As many of you will already be aware.. Bertha, our yellow Mini, is our favourite travel companion. Therefore, we decided she needed a treat so we booked her on to the London to Brighton Mini run. It was time for Bertha to meet all her cousins, aunts, uncles and gran parents. The destination for this family reunion was Crystal Palace Park in London but before we could go we had lots of preparation to do…
The run was set to take place on Sunday and with so many Mini’s to organise we would have to be there for 5am! Being over 4 hours away we decided along with 1000’s of other Mini owners to go on the Saturday and camp overnight. This posed a bit of a problem for me……. I had never been camping before. I hadn’t even put a tent up ever in my life but I knew this was something I just had to do. As I was somewhat nervous about camping we decided to only buy as little camping gear as possible, just in case I didn’t like it as we didn’t want to waste our money on something that would never be used again. Luckily for us Steph’s parents are like the scouts “always prepared” and with a visit and a mooch through the garage we quickly had in our hands all the camping gear we needed. In the end all me and Steph had to purchase was a tent (obviously) and a cool box, the rest came from Steph’s parents.
Our camping destination was Crystal Palace Park in London, which wasn’t going to be open until midday on the Saturday. After doing some research we discovered that people got there early and if we left it until 12 to get there we could be stuck in traffic for an awful long time and not get a decent spot to camp. With this in mind we decided to leave on Saturday at 5am and have a steady relaxing drive down into London. Stupidly we didn’t exactly get an early night on Friday so on Saturday morning we were both feeling the pain of the early start. The weather had been pretty crappy on Friday night and on the drive down I could feel all of the dirt sticking to Bertha and I could feel her pain about this and there was no way she could meet her distant relatives looking like this! A trip to the car wash was going to be needed.
Apart from a few fairly heavy rain showers the trip down went surprisingly smoothly; apart from the last stint when we ended up driving through Central London; this is an experience I never want to repeat! No offence to the people of London but my God you are crazy behind the wheel! At one point we had people beeping at us because I slowed down for a speed bump! Anyway with my nerves a little rattled we made out of Central London unharmed and we were now now heading for Crystal Palace. Two miles away from our destination I chose to inform Steph that Bertha is going to need to be cleaned before we get there… I don’t think this went down too well but with Steph being the perfect co driver she soon had the nearest car wash googled and new coordinates in the satnav. It may have been 7 miles back in the direction we had come but Bertha needed cleaning and this weekend was all about Bertha.
So after going 7 miles in the wrong direction and with Bertha now clean we were within a stones throw of Crystal Palace Park. Annoyingly this is where our satnav decided to play games with us and told us to to turn when there was no road and then constantly started telling us to turn around! After going up and down the same road 10 times and with our patience quickly running out we saw a family of Mini’s heading towards us so with a quick u-turn we joined the back of the convoy had a leader for the last part of the journey. Two minutes later we were in Crystal Palace park in a queue of Mini’s waiting for the camp site to open. We had made it!
After playing musical horns for an hour or so the camp site finally opened and we made our way to the spot that we would call home for the next 15 hours or so. It was time to set up camp. This had been the thing that worried me the most. Yes we had done a trial run putting the tent up at Steph’s parents which did go well but we didn’t use the pegs and now the weather was about to take a turn for the worst. Realising this we unpacked like mad and began the challenge of putting a tent up in windy conditions and soon I had Steph standing on one corner of the tent to stop it from becoming a UFO while I attempted to put the stick things through the holes. After battling with the sticks for 20 minutes or so the tent was finally up and we had provided great entertainment for our fellow Mini-ons who could blatantly see we were tent virgins. Annoyingly the second the tent went up the sun decided to come out!
Now all that was left to do was blow up our beds, a very simple job and Steph’s parents had very kindly lent us a pump so this was going to be effortless…. or so I thought. With our air beds laid carefully out in the tent it was time to plug the pump into Bertha. Unfortunately the pump provided had a three point plug on the end of it however this is something Bertha isn’t installed with and being in the middle of a field there wasn’t any plug sockets around. We soon realised we were going to be sleeping on a very hard and cold floor but then a fellow Minion came to the rescue and they placed in our hands a pump that worked! With our air beds inflated we wandered off and had a well earned cup of tea.
With the tent erected we decided to have a wander and check out our fellow minions and my god there was lots of them! We think the numbers were somewhere around the two thousand mark which was one hell of a sight. As well as checking out our fellow minions we also had a good wander around the park and I must say it really is a gorgeous place to visit with stunning views of London city, unfortunately because I was so detracted by all the Mini’s I forgot to take photo’s of the park. Many apologies for that. I would say to anybody visiting London they should definitely pay a visit to Crystal Palace park. Anyway after wondering around we decided to treat ourselves to some chips unfortunately at this moment the heavens decided to open up so a quick dash to the tent was needed. We tucked into our soggy chips and rested our tired legs in our temporary home.
With the rain finally coming to an end we decided it was time to fire up the temporary BBQ and cook up a couple of veggie burgers. Now I’ve never used one of these throw away BBQ’s before but I figured it would be just like a normal BBQ just a little smaller…… Oh how wrong was I?! Now these BBQ’s don’t really get hot they get warm with cold spots randomly popping up from time to time. But this wasn’t going to deter us and with the BBQ as warm as it would ever get we placed our veggie burgers on and waited for them to sizzle. They didn’t sizzle.They warmed up very slowly but eventually we had two cooked veggie patties and all we had to do was turn them into burgers. Now I’m sure most of you know that to turn a simple pattie into burgers you need one key element….. Burger buns. However we didn’t have them. They were 160 miles away in our kitchen cupboard……Needless to say our evening meal consisted of warm-ish veggie patties and tomato ketchup, delightful. Still feeling hungry we had the call to start to start lining the Mini’s up ready for the morning and with that it was time to settle in for the night and dream of a big Brighton breakfast in the morning.
Steph was soon sleeping soundly however I was having one the most uncomfortable nights of my life due to my air bed having a puncture! However at half four in the morning I was just quietly relaxing listening to birds start the day when suddenly it wasn’t just the birds that I could hear; there was a rumble in the distance and slowly but surely the rumble got louder and louder. This was the sound of another thousand or so Mini’s descending on Crystal Palace Park and so it was time to get up as more of our fellow Minions were turning up and they needed welcoming.
With the tent all packed up and Bertha finally loaded up again we grabbed ourselves a cup of tea and got to know some of our fellow minions in our line. This is one of my fondest memories from the weekend as everyone was so friendly towards us and they all shared the same love and passion for our cars. I no longer felt like the odd one out for naming and talking to my car because we all did it! We also discovered Bertha had made a friend over night called Monty; a gorgeous little classic with a lot of experience of doing this run and we hoped he had given Bertha some of his wisdom as she was new to all this after all. With the morning sun rising we looked down the line of Mini’s and suddenly realised the sheer size of this run, it really was amazing!
As we continued to chat to our fellow Minion’s we suddenly heard the sound of the leading Mini’s start their engines so we jumped into Bertha and started her up. The run had begun. Being London to Brighton virgins we were glad we weren’t the lead car as we had no idea where we were actually going. We settled into our convoy and kept are eyes firmly on the Mini’s ahead and started to enjoy our journey. We made our way out of London with people out their houses cheering and waving us on and the constant sound of classic Mini’s roaring down the road papping their horns it was turning into one hell of a road trip.
We were soon approaching Brighton and we again were glad we weren’t the lead car as our lead car took a wrong turn but quickly realised his mistake and did an immediate u-turn! Unfortunately as he was lead car we all made the same mistake and made utter idiots of ourselves, Luckily me and Steph make this kind of mistake all the time so this was water off a ducks back to us. We were now deep into Brighton and after making what felt like a 1000 wrong turns we finally made it to the seafront and settled ourselves into the best traffic jam in the world. With the sun shining we inched our way forward until we were finally guided into our parking space and we allowed Bertha to have a well earned rest with some of her cousins. I soon realised that skinny black jeans in this heat wasn’t a very good idea at all and I had to change. With Bertha acting as a shield and wrapping my fleece around my waist I managed to take my jeans off and put my shorts on without showing any of my white bits……With that done it was now time to have a wander in the glorious sunshine.
We walked along the seafront towards Brighton pier looking at Mini after Mini; the atmosphere was perfect, the weather was perfect and I was in perfect company. Hand in hand we strolled soaking up the sun dodging the masses of people and every once in a while admiring a Mini. We eventually found ourselves looking down on a fish and chip shop on the beach front so we decided we should do the traditional English thing and have fish and chips by the sea. A short while later we were sitting on a bench on the beach tucking in to our fish and chips feeling happy to be sticking with tradition. Although it wasn’t a gourmet meal it was exactly what we needed after early starts. Here we stayed for an hour or so feeling totally relaxed. We couldn’t asked for anymore from our day.
With our fish and chips digesting nicely we decided to walk down the beach instead of going through the masses of people admiring the Mini’s on show. This turned out to be the best decision of the weekend. We walked along the pebble beach with the wind gently keeping us cool and the sound of the sea rolling off the pebbles. We decided at this instance that Brighton would need another visit from us. It was clear it had more to show us but for now we were happy to stay on the beach as we had found a place to sit and here we stayed for the rest of the day. We soaked up all the sun had to offer, threw some stones into the sea and as always with me and Steph there was some mishaps… mainly with me not being able to walk on a pebble beach without falling over every 10 steps.
The day had come to an end and we deemed our first camping trip overall a success. Yes some things didn’t go to plan but hey that’s what makes it more interesting. Thank you London and Thank you Brighton for giving us another great memories…… We will return.
On a separate note;
The day after we returned from our trip our beloved Manchester was cowardly and viciously attacked. 22 innocent people (including many children) needlessly lost their lives. Manchester is a city that is very dear to both of our hearts and as it has in the past, the city came together and in one voice declared you will not break us. LOVE with prevail. Below I have attached a picture of the old fire station on London Road in Manchester; for me this represents the people Of Manchester. In it’s long life it’s been through a lot, at times it’s been battered and beaten but through it all it has stood tall even when many thought it would fall it stayed strong. The people of Manchester will stand tall against hate it’s just what we do.
On the 4th of June our beloved London was again Cowardly and viciously attacked with another 7 innocent people needlessly losing their lives. London we stand with you. There is no north south divide – we are one. We will Rise above hate. North and south united.