WEEKLY CAR DIARY – A GRAND DAY OUT: THE MOON, CHARLESTOWN & EDEN PROJECT

‘Ey up. Not so much work this week, Gromit but eeh, what a Grand Day Out on Friday:-

Monday: Audi A1 Sport 1.4TFSI, Syston, Leicestershire to Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire; Bentley Continental GT V8S (2015), Newport Pagnell to Syston. Audi A1 Sport 1.4TFSI, Syston to Nottingham and back.

Thursday: Volkswagen Tiguan SE Nav 2.0TDI 4Motion DSG (auto), Kettering, Northamptonshire to Leicester.

Friday: Volkswagen Tiguan SE Nav 2.0TDI 4Motion DSG (auto), Leicester to St. Austell, Cornwall.

By gum, it were a long journey so I were up before crows, stumbling round in t’dark – almost put Wrong Trousers on, I did. Close Shave that was. Would have looked reet stupid in t’wife’s kecks. I went t’moon again, Gromit. In case yer’d forgotten lad, it’s just north of St. Austell in Cornwallshire. Have a gander on’t Google maps, t’stattylite view and yer’ll see it. All white it is, a reet desolate landscape. Actually, nay – it’s not really t’moon but it’s still made of cheese. Thems is Cornish Yarg quarries just like Wensleydale quarries back oop north. And those reet bright green pools thee can see on stattylite picture, thems is hot Manchester caviar springs … or mushy peas to thee, lad. It’s a good job I had decent car for that long trek, Gromit. Two hundred eighty mile on t’bumpy old motorbike and sidecar and me old eyeballs would’ve been rattling in their sockets. And….”

Wallace & Gromit
It’s the wrong transport, Gromit! Try a Volkswagen Tiguan
No, that’s enough. It’s very difficult writing in Wallace’s Wigan accent (oh, so that’s what it was supposed to be!). It was a Grand Day Out though and I breezed down to St. Austell in the Volkswagen Tiguan, leaving home at 4.30am and arriving at 10am. A couple of planned stops and no traffic jams – all quite effortless, due in no small part to the Tiguan. This was a four wheel drive version; notably thirstier then the two wheel drive examples I have driven but equally as refined on the motorway. In St. Austell, there was a quick car wash, customer handover, walk to the station (welcome exercise in the sunshine) and … pasty! Well I had to get at least one of my Cornish Five-A-Day, didn’t I?!  The first part of the train journey back to Leicester was interesting. Across tranquil, muddy creeks at low tide, alongside rivers and the sea. For a time, after we had passed through Teignmouth, it seemed as if the train was running along the beach, the sea was that close. This is the stretch of track that often features in the news in extreme weather and it was actually washed away during a storm in 2014. It added a bit of spice to my journey knowing that Storm Brian was approaching. But then again, how can a storm called Brian be anything to be feared??

But what about the Cornish Yarg quarries? Well, of course, it’s not cheese, it’s china clay (duh, cheese comes from the moon not earthbound quarries). The last few miles of the route to St. Austell took me down the A391 between the Cornish Yarg china clay pits which are eerily moon-like (although you don’t get a good view from the road).

China Clay Pit St Austell
A lunar china clay pit (on a grey day) near St. Austell, Cornwall
Europe was about ten thousand years behind China when it came to fine porcelain. But when Europe started catching up in the 18th and 19th centuries, it turned out that St. Austell had the biggest china clay deposits in the world. Boom time! The stuff was exported all around the world and to facilitate this, a chappy called Charles something or other built a harbour just down the road from St. Austell’s clay pits (by the sea actually, smart bloke). I’m guessing he didn’t do it all on his own although it did take ten years to finish (1791 to 1801). Rather modestly, he called his creation Charlestown (and why not, if he built it?). What’s more, there is a very strong likelihood that you have seen Charlestown even if you have never been to Cornwall. It has remained largely unchanged since the early 19th century and has been a popular location for film and TV over the years. Charlestown’s credits include The Eagle Has Landed, Mansfield Park, The Onedin Line, The Three Musketeers, the recent Tom Hardy drama, Taboo and, inevitably, …. Poldark.

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Charlestown
Charlestown Poldark set
The BBC at work creating a set for Poldark in Charlestown
Charlestown is privately owned but you can still visit this wonderfully preserved bit of history. For just a modest charge (£5), you can walk in Michael Caine’s and Aidan Turner’s footsteps and enjoy all the olde worlde charm. A further charge gets you into the Shipwreck and Heritage Centre. It’s a very long time since I have been but it gets excellent reviews on TripAdvisor.

The china clay pits are still being worked today but far fewer people are employed there compared to their heyday. One of the disused pits has been put to good use though – as the dramatic location for the spectacular Eden Project. Definitely, absolutely worth a visit if you have never been to this global garden housed in “biomes”, encapsulating different climates and flora from around the world, including a tropical rain forest. Go for a walk in the rain forest canopy or fly over the biomes on the UK’s longest and fastest zip wire. We have been two or three times over the years. Had a great Thai green curry there on one occasion (but didn’t go on the zip wire which was probably a good thing).

Panoramic view of the geodesic dome structures of Eden Project
The amazing Eden Project and its biomes  Not to be outdone by Charlestown, the Eden Project had a role in the James Bond film, Die Another Day.
Colin

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HEREFORD – MOATS, MAPS, APPLES & CHAINS

We had never been to the very old city of Hereford before; in fact a lot of the area west of Birmingham to the Welsh border is a mystery to us. All we really knew about Herefordshire is that it is famous for apples, cider and its own breed of cattle. So, it was time to put that right last weekend. En route, we stopped at Brockhampton Estate, a National Trust property in Herefordshire just off the very scenic A44 (nice drive). What a hidden treasure this is. Not the usual, grand stately home but a remote manorial farm house surrounded by a moat and hills. Built sometime between 1380 and 1420, this half-timbered house sports a wonky gate house which was basically a 15th century status symbol since electronic gates had not been invented. We were so lucky to visit on a quiet weekday and in almost sunny weather. It is such a truly magical, rustic place that it was surely built by pixies. For a short period of time, the pixies lived at Brockhampton, bog snorkelling in the moat each morning in search of the much-prized white bog truffle (slice, pan fry in butter, add a handful of chopped, wild grungewort for a traditional accompaniment to roast pop weasel on pixie feast days).  In the fields around Brockhampton, the pixies could be seen bareback badger racing (brock is an old English word for badger by the way) until a reckless wager with a human saw the estate pass to one John Dumbleton in settlement of a crushing gambling debt (actually, it may have been Mr Dumbleton who built Brockhampton). Pixies have lived underground ever since. Eventually, the estate passed into National Trust ownership in 1946 (when badger racing and bog snorkelling on the estate were promptly banned).
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Brockhampton farm house complete with moat and gate house. Beautiful. Makes your quaint bone tingle.
On to Hereford; not in the Premier League of quaint historic cities like Bath and York but capable of some giant killing – as Ronnie Radford proved in the 1972 FA Cup third round replay against Newcastle United. Radford’s 30 yard wonder strike helped non-league Hereford United beat top-flight Newcastle and became one of the most famous and muddiest FA Cup goals ever. Today, Hereford’s giant-killing wonder strikes are the Mappa Mundi, the Chained Library, the 12th century cathedral and one of four originals of the 1217 Magna Carta still in existence (not the first version famously signed by the infamous King John in 1215 which was actually a bit of a failure). The picturesque River Wye adds to Hereford’s attractions. The city itself has a long and eventful history involving civil wars, fire, sieges, executions, bishops, flirtations with Welshness (during which inordinate amounts of cheese on toast were consumed) and a castle that has long since vanished, although part of the moat remains (no bog snorkelling though).
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Hereford Cathedral viewed from a Victorian suspension (foot) bridge across the River Wye.
It costs an entirely reasonable £6 to see the Mappa Mundi, Chained Library and Magna Carta which are all housed in a modern building attached to and styled on the cathedral. The Mappa Mundi is a map representing the Christian world in or around the year 1300 when the map was produced by one Richard of Haldingham and Lafford while he was still at enfants school. No, I mustn’t joke. Yes, at first glance it appears childishly simplistic but actually if you rotated it through 90 degrees, pulled and stretched it somewhat, it’s quite a good representation of Europe, Asia and Africa (the known world in 1300 unless you were a native American or kangaroo). Being a religious map, it has Jerusalem at the centre and the east at the top. Considering the majority of people in that era probably travelled no further than their local corner shop, the map shows a remarkable level of knowledge. It measures 1.59m by 1.34m (the largest medieval map known to exist) and is drawn (or painted?) on vellum – calf’s skin to you, me and the poor baby cow. It’s a wonderfully “busy” picture, covered in hundreds of place names (most recognisable in today’s world) and little graphics like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Sphinx in Egypt and the Labyrinth on Crete. We spent a good while studying the original and an English translation of the map … but we still couldn’t find Wally. You may remember the map making the headlines about thirty years ago when a man from Sotheby’s valued it at £7million. Part of Hereford Cathedral was falling down and the bishop or whoever considered selling the map to pay for the restoration. Happily, donations flooded in, the Cathedral was repaired, the map stayed in Hereford and everyone went home for tea as happy as can be.
Hereford Mappa Mundi
Where’s Wally? Hereford’s Mappa Mundi. Amazing.

After a long, interesting chat with the guide about the map and a brief peruse of the 1217 Magna Carta, it was into the Chained Library, so called because there are still dusty skeletons chained to the walls as a stark warning to users of the library. The penalty for overdue books and for not shushing when shushed at by the librarian was harsh in those days. No, hang on, that was just a nightmare I once had when I forgot to take a copy of The Railway Children back to our local library on time. In reality, the Chained Library contains rows of books chained to their early 17th century bookcases, clearly for security reasons (the need arising after Rufus Gable, a shady roofing contractor, stole several editions of What Tiler from the library in 1601). There are many ancient manuscripts and crusty old printed works, some dating back to the earliest days of printing – 1473 is the oldest printed book. Each weighty tome is tethered to a metal bar on the bookcase by a chain attached to the leading edge of its front cover.

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The Chained Library. Books go in spine first because of the chain. The framed document hanging on the end of the bookcase provides a key for locating each book.

The cathedral itself is not in the major league in terms of size but it is still impressive. Last year, a new stained glass window and memorial to the UK’s most famous (but still secretive) elite military unit  – the Special Air Service – was unveiled. The SAS is based in Herefordshire and there is an SAS cemetery in another of Hereford’s churches.

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Hereford Cathedral in a distinctive pinky stone. The building on the right is the modern annex housing the Mappa Mundi, Chained Library and Magna Carta. “Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?” Tony Hancock in Hancock’s Half Hour (Twelve Angry Men).
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The new SAS memorial in the cathedral. Above it is a striking new stained glass window, also part of the memorial.

After that dose of history and culture, we did something very unusual for us – we went on a guided tour of the city for more of the same. We normally like to explore places on our own but it was worthwhile tagging along with a guide. Hereford has loads of old buildings, churches and history and our guide had plenty of anecdotes to bring it all to life. I asked him where the statue of Ronnie Radford was and was a bit shocked to learn there isn’t one. Later in the afternoon, I was tempted by Hereford’s Cider Museum but we were quite exhausted by that time so gave it a miss. To make up for it, I had a bottle of Herefordshire cider when we got home (by coincidence, we happened to have a bottle of Henney’s Exhibition Cider ready and waiting in the fridge – excellent buy, £1.29 at Aldi!). Another coincidence we discovered over the weekend – with the exception of Chrissie Hynde, all of the original members of The Pretenders came from Hereford. We are going to see The Pretenders in Nottingham tonight. The Chained Library was the inspiration for their hit, Back on the Chain Gang. No it wasn’t.

Colin

RUTLAND WAR OF INDEPENDENCE 1974 – 1997

After I had delivered the Audi A4 Avant to Oakham last week, I had a very pleasant, sunny stroll through this tranquil town situated in the county of Rutland. As I made my way to the train station I noticed that Oakham has sufficient quaint bits to make it interesting, including a castle with England’s most complete Norman great hall (yes, I looked that up afterwards). However, the walk did not take long because most things in Rutland, the UK’s smallest historic county, are, well … small. Including Oakham. Multum in parvo is Rutland’s motto. A lot in a little.

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The Buttercross (market place) in pretty Oakham

However, it was not all tranquility in Oakham’s recent and bloody past. Rutland is a historic county but that long history was interrupted when it lost its county status in 1974 and was absorbed into neighbouring Leicestershire. The population of Rutland then had to kowtow to the tyrannical Leicestershire County Council (LCC). But the feisty Rutlanders were not going to take this lightly. The Rutland Independence Party (RIP for short) led by Nicholas Barage organised resistance while Rutland Weekend Television (anyone remember RWT??) broadcast subversive propaganda in an attempt to undermine the authority of the LCC’s despotic leader, Percy Soulless. The LCC instigated a clamp down. Thanks to the LCC’s notorious secret police, several Rutland freedom fighters disappeared in the dead of night. They were sent to a concentration camp known as Skegness (known by some as Leicester-by-the-Sea) and forced to read the Leicester Mercury (readily available in Skeggy) in an attempt to brainwash them. Their families were notified of their incarceration by means of saucy postcard. The suppression continued. Leicestershire, famous for Melton Mowbray pork pies, Stilton and Red Leicester cheeses, banned exports of these dietary staples to Rutland. In retaliation, the RIP threatened to cut-off water supplies from Rutland Water, England’s largest reservoir by surface area (like Nicholas Barage’s ego, not everything in Rutland is small. By the way, Rutland Water is a good place to hire bikes and cycle round). However, that plan backfired when someone pointed out that Rutland Water did not actually supply Leicestershire with its water.

Normanton Church Rutland Water
Rutland’s most famous landmark, Normanton Church on Rutland Water nearly became a watermark(?!). When Rutland Water was created in 1976, the church was thankfully spared.

Nevertheless, the hardy Rutlanders, surviving on black market Lincolnshire sausages and Cheddar cheese, would not give up. The RIP laid low but not idle in the rural idyll that is Rutland and would be forever Rutland, the beauty of its little villages and countryside comparable to those of the Cotswolds but without the hordes of tourists. The RIP planned and executed forays into Leicestershire causing chaos and confusion. Cling film was surreptitiously put over all the toilets in the LCC offices; all the potato peelers were stolen from the Walkers crisp factory and Percy Soulless’s wheelie bin was stolen not once but three times. Things came to a head when the LCC tracked down Nicholas Barage to Oakham Castle and laid siege. The siege lasted until tea time when Barage said he needed to go home to feed his cat and watch Coronation Street. Finally, common sense seemed to prevail when a meeting was held between the leaders of the RIP and LCC in Oakham’s bijou and very ancient Lord Nelson pub which dates back to the 1500s.

Great Hall Oakham Castle
The Great Hall of Oakham Castle, scene of the Great Siege in March 1997. The siege lasted until tea time.

However, the meeting started badly and went downhill from there. Things got heated, people’s parentage was brought into question and other insults were thrown. And, when everyone “stepped outside”, handbags and punches followed the insults. It was the bloodiest battle Oakham had ever seen – Barage suffered a cut lip and then threw a Bloody Mary over Percy Soulless’s Armani suit. That was the final straw. Soulless could stand no more and promised independence for Rutland on condition that Barage let go of his hair, paid the cleaning bill for his suit and returned his wheelie bin. Thus on 1st April 1997, Rutland became an independent county again. Peace reigned and Rutland celebrated. The “disappeared” were returned from Skegness by donkey, bearing sticks of rock, knotted hankies on their heads and burning copies of the Leicester Mercury. The Rutles sang songs in the streets (now do you remember Rutland Weekend Television?? Eric Idle? Neil Innes?). The Rutland Navy was disbanded and its battlecruiser, the Rutland Belle, was converted back to its original pleasure cruiser rôle by removal of its armament (3 x .22 air rifles). The Rutland Belle still plies its trade on Rutland Water today, so after your cycle ride, watersports or wildlife watching, you can enjoy a relaxing cruise on the reservoir then go and explore the delights of this charming little county in the East Midlands.

Rutland Belle
The Rutland Belle in today’s happier, more peaceful times. It never saw action in the War of Independence as its armament (3 x .22 air rifles) did not have the range to hit any part of Leicestershire.

Colin

P.S. I do apologise for the appalling drivel in the above post but it was enormous fun writing it. Hopefully, you can separate fact from fiction. If you can’t, please let me know which planet you live on and how I can get there; it is probably a fun place to be. In case there is any doubt, Rutland did cease to be a county in 1974. The story of how it really re-gained county status in 1997 is probably very boring.

P.P.S. Rutland Weekend Television was a TV sketch show with two series broadcast in 1975 and 1976. It was ex-Python Eric Idle’s first television project in the post-Monty Python era with music written by Neil Innes (ex-Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band). The show spawned the Rutles, originally a fictional then actual rock band parodying the Beatles.

BLENHEIM PALACE SANS VOITURES

After my excitable post about the Salon Privé and the fabulous cars we spotted on a recent visit to Blenheim Palace, here is a word or two (and a few photos) about the palace itself. No cars, I promise. Blenheim Palace near Woodstock, Oxfordshire is unique because it is the only country house in Britain enjoying the title “palace” which is not the home of a Royal or a bishop (or a rural source of Indian or Chinese take away food). As gifts go, they don’t come more lavish or splendid than Blenheim but that’s what winning a few battles got you in the early 1700s. A Mr John Churchill, later the 1st Duke of Marlborough, earned the gratitude of Queen Anne with a few military triumphs in the War of the Spanish Succession, culminating in the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. Blenheim is an anglicised version of Blindheim in Bavaria, Germany where the battle was fought. A long way from Spain I know, but let’s just say Europe was as complicated then as it is now. Mr Churchill thus helped ensure stability in Europe and was honoured with a dukeship and over-sized retirement home for his efforts.IMG_20170902_143229IMG_20170902_145648If the name Churchill sounds familiar,  yes – fast forward more than 200 years and John’s great (times X) grandson, Winston Churchill was doing his bit to save Europe again. Winston, nephew to the 8th Duke of Marlborough, was born at Blenheim in 1874. Today, you can see the room in which the great Briton was brought into this world – just one of many things to see and do at this magnificent stately home which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There’s easily a whole day’s worth (probably more) of stuff to do at Blenheim Palace, from admiring the house itself – inside and out – to exploring the extensive landscaped grounds, taking in various exhibitions and getting lost in the maze, car park, adventure playground or butterfly house. Check the What’s On section of the Blenheim Palace website and you may be able to time your visit to coincide with a classic car event (although there are no more scheduled for 2017 so you will have to be patient). Sorry, forgot I promised not to mention cars.

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WEEKLY CAR DIARY – STRAIGHT TO ROMAN COLCHESTER IN AN AUDI Q2

Don’t get me wrong, I really like driving vans – the bigger the better. However, I didn’t do a car diary last week because, with one exception, I only drove vans – which may not be the most interesting thing to write about (unless of course its a VW Transporter Kombi!). The exception to the van fest was another Mercedes C350e saloon plug-in hybrid and plenty of ramblings on this eco-wagon can be found here. For the record, the (ahem) green, planet-saving wheeled warrior managed 40.9 miles per gallon on a steady 55 mile run (mostly motorway) compared to the official figure of 134.5 mpg.

This week looked as if it was heading the same way (i.e. all vans) but things changed when the VW Transporter I thought I was going to deliver on Friday turned out to be an Audi Q2:-

Tuesday: Vauxhall (Opel) Corsa 1.4 SRi (hire car), Leicester to Southampton and back to deliver a Vauxhall Combo van – about four miles across Southampton!

Wednesday: Vauxhall Corsa van 1.3CDTi Sportive, Bolton to Middlesbrough; old Vauxhall Corsa van 1.3CDTi (2014), Middlebrough to Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire

Thursday: Ford Transit Custom, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire to Bristol

Friday: Audi Q2 2.0TDi Quattro S-Line S Tronic (auto), Alconbury, Cambridgeshire to Colchester, Essex.

So, an Audi Quattro! Not really, obviously. Four wheel drive versions of Audi’s offerings have simply borrowed the hallowed Quattro label from the original and legendary fire-breathing, rally-bred Audi Quattro. Couldn’t imagine Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt (Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes) growling “Fire up the Quattro!” and then jumping into a modern little SUV.

However, he could do much worse. If you want an upmarket, smallish but practical car, then the Q2 seems a good bet … if you have the money (more on that later). The Q2 is described as an SUV but, to be honest, it doesn’t really look or feel like one. It’s a bit like a family hatchback that’s drunk lots of milk. Did you know the Dutch are the tallest people on earth? I used to travel to the Netherlands quite frequently on business and in office canteens at lunch time, the Dutch would all be drinking milk. So, I’m guessing there’s a link between height and milk (standing on a milk crate would prove this theory). Anyway, back to the Audi milk float, I mean Q2, which is really just a slightly taller, A3/Golf-sized hatchback with a larger boot (in fact, I think the Q2’s footprint is slightly smaller than the Golf’s). The Q2 doesn’t look like an off-roader if that’s what the SUV appellation is supposed to imply. However, in the looks department, it’s smart but not ground-breaking and has an upmarket air about it. The matt grey rear pillars (reminiscent of the side panels on the Mk1 Audi R8) are a neat touch.

Audi Q2

Q2 2

Inside, its smart too – as you would expect from an Audi. And the top of the range version I delivered had a couple of extras. One was the virtual cockpit where you pay more for an electronic instrument display that impersonates traditional dials that you could get for free (provided you’ve purchased the rest of the car). Too much cynicism, Colin; actually the electronics look quite posh and futuristic. The other option was the wireless phone charger which does seem very handy. Just pair your phone and pop it in the cubby hole under the centre armrest and it magically charges without the need for you to untangle any cables, plug it in or swear when you get to end of your long journey and realise that your phone hasn’t charged at all because, despite being plugged into the socket, you didn’t give the charger that two degree turn to the right that it needed to make contact (grrr, that’s so annoying, take a breath now).

So what is the Q2 like to drive? Well I’m afraid I only really drove it in straight lines but it did do that rather well. Actually, driving in straight lines to Colchester was quite appropriate because the town has a significant Roman history, having at one time been the capital of Roman Britain. At the time, the town was called Camelodunum which is impossible to say at the first attempt and sounds like a Victorian opium-based medicine for humped ungulates. The Emperor Ian Claudius (I can’t think what else the “I” in I, Claudius could stand for) stepped off the Calais to Dover ferry in 43AD and personally led the attack on Colchester before bringing underfloor heating to the masses of Provincia Britannia (Vorsprung durch hypercaust). And of course the Romans had a fondness for travelling in straight lines but I don’t think they built the A14, M11 or A120. In Colchester however, they did build a fortress, temples, a chariot circus (they liked a bit of high speed slapstick), theatres and no doubt a lot more. The sign telling me that I had arrived in Colchester also claimed that it is the oldest recorded town in Britain. Would probably be more impressive if it was the undisputed oldest town in Britain. In the modern day Colchester, you can still see parts of Roman walls dotted around plus there is a museum based in the largely complete and large Norman castle (built on the foundations of a Roman temple) and the renowned Beth Chatto gardens. Ooh, there is a zoo as well where you will probably find some dizzy ungulates (that word again – look it up).

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Colchester Castle – bigger than its Norman contemporary, the Tower of London

Anyway, I have digressed again; milk and Romans can be so distracting. The Q2 was absolutely fine cruising at 70mph on the motorway. Road noise was ever present, as it is in almost every car except the most expensive, but it only became intrusive on the roughest surfaces. When cruising, the engine was quiet but typically dieselly (new word) under acceleration. On the few occasions I did turn the steering wheel, every indication was that the steering would be pleasingly direct and accurate if you pressed on through some twisty bits. And I strongly suspect the four wheel drive would provide all the grip you would need when called upon. Incidentally, four wheel drive and a seven speed automatic gearbox are standard (or compulsory would be another way of looking at it) if you want the 2.0TDi engine in your Q2. Front wheel drive and a six speed manual box are available with the less powerful engine options and since the 150hp 2.0TDi weighs in at more than £29,000, there are opportunities for saving some money if you fancy a Q2. The cheapest Q2 (1.0T petrol, front wheel drive, manual) would save you £8,000 or 444 denarii (based on the estimated purchasing power of the denarius at the end of the Roman Empire) or between 16,326 and 17,777 pints of milk (depending on whether you shop at Waitrose or Aldi). Quids in tuus pocitus.

Colin

WEEKLY CAR DIARY & ENIGMATIC CLASSICS

Back to work this week after our hols in Cornwall. All decent vehicles but nothing out of the ordinary and no particularly interesting destinations, although the new town of Telford is just a few miles north of Ironbridge Gorge which only happens to be the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution (and an interesting place to visit if you have the chance).

Tuesday: Audi A3 1.8T Sport (2014) & Audi A6 S-Line 2.0TD manual (2013), both Rugby to Telford, Shropshire

Wednesday: Volvo XC60 SE Lux Nav D5 (2.4D) auto (2016), London Heathrow to Leicester

Friday: Ford Transit Custom, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire to Reading, Berkshire

Now I did go somewhere interesting last Sunday – one that played a small but important rôle in World War II. Beaumanor Hall in the Charnwood Forest area of Leicestershire is a stately home built in the 1840s, although manor houses have been present on the site since the first was built in 1330. Beaumanor Hall was requisitioned by the military in 1939 and it became a “Y station”, intercepting enemy radio traffic and passing the signals to the more well-known Station X at Bletchley Park for decrypting.

If memory serves me, Beaumanor Hall also featured in Robert Harris’s novel, Enigma, a fictional thriller set against the backdrop of Bletchley Park’s efforts to break the Germany’s Enigma code. It is widely rumoured (in real life) that the Beaumanor Hall listening post had intercepted intelligence about the Katyn massacre very early on in the war (in April and May 1940, the Soviets massacred about 22,000 captured Polish officers and other citizens in the Katyn Forest in Russia). The information allegedly received by Beaumanor Hall and the need to hush it up in deference to Britain’s Soviet allies provided a sinister sub-plot in Enigma and the subsequent film of the same name. Incidentally, the producer of the film was Mick Jagger who happened to own an Enigma machine which was used as a prop in the film.

The reason for visiting Beaumanor Hall was (surprise!) a classic car show. The hall is not normally open to the public but it does hold various events throughout the year. Here are a few photos:-

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Beaumanor Hall. During WWII these walls had ears.
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A Tribute 250 kit car based on a 3-litre BMW Z3. A fake Ferrari but looked good.
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I was quite taken with this little car. Isn’t it beautiful? A 1952 Jowett Jupiter. A “race-bred, high performance sports car”. 1486cc, 62hp and 0-50mph in 13 seconds.
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Many of us remember the 1970s Triumph Dolomite but this is the 1937 version!! The Dolomite name was used for a range of saloons and sports cars in the 1930s.
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I’m not a fan of American cars but I will admit this immaculate 1961 Chevrolet Corvette looks striking. If I was forced to have an American car, it would have to be an original Mustang Fastback or convertible.
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Spot the difference. Yes, one’s blue and one’s red, well done. The blue one is a 1965 Triumph TR4A. The other is a 1968 TR250 which was a version of the TR5 made for the North American market. For emissions reasons, the TR250 had twin carbs (and less power) rather than the TR5’s fuel injection system. 

Colin