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THE SOUTH OF ENGLAND RALLY, ELSTREE SCHOOL, WOOLHAMPTON
Sunday 8 July 2012

Elstree School, the venue for this year's South of England Rally on 8 July, is a charming and successful independent boarding and day preparatory school set deep in rural Berkshire and catering for boys aged between seven and thirteen. Founded in 1848 in the town of Elstree in Hertfordshire it was evacuated at the outbreak of World War II to the large 18th century Woolhampton House between Reading and Newbury, where it has remained ever since.

As a new venue for our annual rally it seemed ideal, with welcoming and obliging hosts, an impressive Georgian house surrounded by attractive grounds and vast playing fields more than adequate for our rally. Not least, the school is set on high ground which would - or so we organisers thought - remove any worries about heavy rains rendering the ground unusable.

But as we all now know, the torrential and unprecedented rainfall throughout April and early May left the otherwise well-drained rally field a sodden quagmire and, with less than a week to go to the rally date of 13 May, the school reluctantly advised us that the event could not proceed. Notifying everybody was a massive task involving countless emails and telephone calls but thankfully most people were understanding that the event had to be postponed. Many of them were actually relieved they would not be expected to bring their cars out in such awful weather! We do offer our apologies to those few who had entered but we were unable to contact (a reminder to some, perhaps, to write their contact details more legibly on their entry forms!) and also to those who turned up on the day not knowing the event was cancelled.

Once bitten, we were shy of setting a new date too soon, so instead of risking a day later in May or in June we chose Sunday 8 July, by which time - we thought - we could be quite sure that the exceptionally wet Spring would be far behind us. Alas, in the intervening eight weeks, the rains continued and again, just three days before the new date, the school notified us that we would again have to cancel.

Thoroughly against going through the frustration and additional work of abandoning the rally for a second time we met with the school and, with their help and cooperation, agreed a completely revised layout for the rally, using every available inch of hard standing and roadway around the main building and areas of lawns away from the vulnerable waterlogged playing fields. Long laid plans for entry and exit routes, signage locations, parking arrangements - even the positions of the various marquees and the band - were discarded and everything sorted out afresh, all virtually in the course of one day.

That done, our long awaited South of England Rally was able to proceed and for once we were greeted with bright sunshine and only the occasional brief shower. As anticipated, the attendance was down but those who did attend seemed to enjoy both the day and the attractiveness of the location. The Club Shop appeared to do good business, a jazz band kept us entertained and there was welcome support from various sponsors including Rolls-Royce Motor Cars from Goodwood. The awards ceremony saw four very worthy cars selected in their respective classes (congratulations to Andrew Gorman for winning two classes in his 25/30hp) and a healthy raffle followed. Almost as soon as the event came to a close, the skies opened but by then it was too late to mar what was, by and large, a most successful rally.

Our thanks to everyone who supported the day, either by attending or in helping with the organisation, and especially for being patient and understanding while we suffered the wettest few months most of us have ever known or ever want to see again!

Andy Courtney - Secretary of the Meeting


Four winners
  The awards ceremony saw four very worthy cars selected in their respective classes. Photo: Chris Tween