At the start of this year’s Guild of Motoring Writers’ ‘Classic’ foray to France, a total of 30 vehicles and 60 happy people set sail from Dover by P. and O. ferry on the morning of Thursday, 18 June, bound for Calais then onwards to Soissons, in the Champagne region and about 160 miles south of the Channel coast.
The Western Group was well-represented in this year’s Guild Classic (in fact the 16th ‘Euro Classic’), participants from ‘our’ area including: Reg and Jo Burnard, aboard the MGB roadster kindly loaned by John Griffiths, John and Jan Powell, in a plush 2.8 litre V6 Granada, borrowed (with appreciation) from Ford’s classic car collection, Andrew and Katherine Morland, in Katherine’s MG TF, Kim and Elaine Henson, in Kim’s 1964 Austin A60 Cambridge, recent secretary Liz Turner and Richard Ecclestone in their Sunbeam Tiger, plus Julian and Julie Leyton, in Julian’s Triumph Stag.
After a more-or-less direct drive to Soissons on the Thursday, an informal evening meal was enjoyed in the Hotel des Francs (the base for all three nights of the event).
Friday morning saw most participants drive along a pictureseque, meandering route to Châlons-en-Champagne, where a highlight of the visit was a boat trip on the town’s waterways, including underground sections!
On returning to Soissons, there was just time for a rapid ‘wash and brush up’ before boarding a coach for a ‘mystery tour’ to a secret destination. In fact this turned out to be the wonderful Mercier Champagne house, in Epernay, about 60 miles from the event’s base.
After an informative tour – aboard an underground train – of the tunnels beneath the Mercier premises, those present were treated to a Champagne reception of magnificent proportions, and a superb meal held in a huge underground vault decorated by impressive bas-relief sculptures.
BACK TO EPERNAY
The following day (Saturday), many participants returned to Epernay in their various classics, to take part in a display of their vehicles and to explore the town.
Some preferred to explore Soissons on foot, or to visit other local towns and villages in their cars.
On returning to Soissons, for everyone the evening took the form of the traditional ‘Gala Dinner’, during which a variety of presentations were made by Guild Chairman Guy Loveridge. Recipients included Paul Buckett of Volkswagen, plus Chris Laming of P. and O. Ferries, in both cases for their continued long-term generous support of the Guild Classic, and their gifts were each aptly inscribed, “A True and Generous Friend of the Guild”.
In addition, Mark Fowler and Josh McCann were also given awards, for their unstinting and enthusiastic help, throughout the trip, in keeping participants’ classics running (several of the cars presented interesting ‘challenges’ to the intrepid duo, who nevertheless remained undeterred!).
Last but not least, Paul and Ann Harris were thanked for the huge efforts they had made to arrange the event and to ensure that the Guild Classickers all enjoyed their ‘adventure’ to France.
RUN FOR HOME…
On the Sunday morning, it was time for the long haul back another 160 miles or so to Calais, and then back to the travellers’ respective homes. For many of the Western Group members taking part, this meant another 200 miles or
Elaine and I very much enjoyed the event, and especially the good company of our fellow Classickers.
On arriving home, I calculated that my old faithful Austin A60 had clocked up another 928 miles, averaging 33.12 mpg and thankfully without missing a beat.
Interestingly, the last time that we took our A60 on a Guild Classic event to the Ardennes in 2012 we covered 971 miles and the average mpg was 33.48.
Frankly I was hoping for more consistency in the fuel consumption figures. Should I be worried about the ‘deterioration’ of 0.36 mpg? Answers on a postcard (or by e-mail) please…
Our thanks to everyone involved for making this event happen.
With a backdrop of the White Cliffs of Dover, at the start of this year’s Guild Classic, Western Group member Andrew Morland chats with Ray Potter about the intricacies of Ray’s wonderful-looking Ferrari F355 Spyder.
The Mercier Champagne house in Epernay made a lovely destination for Friday evening’s ‘magical mystery tour’. Here Philip Porter and Reg Burnard discuss the merits of the various types of Champagne being sampled.
Kim Henson’s A60 pauses ahead of Guy Loveridge’s Morgan Plus Four, in the pretty village of Coucy-le-Château, near Soissons.
On the way home… Kim Henson’s A60 awaits P. and O. embarkation at Calais, after more than 500 enjoyable road miles in France (including fast long-distance cruising on the northbound autoroute from Soissons).