NGOC National Rally 2012 (15-17 June)
Celebrating 31 Years of the NG Owners Club

Riverside Caravan Park, Tiddington Road, Stratford-upon-Avon

National Rally Stratford 2012

“Batten down the hatches – another storm is threatening to wreak havoc across the country – nearly 2” of rain – more than half the average rainfall for the entire month – is expected to fall during Friday & Saturday.” Not to mention strong winds up to 60mph! Flood warnings were also in evidence – just what we needed at Stratford where we had been forced to cancel a previous rally due to the river overflowing.

This year the site management had assured us that the river levels were OK and that poor management of the river sluices etc had caused the previous floods. However, that didn’t cover the waterlogged ground and soggy grass. Over the last few days before the rally it was touch-and-go whether we would be allowed to camp in the rally field. The driving tests were the first casualty and, on the Thursday, we were informed that we could camp on the rally field and erect our marquee.

Arriving around lunchtime on Friday, the marquee supplier soon joined us; much scratching of heads but there was no way their heavy lorry would be able to stray off the tarmac road; the team were forced to relay all the heavy kit from the road to the intended marquee location. Unfortunately for them, we couldn’t site the marquee near the road because that was a low point and very soggy indeed. After a couple of hours of hard labour the marquee was in place and we felt that we now had the beginnings of a rally.

The hot water boiler was soon filled and switched on awaiting Bob & Manda with their V8TF pulling their heavily loaded trailer with the vital ingredients for our first cuppa. Bob & Manda are owed a big vote of thanks for bringing a lot of heavy kit for the refreshments, a gazebo to cover the BBQs and much more besides.

With a few willing helpers, the gazebo was soon up and expected to be very much needed with the heavy rain forecast over the weekend. During a normal summer, we would have sited the three BBQs on the southern side of the marquee where we could best enjoy the early morning sun whilst cooking our breakfast bacon, not to mention the evening sessions. However, due to the prevailing SW wind we decided to break with tradition and position the BBQs on the leeward side and bring the gazebo up tight against the side of the marquee for maximum shelter against the expected rain. This arrangement worked well and provided good cover during the mass cookout on Saturday evening.

In the meantime, our signage expert, Jeff Stretch, had been out and placed his magnificent rally signs in appropriate places so that there would be no doubt about visitors finding the rally field.

Friday was a day of heavy showers and bright spells with strong winds. With such a poor forecast we were not surprised to hear that a number of erstwhile campers had decided that they were not prepared to spend a weekend under canvas and made other arrangements. Finding that the last few static caravans had been booked by NGOC members, these members were pointed towards a new type of accommodation, namely ‘snugs’ (see photo). There were six snugs positioned along the boundary hedge with our rally field and so very convenient for the rally. The snugs are made entirely from wood and are supplied with heaters, beds, fridge and not much else. For a further small fee one could hire a camping pack with stove, pans etc. Most people seemed to bring their own camping gear instead. Several of our members hired snugs, the last three being ‘snapped up’ towards the end of the week after the forecasters had confirmed the wet & windy outlook. The snugs even had their own shower block – very exclusive!

In spite of the weather, we still had a reasonable number of tents, motor caravans, folding caravan & a trailer tent. Surprisingly, nearly all the members who had booked for the weekend turned up.

On Friday afternoon, Mary Clark beavered away with the finishing touches to a most sumptuous feast planned for the evening. When everyone had sat down for the meal, there were at least 50 people – a good attendance for a Friday evening. Mary & her band of helpers had laid out the food in a buffet using trestle tables in the centre of the marquee and there was soon a buzz of conversation as people headed for the buffet & started to fill their plates, all the while taking the opportunity for a bit of ‘catching up’ – not surprising when you think that quite a few members only get to see each other once a year at the National Rally. Thank-you Mary for providing another marvellous meal. After the main meal had been completed we were treated to a wonderful surprise by Barbara Hoyle who turned up with a great selection of scrumptious puds for which all present were very grateful.

After the meal had been eaten, and a certain amount of wine partaken of, the scene was set for our quiz. This year, Paul Bennett very kindly offered to ‘have a go’ and what a good job he did. The questions were divided into 5 categories and, as is usual on such occasions, caused much merriment and heckling from the audience. With a total of 25 questions, the winning team scored 15 so quite challenging! Many thanks Paul (& Bernadette) not only for composing the quiz and acting as quizmaster but also for generously providing prizes.

Saturday dawned dry with a fresh breeze. Donna had driven into Stratford to collect a pile of tourist brochures so that people could visit some of the interesting historic sites in the area. It was a pity that we didn’t have a volunteer to create a treasure hunt this year hence there were no organised runs during the weekend.

However, one of the gems of the site was the electric water-taxi that departed from a jetty on the campsite. The river trip is 1.25 miles of very attractive scenery after which you suddenly arrive in the centre of bustling Stratford. A number of us took this route into town and very pleasant it was too. For those interested in such things, the electric propulsion motor is powered by 16 lead/acid batteries that are able to run for most of the day before re-charging is necessary. The alarming thing was that the batteries only last for 3 years, another instance of an apparently ‘environmentally-friendly’ machine actually being the opposite when taking into account manufacture, disposal etc.

During the morning, Donna had been to Tesco in Stratford to buy the ingredients for the salads etc. to accompany the DIY BBQ. After delivering the ingredients to the marquee, we went off for a walk in the pouring rain along the canal towpath with the intention of returning to the site by 4.30pm to start the food prep. However, we reached the ferry jetty in town about 10 minutes before the ferry was due to depart only to see it disappearing around the first bend in the river with a full load of (7) passengers. We were obviously going to be late back to the site so a quick call to daughter Kate and she willingly went along to the marquee to get the prep started. As is usual on these occasions, there was soon a very willing band of helpers beavering away in the marquee. Mary also supplied further food from the previous evening and made sure that there was plenty in reserve – what a team! The three gas BBQs were as popular as ever for the evening event and it makes for a very sociable activity. It doesn’t seem to matter that most of the ‘cooked’ meat looks black and inedible by the time it is deemed ‘fully cooked’!

After the BBQ meal had been completed we were treated to further scrumptious puds supplied by Barbara. What a great end to a very pleasant evening meal, enjoyed by about 60 people. After the meal was finished, everyone just sat around chatting and enjoying the social interaction with friends old and new. On that subject, it was great to meet several new members who had recently joined the club and were attending the National Rally for the first time – welcome to you all.

Sunday morning dawned dry but very windy; in fact some of the gusts during the preceding night were a real test on the integrity of tents & their supports. There were some showers during the morning & we saw further day-visitors & the usual round of chatting across the bonnets of some very nice cars. As is traditional, members were asked to vote for their favourite cars & we attended a prize giving mid afternoon. Our hard-working chairman, Peter, presented the awards as follows:

Best TA Paul Dales XDF 74

Best TC Colin Padbury ADF 782B

Best TD None

Best TF Chris Humphreys DBY 897M

Best Henley Peter Towner PJT 446J

Concours Cup Alan Goodbun SKN 372M

Cheetham Cup Chris & Sue Hore 3078 NG

Peacock Trophy Chris Humphreys

Editor’s Cup Paul Gray

After the awards ceremony it was time for people to start their journey home although some had booked the 3-night package for caravans and snugs and were staying for Sunday night – not a bad option to avoid the Sunday evening traffic.

Overall, a very pleasant weekend & many thanks to all those who helped to make it happen including those who haven’t been mentioned in this account. A great triumph of hope over adversity; we were determined to enjoy the weekend whatever the weather and enjoy it we did!

Paul Gray