Northumberland Meeting Report

Many thanks to Committee Seceratary Sandy Ranson for providing this report on the UK Barchetta Owners Club meeting and also thanks to Colin Metcalfe and Timothy Rocker for the photos and videos.

Northumberland Meeting, May 15th – May 18th 2022

Long awaited and much anticipated – our first residential trip since 2019 really hit the mark with club members. This year’s trip, expertly organised by Clive and Louise Marshall, attracted a record number of UK Barchettas and their owners, from all the home nations of the UK. There were special welcomes to our first Scottish residents, Ian and Bernadette Hennen from Fife and to Steve and Carol Skelly, who made the long trip over from N.I. 

Twenty-four cars arrived on Sunday afternoon at the Beamish Hall Hotel and after booking in, a great time was had by all renewing friendships, catching up on two year’s worth of news and welcoming first-timers to the UK Barchetta family. It was quite special to see all the ‘little boats’ lined up together in the car park. This year the most predominant colour was Yellow (6), followed by Red (5), Silver (3), Blue (3) – or 4 if you counted the beautiful turquoise number, newly acquired by member Helen Robbins. There were two Black and two Aubergine cars and one Orange. 

In the best tradition of the club, Clive and Louise had organised a varied and interesting programme:

Day 1: The weather was against us and after some quick rescheduling, the visit to the Angel of the North was deferred  until Day 2.  After negotiating the challenges of the A1 road-works, we headed north on pleasant roads to Cragside, our first port of call. Cragside is a spectacular National Trust  property and the former home of Lord Armstrong, an industrialist and engineer. Built to impress and to provide the highest level of comfort, the estate and house was reclaimed from the heather and carved from the moorside landscape. The house was the first to have electricity installed and included many far-reaching and modern innovations showcasing the engineering prowess of Lord Armstrong. The gardens owed their design and planning to Lady Armstrong, a keen botanist. The house and estate were legendary in the day and the height of innovation at the time.

Cragside – view of the iron bridge.

Despite the (at times torrential) rain, the venue was much admired and appreciated by club members and in any event, we were able to bring our own little bit of sunshine with us, courtesy of our yellow and orange Barchettas! On leaving, we were able to enjoy the 6-mile circular Carriage Drive in convoy, taking in the beauty of the estate and the rhododendrons which had flowered ‘on time’ for our visit. Then it was back to the hotel for relaxation and more chatting before the short AGM followed by dinner in the Stables restaurant.

Day 2: Re-scheduled from the day before, our first call was the Angel of the North. Driving conditions were challenging and our  convoy arrived in parts and at different times but we all made it. Fair to say, the club walkie-talkies came into their own! Anthony Gormley’s Angel of the North  provided a great photo opportunity and needless to say, there were lots of  ‘Barchetta Angels’  with and without arms suitably outstretched.

Back en-route, we then headed west, to Vindolanda museum and archaeological site. The drive across the moors to Vindolanda (site of a Roman fort) was breath-taking, with the undulating moorland providing  plenty of rise and fall and a great opportunity to see our convoy of Barchettas framed against the landscape. 

Vindolanda proved to be fascinating and with the ‘dig’ in progress, it was possible to watch proceedings at first hand and to talk to the archaeologists as they worked. The museum was extensive  and included many amazing artefacts that had all been discovered and recovered from the site. The display of shoes was especially admired and appreciated! The weather favoured us today and there was plenty of time to relax in the sunshine and to take in the surroundings.

Final night – The Stables restaurant – Beamish Hall Hotel.

Day 3:  Our final day began with the traditional group photo shoot – meticulous planning had gone into the arrangement of our cars (thank you Chris) and we had a bit of fun watching drivers manoeuvre into position. Ian stole the show in this respect with great professional skill (taking a fraction of the time of some!). Thanks to Colin Metcalfe for the photography and to Timothy Rocker for the drone shots (with the drone attracting a significant amount of interest in its own right).This year – the ‘Best Presented Car’ award went to Steve and Carol Skelly’s lovely Orange Barchetta – well done!

The final drive saw us heading south west to High Force and further spectacular views across the stunning moorland (mind the sheep!) as we drove along the high roads of County Durham and the North Teesdale Valley. High Force on the River Tees is a waterfall with a 22m drop, through ancient volcanic Whin Sill  rock. Clive provided us with a very knowledgeable and interesting explanation of the geology of the site, which added to our understanding of the area.  

It was then time for a last lunch together, before a big thank-you to Clive and Louise and goodbyes all round. It was a fantastic trip – see you all … and more next year!

Sandy Ranson.

High Force