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Hills & Valleys Tour - 19th May 2013

Round 5 of the HRCR Scenic Tours, sponsored by Clayton Classics, was organised by Kidderminster Car Club in the counties of Shropshire, Montgomeryshire and Powys. The tour was sponsored by Marflow Engineering Ltd., with company owner Paul Fennel running as Car 1 in his beautiful Austin Healey 3000 Mk 111. Another notable on the entry list was Jim Porter - the very famous co-driver to the late Roger Clark. This time, Jim had swapped seats and was driving an MG TF 1500 of 1954 vintage - another immaculate car.

As in past years, the Bridge Inn at Dorrington was the host venue for the start and finish of the tour and, as usual, served up superb bacon baps to begin the day. The day started with an overcast sky but, by the time Car 1 left the start, a change was on the way and it was to turn into one of the best weather days we have had this year. The Road Book was very comprehensive, with overall maps of each section showing some of the tulip numbers, which would be of great help to any entrant who took a wrong turn and needed to get back on route.

Leaving the start in the direction of Stapleton, we were soon in the quiet lanes passing through Longden, Plealey, Pontesbury and Asterley. Included in the road book were sections on points of interest and the history of buildings and places we were passing by - this does add another nice dimension to the tour. Leaving the low roads behind, we took the gradual climb onto the Long Mountain that rises to 408m at its highest point. The views of Wales and England from the ridge road were stunning. Then came the long drop down from the mountain, with more magnificent views across to the town of Welshpool - in 1.8 miles there is a drop in height of some 340 metres!

Welshpool was quite busy with tourists and a lot of interest was shown in the classic cars as we passed through onto the first halt of the day at the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway. Here the entrants were treated to the sight of an immaculate small steam railway engine and period coaches and, as an added bonus, a Swinging Sixties Celebration with ‘flower-power’ was in progress - with mouth watering cup cakes for sale! In the first leg, we had travelled 22.7 miles and, after a 40 minute break, it was time to start Leg 2.

Leaving the trains behind, we motored from Welshpool to the north for a few miles and then to the northwest via Llangyniew and Llwydiarth to cross the river Vyrnwy at Pont Llogel. We were now treated to some miles on the roads around the Dyfnant Forest area that are well known to those club members who are involved with forest rallies. Because of the long winter, there were still plenty of spring flowers and blossom to be seen here. A very old single-track wooden bridge took the route across the river again at Pont Wan and onto the area around Lake Vyrnwy - with the scenery just getting better and better. A turn left across the narrow dam road, which dates back to the 1880s, before a 90-right to start the anti-clockwise loop of over 10 miles around the lake.

This section of the route was quite busy with many walkers and cyclists, who were out, like us, enjoying sights and sun. This was the first time driver Mike had travelled this road in daylight, having been here many times on road rallies in the 60s and 70s. The comment was, “It looks much better in the sun!” We had now driven another 33.8 miles to the Lake Vyrnwy Hotel, where the organisers had arranged for all the 49 cars entered to be parked on the Helipad, sitting high above the hotel. This gave the best views in the house and an ideal place to take our picnic lunch. Looking across the lake, one could have been fooled into thinking you had been transported to Canada - the views and reflections were to die for!

After 70 minutes of lazing in the sun, it was time to start up the car for Leg 3, which would take the tour to Bryngwyn Hall and add another 29.5 miles to the route. The villages passed through were Pen-Y-Bontfawr, Llanrhaeadr-Ym-Mochnant to Bwlchyddar and again the roads chosen here were just perfect for a classic tour. Towards the end of Leg 3, the route took in the ridge road known as Cefn Bran, for more fantastic views to the distant mountains. Next came the small town of Llanfyllin, before turning off the highway to the private road leading to Bryngwyn Hall.

The hall is a Grade 2 listed building and the present owner, Lady Linlithgow, was there to welcome the entrants to her hall for afternoon tea. The home-made cakes and biscuits were first class! The Lady had also agreed for us all to take a stroll in her beautiful gardens, which fell away from the house to two lakes in the valley and, despite the bad weather we have been experiencing this year, there were still plenty of beautiful colours to see. The hall, dating back to 1773, has a very interesting history and additional information can be found by logging onto: www.bryngwyn.com 

The 40 minute break at the hall passed very quickly and it was soon time to say goodbye to Lady Linlithgow and start Leg 4 of the tour. In just over 5 miles we passed through Sarnau - more memories of road rallies - and then to Four Crosses. The narrow traffic light-controlled bridge took us over the River Severn and then to a right turn signposted ‘Rodney’s Pillar’. This road passed close to the stunning sheer cliff face of the Breidden Hill, which is an extinct volcanic hill. The quarries here today produce road-stone.

Now travelling in a south-easterly direction, the tour route passed through Crewgreen, Coedway and Princes Oak. Next came the Loton Park Hill Climb course at Alberbury. There was much activity here as a meeting was in progress - sadly no time to stop as dinner was calling. We then passed a number of farms that were growing rape in their fields - what a sight the vibrant yellow made in the afternoon sun! Sadly, the next village sign to be passed was Stapleton, which meant that the Bridge Inn was just around the corner and the tour had come to an end, Leg 4 adding another 31.1 miles to the day’s total.

On arrival here, there was a excellent spread of food, with a choice of two hot and one cold main course, plus a selection of delicious desserts - what more could we ask for to end a perfect day? Congratulations to the organising team at Kidderminster Motor Car Club for all the hard work that had gone into making this tour happen. The choice of route, roads, rest halts and delightful food was just the right recipe. Added to this, the wealth of information contained in the Road Book was first-rate. We shall look forward one day to repeating the drive and re-visiting the places en route. To those who did not enter this year - you missed something special! Get your entry in early for 2014 - good news spreads fast!

Our sincere thanks to Peter Fieldhouse for all his help in editing our report.

Photographs courtesy of Kevin Baldwin, full coverage of the tour can be viewed at www.kbbphotography.co.uk

Hilary and Mike Stratton plus Dippy Car 16