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(P)embleton Weekend

Tom and I had arranged to meet in Alnwick at 15.00h. so I set off at 11.50 to give me time to take minor roads through Northallerton and Stokesley to Middlesborough. I've wanted to have a go on the Transporter Bridge for many years but as I have passed it so often on the way to somewhere else it's always been "Next time". This fine piece of industrial archaeology is the largest working transporter in Europe, opened in 1911 and was the only bridge near the mouth of the Tees for many years.

I arrived as it was on its way back to the south side and when I drove on I was filmed by a film-maker working on a piece for the bridge's centenary. One day there may be a clip of a Pembleton in the archive of the bridge. As I left the platform on the north bank my satnav gave an E.T.A. in Alnwick of 14.56 which seemed perfect timing. On the A19 I remembered why I hate motorways and installed my motorcycling custom earplugs.

At 15.01 I pulled onto the cobbles in Alnwick's Boroughgate and saw Tom waving and as I parked he complained I was late! After a coffee with fruit scone and a wander to buy some Etal sourdough bread and Cuddy's Cave cheese we drove out to the campsite at Dunstan Hill near (P)Embleton.

We made camp and after more coffee and a chat with our neighbours on the next pitch we set off to walk the 2 miles to Low Newton for dinner at the Ship Inn. We enjoyed a pint of excellent beer from the microbrewery attached to the pub sitting in the classic three-sided square of fisherman's cottages and then went in for our meal. The walk back along the beach in the twilight was a good way to end the evening.

Saturday morning saw us heading up the coast through Seahouses and Bambrough before we turned off the road for the last 5 miles on quiet farm roads before we had to join the A1 for a few miles to the turn off for Holy Island. We pulled into the road where Noel, a 2CV buff with an Arcadyane fitted with a coffee machine lives. I approached the gate which has a sign "Beware of the dog" The last time I was there, there was no dog so I glibly told Tom "I don't think he has a dog". With the gate shut behind me I was 10 yards in when a barking growling African cattle dog hurtled at me with bared teeth. Fortunately it only grabbed the cuff of my long shorts and Noel came out to call it off. I could hear Tom hooting with laughter from the safety of the road!

We had a chat about 2CVs etc. and he told us of a couple of spots worth looking at. The Vikings had arrived for a re-enactment weekend invasion but I think our cars caused almost as much interest.

The new owners of the café Noel set up haven't kept up with the clipping of the topiary 2CV.

Leaving the island we headed inland towards Ford and Etal over marvellously windy and empty roads. Ford is a beautiful village and as we approached it we came through stands of trees on either side of the road to see a spectacular view of the Cheviots.

The next stop was at the Heatherslaw Light Railway with a steam engine pulling a dozen or so small carriages along the bank of the River Till to Etal Castle. The bus pass came in handy for senior discount! The turn round is about 10 minutes so we got back on the train to return to the car park. I called a friend whose brother built and runs a wood-fired bakery on the estate and happens to have driven a 2CV around the world. He gave me directions and after a wrong turning and a couple of enquiries we found his house with the bakery in the attached outbuildings.

He was intrigued by the Pembletons and we had a look around the bakery and were presented with three loaves of 80% wholeneal sourdough bread from yesterday's firing. We also got a look at the round-the-world car, looking a bit forlorn under a pile of stuff. He told us he started and ran it the other day and it will be dragged out for some TLC in the near future. Anybody got a Dyane bodyshell with a sound bulkhead?

Tea appeared on a table in the garden and as we rounded the corner towards it the view over the Cheviot was mind-blowing. We could have sat there all day just drinking it in. After a pleasant and interesting cuppa and chat I took Matthew for a spin and he seemed suitably amused. This is an idyllic spot with a friendly Citroen enthusiast who mentioned that if we wanted to arrange a run in the area he would welcome us and show us some fine roads with the possibility of a hill-climb (on empty public roads) included....

He also mentioned the 2CV Noel had told us about and we set off to find it. At the side of the road next to a pub were a couple of things under blue tarps. Tom identified one as a BRA and the other was a dead 2cv. With more in the garden it was a veritable treasure trove.

We headed up to Flodden Field (1513) and then my navigation skills failed again as we missed a turning which had promised to take us up into the Cheviot to a memorial to crashed airmen and their 'planes.

We backtracked to Millfield where we had a sandwich at the café and then headed southwards to Wooler. Having turned off too early we decided to swap cars so I jumped into Tom's Snotamog for my first three-wheel Pembleton experience. I was pleasantly surprised and once I got used to the "limper" I started to enjoy myself. The handling was excellent and his brakes are much more responsive than mine. However, now I know why he sits on an air cushion. This had been left in his tent and after 10 miles or so I had a serious case of bus-driver's bottom! The experience showed again that no two Pembletons are the same and are all the more interesting for that.

We arrived in Alnwick as the audience for a Status Quo concert was arriving and so had to wait for brain-dead drivers to get out of town.

At the campsite we had pitched next to a very pleasant young family who had shown an interest in the cars and the two crusty old gits in them. (Tom gives good value, he's worth two any day of the week) As we couldn't possibly eat all the bread Matthew had given us we passed a loaf on to them and they laid into it with a will. They offered us a lift to Embleton to our dinner which we accepted gladly. A walk back to the campsite ended the evening and we could hear the concert from Embleton . The couple's two children had asked for photos of the cars for their scrap-books and so we agreed to take them both for a spin in the morning.

Sunday morning saw us striking camp and fulfilling our promises to the kids and then we headed for Alnmouth to allow me to take a couple of photos and have a stroll about the town. Then back to the campsite to collect our dry tents and hit the highway for home.

Although it had rained on both nights we had glorious weather in beautiful countryside and I think we agreed to do another (P)Embleton run next year, so sort out your camping gear (or organise a B&B or even a bunkhouse) and keep it in mind for your diaries!

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