29 cars, including 4 moderns, from far and wide converged on Blakeney on Friday afternoon, most with trouble free journeys but there were a couple of tales of derring-do.
Gill and Graham Watkin lost a wheel assembly – never to be seen again – on the M11 in the early hours and arrived with their car on top of the remains of their trailer on top of the recovery truck! The trailer now resides in a Norfolk scrapyard. Tom and Lis made it to Kings Lynn after breaking down three times but were eventually recovered back to Derby getting in bed at midnight only to be up at 4:00 am to have another go in their Abarth and reached Blakeney for breakfast on Saturday!
The programme proper started on Saturday with showers and strong winds forecast and we headed south down the coast for the short trip to the Muckleburgh Collection. This was the first time we could line all the cars up in one place – what a sight! Muckleburgh is the largest private military collection in the country. The site has a long history dating back to the Spanish Armada in 1588 but it was acquired in the early 80’s and the collection established in 1988. Today there are over 150 tanks, guns and vehicles together with a vast assortment of other memorabilia.
From here we made the short trip to the charming little town of Holt, where, since my early recces, Holt Town Council had enthusiastically publicised our visit throughout the town with many of the shops adopting an Italian theme. Indeed, the owner of an art gallery next to our allotted parking space had contacted the local Fiat dealer to get them to display a new Collezione outside his shop, put fiat 500 posters in his window and even dressed as an Italian character – what a star! The cars attracted great interest throughout our stay and in the words of the town clerk quoted in the local paper we created a “great vibe”!
The wind was still storm force, and to our great relief, the skipper of the seal boat trip, which was next on the itinerary, called to say that he thought it would be too dangerous to venture out at Blakeney Point to see the seals. Instead, we took a drive down to Cromer and back along the coast road taking in some dramatic views of the North Sea rollers coming ashore.
Sunday dawned with a calmer and sunnier forecast and this time we headed north up the coast road passing through some delightful villages such as Stiffkey, Holkam and Burnham before turning inland at Brancaster and setting out across country to our coffee stop at the Royal Station at Wolferton.
A whole article could be written about the Royal Station but suffice it to say that, for many of us, this was the highlight of the weekend. For over one hundred years, Wolferton was probably the most famous rural station in England. This is where the Royals arrived when they travelled to Sandringham so Kings, Queens, Emperors and Empresses and the high society of the day passed through the station, from Queen Victoria, the Royal families of Europe to Queen Elizabeth the 2nd. The last train ran in 1969 but Richard Brown, a very generous-hearted Yorkshireman, bought the station in 2001 and has since restored it to its former glory so it now looks as it would have done in the 19th century. This is a fantastic example of the vision and generosity of one man saving a slice of history for future generations.
Our fascinating visit was topped off by our very own pop up tea-room brilliantly provided by Lianna, Richard, Rob, Naomi and Sophia with both an Italian theme and “Brief Encounter” soundtrack. Many thanks to them.
After a parade lap of Wolferton village for the benefit of the video photographer, it was time to make the short trip to Sandringham. At the very last moment, we were given permission to enter the estate by the Scenic Drive – known locally as the “Duke of Edinburgh’s garden”. This is a lovely one and half mile single track meander through the woods taking us to a specially allocated parking area. By this time the wind had dropped and the sun was shining so lots of people could drool at our cars and we could enjoy looking around the house, gardens, church and museum.
At mid-afternoon we left Sandringham along the magnificent Kings Drive, a two mile tree-lined avenue which took us through Anmer, where William and Kate have their country home. From there we trundled through Burnham Market – a honey pot for tourists – the sight of 30 500s getting everyone waving!
After a brief ice cream stop and look around the harbour at Wells-next-the-sea, we arrived at Morston Quay to board our chartered boat for the re-arranged trip out to Blakeney point to see the seals. Blakeney Point has the largest seal colony in England with over 2,700 pups born in 2017. We certainly saw a few but not that many! The water was relatively calm and the even the “waverers” with no sea legs enjoyed the trip.
Our final morning dawned with 32 of us heading through the sunshine to Holt to catch the North Norfolk steam train for the short trip to Sheringham and back. Being bank holiday, it was a Thomas the Tank Engine Special so the Fat Controller, Thomas and Percy were entertaining the youngsters. If I had thought about it before we could have made it a “Murder on the Sheringham Express” outing with Gino as Hercule Poirot.
After a delightful return trip through the Norfolk countryside we returned to Holt to say our goodbyes and wend our way home.
I need to say a few thanks you’s – to Rod and Sally who twice helped us on our recce visits, to Sir Michael Savory, the owner of Muckleburgh for letting us display our fleet, to Richard Neech and Elaine Oliver of Holt Town Council for all they did to welcome us and make our visit a great event for the town, and particular thanks also to Richard Brown who opened up his very special Royal Station for us and to the staff at the Blakeney Manor Hotel who couldn’t have really done any more for us and dealt with such a large and sometimes noisy group with aplomb.
But the biggest thanks must go to all who came from far and wide to take part. Mandy and I really enjoyed planning the weekend for what is a very special group. Even when there is a navigational glitch and we all seem to be heading in different directions, it all seems to be part of the experience! It was especially nice to see not just regular faces but new faces and young faces, which must bode well for the future of the club.
On reflection, I think we really had too many cars but I just couldn’t say no, even to those who contacted me just a few days before – the sight in the rear-view mirror on the mile-long straights of a line of 500s as far as you could see was very special and unforgettable.
Steve & Mandy Edmonds