9 May 2011

Welsh National Rally 2011 - Report

My rally weekend started on Friday. I packed my stuff and then had l lunch with Claire, at home, before setting out on the run up to the Youth Hostel in Coalport, near Ironbridge in Shropshire.

The weather was hot and I was wearing my new cordura trousers for the first time.  I had removed the quilted lining for both comfort and to avoid death by over heating.  The run up was pretty straightforward with the satnav deciding on the M1/M6 route.

As it turned out this was a bad idea as apart from the road works plaguing the M25, the M1 was dug up from Luton Airport to past the Bedford junction, with two lanes chocked full of trucks. Whatever happened to the railway for heavy loads.

I stopped for a break and a coffee at the Watford Gap services before continuing.  Petrol seemed to be lasting okay and it was only at Birmingham did I need the first top up.  Managing just over 204 miles for 16.5 litres.  A tip here.  If you are on the M6, avoid the services and their high prices. Take the A34 signed to Birmingham and there's a cheap Shell station about 200 yards from the junction.

I arrived at the YH hostel about 5.30pm and was just checking where to book in when I saw Steve Hazlehurst arriving.  We had a four bed room and staked our claim to the bottom bunks. Sadly we had to share with a cyclist, but it wasn't too much hardship.

Dinner was in the Shakespeare Inn down the road. Good food and a few beers,

We were up early and off to the start. All very easy and the weather was looking good. The plan was to enter for a Platinum Award. To qualify we had to visit 15 unmanned (and answer clues) and 3 manned checkpoints. Plus we signed up for the Dragon Award that was based on airfields, and having to visit four and answer clues. At the start we met up with our third team member, Andrew Pratt.

Our circuit was roughly a counter clockwise tour of North Wales and it seemed this year that there were far more checkpoints down "blind" routes that required a back track than in previous years. In fact there were four, usually just the one, plus these all add miles that in the end are wasted.

In hindsight the tour d'Anglesey was probably a mistake, it was too slow going and cost us a lot of time that we really needed later in the day. That said there is some very attractive scenery up there, and some nice little bays with beaches and sea views.

The trip took us over both the bridges across the Menai, under the towering majesty of Snowdon and down some tiny little tracks suitable for 4x4 and sheep.

Time was getting on and we were looking to make our goal when we arrived to find the bridge we were hoping to cross had closed!  It's a toll bridge and had closed an hour before we arrived. A quick re think of the routes and a re-jig of the plans had us running  out of light rather than time. We ended up looking for a clue in total darkness, and then abandoned the hunt.  We had qualified for a Gold Award and also the Dragon.

It started to rain by the time we left Castle Caerinion and it was in torrential rain that I made my way back on unlit single track roads to Shrewsbury and the A5, then the M54 and M6 to arrive at the hotel I had booked in Coventry.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.  In the end the Formule 1 seems like a cross between a bail hostel, workers doss house and a brothel.  I have stayed in the chain across France and whilst they are cheap, they are usually 100% better than this dump. 

After a lot of not sleeping I was off home at about 8am, finally arriving about 1pm after some stops for coffee to keep awake.

In the end this is probably my last WNR for a few years and it was fun, good to meet up with two friends and ride the excellent scenery.

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pauldevall/sets/72157626673761800/

Routes: http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=1081543


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