Wednesday 2 August 2017
We flew out of Krakow on Easy Jet around 1.30pm, landing at Gatwick around 3pm. Rob and Denine were there to meet us in a transit van. Rob had his 750cc Suzuki Thunder bike extreme in the back. We headed up the M40 for a very slow trip to Oxford. Checking into Vanbrugh Hotel, we headed out to catch up with Rob and Denine’s son Sam and his girlfriend Gabby. We met at the Turf Pub, quite an old place, first serving ale in 1831. With low ceilings and quite a few rooms it was quite busy but we managed to find a table outside to enjoy a good meal and a few ales. A scene from one of the Harry Potter movies was filmed here.
Thursday 3 August 2017
After breakfast at a local cafe we took a stroll around the town, checking out some of the history and old attractive buildings. Our final stop was the bell tower of the St Mary’s Church built around 1200. This gave us a good view over this lovely small town famous for its universities and colleges. We were surprised by the number of beggars on the street.
Early afternoon we were on the road heading north. Around 5pm we arrived at Oulton Park. We unloaded the van into one of the many garages and headed to the wee town of Little Budworth. After checking in to the Red Lion Tavern we enjoyed an evening meal and a good chat over a pint of the pretty average local ale.
Rob and Denine, originally from NZ, have been living in England for over thirty years. They have known Steve for thirty plus years.
Friday 4 August 2017
Rob is at the track by 8am to start getting prepared for today’s practice races. The BMRC (British Motor Cycle Racing Club) runs ten events between March and October each year. There are ten different classes of bikes racing here, ranging from 250CC smelly, two-strokes up to the power bikes at 1000CC plus.
Steve and I stroll to the track around nine. The park is stunning with well kept grounds surrounded by pretty English countryside.
Steve and I spend the the day moving around the track watching the bikes being put through their paces. Rob, number 39, is practicing and racing in two classes to get more track time.
These guys wear a pad on the outer side of their knees, which rubs on the ground as they get the bike over as far as possible to take the corners. Rob makes a point of introducing us to lots of other very friendly riders. We met a chap called Talan, an ex Royal Navy Officer, who became a paraplegic after leaving the navy. He was knocked off his motorbike on the road and run over by a car. He decided he wanted to take up motor bike racing. He is basically strapped to the bike with velcro, held up by a couple of people at the start and caught by a couple at the end. Apart from that, watching him race one wouldn’t know he was disabled. He was telling us that after one crash he saw his leg sticking out to one side and realising his femur must be broken thought “I am really glad I can’t feel that”. He has a great little Video on vimeo called “The Little Person Inside” https://vimeo.com/109999643
We had a ride around the track in the track car with Giles, a former bike racer. He drove us on the line a bike would take. “Along here I would be doing 120, braking for the corner here, accelerating here trying to to keep the front wheel down as I reach 160 here” and on it went. By the way they talk in miles per hour here.
It is really interesting to hear these guys talk as they feel everything the bike is doing in milliseconds and can spend a minute telling you how the bike felt going around one corner, which took a couple of seconds. Another nice chap I met, called Jason, was taking a couple of years off track cycling after winning 6 Olympic golds and a silver. His father was there helping him at the track.
After the practice was over we headed to a lovely town called Tarporley to dine at Pisce, a Swiss Restaurant. We were joined by some of the people from Rob’s garage. Left side: Mark, Ksenia, Jess, Ross, Micheal, Fabiene. Right side: Rob, Denine, Steve, Roger and Alex.
Saturday 5 August 2017
It’s racing day! Rob had put new tyres and new front brake pads on the bike at the end of yesterday. At dinner last night Ross was telling me about his 20 odd broken bones; Michae,l a former British Super Bike rider, only 15. Nobody takes chances with kit here – everything is kept in tip top shape. We watch Ross in the MRO 600 series.
Michael comes in second and third in his two power bike races; his brother Mark, on his Ducati, is a bit further down the field.
Rob places 4th in the Thunder Bike Extreme race, which he is pleased with. He hasn’t had a broken bone in his five years of racing.
The day over, the garage is packed up and goodbyes said before we get on the road.
We head west and soon cross the border into North Wales. My father, originally from the Welsh Rhonda Valley, worked for a while in North Wales. He always said it was a pretty part of the world. We headed up a valley through trees alongside a river.
Large numbers of sheep grazed the paddocks, a bit like one used to see in NZ before the switch to dairy. At the top of the valley we arrived at the Hand Hotel in the village of Llanarmon. Rod and Denine had booked us in for the night. Originally a farm house built in the 1500’s with cow shed at the back, it later became a hotel to cater for drivers. It has a bar, pool room, restaurant and a few other rooms, plus, judging by the number of people at breakfast the next morning, lots of guest rooms.
We checked in then headed across the road to another pub, also with numerous bars and rooms. We had dinner at the Hand, three of us choosing the Welsh lamb, I think the best meal I have had since leaving NZ.
Sunday 6 August 2017
After breakfast we headed out for a stroll. Dr Who must be a regular visitor here as they still have a phone box here, complete with telephone. No cell phone signal around here.
The village is very pretty with its well kept stone cottages. There is a push bike race on; most of the riders say hi as they go past, some even stopping for a chat. A little way up the road a farmer rounds up a mob of sheep on a hill with a welsh border collie. The others watch in amazement how the dog works the sheep. I have great delight in explaining to Steve that this is what the new collie he just bought should be doing.
At the top of the hill Rob and Denine head back. Steve and I carry on enjoying the countryside and farm buildings for housing stock during the winter.
Soon after arriving back at the Hand we set out on the 5-hour trip back to Guildford, just out of London, where Rob and Denine live. After checking into the local Raddison Hotel Rob took us for a stroll around the town, which borders the Surry countryside, stopping at a couple of local pubs and a restaurant.
The remains of a King Henry the 8th castle are still there, with very well presented gardens.
Monday 7 August 2017
Rob very kindly runs me to the airport after dropping Denine off at work. Rob and Steve are heading off to Stonehenge and me back to the south of France. It’s been a brilliant few days with lots of laughs and banter. A big thanks to Rob and Denine, whom I had never met before, for showing us a great time.