Saturday, April 6, 2013

Saturday 6 April

The National Vintage Tractor Road Run is held on Easter Sunday every year. We first took part 4 years ago after B. had restored the Fendt tractor we had brought back from a holiday in Holland (yes, unusual souvenir!). We enjoyed it so much that we went again the following year and haven't missed one since. They go to a different part of the country each year, and so far we've been to Pembrokeshire, which was quite a trek, and last year to Cumbria, which had a spectacular route along the Solway Firth.

This year it was held in Chepstow, a stone's throw across the Severn and just in Wales.

We left at the end of the afternoon on Good Friday and got to the Racecourse late at night, where the road run would start from on Sunday. After a quick snack it was time to snuggle down in the lorry which has a bed in the back of the cab. B. and I always argue over the heating in the cab - he was right in that it was a very cold weekend and that the cab doesn't hold much heat, but I like my bedroom to be cool, and specially so when you're sharing a single bed for a couple of nights. B. likes things to be warm - too warm for me. He had the cab heater fixed a few years ago and insists on using it, but he sleeps anywhere and anytime, whereas I like it to be fairly quiet and as I said, fairly cool. So yet again in this lorry I had a fitful night until I told him I was switching the heating off - he promptly fell back asleep, woke up a few hours later and told me 'it is reaching freezing point in here you know' and promptly fell back asleep again. Grrr men!
We woke up to lots of lorries with tractors arriving so we unloaded ours too and had a look around and then took the lorry into Chepstow to go and do a bit of sightseeing.

Before visiting Chepstow Castle we wandered over to the old iron bridge over the Wye, although at the time we didn't think about it and thought it was the Severn... duh!

After that we explored Chepstow Castle which was cold but lovely. Fantastic thick walls, beautiful views from the top. Occasionally we even had a bit of sunshine.

We stopped for a coffee in town and then walked back to the lorry which we'd parked in the Tesco carpark, taking up 4 spaces... at least we'd parked in the furthest corner from the entrance and there were still spaces in the car park when we came back!

We then drove on to Tintern Abbey, which I'd seen on a leaflet that was sent out with our registration form for the tractor run and looked to be worth a visit. After a spot of lunch in the lorry

(I'd been quite busy preparing a coolbox full of food before we left) we had a long look around Tintern Abbey which was stunning. I just couldn't stop taking photos. It's an incredible piece of craftsmanship, specially considering the time it was built, and it makes me very sad that something so beautiful was allowed to fall into ruin.

I could have spent a whole day there just taking photos and marvelling at the beauty of it all, but we wanted to drive back along a scenic road and needed to get the tractor registered and in the line-up too, so we left Tintern Abbey behind and drove back to the racecourse. Every time we do sightseeing with the lorry, I enjoy finding little roads on the map that promise to be beautiful, and every time we do one of those, I think 'no, shouldn't have done that one with the lorry' (ours is not very large but it's not like driving a car!). And every time when we're safely back on a normal road, I apologise to B. who will look over at me grinning saying 'that was fun!'

Saturday evening is normally a meal and entertainment. This year's run almost didn't go ahead as the venue where it was supposed to be held, fell through about a week before the run. Chepstow Racecourse came to the rescue and it was a very good venue too, but something didn't go quite right with the Saturday evening - we turned up and were served one bap with some pork and a bit of apple sauce, and that was it. Normally it's a decent two course meal - just what you want when you've been outside all day. I suspect a miscommunication with the catering, but speaking to other road runners it seemed most people left hungry! The Sunday morning breakfast and the meal at the lunchtime stop on the run were brilliant and the rest of it was all very smoothly organised.

On Saturday night I put my foot down about the heating and said I wasn't having it switched on once we were in bed. B. knew better than to argue with me and I finally managed to have a decent night sleep. Amazing how much better you feel after some sleep!
After a hearty breakfast we got the tractor to the line-up and spent an enjoyable hour looking around at all the other tractors. Most of them are the tractors which were in use on farms 50, 60 years ago, but you do get the odd more unusual one (ours is one which was never made in Britain and we thought it was the only one here, as B. imported it from the US a couple of years ago. We met someone who told us that he'd owned one too a few years ago and sold it on, it wasn't ours but it sounds as though there could be a few around). The unusual ones tend to get all the attention.

B. was rather in love with this one. I think he would have swapped it for ours (not me!)

Ours (on the right) parked next to one of its siblings (on the left).

The road run itself was... different. It's mostly men driving the tractors - men who often have a farming background and were practically born on a tractor. I have no farming background at all and until I met B, I'd never driven anything other than an ordinary car. I like driving this tractor but it's a challenge, one that requires a lot of concentration. This road run was mostly offroad, and although the scenery was spectacular, I also felt very much out of my depth, specially as it was quite hilly where we were. When just before the lunchtime stop we had to go downhill, go through a rocky ford and turn sharply left uphill, I had a little tantrum and gave up. I was so tired and just couldn't think anymore how to get through it safely. To my relief my mini nervous breakdown wasn't recorded by the photographer on the corner of the ford!

I felt much better after a coffee and a decent lunch, but decided to leave the controls to B during the second part. It was nice to be able to look around a bit more without worrying about taking my eyes off the road!

Before we knew it, we were back at the racecourse where there were already a lot of people loading up and leaving.

We'd been invited by someone local for a cup of tea and to have a look at their tractor collection. They lived in a few valleys along and we both enjoyed the scenery along the route to their farm - lots of snowy mountains! Wales is definitely a beautiful part of the country.
After they'd dropped us back off at the lorry again, we decided to try and make it home that evening. It was 11yo's birthday the next day and although I didn't have to pick the kids up till later, I was also looking forward to a night's sleep in a normal sized bed. We drove across the old Severn Bridge in the daylight

and I managed to get this shot of the estuary from inside the moving lorry, which I was quite pleased with!

B. did all the driving and we got home just after midnight, tired but with happy memories. It was a lovely weekend, the weather was cold but dry and even sunny on Sunday, we'd done lots and we're already talking about going next year to Shropshire...