Iron Horse Rally
Ariel Owners Club, Crewe section, Llangollen area Wales
Sort of January or February 1970.
One of my early mistakes, or was it? Andy Hawthorne and myself had started to get the bug for rallies and when I got hold of the Motor Cycle Weekly on Wednesday and saw that there were two rallies for the coming weekend it only left us to decide which one we were going to go to.
The Cheltenham Cossacks Dean Forest Rally or The Iron Horse Rally? Over a pint in the local on Friday night it was agreed to deaf out the Dean Forest Rally as we didn't know that area.
We set out on Saturday afternoon as Andy never missed his mornings overtime. Both of us were mounted on Velocettes, Andy on his 500 Clubman and me on a 350 MAC. It was bloody cold, but there were damp patches on the roads as we drove to the rally site which turned out to be a caravan site in the middle of nowhere! We were greeted with steaming hot cups of coffee, much needed to warm our cold hands with as well as raise our core body temperature.
We could see straight away that our choice of rally had been a mistake by the lack of people there, probably 15 tents and around 25 people and all the bikes were Ariels. We were soon informed that the mention in Motor Cycle Weekly was a mistake and that this was not a rally but a camping weekend and earlier in the day some other rallyists had turned up and moved on, probably down to the Dean Forest Rally, where we wished we were. It was late afternoon 4.00ish and starting to go dark. The temperature was starting to fall and realistically there was no chance of us getting to Cheltenham. We could have made it home, but what the heck? These lads told us we were welcome to stay so that's what we did.
We erected our "tent", an ex-army bivi, no ground sheet, in a matter of moments, threw in a plastic sheet and our sleeping bags and a couple of old woolen army blankets. The camp fire had been lit so that was the place to be. We stood around talking until about a quarter to six when Andy and I walked over to the club house to get pole position by the door and that is where we stood for over an hour before walking back to the campfire to thaw out. We were getting rather concerned that this club house was never going to open. Eventually, just after eight, a couple of cars arrived and the lights came on and we all piled in.
A large log fire that had been laid earlier was lit, and a couple of paraffin heaters also helped raise the cold to a bearable level. The long awaited beer was just about drinkable and we had a great evening. In ones and twos a few of the locals turned up. We were expecting to hear the last orders bell ringing out at 22.20. If it ever rang we never heard it. It certainly hadn't gone by 1.30 when we retired.
Yes we had a good time with this bunch of Ariel Owners and as things sometimes happen Andy and I bumped into these lads again while queuing up for the ferry to the TT in Liverpool later on in the year.
- Les Hobbs