Somme 100 Front Line Walk for the ABF

Firstly about the ABF:

Why does ABF The Soldiers’ Charity exist?

We give a lifetime of support to soldiers and veterans from the British Army, and their immediate families, when they are in need. We make grants to individuals through their Regiments and Corps and support a wide range of specialist charities that sustain the British Army ‘family’, both at home and around the world.

We take pride in being responsive, making a difference at a critical point in peoples’ lives. We have been doing this since 1944, working with veterans of every conflict, and we envisage continuing doing so for the ‘long haul’ – supporting all future generations of our soldiers and their dependents.

Andy Reid is an ambassador for ABF THe Soldiers’ Charity, he part took in 2 of the days, and waved us off on the third. His motivational skills kept us going, and he had a habit of appearing in his wheelchair just as you started to flag. “When the mind believes the body achieves”

Andy Reid

Now the Walk

Remember the Monuments are not to the ‘lost’ but to the unnamed that lie in memorials…

Day 1

The first shock was the 5:30 alarm.. of course compared to the soldiers this was nothing…

We started from Lochnagar Crater, the amazement that they that they dug a 300 meter plus tunnel, and then put 60 Tonnes of explosives in it to detonate at the start of the Somme.

Lochnagar Crater

Sun Rise
The Line of Walkers

A short walk to the Welsh Division Memorial (only 8km). And a tea break.

Mametz Wood

Lunch 13km later was at Thiepval, a moving monument with too many names on it.

Thiepval

Theipval

22Km saw the Mill Road Cemetery and the Ulster tower.

The never ending line of walkers

26km Saw the Newfoundland Memorial, a very different place as it was more like a park, although with craters in it!

Newfoundland Memorial

29km saw Hawthorne Ridge Crater and The Sunken Lane, the sunken lane is the footage as below, taken about 20 minutes before they all went over the top to there death. What is worth remembering that the area was so full of bodies that you could not physically retreat. A very brave signaller stood up to signal back, and knew he would be shot down as soon as he stood on the top of the bank. He lasted 10 seconds trying to save his friends and comrades.

Then past the Accrington Pals Battalion, the thought of a whole bunch of friends being wiped out.

The hardest thing was that at no point during the day did we see less that 3 memorial sites visible to us.

Day 2

The start was in Neuville-Saint–Vaast, a German Cemetery, due to space requirements the Germans had to bury 4 to a cross as opposed to the 1 that the Allies did. It is also very strange to see the Jewish soldiers who fought on the side of the Germans in WW1 knowing what happened such a short while later. The crosses were as far as the eye could see.

Neuville-Saint-Vaast

A walk down the road to an Allie Cemetery.

Cemetery

 

Followed by a long march down the road, which was straight and hard… only thing was that this was a march performed in WW1 and WW2 (by some of the same soldiers!) it must have been so hard to march down a road into battle again knowing how many comrades had died on the way to it before.

We arrived at the remains of the monastery at Mont-Saint-Eloi, and had a deserved break from the long march up hill.

A slight incline to the Old Monestry
Old Monastery

Next was a very long walk to Notre Dame de Lorette, a 39,985 grave memorial, this was probably the hardest part of the walk, and walking up one of the inclines in the wood, gasping for breath and feeling exhausted the realisation hit that in WW1 soldiers marched up the same hill in rubbish kit and under gunfire! Whilst I was tired, I had no risk of dying and just slightly achy feet!

Notre Dame de Lorette

 

Onward via the Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery, and onto Vimy Ridge, thankfully not having to climb this one, just walk up a slight hill! Although the walk to Vimy Ridge memorial for some reason was extremely emotional for us all, probably as we could see it from so far away!

Vimy trenches

Vimy Craters

Vimy Ridge Memorial

Day 3

Begining at Ploegsteert.

Ploegsteert

Past Prowse point, to Khaki Chums memorial to the 1914 Christmas Truce.

Christmas Truce

It can all get a bit much

It can all get a bit much

Carrying on past the Island of Ireland Peace park with the Irish Peace Tower.

Irish Memorial

Irish Peace Tower

Spanbroekmolen Mine Crater (Pool of Peace was next and then via the Caterpillar Crater to Hill 60.

One final regroup and then the march into Ypres… With heavy feet, and tears in our eyes, we got applauded into the town.

The March to Ypres
Going through Ypres
Menin Gate
The Fallen....
We made it just

Just when we thought we had no more emotions left we then watched the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate as a fitting end to the whole experience.

Menin Gate by night

Last Post

Last Port

Some Thoughts

The thoughts:

  1. There is no winner in war
  2. Everyone has been laid to rest with the same stone, no matter if it was a desserter shot at dawn or a general.
  3. The monuments are too big and the writting too small
  4. We are spoilt we did the walk, had a shower and some dinner… during the wars, they didn’t have showers, and maybe managed to have a dinner
  5. The support is still needed for those who are still out now.

On the day after I got back I walked my children to school, and realised that on the first day of the Somme there were 40,000 deaths… my childrens school has about 400 pupils, so that is 40 times the total number of people I saw on the way to school… dead in 1 morning.

 

Now the call to empty your wallet:

justgiving.com/gwigglesworth

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North Weald

The second visit to North Weald, and my first return to a sprint I have been to before.  With the complaining neighbour having moved it was nice to not have to queue outside the gate!

One of the quirks with North Weald is that the circuit is that it is never laid out the same each time!

Practice 1

A sighting lap, and trying to remember where the big bumps are so  not pushing too hard 87.17.

Practice 2

Bumps remembered so time to push a bit harder.. 86.02, with a right mess at the Banjo, braking too early and feeling like I had stopped before the corner!

Timed Run 1

More aggression, lots of slides as the rear tyres didn’t get warm, 85.71.

Timed Run 2

After lunch and some thought a small drop in the rear tyre pressures to increase the stability, but a bit of a big error on one of the loops around the oval section resulted in a large lift due to the track not being wide enough. 85.77.

Timed Run 3

Last run.. concentrate, try to get the braking for Banjo right and to keep the speed round the oval without running out of track. Success 84.80. OK still 8th in class, but two MX5s beaten.

Sprint time 10 seconds quicker than earlier in the year, with the class fastest time only 5 seconds quicker than earlier in the year, so I guess I have learnt how to throw the Panda about a bit.

Last race for the year so time now to re-group and think about 2017!

 

Posted in Panda, Sprint

Hethel Sprint

Sadly no photographs due to the rules from Lotus – not a problem at all..

Hethel is such an interesting circuit – always reminds me why Lotus make such great handling cars!

The circuit is basically an L, with the outside of the L having long straights, there is a chicane at Chapman and other one placed in the Factory Straight. The route was from the pits 1 lap and then the finish after the Senna Curves.

Hethel Track

Practice 1

First feeler for the course… Knew I hadn’t braked late enough and hard enough for the chicanes, and felt that I go the line wrong between Graham Hill, McQueen and Circle corner!

Nicely an MX5 and Golf GTI Mk1 behind me! But sadly the Saxo’s and 2 other MX5s 15 seconds ahead.. .although finding out that they touch 110mph before the North Hairpin as opposed to me nearly touching 100 reminded me that 200cc, with 20% more power and a car weighing 50kg less stands out!

176.76

Practice 2

Harder hitting, brake harder, and generally much better, apart from the back end hopping between Graham Hill, McQueen and Circle corner, resulting in a huge slide around Circle Corner!

174.23 seconds

The Golf got much closer!

Timed Run 1

A tweak of the tyre pressures to reduce the hoping which worked well.

A decision to take much more kerb and be a bit more aggressive into the corners to get the car flatter and gripping earlier! But the huge over cook at circle corner on the second run through it resulted in lots of lost time.

173.44 seconds

Timed Run 2

More kerb, more confidence in the car with the tyre pressures, although the front end wash and roll might now mean time to look at new shocks. Loads of kerb, and hitting the brakes much much harder resulted in the back end lifting under braking – really must think about the shocks! Taking all the kerb I could find whilst keeping the car vaguely on track!

170.65 much happier with the time, and some great lessons learnt about the tyre pressures!

 

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Lands End to John O’Groats

Sometimes we do silly things, sometimes we wonder why we did them.. sometimes they are amazing…

The decision to go from Lands End to John O’Groats as part of the LandRover convoy is one of those….

The original plan of using the Santana, was dropped due to an issue with the stock that we had of them… (If you want a Santana feel free to contact us more arrive all the time). So a Freelander was found with just a few weeks to go! We (well Mark) treated it to a full Service and that was it.

Wednesday

Nice gentle day, Norfolk to the end of Cornwall. Actually the traffic was not too bad. Although it did rain! 400 plus miles and we arrived at the camp site for the night (due to a cock up on the hotel we were meant to stay at being fully booked GRRR).

Thursday Lands End to Yate

A departure from the wet campsite to Lands End which was A shut and B cold and wet! Followed by a trek to Yate…

First stop after Lands End was a lovely cafe for some breakfast and warm drinks for the day. A trundle along catching up with everyone resulted in us being amongst the first to arrive at Yate… which gave us a great camping spot on the central reservation.

Friday Yate to Dalmellington

The day of M5 and M6… a long… but we planned wisely and stopped at Gloucester services for a lovely croissant, and Tebay, where we bought some bacon to cook for lunch in the car park, with the tent draped over the car to dry it out.

Once we found the campsite and made the discovery that it wasn’t just damp under foot, but that the Freelander started to sink as we looked for some flat ground… We decided to ‘Wild Camp’ as it is called in Scotland (what a great clever law!), at a local car park with a stream, which enabled a nice river wash and lots of midges…

Woken up in the middle of the night to flashing lights a quick get out of the tent resulted in watching a wind turbine being driven past, which is why the police had blocked the road, not that we had done anything wrong! (Felt wrong to just pitch the tent, but in Scotland it is legal).

 

Saturday Dalmellington to Ardmore

A slow jaunt up to Ardmore, up the side of Loch Lomond, and then Loch Ness before working our way across to the end point. Distractions where the beauty of nature and the highlands, which created a burning desire to return.. and a visit to a distillery which just created a burning!

Sunday Ardmore to John O’Groats and then home

The last day, and a trip to John O’Groats for the compulsory photo (without having to pay unlike rip off Cornwall!). Then to watch the rest of the convoy as we ate another lovely breakfast. The final stint just 800 miles back to home!

A total of just 2004 miles! And no problems with the lovely Freelander, which is now running very happy!

 

Don’t forget to sponsor our Somme Walk as well.. justgiving.com/gwigglesworth

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Debden Sprint 26 June 2016

In with the big boys!Another new track – no surprise.

First challenge is to get into Carver Barracks which actually was OK, just need to remember to have your pass ready before you turn into the premises.

Nothing changed for this event on the car which makes a change.

Practice 1

Having been unsure about which gear for many of the chicanes the mental decision was made to go slower rather than faster, and even after walking the course and a convoy run to try to get used to the cone blindness at some of the points. The interesting discovery was that the different surfaces have completely different adhesion and there are some big holes to avoid. 89.84 seconds

Practice 2

With a wait just before this run for the recovery of some of the cars that had issues, followed by the removal of some trespassers on the army barracks…

Big braver through the chicanes and also later on the braking. 86.09 seconds

Run 1

Another wait whilst yet more trespassers where removed… trying to remove from my head how on earth people can be allowed to walk into the barracks I started my first timed run.

Much later on the brakes…. and then a brake snatched on the gravelly bit and the front end understeer made the cones come a bit close, so discretion being the better part of valour (or having to drive home and use the car for work), an ease off the brakes, through the gap in the cones, and return to the route. This then meant I tried to harder and faster at the chicanes which did work well as my time was faster even with the off than the previous run. 90.35 seconds Including the 5 second penalty)

Run 2

Decision made, brake later for the roundabout, throw the car through the fast chicanes a bit more, ignoring the body roll, trying to just miss the cones. Went well.. apart from clipping a cone, thankfully no damage so another timed run with a 5 second penalty… grrr! 80.44 (which became a 85.44)

Run 3

Hmm the challenge now.. could I get below 80 seconds or do I use a bit of space on the chicanes to avoid hitting a cone again. Well I went safe… 80.44 clearly I made a bit more time on some of the other bits, and wasn’t as far from the cones through the chicane as it felt.

Posted in Panda, Racing, Sprint

Blyton Park Sprint June 2016

Blyton Park sprint was a long sprint being 2 laps of the outer circuit. (Making just under 3 miles per run!).One of the other nice things was the Classic Marques, Mini-Cross and Aston Martin clubs being present resulting in a very interesting set of cars! What was also nice was the lack of Saxos!

 

Blyton Paddock

Practice 1

Having walked the course I did not think it would be to complicated.. a lot of decisions about which gear, and some parts looking a bit complicated to see the route as the course crossed over itself! As a result of this I elected to be slightly conservative on the first run. Deciding on the safer option of 2nd through The Ump, and The Wiggler. Also a big slow for Bunga Bunga. 186.1 seconds….

Some slight concern due to the stinking brakes and smoking brake as I came in, I checked this over and reached the conclusion that hopefully it was just a bit of dirt from changing the brakes.

Practice 2

This time leave it in 3rd for The Wiggler (second time through), and carry more speed through Bishops, and a big slide through Bunga Bunga due to not getting in tight enough on the first lap. The nice thing about doing 2 laps is that I could experiment and try higher gears and see if it felt better. 180.99 seconds.. could I get below 180?

The brakes did not smoke this time, so I presumed they had settled nicely.

Run 1

Right leave it in 3rd for The Ump, which feels really weird as it is hard to see the gap in the barrier! Along with letting it run even wider through Bishops, what was interesting was flicking into the re-join of the track under heavy braking and wondering what the bang was from the back! Turns out that the rears where rather light and the ABS kicked in as they came back down and chasing the speed up Lancaster really seemed to help. 178.66 seconds under the 180 and still with some space and the ability to give a bit more abuse!

Run 2

Some thought about a different line through Bunga Bunga, and the decision that if I seem to be going to hit the cone and time penalty on the inside I could floor it and use the understeer washout to miss the cone. This resulted in being in 4th through Port Froid, with a the ensuing extra speed, which the Panda moaned about but accepted! Resulting in a rather pleasing 176.88, and some thought that if another run could occur that I could possibly gain get below the 175 mark with even more aggression through Bunga Bunga and Port Froid. Brakes all fine this time, and now definitely bedded in and working great!

 

Waiting to go out

Sadly there was no time for the 3rd timed run due to the amount of excursions and people getting the lap count wrong!

Posted in Panda, Sprint

Abingdon CAR-nival

Post Scrutineering

Well new brakes, and trying 99 Ron Fuel…

I have to say it seemed better pulling away. As for the brakes took me all day to try to work out how good they are!

Abingdon is a big day, with 2 courses and 4 runs on each course!

Paddock

Abingdon Course

An interesing course.. basically blast as fast as you dare.. slam on the brakes mid corner, swing right, then try to balance going left over the finish.

First Practice run 64.77, mental note brake about 60 yards later…

Second Practice run 60.96 – much better but completely sideways through the final corner.

First proper run 61.58, confused wasn’t sideways over the finish and had a faster speed.. oh yes that would be the gear I missed when running up through the box.

Second run 61.07 slightly confused as I thought I had gone faster than second practice.. but as a plus point beat a Saxo (finally).

Time for some lunch then:

Bentley Course

This is a give it large then almost stop for the twisty bits.

Decision made attack it harder…

Practice 1 69.12 – broke about 100 yards to early. And thanks for the person for making the comment.. if the ABS doesn’t click in you aren’t hitting it hard enough/

Practice 2 67.44 better still a bit to early on the brakes.

Run 1 66.51 much better braking about right and a bit of a flick going on in the last bend as a trial.

Run 2 65.06 – damm missed the sub 65 by so little. ABS kicked in harder this time but definately slow round one of the bends due to the front end washing out, and very sideway by choice through the last 2 bends as that seemed better.

Beat several Saxo and a 106 so a happy bunny.

 

The interesting thing is that the gap has shrunk and I am now infront of some of the Saxos!

Brakes have now had a fluid change and feel better on the road..

Posted in Panda, Sprint

Panda Brakes

Well after things got a bit long and interesting at the last event the decision was made to put new pads and disc on. Nothing special.. not a race compound as the car has to work everyday, but I did go to Mintex. Amazing what you can do in a lunch hour with some help from friends.

 

As you can see they where a bit tired..

Old Brake Disc

Old Brake Disc

and very worn!

New v Old Pads

 

Now looking all shiny!

All shiny!

So far only tested on the very wet roads, but felt better, once I peeled myself off the screen.

Posted in Panda, Sprint

Snetterton Sprint

The joy of a local round, just 45 minutes from Door to parking in my space at Snetterton!

Waiting to start

Waiting to start

Even better was that the sun was shining. With a new concept in my head of not taking it so easy on the 1st practice run I set off on the first run. 125.73 not bad, although lugged through some of the turns a bit. Practice 2 was 124.62 – this time screaming through some of the turns.. and very sideways at the hairpin (Firmans).

Timed run 1 124.20, timed run 2 124.2 again. The difference? Run one, 3rd gear through Oggies, and massively sideways through Firmans. Run 2 2nd Gear Oggies, wheelspin all the way round Firmans…

Ah well lets try run 3, the sun has gone in… 124.93… with a smooth attempt at Firmans. ah well I always said it is like a classic Mini Cooper and clearly a bit of John Rhodes needed going forwards!

4th in class again.. 10 seconds of the fast Saxo’s again… Oh but the only other 1.4 was 10 seconds slower than me!

New brakes have also been ordered as they started to get a bit long and the level of dust means they can’t be much left on the pads.

Worked hard today on the brakes

Worked hard today on the brakes

Posted in Panda, Sprint

North Weald Sprint

Another sprint, this time first outing to North Weald. So having already competed on a circuit time for a bumpy airfield!

Once the route around the airfield was digested and walked so that the repeated cone sets were known it was into first practice run.

The first shock was that it was far bumpier than expected from the walk… but a 105.81 was OK.

Second practice was a very lary, sideways, bouncy 98.01 with far too much corner speed and understeer. Time for a think as the hail came down….

With some slight line adjustments and more thought about how to stop the wheels from spinning up as much a 96.40 and not feeling like I had taken all the risks in the world.

2nd run was a 95.79, and the last run it was all going about right for a 94.26… yes 7th in class (but in the 1600 class that is not a surprise), 41st overall, but behind me was 4 MX5s and an MR2 so quite pleased overall really. Fastest 1400 which pleased me.

Posted in Panda, Racing, Sprint