Late Autumn New England Run

By Le wombat (Alex Molocznyk)

All events in this article are based entirely on real incidents and were verified by rumours, gossip, hearsay and eavesdropping. No names have been changed to protect the innocent because everyone was guilty and not proven otherwise. Any litigation arising from allegations of exaggeration, embellishment or fake reporting should be directed solely at the non-participants.

When Ken Philp proposed a late autumn tour of the backroads of the New England district of NSW for a limited number of starters it was fully subscribed very quickly. The long way round from Brisbane to Inverell and Tenterfield for overnight stops together with wining and gourmandising at various country towns in between is just what Lotus cars are made for when not doing track days.

Ken put together a great itinerary for Day 1 from Willowbank to Inverell via Warwick, Inglewood and Texas, Day 2 Inverell to Tenterfield via Uralla and Glen Innes and Day 3 return to Brisbane.

Starting on a Friday morning precluded anyone that was in gainful employment and could only be attended by those without a proper weekday job such as pensioners, retirees, company directors and CEOs. So on a crisp early Friday morning in late May twelve cars set off from the start at Willowbank. It may have been difficult for the uninitiated to identify it as a Lotus run given the variety of marques that turned up at the start and the number of daily drivers that were substituted for the Lotus.

Craig and Vyvyan in daily drivers had plausible excuses in that they intended to bring their Lotus but they broke down in true Lotus fashion the week before the run and were unable to be repaired in time. Daryl Wilson’s reputation of a hardened clubbie was shattered after he tried to play the chivalry card claiming he brought the daily driver for Moira’s comfort. John and Penny also took the soft option of their daily driver adding further to the ruin of the clubbies reputation. Joe and Bev with a beautiful Morgan and Mick with a Ford GT40 were acceptable as they were still of British heritage and were invited along for the run. Of the Lotus there was a mix of late version Europas, Elises S1 and S2 and Exige.

The 8.00am sharp, irrevocable and non-negotiable start went out the window in true club style waiting for a couple of late runners. The late start was compounded by Mal and Chris’s S1 sounding like it was stolen with the alarm going off and refusing to start until the remote was reset in the correct sequence that nobody could remember. After some head scratching, uttering magic words, slamming doors and prodding the remote it finally fired and we were all away.

First stop at Warwick for a leisurely breakfast/morning tea brought us back onto schedule and meeting up with Colin and Robyn and Peter and Norma at Café Jacquie increased the Lotus numbers with an Elan and an Elise S2. Next was a short hop to Inglewood for lunch and fuel.

Inglewood to Texas was the start of the route away from the main highway and along backroads with relatively little traffic. We passed by Texas unfortunately without stopping at such a famous place … how often do you get a chance to see Texas … then continued to Inverell through lovely hay coloured country pastures complete with cows on the road grazing in the long paddock.

Inverell was where the whole group of 29 were together at the same time. Those being Ken & Margie, Steve & Mary-Anne, Craig & Caroline, Daryl & Moira, Clive & Gloria, Colin & Robyn, Peter & Norma, John & Penny, Vyvyan & Karen, Mal & Chris, Rob & Tracy, Dave & Debbie, Alex & Carol, Joe & Bev and Mick.

Clive & Gloria our resident photographer came from Yamba in the Honda recently made to look like an Elise S1 and met up with us at Inverell to make up the full contingent of fifteen cars. Unfortunately it turned out that Clive & Gloria could only stay that night as they had to cut short their trip to rush home for an urgent personal matter.

A privileged few stayed at Blair Athol Estate a magnificent heritage listed federation manor just outside of Inverell. The plebeians staying in more modest albeit very comfortable lodgings at Inverell Terrace Motor Lodge were invited up to Blair Athol for afternoon drinks and to visit the stately home and gardens. It is a truly impressive country mansion decorated in lavish period Edwardian style. One hears stories of indulgent lifestyles in those country manor houses brought about from excesses of luxury and it was somewhat outrageous that Vyvyan who was staying there offered Carol a glass of sherry then invited her up to his bedroom to see his four poster bed. It’s obviously the type of behaviour one can expect from the sort of person that turns up to a Lotus run in a German Mini Cooper. I mean who drinks sherry these days?

There is a luxurious spa in a separate building somewhat reminiscent of The Trianon in Versailles and the beautiful pastoral outlook in the setting sun masked the decadence of Karen and Margie reclining in their bathrobes and indolently watching the hoi polloi quaffing champagne, wine, ale and various other beverages.

Dinner later that evening was at the General Merchant back in town and from the general consensus everyone enjoyed the meals they had preordered. Then the select few staying at Blair Athol went back to cavort further that evening. Reliable sources say that revelries involving sherry and frangellico continued into the night however any investigation into gleaning further details met with obstinate responses of … what happens at Blair Athol stays at … etc etc. Those staying at Inverell Motor Lodge retired to a restful early night. A nice touch at the Motor Lodge was the buckets and squeegees for washing our windscreens placed conveniently at each door.

Next morning breakfast was at The Bridge Coffee Lounge after which the group separated into two with one mob congregating to the National Transport Museum to reminisce over first owned cars or motorbikes and to play with the model railway while the other explored retail opportunities and bargains in the town. The latter group supported the Inverell economy with purchases of the souvenirs one normally buys on a trip away such as laundry baskets, shoes, clothes and baby rugs. The National Transport Museum is quite new with a very interesting collection and well worth allowing time for a visit. Inverell turned out to be a very friendly town/city in every place from the first when we pulled up to refuel until the last when we departed.

The drive from Inverell to Uralla was magnificent with a beautiful clear crisp autumn morning and spectacular New England rural scenery. Lunch at Uralla was at the intriguingly named The Alternative Root. The owner suggested a side trip to Gostwyck to see a historic chapel that sounded interesting so it was agreed to extend the itinerary. It is a beautiful chapel built in 1921 in memory of a local soldier killed in the First World War. The road to it was sealed but very rough and true to the spirit of British engineering some bits loosened on the Morgan that necessitated a quick mechanical repair.

A little further from the chapel is Deeargee Woolshed that some braved a short section of dirt road to see. The woolshed was built to a unique and radical design in 1872 with additions in 1889 and 1901 and is still in use.

From Gostwyck it was back to the main highway to Glen Innes for afternoon tea at the Crofters Cottage at Australian Standing Stones.The stones modelled on Stonehenge are a monument to Celtic people and were erected in 1991 making them a little younger than Stonehenge. The detour to Gostwych set the schedule back a couple of hours not that anybody minded but it meant the drive to Tenterfield was at dusk and arrival would be just on dark and as it was freezing and late in the afternoon there was insufficient time for a ritual Celtic ceremonial naked frolic among the stones.

Overnight stay in Tenterfield was at the The Commercial Boutique Hotel and the The Jumbuck Motor Inn. Pre-dinner drinks and dinner was at the Commercial Hotel where we had an art deco dining room with a warm open fireplace to ourselves. The food was ordered off the menu and superb winter fare was washed down with quality wines.

Next morning it was breakfast at The Courtyard Café which is in the School of Arts Building where Sir Henry Parkes delivered his speech for federation. It is a small café that was overwhelmed by our number and could not fit all of us inside. As it was too cold for us Queenslanders to sit outside some elected to find another warm place. The breakfast servings were generous country sized portions and a few struggled to complete them. The owner opened up the room where Sir Henry delivered his famous speech so we could see where the epidemic of our current politicians originated. It was quite an occasion to be standing in the room with such historical significance.

After breakfast was the start of farewells as the run was nearing its completion and various journeys home were being considered. A few chose to visit the Tenterfield Railway Station which is a beautiful building opened in 1886 and closed one hundred years later in 1989 when it then became a railway museum. It is a well-maintained exhibition of railway history and memorabilia focussed on the station and worth a short visit. The small remaining group then went in convoy to Stanthorpe for a final coffee stop before heading their separate ways back home.

The whole weekend was an outstanding success that is a credit to Ken for putting in a lot of background work into making the run turn out to be a convivial leisurely long weekend and is appreciated by everybody who was there. It was such a success that another similar run is being contemplated.