As usual when it comes to holidays, Mario gets left at home and ‘brother’ Regie the 4cv convertible gets to play, no offence to Mario but Regie is just a better car for touring, the 850 Dauphine Gordini Engine means we can keep up safely with modern traffic on the road, it’s more comfortable for longer journeys and hasn’t got a roof, which hopefully is a good thing!
This year we had decided to go on an organised car tour – Watton’s Wander, organised by one of James’ rally pals. It was a relaxed four day tour around South Wales. As this was to be our holiday for 2016, we decided to make the trip West worthwhile and spent a couple of days visiting other motoring friends in Devon and Somerset on route. We had a lovely couple of days and Regie spent some time with one of his Girlfriends – Bluebelle a Morris Minor convertible, although he wasn’t so impressed with being left behind while Bluebelle’s humans took us for a ride to the seaside. It was fun and interesting to experience the differences between the two fairly similar classics.
On a rather wet Monday morning we left our friends and set off for Wales. Our first stop and meeting place was The Plough Inn just outside of Llandelio, Carmarthenshire. We arrived in the early evening and had soon joined old friends and fellow entrants in the bar. By the morning the bad weather had cleared and we set off on out first adventure.
Day one – Pembrokeshire Coast and secret coves
After skirting Carmarthen, our first stop off was Laugharne, the home of Dylan Thomas. The Castle looked lovely but their was a very high tide and the area around it was flooded!
A few miles further on was the famous Pendine Sands, unfortunately the high tide meant we couldn’t see the vast sands used for motor racing but we spend an interesting time at the Babs Museum. Babs was a land speed record car from the 20’s, the driver John Parry-Thomas was killed on the sands in Babs and the car was buried in the sand dunes until 1969 when it was exhumed and restored. The car spends much of it’s time at Brookland’s but luckily for us it was at Pendine.
We had a lovely picturesque drive along the beautiful coastline, stopping off in St David’s to see the Cathedral and then the Llys-y-Fran reservoir and dam, which was also a Hill Climb course – obviously we had to have a drive up it.
This trip is all very relaxed and not competitive, the benefit of which is you can go off route if you wish. It was disappointing not to see the actual sand at Pendine so we made a detour on our return route. We were hoping to get Regie on the beach for a picture but unfortunately the barrier was locked.
Day two – the Black Mountains and Valleys
A rather chilly and grey day but dry and we were still ‘roof down’. The morning started in the valley’s with some rather tricky map reading designed to take us through a series of fords and some rather bleak mountain roads. Even James who is an experienced rally navigator found the instructions rather unfathomable but with James Mann and Tracy in the Vintage Lagonda we made it through to Llangadog and found a lovely pub for lunch, not long after most of the group joined us. ‘Josephine’ the Lagonda was was originally brought by James Mann’s grandfather in the 30’s and he competed in the Monte Carlo rally in 1936. James and his Brother took Josephine back on the Historic event last year on the 80th anniversary.
We were very impressed that the Welsh farmers had painted the sheep to match Regie!
Towards the end of the day we stopped off at Talley Abbey. The weather was closing in and it looked very dramatic against the dark sky, we weekened for the last few miles back and put the roof up!
Day three – The Brecon Beacons Valley’s and Hidden treasures
It was a beautiful morning as we packed up and left the Plough, for a stunning drive into the Brecon Beacons. The scenery was breathtaking as we traversed a series of mountain roads. Most of the group stopped off at the Penderyn Distillery, there wasn’t enough time for a tour but we stocked up on the lovely Brecon Gin which we had been drinking in the hotel.
Stopping off for lunch at the Mountain Railway and afternoon tea in Brecon itself, we were soon crossing the famous Epynt ranges, home to many well known rallies. The land is owned by the MoD, the army were very much in evidence and we just sneaked through before they began ‘Live firing’! It wasn’t much further to our second hotel the Lake Country Hotel and Spa at Llangammarch Wells.
Day Four – The lakes of the Cambrian Mountains
Our final tour took us back West, the route up through the Elan Valley and the series of reservoirs was truly stunning. At one point a difficult spot of navigation went a little wrong and we ended up through a series of beautiful farms and tiny tracks until arriving at a gate – luckily unlocked and we managed to get through and join the original route.
Lunch was at the seaside in Aberystwyth, fish and chips on the prom in the sunshine. Another stop at at railway drew quite an audience who wanted to know all about Regie and Josephine.
The final drive back to the hotel took in lots of famous rallying roads, through forests, around reservoirs and across moors including this well known remote phonebox ‘Tregarron 262’ where, historically, road rally competitors would phone for instructions.
The cars on the event were a mix of old and new with MG’s, Porsche, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Lagonda and more. Regie performed well and kept up with the Lagonda, everyone was very surprised at how well he went. It was the first time we had been on a trip like this and we really enjoyed it. The event finished with a great dinner at the hotel and a few drinks!, we’d had a fun week with old friends and made some new ones.
The following morning we set off for England, spotting this rather large group of Hillman Imps along the way. We saw quite a few groups of cars or bikes during the week as it is a perfect area with good roads for classic motoring.
On the way back we detoured to Blaenavon, a world heritage site of Industrial Landscape. It was a great place and although we didn’t have time to do most of the attractions we did go to the Ironworks which was an amazing place and well worth the visit. This is somewhere we will try to go back to in the future.