LUDLOW AND THE MARCHES CLASSIC TOUR - SUNDAY 12TH OCTOBER 2014

Welcome to our report on the Ludlow and Marches Classic Tour, organised by Ludlow Castle Motor Club. A classic tour is a new venture for Ludlow MC, the club of course having a very proven track record in other fields of motorsport - especially road rallies - for those of us who are old enough to remember the good old days of 1” OS maps and The Peak Revs Road Rally - an event which still survives today. 

This tour was the penultimate round of the 18-event series of the HRCR Scenic Tours 2014, sponsored by Clayton Classics. The tour was organised by joint Clerks of the Course Malcolm Oxborrow and Ken Lloyd, assisted by Elaine Oxborrow and members of the Ludlow Castle MC. Malcolm has a wealth of experience in both seats of competition cars, spending a number of years guiding Phil Darbyshire around the lanes and forest tracks in the days when a Mini was the car to have, so we were sure to have a good route for the tour. 

Before we embark on the tour report, a few words about the entrants. Most of the regular tour crews were there as expected and entries had also been received from the tour organisers of Taith Cymru, the Corinium Run, the Hills and Valleys, the Wolverhampton Tour and the Classic Harvest Tour. Many well-known motorsport personalities had also put in an entry, perhaps tempted along because of Malcolm’s considerable knowledge of this area. John & Christine Dyas brought along their MGB GT, Rob Lyall had Bill Morris guiding his Eunos Roadster around, Mike Sones and Mark Barnes were in a Mazda MX5, Dave and Vi Lucas had entered a Quantum 2x2 (if to me it looked much more like a VW Scirocco!), Nick and Jill Jones were in their regularly-used MGB, Jeremy and Jennie Dixon were in their immaculate MG Midget, Ian and Susan Butcher entered their Porsche Boxster and Jim Porter had Jo reading the road book for him in the very nice Morgan. 

Mini rally ace Clive King was trying a new branch of motoring, having brought along a very smart Scimiter GTE with Paul Kendrick and Sue Walmsley guiding the way. Another notable entry was the Mini Cooper - Car 52 - driven by another Nick Jones and navigated by 8-year old Oliver Jones - now is that the youngest navigator on a tour?!  He told us he would like to be a rally co-driver when he grows up – an excellent ambition!

The start venue was at the Ludlow Brewing Company in the heart of Ludlow - an ideal venue with plenty of car parking for the 50-plus entries and superb indoor facilities. For breakfast, we were treated to sumptuous croissants and Danish pastries - all fresh from a local baker - a nice change to start the day. We were to start as Car 1 and a special word had been had with Hilary about making no mistakes today because it would show! More of this anon, I am afraid. At 09.01, hours we left the Ludlow Brewery behind and headed out for the first leg of the tour and, as we joined the A49, the sun started to burn off the mist to give way to a fantastic day. The route was soon climbing and this gave some stunning views of the lingering mist in the valleys with the autumn colours peeking through. At Hopton Heath we had our first navigational glitch - not too bad and soon sorted. 

The route continued through Hopton Forest and Black Hill Forestry (this one used on stage rallies until the mid-seventies) - again with more fantastic views to be had. Next came Clun Castle and the climb to the Kerry Forest (this one used for a period of some 50 years for stage rallying) and now the valley views were just getting better and better - possibly just booked for the tour! We were then treated to some more open, flowing roads through Hodley, which brought the tour to Gregynog Hall for the first rest halt. The house, which is about 150 years old, is a stunning half-timbered building set in beautiful grounds, making a wonderful backdrop for the classic cars. The home-made cakes were an added delight! A 50-minute break was allowed here to take a stroll of the gardens in the morning sun – and it was just like summer! 

Rest over and the cars were once again released at minute intervals to stop convoys on the roads. For us, this did not go too well as, somehow, Hilary had managed to try and exit the estate via the wrong road! Realizing her mistake we stopped and we were soon joined by Derek and Kath Peckett who had also made the same blunder! Four heads and a little help from a helpful local and the OS map helped us retrace our steps to the correct route. Climbing high on the quiet 3-ply roads to the height of the wind farms soon gave more magnificent views all the way to Carno. Dropping down after 11 cattle grids, one could have been forgiven for thinking you were in Austria as the vista was amazing. 

A network of very interesting lanes brought Leg 2 to an end in Llanfair Caereinion - another area steeped in rally history.  For the lunch break, the very good facilities at the railway station were used. After a 1-hour break, the cars were released at minute intervals for Leg 3 of the tour. 

This section would use some very interesting lanes that would have been well used on night rallies in the past, passing via Brooks and on to Montgomery. More classic roads took the route over the Shropshire border to the Crown Inn at Clunton for a 20-minute coffee and biscuit break. 

Leg 4 started with some challenging roads through Clunton Coppice Nature Reserve and Hopton Heath, before crossing into the county of Herefordshire. Due to road works at Tulip 136, a re-route had been arranged by the organisers taking the route via Overton and Ludford and re-joining the originally-planned route at Tulip 139. The final part of the route used the private road through the grounds of Oakley Park - part of the Earl of Plymouth’s Estate - which brought the crews to the end of the tour at the Ludlow Food Centre, where each was presented with the finisher’s award of a bottle of Ludlow Beer that had been specially labelled for the tour. The Food Centre served an excellent hot 2-course meal to refresh the crews, whilst all could talk over the day’s events. 

A massive thank you to Malcolm, Ken and the Ludlow Team, plus all the marshals who made this tour take place. A first-class road book and paperwork, a stunning route of just under 130 miles and the choice of perfect venues - your tour deserves a gold star for its very good value.

Photographs Courtesy of Ian Francis of IF Image Cymru

For more information on other tour events, log onto www.hrcrscenictours.co.uk and www.classictourdiary.co.uk

Our sincere thanks once again to Peter Fieldhouse for proof-reading and editing our report.

Hilary and Mike Stratton plus Dippy - Car 1