Kent & East Sussex Meeting Report

Here is a comprehensive account of our recent trip to Kent & East Sussex from Steve Auty.  There is no doubt that Steve correctly assumes that everyone who attended  enjoyed a truly brilliant, well organised meeting, expertly arranged by David & Helen Brenchley.  Again it will be a hard act to follow next year.  Thank you Steve for your report  and the pictures.

Martin Garrad

Sunday 16th June saw 16 barchettas and their crews assemble at the Flackley Ash Hotel in Peasmarsh, near Rye in East Sussex, in preparation for the 2024 annual Club meeting which this year had been organised by David and Helen Brenchley. After being personally greeted by Helen before checking in, each crew received a colour-coded goody bag which contained amongst other things a Road Book complete with “tulip maps” and directions, and amazingly comprehensive descriptions of all the places we would be visiting and passing during the next two-and-a-half days. Dinner on each of the three nights was taken in a private dining area of the hotel and the food was of a very high standard.

Monday morning was a bit of a shocker for those of us who had parked our cars under the trees. The local bird population (they appeared to have possibly been albatrosses) all seemed to have suffered an extremely serious overnight gastric event as the cars were covered in what can only be described as pale green gloop. Fortunately, the birds must have gone to the local pharmacy and taken their doses of Immodium as the problem did not seem to be as bad on the subsequent two mornings.

After green gloop had been dealt with, David B gave us a short briefing and we set off for the one hour/thirty-mile drive to our first visit of the day at the privately owned Filching Manor and Motor Museumnear Polegate, which is only open by prior arrangement, usually to car club groups. Upon arrival, a chap in a high-vis vest was directing orderly parking in front of the 15th Century manor house – it transpired that this gentleman was actually the current owner of Filching Manor, Karl Foulkes-Halbard! Inside the manor house, Karl gave us a brief history of the building which, along with other residences around the estate, is inhabited by four generations of his family. Karl then took us on a tour of various outbuildings containing an absolute treasure trove of motoring memorabilia and vehicles, including two 1920s Rolls-Royces (one of which belonged to Sir Malcolm Campbell – more of himshortly), two 1920s Bugattis, one 1920s Bentley, one D-Type Jaguar and an original Ford GT40.

The jewel of the collection though is Sir Malcolm Campbell’s world water-speed-record-breaking 1937 Bluebird K3 Hydroplane. In 1988, Karl and his father rescued the machine which had originally been left to gradually decay around the back of a London motor dealership before then being displayed at Thorpe Park.Over a twenty-year period starting in the early 1990s, Karl, his fatherand a small team restored the machine to running condition and in June 2012 it took to the water again at a local reservoir, Bewl Water. After some setbacks and much further work, in July 2018 Karl took K3 to Lake Maggiore in Switzerland, where Bluebird had originally taken the world record, and, piloting K3 himself,made a couple of runs on the lake at 70 mph – the top speed allowed by its insurance.Our group enjoyed a thoroughly absorbing presentation by Karl who was very entertaining company throughout the visit.

Moving on from Filching Manor, our next stop of the day was Winchelsea, one of two “Ancient Townes” (the other being Rye) which form a confederation with the Cinque Ports (Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich). Here, David and Helen had set us a tricky little quiz (which carried a prize for the winning entry), the answers to which could all be found by slowly meandering around the village and closely inspecting various points of interest. The churchyard’s most famous “resident” is Spike Milligan, whose headstone carries a Gaelic inscription which translates as “I told you I was ill”.A very quaint, photogenic little village with blue plaques on several cottages and some interesting weather vanes.

Our final stop on Monday was just three miles from Winchelsea at the other Ancient Towne of Rye, where we were free to explore the town and then return to the hotel at leisure. Like Winchelsea, Rye is also a very picturesque place with a small castle and cobbled streets including Mermaid Street (quite steep).

The Club’s AGM was held before dinner on Monday evening, half-a-mile down the road from the hotel at Peasmarsh Memorial Hall. The hotel’s General Manager had been asked to select the best car for the award of the David Davies Memorial Trophy and, very appropriately, he chose my car which had belonged to David Davies himself before I bought it last November following the sad demise of my previous barchetta, the Bumblebee!

Another early start on Tuesday morning as we headed off on the forty-two-mile drive to Dover Castle. By the time everyone arrived at Dover Castle, almost two hours had elapsed as several barchettas became slightly “misplaced” (not lost!) by a very large and very confusing roundabout at the junction of the A20 and M20 at Westenhanger. Unfortunately, this meant that we only had two hours in which to selectively explore the castle, ramparts, barracks,underground hospital and various series of tunnels. To see it all fully probably requires most of a day.

We then made the short six-mile drive to Capel-le-Ferne on the clifftops between Dover and Folkestone. This is the site of the Battle of Britain Memorial, the “National Memorial to the Few”, and commemorates all those who flew in the Battle of Britain in 1940, not just those who died – a Memorial Wall records all their names. The centre-piece of the memorial is a large statue of a seated airman staring out to sea, in the centre of a representation of a three-bladed aircraft propeller. The statue was unveiled in 1993 by the late Queen Mother in remembrance of “her boys”.All very poignant and moving.

Amazingly, we had been granted permission to park the barchettas along the edge of one of the propeller blades for a once in a lifetime photo-opportunity – I have no idea how Helen and David managed to arrange this! I’m not sure if the BoB Memorial Trust would have been quite so accommodating had we been, say, a Volkswagen or Audi club …

The final destination of the day was Dungeness, just over twenty miles away. Dungeness is a nature reserve which is home to many rare plants, birds, moths butterflies and even bumble bees. Its main features are the very long shingle beach (lots of cuttlefish bones), three lighthouses (only one still in use), two nuclear power stations (both now decommissioned) and the last station on the line of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch miniature steam railway, which we saw in operation. There was also a short “art trail” running through the wildflowers and shingle to three or four beach huts displaying the work of local artists – very pretty.

During dinner on Tuesday evening, David and Helen announced the winners of the Winchelsea quiz. Of the entries received, Helen Robbins and Tony Barnes were awarded the wooden spoon (possibly for the most inventive and/or irreverent answers?). Embarrassingly, Jenny and I were the winners (9 correct answers out of 10), the prize being a 12-month subscription to Auto Italia magazine – not sure Jenny will be perusing that very much though.

All too soon Wednesday morning arrived, which involved packing up the barchettas and paying bar bills. The drive today was just under forty miles to Chartwell, the home of Winston Churchill and his family for over forty years until his death in 1965. It is now a National Trust property. En-route, we encountered a slight difficulty in the village of Fordcombe, due to Kent County Council unhelpfully deciding to close a road which we had been intending to use, just half-an-hour before we got to it. Sat-navs and Google Maps came to the rescue, and everyone eventually made it to Chartwell using a variety of alternative routes.

Each of the rooms at Chartwell are full of Churchill memorabilia, photographs, portraits and paintings and are staffed by very knowledgeable volunteers who are eager to answer visitors’ questions and pass on other interesting snippets of information. The gardens and grounds are also beautifully maintained, with the heady scent of flowering roses on the day we visited.

Informal goodbyes were said in the main café in the early afternoon, with people heading home at times dependent on the length of their journey.

I think I can speak for everyone when I say we had a great time in Kent and East Sussex, with top-down weather for the most part and excellent visits arranged by Helen and David.Once again, “mille grazie” to them for yet another successful Club meeting. 

See you in 2025 – wherever that may be!

Steve Auty

Some statistics:

Day 1 (Monday 17th June) 66 miles driven / 3.0 hours driving / 8 hours elapsed

Day 2 (Tuesday 18th June) 89 miles driven / 3.5 hours driving / 8 hours elapsed

Day 3 (Wednesday 19th June) 38 miles driven / 1.5 hours driving / 5 hours elapsed