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Autumn Leaves - 3rd November 2013

This was the 11th running of this tour, promoted by HRCR, and the last round for 2013 of the HRCR Scenic Tours Series, sponsored by Clayton Classics. Our journey from Devon had been very wet and windy, but, after crossing the Severn Bridge, the weather improved. By the time we had arrived at the start venue at The Gavellers Café in the Beechenhurst Enclosure, deep in the Royal Forest of Dean, a real weather change had happened. Here, there was a true autumn feel in the air and the sun was now glinting through the trees, making a beautiful morning picture with the classic cars parked under the trees.

The range of vehicles entered on this tour, with models from 1946 to 2003, was perhaps the widest we have seen on any tour this year. Notables included an Austin A90 Atlantic, Austin A35, Ford Corsair, Ford Anglia, Volvo Amazon, Gilbern Invader Mk111 and a very pretty Royale Sabre, crewed by Peter and Gloria Gurton. The usual signing-on formalities were being dealt with speedily in the café by Peter Ball and his colleagues. However, the traditional breakfast roll took on a whole new meaning here - it was a full English breakfast, housed in nice large soft baps! Coupled with a choice of hot or cold drinks, this was a great way to start the day!

There was now time to mark up the excellent, clear and well-designed road book. At 09.15 hours, there was a drivers’ briefing by Paul Loveridge, advising us that there would be a number of manned passage checks during the tour and also code boards to be noted on our record card - just to make sure we all followed the organisers’ chosen route. 10.01 hours arrived and Car 1 of the 51 entrants left the Beechenhurst Enclosure for Leg 1, which was to be a distance of 32.22 miles. The roads on this leg were quite open and gave us some wonderful autumn views. The steep descent at Purton gave splendid views of the River Severn, which was very brown in colour and fast-flowing, due to the recent heavy rains.

Continuing on via Soudley, Cinderford and Littledean, we travelled on more open roads that offered many views of the autumn colours in the morning sunshine. On arrival in Mitcheldean, we turned into The Mews – a former brewery, now serving as a base for several local businesses. After handing in our record card, the marshals directed us to our parking space and we made our way to The Well Wisher Café for the first rest halt of the day. The rustic café had a wonderful atmosphere and the range of home-made cakes and biscuits was splendid; this plus a wide range of hot and cold drinks made for a very pleasant 45-minute break.

The crews left the halt in number order, with the record card being returned at the Out Control - a superb idea that does prevent convoys of cars. Leaving Mitcheldean behind, we were soon out on to quiet country roads that offered fantastic valley views as we traversed the contours, one in particular being the climb through the forest in the Howel Hill area. Passing through Ruardean, a steep drop took us to the A4136 and onto Worral Hill and Bicknor. Next on the agenda was the village of Shortstanding, before another short section back on the A4136. We then continued on our way passing through Clearwell and St. Briavels, which has history dating back to the days of King John of England. The route then joined the main A466, following another very brown and swollen river - this time the River Wye - to Llandogo and then to Tintern Station for the second halt of the day. This second leg had added another 33.10 miles to the tour total.

Once more, the team of marshals did a first-class job of squeezing all the entrants into the car park and again relieved us of our record card. Armed with our next refreshment vouchers, we headed to the Old Station buildings and joined the queue for our refreshments. Well, we thought the range of home-made cakes was good at Mitcheldean - but here it was another world! The choice was vast - even scones and Welsh cakes on offer and the portions very generous. Honest, doctor - they were all calorie-free!

Leaving the Old Station, we collected our record card again and drove along the side of the river, passing Tintern Abbey. Sadly, the weather had now changed and we were experiencing some spasmodic rain - not good for the open-top cars. At Tulip 13 (unlucky for some), there was a short - 0.19 mile section - of unsurfaced road, with the turn right between the banks not being easy to find. Fortunately however, our Brantz was spot on to the hundredth here - and - guess what?! - there was a marshal waiting just before rejoining the tarmac! Another loop of superb roads took us past Narth and then by Penault Old Church. We were now into some quite demanding climbs and descents in the Whitebrook Valley area, finishing with crossing the river again - this time at the Over Bigsweir Bridge. We then traversed the A466, which hugged the river bank through Redbrook and on to Edge End and Broadwell. A short run from Broadwell brought us to the finish venue at the magnificent Forest Hills Golf Club, this last section having added another 41.66 miles to the day’s total.

On arrival in the dining room, we were soon served with our choice of starter, followed by an outstanding carvery, with 3 varieties of meat on offer, and, to finish the meal, there was a very extensive dessert menu to choose from. The change of finish venue for this tour had been a very good move indeed - the food was faultless and service excellent. This was our 4th year of entering the Autumn Leaves and, despite inflation, we were pleased to note that the organisers had not increased the entry fee since 2010. In our opinion, this tour, with the quality of paperwork, rally plate, finishers’ awards, breakfast, 2 refreshment breaks, drinks and a 5-star meal to finish with, offered exceptional value for the entry fee we paid. Our congratulations to Paul, Peter and the team, plus all those marshals who made the tour happen.

Hilary and Mike Stratton plus Dippy Car 32

Our sincere thanks to Peter Fieldhouse for all his help in proof-reading and editing our report. 

Next year is the 30th Anniversary of the HRCR and the Autumn Leaves will run a 2-day format on the 25th / 26th October, centred on Llandrindod Wells. To be added to the mailing list for the event, just email: paul.rally@btconnect.com