Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Urgent Interior Remedial Work on Van

Travelling over all those repairs on South Island roads just about shook our oven to pieces.  Yes, we admit that we have experienced a broken screw or two on the North Island roads, but now the whole oven seemed ready to jump out of it’s space straight onto the floor.  The extra shaking had also loosened the catch on the pantry door, and for the last couple of days we had been travelling with the pantry secured with a bungy cord.  Something needed to be done, and fast, before we continued on our trip!  Luckily, not too far away, was the RV Centre, and they were able to do some repairs the next day.  So we hooked up the van and dropped it off at 8.00am, leaving it behind to get the remedial work done. 

Then we took ourselves off to have some breakfast at the Robert Harris Café in Hornby.  And found out the story behind the franchise.  It all started in Hamilton, in 1952,  Robert didn’t really  like the coffee served in NZ cafes, and decided to do something about it, importing and roasting coffee beans.  The rest, of course, is history, with the café franchises all over the country.

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Robert (Bob) Harris and our breakfast

The cell phone rang to let us know that the repairs had been completed so we drove back to collect the van.  The oven was taken right out, inspected, and repaired.  Different screws have been used to fix the stove into the bench and hopefully this will stop the screws popping out/breaking and falling onto the floor, where we used to find them.  As for the problem with the pantry, it seems that it was not made to carry cans of food.  We were not advised this fact, so have been “carrying on regardless”.  The latch was repaired, the cans of food and now packed away in the bottom of a cupboard.  Our pantry now contains lighter packets and such-like.

We are currently staying in Christchurch for three nights, to catch up with son Michael.  It’s been a while since we last got together, so it was lovely to have some time together.  After a good chat, and a home made coffee courtesy of his fancy coffee machine, we took him out for lunch.  After indulging in both breakfast and lunch out at local cafes,  and deciding that we had eaten plenty, it was back to the van for a ham sandwich for our evening meal.

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Michael and his Mum

We came across another interesting sculpture on our travels around Christchurch – the Memorial Gateway on  Russley Rd.  The design of the Memorial Gateway  symbolised the power of the Southern Alps, rivers and the crossing over of cultures that would be coming into the city.

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Memorial Gateway

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

On to Christchurch

It was hello and goodbye to the resident chook at the camp this morning as we got ready to continue on our trip.  There could well be more than one, but if there was, they kept themselves well hidden.

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Hello, chooky

First stop on leaving Hamner was the very necessary visit to the dump station, just a few kms from the camp.  A posse of very interested cows were peeping through the trees from across the road.  They were keeping an eye on Robin as he got on with the job of emptying the waste water and topping up the fresh water tank.  No, I don’t help with that, it is a designated “Blue Job”.

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We drove along the very quaintly named “Mouse Point Road”.  There has to be a story behind a name like that, but even Mr Google couldn’t help me – maybe someone knows the tale?  Our trip then took us down SH7 past the little town of Waikari.  We have fond memories of this place as we boarded here for a trip on the Weka Pass Railway in 2012 when we were touring the South Island with a group of four vans.  What a fun trip that was, even though we remember that the rain was pouring down.  And look – here’s Frog Rock, visible from both the train track and the road as we travel through Weka Pass.

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Frog Rock at Weka pass

Turning on to SH1 the traffic got more and more busy as we headed towards the city of Christchurch.  “Look at that”, I said to Robin as we drove along, catching a glimpse of a huge globe glinting in the sun.  Fanfare, designed by Neil Dawson, is a 25m tall sphere covered in 360 spinning metal pinwheels and is one of the largest public artworks in New Zealand.  You could almost liken the sculpture to the return of a relation who moved overseas for a while.  Neil Dawson was first commissioned to create Fanfare for the 2004 New Year celebrations in Sydney, where it was suspended from the harbour bridge.  The sculpture was gifted to Christchurch from Sydney in 2007, and the $1.3 million upgrade and installation costs covered by crowd funding, corporate donations, and grants.  Mayor Lianne Dalziel said "Fanfare will always be a symbol of the regeneration of our city (after the earthquake) and the rebirth of our arts scene.  It has been on quite a journey, having started life in Sydney 10 years ago. It feels like we are welcoming it home."

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Fanfare, by Neil Dawson

We are staying at Weedons NZMCA Park in Christchurch for the next few days.  This is a huge park and can take up to 50 vans, and also has a large area where members can store their vans.  Water, rubbish bins, toilets and a large meeting room are available.  There used to be a washing machine too – but sadly that is out being repaired at the moment, so it will be a trip to the local launderette for me tomorrow. 

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Our little corner of the camp

Our trip so far has been a bit of a rush,  travelling down the Island to where we need to be so that we can meet up with family and friends.  Not much time for much sight seeing so far, but things will get a bit more relaxed soon.  Tomorrow we are meeting up with son Michael – he is a whizz on his coffee machine so we are looking forward to that!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

From Picton to Murchison and Hamner

Disembarking the ferry, we left the busy port of Picton, and drove through the Wairau Valley.  Grape vines have been planted in this part of the country, as far as the eye can see, together with their respective wine making establishments.  There are some big names in the wine business down here, such as Stoney Creek and Nobilos.  Big money and big business indeed, fortunes must be tied up in all these thousands of acres of wine plantings and the specialized people and equipment needed to develop world famous wine.

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Premium NZ wine starts here

The rows of grape vines gave way to native bush,and we noticed plenty of manuka trees in flower.  No doubt there were plenty of bees buzzing around, taking the nectar back to the hives to turn into lovely golden manuka honey.  We whizzed past the interesting little Alpine village of St Arnaud.  If we weren’t on a mission to get to our overnight stop after a long day of travelling,  we would have rather liked to stop and explore – perhaps next time.

We were staying the night the NZMCA site at Murchison, this site has doubled in size since our last visit six years ago.  And with water, rubbish disposal, and a dump station available, it is very well set up indeed.  After paying our fees, I visited the swap a book library, picking up one or two books, and leaving behind even more which I had finished with.

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Staying the night at Murchison

The NZMCA site is nestled between two of Murchison’s historic 19th century buildings, bounded on one side by the Murchison Theatre,  on on the other by the rather dilapidated Commercial Stables building – now a 2nd hand shop, it seems.

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Old Murchison buildings

In the camp grounds we saw a lovely timber and copper sculpture, made by Graham Snook of Mapua, in remembrance of the massive 7.8 earthquake of 1929.  This was centered in the Lyell Range west of Murchison, devastated the town and caused serious damage throughout Greymouth, Nelson and Westport.  The artist states: “The separation between the twin sculptures represents the many chasms which opened up the land.  The suspended twin copper discs which turn and spin in the wind represents the movement of the earth.  17 small copper discs are inserted in the sculpture, one for each human life lost in this tragedy”.

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Murchison Earthquake 1929 sculpture

On the road again the next morning we saw one of the results of that massive 1929 earthquake when we stopped at Maruia Falls, on SH65.  There was a nice large carpark set away from the busy road, plenty of room for our 4WD and caravan.  And what’s this we saw poking around in the bushes – it’s a weka, one of our native flightless birds.

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A weka

A landslide in the Maruia Valley diverted the course of the Maruia River further west, forcing it to cut a new channel over an old river bank. Once the river had eroded the gravels, the bank became the Maruia Falls. 

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First view if Maruia Falls

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Who wouldn’t want to see the “best view”?

So down the easy path we trotted, remarking that we were sure we clambered up and down steps cut into the bank last time we were here.  This current well maintained path was much easier to negotiate.

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What a lovely sight, the Maruia Falls

That was well worth a stop, and plenty of other tourists obviously agreed, as people were coming and going in the car park.  Continuing on our way along the Shenandoah Highway, we then went up and over the Lewis Pass, enveloped in misty clouds, and driving through forests of beech trees.  And there were plenty of these fellows along the road, we reckon we must have been stopped about 40 times by work gangs such as this on our trip over the last two days.

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And yet another stop on the road

Driving down the final hill before our destination, we got great views of the Waiau River, a good example of one of New Zealand’s braided rivers.  A braided river flows in multiple, mobile channels across a gravel floodplain, with evidence of recent channel migration within the active riverbed and the channels repeatedly branch and rejoin creating an intervening pattern of low islands and shallow bars.

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Waiau River

Pulling in to the Hamner River Bridge NZMCA site, we were surprised to find just one other van in residence.

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Staying at Hamner River Bridge for the night

But that soon changed as the afternoon wore on with one arrival after another.  This camp site has no facilities at all, rubbish is “pack in and pack out” and there is no water available.  If anyone arrives with an empty water tank, they will be in trouble! 

Tomorrow we are making our way to Christchurch to catch up with son Michael, and a little R&R.  Then we won’t be quite so rushed and can settle down into holiday mode.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Smooth Sailing on the Kaitaki

After an early morning wake-up call, we were on the road bright and bushy tailed for our short 10km drive to the ferry terminal.   After checking in and being shown where to park prior to boarding,  we came across this bit of sage advice.

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And there she was, the Kaitaki, which means “Challenger”, ready and waiting.  Built in 1995, 22,365 tonnes,  181.6m in length, and with a speed of 20.5 knots, the journey across Cook Strait takes about 3 1/2 hours.

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Kaitaki – the Challenger

All the cars and small campers were loaded first, and then we went in together with the larger motor-homes and big trucks.  The staff made sure that everyone is parked up close and then we had to squeeze ourselves out between the gaps and make our way to the lifts to take us to the public lounge areas.

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Luckily the sailing was nice and smooth, as Robin is not a good sailor in rough weather.  How about a little breakfast to start off our journey?  Nothing too rich or greasy, such as the cooked breakfast on offer, (just in case the swells start the ship rocking and rolling in the middle of Cook Strait), it was a sandwich for him and baked beans on toast for her.  The Ocean View Café was one of three eateries on board, and was doing a roaring trade.

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We took a turn around the ship, checking out the other lounge areas, and the decks.

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Onboard Kaitaki
Wind blown selfie on the deck

As we travelled through the Sounds, Robin tracked our trip on this handy app on his phone.

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And then we saw another Interislander ferry  Kaiarahi coming towards us, on it’s journey to Wellington, and a Mussel Farm quietly growing mussels in the Sounds.

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Almost at Picton

The announcement came over the speakers for all car passengers to return to their vehicles, and not to start their engines until directed to.  Before too long the drawbridge was lowered, and off we went, out into the bright Picton sunshine.  And the sign in front of us read, “Welcome to the South Island”.

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We’ve arrived safely – now to head to  Murchison.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Let the Journey Begin

Today is the start of our South Island Odyssey – our long awaited trip down “down south”.  We had plenty to do in the morning and the first job was clearing out the fridge and  packing the perishables.  And then we wiped the fridge down, washed all the removable fittings, unplugged the power and wedged folded tea towels into the doors to keep them open while we are way. But …….we were so busy doing all the last minute jobs that we forgot to load up the caravan freezer with packages of frozen meat we had purchased for the start of the trip.  Never mind, we won’t stave, I’m sure.

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As we are booked on the Interislander ferry bright and early on Monday morning, we debated where to spend our first night before departure.  Plimmerton NZCA site perhaps?  Then we changed our minds and decided to drive down to Petone, and parked  up in the Petone Working Mens car park.  A better choice we feel, taking us much closer to the ferry, and very reasonable at  $10 a night with power.  There were a few motor homes already on site when we arrived, with several more arriving later in the evening.

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At Petone Working Mens Club

Robin got chatting to the owner of the bus named “Achilles”, who commented the name honours his father-in-law who had served on this ship during WW2.  As had Robin’s father and uncle.  Uncle Snow served during the Battle of the River Plate, and Robin’s Dad Curley was on board the vessel when it was sent  to Japan to witness the Japanese surrender.  What a small world!

The car park was full to overflowing as great hordes of people arrived for a Sunday evening meal at the Club.  What a good idea – and we also decided to take advantage of the club restaurant, enjoying a tasty roast beef meal with plenty of veggies for just $9.50 each.

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Roast beef for two, please

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Looks good enough to eat!

The car park emptied as the club patrons took themselves and their families home, a couple more vans arrived looking for a site for the night,  and a glorious sun set coloured the sky over Petone.

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Petone sun set

Tonight we will set the alarm clock to ensure we don’t sleep in and get on our way in plenty of time to the ferry terminal.  And we’ve got our fingers crossed for a nice smooth crossing tomorrow!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Forgotten Treasure Restored

Friday was spent in Palmerston North making last minute purchases before we head off on our 10 week caravan trip.  Top of the list was a new probe thermometer (wonderful for cooking a large roast) for our Weber BBQ as ours died when we last used it.  What caravan trip – you may be thinking?  Our often talked about (between ourselves) return trip to explore even more of the South Island.  We were last there in 2012 so it’s high time we returned again. On our way home we stopped to eat our lunch by Awapuni Racecourse and remembered hearing about an overgrown and forgotten  memorial close by.  Fate was calling, so we went to investigate.

Tucked away in a corner of Awapuni Racecourse is the Memorial to the Medical Corps, in memory of the men from the Corps who lost their lives in the Great War,  and was officially dedicated in 1929 by Sir Charles Fergusson. Awapuni Racecourse was home to one of the largest WW1 training camps at the time.  The camp was also the sole location for training New Zealand Medical Corps.    After their training the members of the Corps were widely dispersed, to Egypt, Palestine,  Salonika, France, Belgium and England, to serve with units of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

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Medical Corps Memorial

The history and condition of the Memorial had faded over time and an extensive restoration project took place between 2014-2016 to mark the centenary of WW1.  The aim was to preserve the original design features as a functioning water fountain while improving the aesthetics and accessibility of the memorial.  After much research, the overgrown site was cleared followed by intensive site remediation.

The design of the memorial was originally described as “a cairn of marble blocks down which clear artesian water would gently weep”.  The 14ft high cairn is in the centre of a pond shaped like a Maltese Cross, all encased by a circular garden.  It was suggested at the time that the water trickling down “was the gentle weeping of Mother Earth who gave those men birth and to whom they had returned”.  Such a lovely thought.

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Photo by MURRAY WILSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Awapuni Medical Corps Memorial rededication ceremony at Awapuni racecourse.

The water feature was not in use during our visit, but even so, it was so interesting to view this lovely memorial and read the history on the information boards surrounding the site.  And we discovered that Palmerston North remains the primary training location for NZ Medical staff who deploy overseas.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Yet Another Pre-Christmas Lunch

It’s fair to say that social occasions come thick and fast at this time of the year.  Yesterday it was our turn to be host and hostess and our SLG friends travelled up to Levin to join us for lunch.  But not before several of them stopped off at the ever popular RJ’s Licorice to buy some of their delicious goodies. Some of our friends think that a trip to Levin is not complete without a visit to RJ’s!

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Then it was teas and coffees all round and a Christmas fruit mince tart to revive everyone.  With the temperatures said to reach a whopping 29 degrees in Levin, it was no wonder we were all feeling the heat.  Such high temperatures are unusual down here and according to the Met Service have been caused by a series of highs, rebuilding persistent areas of high pressure to the east, west and especially to the south of New Zealand, all driven by La Nina.  It feels a bit like being on an overseas holiday, without leaving home!

Robin had a leg of pork cooking away on the Weber BBQ and it smelt divine.  But there was a problem with our barbeque thermometer which downed tools and stopped working.  Pulling it apart and replacing the batteries didn’t help one little bit – it was still “dead”.    Luckily we had previously worked out how long the pork would take to cook, so BBQed pork for lunch was still going to happen.

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Looking and smelling pretty good!

Everyone contributed to the meal, and we enjoyed potatoes salad, coleslaw, and a very fancy green salad,  hot peas with bacon and garlic bread with our pork.  All very tasty indeed.  Followed by boysenberry cheesecake and lemon meringue pie.    With so much talking and eating going on I forgot to take photos, except for this one with everyone focusing on their desserts.
  
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The serious business of eating dessert

With the meal over, the dish washer loaded yet again, we settled down again with another cuppa.  Christmas plans were discussed, some were travelling away around the country, Trish was off to Perth, while others had family arriving.  Whatever our collective plans, it promised to be a great Christmas for us all.  And it goes without saying that we have enjoyed another year of friendship and outings in the company of our Super Leisure Group friends. 

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Hanging on the front window

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Probus Christmas Lunch

Our final Probus meeting for the year was a rather laid-back affair.  There were the usual notices read out, morning tea, and instead of a speaker we were treated to a selection of songs by the very talented musician Robyn.  There were plenty that we remembered,  pop songs from the 50s and 60s that we all knew, so that got us all singing.  Then there were the Christmas carols, remembered from our early days, and we sung along to those as well.  During the tea break, I went and asked her for a request, my all time favourite song, “Ten Guitars”.  (Known as the Maori National Anthem this song became the anthem of 1960s Maori who had suffered the dislocation of moving from back-country marae to the Big Smoke. Singing it at parties, they could briefly experience their lost sense of belonging. And they added their "Maori strum" to the English tune).    Robyn happily obliged me, and I sung along again, knowing all the words, as I do!

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Robyn singing my favourite song

At the end of the meeting a group of 70 or so members then drove to Murrayfield for our Christmas lunch, a place we have often visited before, and always enjoyed.  A group of ducks were resting under the shady trees and barely stirred as we walked by.

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Murrayfield Café

Walking inside, we soon found seats and sat down and chatted until the meal was ready.   We pulled our crackers, read out the corny jokes, donned our paper hats and generally got into the Christmas spirit.

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And what a lovely meal it was, roast lamb, hot ham, and plenty of veggies including tasty locally grown asparagus in a cheese sauce.  Followed by Christmas Pudding, custard, cream and ice-cream.  After consuming all that at lunchtime, it will just be a light snack tonight!  Many thanks to the committee for organising such a great finish to our Probus year.

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Lunchtime meal and conversation

Monday, December 4, 2017

Weekend at Koputuroa

It was a wonderful way to celebrate the  start to summer – a weekend rally at Koputuroa.  The weather was hot and sunny, (those clouds didn’t bring the rain)  the venue was picturesque, and the company was great, and as for the food for our celebration dinner, just wonderful!  What more could we ask for?

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What better than a bit of male bonding going on?  What do men talk about?  Caravans, perhaps, cars, sports, looks like they are having a laugh during this conversation.  Maybe they are relating funny stories about their spouses?

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And then I spotted them through the window gathered around our newly acquired “black box” on front of the caravan.  With arms folded and looking serious, they are probably thinking, “I want one of those too”.  The gas bottle needed changing over the weekend, and Robin commented how much easier the job is now.  Previously he had to unscrew the cover and remove it completely to get to the gas bottles underneath, now he just opens it up.  

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The table was set in the conservatory for our shared evening meal, doesn’t it look a picture!  Meanwhile, Don was in charge of the large spit roast pork cooking away, it certainly smelt wonderful.  He lifted the cover of the BBQ to show me how it was doing.

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Getting ready for dinner

The meat was carved, and everyone brought out their contributions to the meal, bowls of salads, hot veggies, and garlic bread.  What a wonderful meal, especially that crispy pork crackle!  And after that we had a marvelous selection of desserts.

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During Sunday Morning Tea two new couples were welcomed into our club, with President Selwyn doing the honours.  We hope they enjoy sharing many happy caravan rallies with our club.

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Owen and Helen, Jennie and Dave, being inducted by Selwyn

Winners of the various competitions held over the weekend were announced, with the Best Decorated Van prize going to Glennis and Dennis – Dennis has a thing for flashing blue lights, he told me.  And special thanks were given to our hosts Don and Sandra  for allowing us to stay at their lovely home for our Christmas Rally.
 
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Our generous hosts, Don and Sandra

Also attending our Christmas Rally were two dogs and a cat, all very well behaved indeed.

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Just look at those little faces - Mason and Snowflake

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Honey and Dot

And spotted on the back of D&D’s motor home, a reminder of their happy times spent cruising the canals of England.

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It was a lovely conclusion to our club rally schedule of 2017.  But we have a big trip coming up soon – watch this space…….