hood up and heater on.

Yet the idea was never far from my mind, and during the summer of 2011 a plan was finally hatched.  My (very) elderly parents live in Suffolk, next door to my sister and family.  We live in Welshpool, Mid Wales, which is the other side of the country.  So the journey is not one to be undertaken lightly, and one we seldom make.  But, went the reasoning,  if we incorporated the visit to Suffolk with a short touring holiday in East Anglia, that would kill two birds with one stone...

The date was set, the hotel booked.  Leave Welshpool Friday morning September 23rd, arrive at The Scole Inn, Norfolk late afternoon.  Saturday visit Anglesey Abbey and Ickworth, both National Trust properties, and generally wander round the area.  Sunday, drive to Holton, which is near Halesworth, to visit the family.  Monday, return home.

The packing required some thought, as normally we are of the 'if in doubt take it' school.  That's fine in a tin-top, where there is room for an assortment of coats, shoes, boots, bags and cases.  Obviously that is not the situation in a Morgan, especially one without a luggage rack. 
We set off with the area behind the seats filled with the folded traditional-type hood, tool kit, tyre compressor (no spare wheel) two soft bags, picnic bag, top coats and some ancillary items that would not go in the bags.  No problem at all, at least for three nights away.

It was a glorious day, perfect for a long drive in a Morgan.  Blue skies, bright sunshine, pleasantly warm, the Ford 1.6 Sigma as smooth as a sewing machine, the usual envious/admiring  looks from other drivers, along with the occasional wave or friendly flash of the lights - what more could anyone want?  Perhaps I'd died and gone to Heaven?
The 4/4 outside 'The Scole Inn', Scole, Suffolk

In true Morgan fashion we had planned a route using as many A and B roads as possible, and in any case we were not in any particular hurry.  So the A458 took us onto the Shrewsbury bypass, which in turn became the M54.  Off at junction 4, where we used the services for a comfort stop and had our coffee from a flask.  Then the A5 into Leicestershire.  It makes a nice alternative to the hectic M6, the downside for me being a series of large, complicated roundabouts.  Used regularly these are not a problem, but can be a minefield for the unwary novice.  Locals, and those in the know,whizzing round at high speed, traffic lights, and the ever-present fear of ending up in the wrong lane or cutting someone up, makes for a tense couple of minutes.

The roundabouts successfully negotiated we moved into Northamptonshire.  Turned onto the A428 near Crick, then it was B roads and unclassified roads as we headed towards Cambridgeshire.  Sun still shining, traffic very light, car behaving perfectly; prospect of a nice relaxing weekend ahead, things were getting better and better.  Ready for our packed lunch we found an idyllic spot just off the road, where we stayed for half an hour.  Why had we waited almost three years to do this, I wondered.  Mentally I waa slready planning our next long weekend.

Working our way across country we joined the A45, and followed signs for Anglesey Abbey.  The main car park was full, but there is a large grassed parking area further on and this had lots of space.  A cup of tea from the flask was very welcome, and after stretching our legs we continued the journey. 
We reached Scole late afternoon, as planned, and swept majestically into the car park of The Scole Inn under the gaze of several people enjoying the sunshine at tables outside.  It pleased me to imagine they were perhaps thinking, 'Gosh, wonder who those people are? Maybe they're famous.'   (Hardly likely, as famous people are instantly recognisable, but it made me happy!)

Conscious we were being observed I parked as nonchalantly as possible, and did my best to make a dignified, athletic exit from the Morgan's low-slung seat.  Sometimes I manage that better than others!  Bit embarrassing to make a hash of it, I always think.

The receptionist informed us our room was in the newly-converted stable block, and suggested we might like to move the car through an archway onto the overflow car park where we could park outside the room.  Sounded good to me, but first we decided to take our bags and recce the room.  That done I returned to the car park and made a reasonably tidy job of entering the car, once again watched by the people idly sitting around.  They seemed pleased to have something of interest to see.

Well, they could now watch an iconic, hand-made British sports car make its stately way across the car park and pass under the arch.  Trying to look casual I turned the key, but instead of the familiar sound of the starter motor, followed by the engine firing up, there was only a click.  Oops, bit strange, but no one had noticed and I tried again.  This time the starter motor whirred, but to no effect.  Tried again, same result.
Lid of fuse box with faulty relay.

The little crowd was really taking an interest now, getting their money's worth, so to speak, no doubt relishing the sight of a 63-year-old poseur in a flash motor going nowhere fast.  Nothing for it, have to bluff it out.  Trying to look as if the situation was perfectly normal I casually climbed out of the car (or as casually as one can climb out of a Morgan) closed the door and ambled off towards our room, where Stephanie had been making a cup of tea.

I broke the news that our plans for the weekend were rapidly falling apart, and that after a cuppa I would have to phone the RAC.  However before doing so I could not resist having another try at starting the engine, so returned to the car.  The onlookers perked up at my reappearance, and watched eagerly as I got in and turned the key.  But they were disappointed, because the engine fired immediately and I proceeded through the arch with no problem.

But despite what we tried to tell ourselves there obviously was a problem.  However, over dinner we managed to convince ourselves it was something and nothing.  Perhaps the long journey on a hot day had overheated some electrical component or other, and all would be well tomorrow.  We were clutching at straws, and knew it.

Tomorrow dawned not quite as nice as yesterday, as there was some cloud cover.  But it was dry and warm, so we removed the hood and stashed it behind the seats.  The engine caught immediately, but cut out after a couple of seconds.  Oh no!  Tried again, and everything seemed fine so we set off for Anglesey Abbey.  Deep down we knew it wasn't fine, but after half an hour with no trouble we began to think that maybe, just maybe, the problem was only a blip after all.

But then the engine hesitated and spluttered.  Only for a second, but it was enough.  For the rest of the ride to Anglesey Abbey we waited for more problems to arise, but none came.  Spent a very nice morning looking round the house and gardens, then left for our next destination, Ickworth.
Interior of fuse box (replacement pink)

As we bowled along the quiet Cambridgeshire lanes we began to feel optimistic that the problem, whatever it was, had cured itself.  The car had behaved perfectly after the morning's two hiccups.  Perhaps a bit of dirt in the fuel system had worked its way through?

But our hopes were dashed when the engine cut out with no warning, and we coasted to a halt.  Luckily it was quiet, and we posed no hazard to other traffic.  After a couple of minutes I was able to restart the engine and we set off again, but clearly something was seriously wrong.  That proved correct, because a couple of miles further on we came to another halt.  Once again our luck (if you can call it that) held, and it was not dangerous.

Again, after a few minutes wait, we were able to restart and at that point the best plan seemed to be to return to the hotel and call the RAC.  With the benefit of hindsight that was not a wise decision.  We arrived at a tee junction in the village of Cheveley, where we needed to turn right.  Halfway across the junction the engine stopped, leaving us in a very dangerous and vulnerable situation.  Thankfully there was no other traffic, but you have never seen two people exit a Morgan so quickly and begin to push it.  Almost opposite the junction was a road leading to a little housing estate, and there we parked.

We realised it would be foolish to continue.  Three times we had been lucky, next time might be different, so I put in a call to the RAC.

The lady who answered the phone was marvellous, and could not have been more helpful and reassuring.  She even phoned us back, so our Pay As You Go mobile did not run out of money.  We were promised a two-hour wait, but in fact the patrolman arrived in less than an hour.

Colin, for that was his name, listened attentively to our description of the problem then plugged his laptop into the car's diagnostic system.  That did not reveal anything, so he left the engine ticking over until, after a couple of minutes it cut out.  We hoped that would provide a clue, but again the laptop did not come up with anything.

By this time Colin was convinced it was a fuel problem.  He opened the petrol cap and put his ear to the filler hole.  By doing so he was able to hear the pump working  (That component leads a miserable existence, sealed away inside the petrol tank)  Colin invited me to listen, and the pump was indeed audible.  After a while the noise stopped, followed a second later by the engine doing the same.  I also heard it myself.  We were getting somewhere.

After some head scratching Colin decided to check the fuel pump relay. It was so hot he burned his fingers on the pins, which had become discoloured by the heat.  The problem had been found, but where could a replacement relay be sourced on a Saturday afternoon in the rural depths of Cambridgeshire?

Just as we were resigning ourselves to an aborted holiday, and a trip home on the back of a recovery truck, Colin had a brainwave.  He realised the relay for the starter motor was the same type as the one for the fuel pump, and simply swapped them over.  The dodgy relay would be able to handle the intermittent work for the starter, at least until we could purchase a new one.  The engine ticked over for a quarter of an hour without stopping, which seemed to prove that Colin's diagnosis was correct.

The hotel was reached with no further trouble, though to be honest we had lost confidence and were on tenterhooks the whole way.

Next morning, after breakfast, we made the hour's trip to Holton and again there was no problem.  After spending a very pleasant day with the family, including giving rides to five people, it was back to the hotel.

We set off for home on Monday morning, again feeling a little anxious as we were taking the direct route along very busy dual carriageways.  But after an hour or so we began to relax and enjoy the ride.  We took the opportunity to divert to Hartlebury, where Ben Duncan supplied us with a new relay.  Touch wood, everything has been OK since then.

So the little holiday was not quite the idyllic experience of my imagination, though we can laugh about it now.  Never mind, I'm sure we will try again during 2012 with better luck.   

Dennis J Duggan

MSCC 14197