Epsom & District MCC
Bwlch Camping Weekend 23rd May 1980
- Phil the Spill
Back in 1980, the renamed 'Mitsui Diehards' noticed that not many new members were turning up at the pub we used for meetings. We discovered that there was a rather more populated club in the nearby town of Epsom, (home of horse races such as The Derby), so we decided to throw in our lot with them for a while.
One of the things they organised was a camping trip. Of course, we had been to a rally, so we obviously knew all about camping, (HA!). The Knights rally in 1979 had been my first camping experience as well as my first rally.
As this club met in a community centre-type hall, there were quite a few more people went to the place, than there were actual bikers. There were still fewer bikers with the wherewithal to go camping, some were quite young and needed permission from parents, but I think it was about ten or so bikes assembled under the clock tower on the day of the off.
The destination was a farmhouse just outside the village of Bwlch, in the Brecon Beacons area of south Wales. The village was not far from the A40, so it was decided that we should follow that road all the way there. It has been proven on a fair few occasions since then that this is not always a good idea, as it is sometimes difficult to locate the road you want at junctions. The ministry responsible for road numbering seem to not want people to follow minor roads when then have built huge motorways everywhere.
We eventually found the farm and set up our tents and had an engine rebuild or two, when the rather staid leaders of the club were talking amongst themselves about the problem of keeping the girls apart from the boys. (I would have suggested a crowbar). Until it was explained to them about girlfriends and boyfriends and, as there was only one single young girl who was in a tent on her own and was allowed to have a large knife, there wasn't going to be a problem.
I can't remember if I had given my cousin back his tent and got my own, but I had got my own sleeping bag by now. It was this trip that showed me I also needed an airbed, as I couldn't walk after a couple of nights on the hard ground.
The first of the runs was to an outdoorsy adventure type place, where the club leaders were amazed that we didn't all possess climbing gear, or at least hiking boots. We still managed to wander through some woods, caves, waterfalls and such. I wish I'd had a better camera at the time. After we returned, we managed to find the local pub, without the leaders, obviously.
The next day, we were allowed to wander off on our own. I found an interesting place name and other people did whatever they felt like. In the pub, we found a local bike club, (Harp MC), who we invited over for a drink and chat the next day.
The next day we went for a long ride out to a park or some such where, after a while, we inevitably got lost. Naturally, some of the riders insisted on calling the place 'Belch', which made getting directions back 'difficult'.
When we did get back it was decided to have a barbecue. The idea was that we should all cook our own burgers or whatever, but the first person to start cooking got elected the 'chef' and did most of them that evening.
After another visit to the pub, the local club came back for a chat and a beer around the fire. As it was pitch black on site, we couldn't quite see the wonderful construction that went into the sidecars on both of the bikes. I think they were both large Cossacks, running on 'L' plates, hence the sidecars. After an hour or so, they made their way home and we made our way to bed.
Everything got packed up horribly early in the morning and the leaders made sure the site was left spotless. I cannot remember if we kept to the same road on the way home, or found the nearest motorway.
As a first camping trip, this made me realise how much better rallies were than this sort of thing, if only because of the food and music. I now know that camps held close by pubs are a lot better.
Phil Drackley - Phil the Spill