Solent RallyThe Solent Rally is now strictly pre-booking only due to the limited amount of camping space. This is one rally where it is strictly enforced, and it's no good trying to sneak in. The Fort it is held in was designed to keep the French Army at bay so you only get in if they let you through the gates!
The Solent Rally has often been a bit of a dilemma for me. Although I always enjoy the Rally, it is usually held on the same weekend as the Antler Rally. In 2008 Roy Watkinson and I had decided to make the trip down South and hopefully find some sunshine.
The original plan was to go over to Brighton from there on the Saturday and Sunday for the Brighton speed trials and the Ace Café rockers reunion, but they turned out to be on the weekend after, so that was the first setback. As usual for this year the weather forecast was all severe flood warnings, but still hoping for the best I set off from Bradford in a howling gale, with the rain bouncing up from the road a good 6 inches. I thought that it couldn't keep that up for long, but how wrong I was! When I got to the Northampton turn off the M1 I had really had enough. I was tempted to make a stop at the services there, but the prospect of removing and worse replacing all my wet weather gear made me carry on. Surely it would improve round Oxford?
Conditions did improve. The visibility was now up to about three car lengths, but the speed of the cars seemed to increase too, so no chance to relax. At last I could see a break in the clouds; it looked like the sun was going to come out ahead of me. Sure enough the sun was filtering through and lighting up the radar domes and runways of the airbase to the north of the road, but it was still torrential rain where I was! When I was near Didcot the rain became so bad the road started to flood and we were down to 15 mph, even the cars slowed down!
I made my first stop after 230 miles at Wickham, for petrol, but the rain persisted until I got to the Rally, 260 miles of Pissistance! As soon as I went into the control it stopped!
Roy was already there and gave me a hand setting my things up. The wind made it interesting putting the tent up, but as the campsite is the parade ground in one of the Forts surrounding Portsmouth, it was pretty firm and once you hammer your pegs in they don't want to come out again (even when you are packing up!)
There was a new caterer for this year and they had a good range of food at reasonable prices, so we didn't have to get the cooking gear out. The Solent Club run their own bar at the rally, so no problems there either, but if you want a seat you have to take your own or get in early! The set up is in three large arched cellar like rooms, Spikes Disco, The Bar and an overflow room.
Friday night was spent meeting up with old friends and the usual banter about the ride there, what rallies you are going to do or have done recently etc.
On Saturday morning it was looking miserable again and riding the bike didn't seem such a good idea, so we thought we might go for a walk.
When we got to the main road, we saw Brian and Phyl Weekes and another friend, waiting at the bus stop; this seemed like a better plan so we joined them. The idea was to go down into Portsmouth centre, but as none of us had any idea where we were once we got going. We all sat tight and when, after about an hour, we got to the terminus at Southsea, the driver asked us if we were going to get off or were we going round again! He agreed to tell us when we were at Portsmouth Town centre, so we found it this time. We spent the afternoon wandering round and ended up in the Weatherspoons at Cosham. It's strange how no matter where we are in the country we always end up in the same pub!
Don't you just appreciate modern communications? I got a text from Preston King telling me about the sun they were having to put up with up at the Antler Rally and Dave Cooper even emailed me a picture of it so I wouldn't feel left out! Thanks guys, I really needed that!!!
Back on site it was more or less a rerun of Friday, but with a few more arrivals. You had even less chance of a seat!
Sunday saw us up and away early. We missed the prize giving and the raffle. It was still raining on and off, but we had planned to visit friends in Melton Mowbray on the way home.
If nothing else it was a good test of the waterproofs!
My pictures are from a few years ago, it was sunny down there then!!!
- Ted Trett
The Solent MCC and the Solent and Brass Monkey rallies are still going, both held at the same location nowadays. The organisers are getting older though and it gets harder to muster the enthusiasm to carry on for another year.
- Andy Brown