Sunday, 10 July 2011

Round Britain Rally 2010 (Part 1)

For the Chinese it was 3rd February, the Gregorian / Western / Christian diary it is always 1st January and for the Round Britain Rallyists (RBR) it was the 27th March. What am I rabbiting on about? With apologies to the Chinese, the New Year. RBRers congregated at the 5th Annual Rally Starting Event. As with many peoples’ behinds, the RBR’s ARSE just keeps on getting bigger! It is a social gathering at Landmark 1 on the entry list. Friendships are renewed, photographs taken, certificates and patches that had been pre-ordered are handed out and paid for.

With this year’s event now in full swing, I can belatedly share some of my favourite landmarks visited from last year.

Last year’s ARSE was held in the county of Avon, approximately 5 miles from Bath, at the Claverton Pumping Station.

The station was built in 1813 to pump water from the River Avon up 48 feet into the Kennet and Avon Canal. There was a small admission charge to get into the station’s grounds, which were taken over by many two and three wheeled machines. We were given a guided tour of the stations workings by one of the volunteers, making for an enjoyable event.

After leaving the gathering Ian and myself managed tick off a few more landmarks on the homeward journey, bumping into small groups of rallyists .

Higher Sutton is a small hamlet just off the A54 between Axe Edge and the junction with the A523. The landmark here is the Greenway Cross, also known as a Plague Stone. Originally the stone may have been used as a wayward marker and becoming a Plague Stone in the 17th Century when England succumbed to the disease. There are many similar stones across the country, their purpose being that supplies could be left here and the townsfolk would come, leave payment in a container of water and thus hoping not to spread the plague further.

I selected this landmark, not for the Plague Stone itself but for the view across to the historic town of Macclesfield.

There is a saying within the RBR group that if you want to find a landmark, don’t ask the locals. This could have been proved correct, only in that the person Ian asked was not a local! We were on our way to find the memorial at Hunsdon Airfield. Having ridden around the area, to no avail, Ian noticed a security man on a small industrial area. He tried to give us directions for Gatwick Airport! Eventually, outside the village shop we struck lucky and a local person pointed us in the right direction.

Hunsdon Airfield is private land and has an active microlight club. We proceed up the loose chipped roadway and found the landmark.

There was a group of men around the memorial and we got into conversation with them. Ian gave them a brief rundown on the RBR and they were pleased that their monument had been chosen. It can be a rare event to meet another entrant at a landmark, but to be in the company of the builders…

We were informed how the monument was built, with extra reinforcing given to the engine. This was due to there being a similar style monument somewhere nearby and the engine was not secured, resulting in the engine deing removed, possibly for its scrap value. Details of the construction can be found here.

An enjoyable afternoon was spent in their company talking bikes and the history of the airfield. Slowly we went our separate ways, them back home whilst Ian and myself headed for a motorcycle rally, only after taking another photograph.

Monuments can commemorate many different past events. The Hunsdon memorial represents the bravery of the pilots stationed there in WWII, however the next one I have selected deals with a tragic disaster.

Freckleton is a small town in Lancashire, midway between Preston and Lytham St Anne’s. It’s the type of place that has a by-pass, thus there is usually no need to stop and look around. Indeed by-passes tend to make small towns invisible.

At 10:30 on the morning of 23rd August 1944, two American Liberator heavy bombers took off from nearby Warton. The aircraft were soon in trouble as a vicious storm swept in from the Irish Sea. One of the aircraft was able to head north, however the other flew into the storm.

With the aircraft’s wings almost vertical, its right wing hit the top of a tree and then was ripped off as it impacted against the corner of a building. The remainder of the wing ploughed along the ground and through a hedge. Unfortunately the fuselage continued on its way, partly demolishing three houses and a snack bar used by servicemen. Momentum carried stricken aircraft forward across the road and then it burst into flames. Part of the aircraft hit the infants’ wing of the local school and fuel from the ruptured tanks ignited producing an inferno. The time was 10:17.

In the school, 38 children and 6 adults perished, the snack bar, 14 died and also the crew of 3 on board the stricken aircraft. A horrific day for Freckleton. More information on the disaster can be found here, including an account of the day by one of the surviving children.

For the RBR, we were given three locations and could select any two to find. The two I have chosen, I believe, tell most of the events of the fateful day.