The CPA (Construction Plant-hire Association) has been a long-time supporter of the Lighthouse Club and to mark the achievement of its 60th anniversary and the CPA’s 75th anniversary, the CPA sponsored the charity’s bi-annual John o’Groats to Lands End car run.
On behalf of the CPA and its Council members, David Smith, CPA Legal Manager and Peter Brown, CPA Technical Development Manager volunteered to support the event and ‘Fly-the-CPA Flag’ on this epic journey across Britain.
In keeping with the spirit of the event the CPA team travelled the distance in Mr Brown’s Fiat 500 Abarth. CPA’s team name was ‘Alas Smith and Brown’, in recognition of two well-known comedians, the tour itself was aptly named – ‘The Two men in a Bath’ tour!
Peter Brown said, “To begin the actual run from John O’Groats to Lands End we had to get to John O’Groats! This meant a two-stage drive from Norfolk via Peterborough station to pick up David before heading north with an overnight stop at Perth. Due to road closures, we arrived at our destination mid-evening – considerably later than planned!”
Mr Brown added, “The following morning, we made the final leg up to John O’Groats, where the son of ‘Hurricane Bawbag’ had descended en-route - providing further thrills in negotiating the increasing twists, dips and turns as it followed the east coast up to our destination.
We arrived at the hotel – which was warm and welcoming. The evening was spent making final preparations and the teams got to know each other. The rules of the run were explained by David Adams, the organiser and host of the event. In summary, we were told ‘enjoy yourselves, it’s not a race’ so sticking to the speed limits was essential. Our team - Alas Smith and Brown - were one of five rookie teams and going by some of the other team’s machinery - it was a case of take no prisoners!”
The journey begins Day one!
Sunday morning the event began following a 6am breakfast! The teams lined up in the car park next to the ubiquitous white signpost indicating the distance to Lands End - 874 miles. The eager teams set off in the dark at 7am leaving at one minute intervals, with CPA’s ‘Alas Smith & Brown’ leaving last.
Lined up for the start alongside the CPA team was a Range Rover Sport, a BMW X5, a Land Rover Defender, a Fiat Punto, and a Volvo, which was driven by two nuns! Also on the grid was an 80’s style Granada, a Caterham, which was being driven by a Lord and Lady, then there were two identical vans which belonged to HPC and finally, organiser David Adam’s, BMW 3 series.
CPA’s David Smith said, “We were handed our instructions for the first section which took us along the roof of Scotland with the weather dry but windy. It was only when we reached the first rest stop some 190 miles from the start, south of Ullapool when we realised that this is serious stuff and the enormity of it started to hit home.”
Mr Smith added, “Peter and I had made numerous driver changes as the rules require no more than two hours per driver. The passenger then had to undertake navigation duties, help the driver read the road, hand over liquid refreshments and keep an eye out for the picture quiz and questions we had to answer on the route. This was almost as exhausting as the driving itself so there was no time to either take in the scenery or resting.”
From Loch Lomond the CPA team headed down via Kilmarnock towards Dumfries in intermittent heavy rain. The overnight stop was at Bowness-on-Windemere. It’s only at each rest stop the next stage of the run is revealed which means the participants can’t plan a route in advance. Sat-navs are also banned! The given instructions must be referenced against a road atlas as soon as driving begins.
Mr Brown said, “Darkness and fatigue were setting in and we were two hours before we were to reach our overnight stop. Our route went via Gretna Green, Carlisle and Penrith via the A6 before following Ullswater. Probably the most difficult stretch of the whole run was negotiating the Kirkstone pass - a narrow, twisty road with steep climbs and descents with stone walls either side. The navigator had to read the road map and instructions by torch, keep a look out for the road signs which frustratingly always seemed out of sight, and act as second eyes for the driver on this tortuous section. Thirteen hours of being on the road we arrived at our overnight stop.”
The final leg Day two...
The 2nd day started with an alarm call at 5am, breakfast was at 6am and departure time was 7am. The new set of instructions took the CPA team down to Kendal to join the M6 for the run down to North Wales. The team hit the rush-hour traffic between Preston and Warrington and slow progress was made before leaving the motorway to skirt Chester.
Mr Smith said, “We headed down to and through Oswestry, Welshpool and Newtown and on the road towards Llandridod Wells, where our first stop was located just south of Newtown. The CPA President, Bob Collins and partner were waiting to meet us to offer their support.
We headed towards Monmouth and then followed a twisting but well-surfaced road that followed the River Wye down to Chepstow. We saw a red sign at the start of the stretch but took little notice and only after driving for some ten minutes that we thought “mmm…this is a quiet road” and yes, further on was another sign saying ‘Road Closed’. There was no way through which meant a long-winded diversion towards Chester - we were well behind schedule.”
Mr Brown added, “A phone call from the organiser indicated that, to get to the finish in time, we needed to take the most direct route to the next rest stop east of Taunton - although a lane closure on the M5 south meant a detour and more time lost.
Leaving Penzance for the last stretch we saw our first sign saying ‘Lighthouse Club end-to-enders – you’re almost there!’. That lifted our spirits and we reached the final checkpoint at 7.25pm – finishing another twelve plus hours of intensive and continual driving.”
They think it’s all over…
The deserved top team of the event were from J C Balls - CPA members of some 50 years, but many prizes were won by the different teams. The best turned out car went justly to our Lord and Lady Caterham, and the ‘Nuns on the Run’ also scooped a prize for their photograph of them meeting the Loch Ness monster. Our team ‘Alas Smith and Brown’ won the prize for the least-interested participants – proving that the organisers sense of humour hadn’t diminished over the event - we think!”
Team ‘Alas Smith and Brown’ covered some 1,030 miles in 25 hours of driving over the two-days of the event from end-to-end. The route the team had to follow covered an additional 200 miles than the shortest possible route. Mr Brown said, “Getting up there and back from each end added another 1,100 miles which for us meant an overall mileage of 2,130 miles in four and a bit days.
We were both pleased and proud to have flown the CPA flag for this prestigious event in our 75th year, and have enduring memories, both good and bad, of the intense and constant driving and navigating in appalling weather over the period. We are still on each other’s Christmas card list but to paraphrase Sir Steve Redgrave; if you see us anywhere near a John O’Groats to Lands End run again, you have our permission to shoot us. However, on reflection, after a day’s rest, agreed it was enjoyable and challenging and all in aid of a very worthwhile cause, and we hope that CPA members will themselves consider fielding a team at the next run.
The event raised some £20,000 for the Lighthouse Charity proving that pain does equal gain. A big well done to all the teams.”
Organiser and host of the event, David Adams said, “Everybody seems to think it will be a doddle, and each time the run takes place - I think the same thing! This is my eighth time and I always think it won’t take as long as it does. All teams took it in turns to be lost or come last but the event is also a chance for people to let their hair down, and friendly banter is the order of the day”.
You heard it here first ..here's a few words of wisdom from the teams
'Nuns On The Run': It was a great event, I think we suffered from cabin fever.
'Wyn Wyn': A big thank you for a wonderful time.
'Really No Problem': It was a fabulous experience and well organised. Many thanks for the opportunity and hospitality. Every one was so friendly and helpful. It was a fantastic experience that I will never forget.
'WTF': We both really enjoyed the experience, going topless all the way.
'No Problem': It was a great event and after 10hrs sleep at the end it was even better. Thank you George and David. The cup has taken pride of place in the office.
'GB PRO': How about we do Santander to Malaga next time, a lot less traffic!!!!
And finally from Dave Adams the event organiser, "will I do it again? if the people who take part are as much fun to be with as they have been in the past, YOU BET!!!!!"