Surrey Street Rodders' Picnic

27th September 2009

Picked Manky up then we headed off to Blackbushe airport. There were a few cars there when we arrived, so we proceeded to snap away. More arrived, a tidy looking yellow Ford pickup amongst them. The diner burger trailer unit was one of the first to leave, heading straight to the final destination, (nowt to do with the film of the same name). The cars went off in small batches with Andy, myself, Goforest and a couple of others being the last to leave.
With Andy navigating, we headed off to the first port of call. This turned out to be Silchester Roman Town, or what was left of it. This gave us another chance to take more pics of the attending cars. For those interested in taking part in the quiz section answers were sought and found.
We let the others leave and headed off in pursuit of the next venue. After meandering around country lanes, (I’m glad I had a mate’s auto -saved all that changing gear), we arrived at the next point. Here was another chance for those taking part in the quiz to go looking for clues. The venue this time was Greenham Common. No sign of any butch lesbian missile protestors with bolt cutters. First time for me being near here, but it definitely covered a large area. The control tower is still there but most of the other stuff has been removed. Whilst looking around for strange things to take pics of, I came across a strange looking item. A missile of some sort, just laying abandoned in the grass. At this point in time I still haven’t found out what it is.
Again we let the others leave and went in pursuit of the next and final destination. More meandering country lanes. I think it was on this last section that we came upon a set of traffic lights that after some time waiting we thought might have got stuck on red. We were wrong. It turned out that it was a bendy narrow road with a hairpin bend. Good job we didn’t jump the lights or we’d have met cars negotiating the bend from the other direction. Apparently one of the rodders couldn’t make it round in one go & had to back up & try again, by which time the traffic was bearing down on him.
We arrived at the end of the run at The Paradise, a private collection of cars, trucks and memorabilia. The diner truck that had left the airport earlier in the day was waiting for us & provided us with a free meal of burger & chips, courtesy of the Surrey Street Rodders. Thanks guys! The collection was an interesting place to look round, with rows & rows of beautiful vintage cars & trucks. I reckon between Andy and myself we’ve got a good collection of pics.
I gather that the Surrey Street Rodders members take it in turns to arrange this run each year, so hats off to them for another good day out in the country. I for one am looking forward to next year. It seems that the outdoor meets I attend seem to start and finish with SSR events. Wheels Day at the start and the Picnic at the end.
Well done chaps!



The guys n gals of the Surrey Street Rodders have been organising their Picnic runs for several years now & we’ve been lucky enough to be invited along for the last couple. They take the form of a treasure hunt, with drivers following a printed sheet of clues & directions, which lead them back & forth around the local countryside, stopping at several points of interest along the way to regroup, compare notes & take the mickey out of each other’s woeful sense of direction.
Tanya was working this time around, so I rode shotgun with Dave, (Renegade), in a borrowed mark 1 Triumph 2000 saloon. I learnt to drive in one of these, many, many years ago, though not the posh automatic version Dave arrived in. Thanks for the ride mate –brought back memories of those first nervous lessons, crashing gears & veering all over the road. My driving style hasn’t changed much since then.
Dave picked me up from home in Guildford on Sunday morning & we headed to the first rendevous at the café at Blackbushe airport, near Camberley, Surrey. The weather was exactly the same as last year, with early morning mist gradually giving way to a beautiful warm sunny Autumnal day. As the mist began to lift the rods began to arrive. A nice selection of machinery. Some I recognised, some were new to me. A few took advantage of the full cooked breakfasts on offer in the café, but most were happy to just renew acquaintances, check out each other’s cars or speculate on our mystery final destination. I chatted to one Pop owner who’d travelled over 200 miles that morning to get there. Not long before we were due to leave, forum member Paul, (Goforest), arrived in his yellow 1600, twin Webbered VW beach buggy with his buddy Mike in his 2.3 turbo buggy. Nice to see you again guys.
Eventually it was deemed time to get underway. Derek left first in his huge Diamond diner truck, heading straight to the last destination to set up the burger trailer for our arrival. Instruction sheets were handed out by the SSR chaps & we were despatched in small groups. Paul & Mike were both driving solo in their buggies, making it impossible to read directions & drive at the same time, so they elected to tag along behind us –no pressure on my navigational skills then!
Fortunately the directions were fairly idiot proof, even for me, & after a very pleasant cruise around the Surrey & Hampshire countryside, we arrived at our first stop, the roman ruins of Silchester, near Tadley. Although I work only a few miles away, I’d never been here before. One of the attractions of these runs is discovering roads & views you’d never normally see. We were supposed to gather answers to the questions on our direction sheets here, but we gave up after the second one. Luckily, that didn’t bar us from collecting the first of our free meal tokens from the organisers.
Back on the road again with our second sheet of directions, we snaked our way around the country lanes, the devious directions taking us back on ourselves several times –very confusing when we spotted fellow rodders heading in the opposite direction! We passed over the border from Hampshire into Berkshire. Then back again. Then back into Berkshire & on to Greenham Common, near Newbury. I lived in Newbury as a teenager & remember the common when it was an American airbase. F111 fighter planes & Hercules fuel transporters flew over the town all day long but it was the Cruise missiles stationed there that caused huge public outcry. Greenham was regularly in the National news for several years, becoming famous for the large shanty town of peace protestors’ tents that grew up along it’s perimeter fence. Eventually the American forces left, taking their missiles with them & the airbase was decommissioned. The fences were taken down & the concrete bunkers & runways torn up, before the land was handed back to Newbury council. There are some light business units in one corner now, plus a small memorial garden to the women protestors –a condition of them agreeing to eventually leave the area.
We pulled into a carpark at the back of the common. Strange to see it now –a huge tract of open common land with just a small abandoned control tower & a few rusting military artefacts to remind us it was once an American forces outpost. Those first wobbly driving lessons of mine took place around the base perimeter road in the dark, snowy evenings of Winter 79/80. Strange to be driving around them again now in the same model of car.
I remember the Americans hosting several annual airshows at the Greenham base. Passing through the gates was like stepping into a little corner of the States. There were shops, a library, a bowling alley, a cinema –all built in true American style. The servicemen were even paid in dollars. All gone now. Again, although I’ve driven around the perimeter many times since, I’d never actually stopped & wandered on the common.
We were handed another meal voucher by the SSR marshals & another sheet of instructions & were on our way to our final stop. The route took us right around the common & briefly back into Hampshire again before turning & heading towards Reading, Berkshire.
The eventual destination for the day was an inspired choice. I’d heard of it before but never been there. When the Americans left Greenham Common airbase, the contract for tearing up the thousands of tons of concrete & disposing of it was awarded to a local demolition contractor, John Mould. He reputedly ran a concrete crushing machine, 24 hours a day for 2 years, making millions from the venture. That meant he was able to indulge his passion for vintage cars & trucks. The “Paradise Collection” is his private museum, with several large barns stuffed full of British & American vehicles & automobilia.
Driving through the gates of his haulage yard, past a seemingly endless line-up of immaculately polished trucks, you’d never know his collection was housed there. It’s only open to the general public a couple of times a year & by invitation only, so it was a real treat. Many thanks to the Surrey Street Rodders for arranging the invitation. Several other auto clubs were already there, squeezed into the carpark. Derek’s American diner truck was set up & doing a roaring trade as always. The meal vouchers we’d collected along the way entitled us to a free burger, fries & drink, courtesy of the SSR. Thanks guys.
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Mr Mould’s amazing collection. What a fabulous place. He has a particular fondness for 1930s Model A Fords, with all sorts of variations of the marque on show. The Early Ford owners club had also spent the day there. I’m told that some of their members were distinctly unimpressed by the hordes of hooligan hotrodders arriving –all the more reason to go along!
As well as the endless rows of vintage cars & trucks, there were Bentleys, Rolls Royces, Aston Martins, Ferraris – a check of the number plates showed they all bore the initials JM –John Mould. There must have been several million pounds worth of automotive heaven parked there. We all agreed, given the same finances, we’d do exactly the same with it!
Eventually it was time to go. We said our Goodbyes, climbed back in the Triumph & headed for home. A great day out –some really enjoyable drives, interesting stops, cool cars & fun company. And free food!
Many, many thanks to the chaps & chappesses of the Surrey Street Rodders from Dave, Paul, Mike & myself for the invite. We will be back next year & I will be in that hotrod project of mine –promise.