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Collecting in aid of

Pier Pressure 2016

Day 10 - Sunday 21st August 2016

Barnstaple to Swansea- 214 Miles

I actually slept quite well.

The stresses and weather of the last few days had meant our early enthusiasm had been tested more than a little yesterday and we were all feeling quite jaded. Even Alex was looking tired last night and he had been the brightest of us all.

However, today was our last Pier visiting Day. We had already visited 51 piers and travelled over 2000 miles in the previous 9 days and we had woken with renewed vigour. This would hopefully see us complet the challenge we set ourselves some 8 months before.

And if we ever needed any further geeing up, then possibly the best person to do that in the big wide buggy world would be Dave W; AKA. Dave Dream or Mad Dave.

Luckily for us then, as we emerged from the Barnstaple Travelodge, Dave was waiting for us on the car park in his bright green sparkly Sidewinder buggy. It was great to see Dave who had come down the night before and spent the night on a campsite nearby before getting up early to come and join us for the day.

Dave Wainman – Pier Pressure Vehicle Number 49.

Whilst Dave regaled us in his always jovial mood with tales of his drive down the night before in heavy rain, his sleeping in his tiny tent, people having sex in the tent next door and eating McD’s out of their breakfast stock that morning, we loaded up the buggies for the day ahead.

Then I saw George under the back of his buggy with spanners. Had George finally got a problem with the old girl? Luckily it was a simple loose exhaust stud bolt, that was quickly nipped up and ready to go. It also turned out that the rain of the last 2 days had lubricated his squeaky shock absorbers to such a point that Gordon the Goffer that had been with us since Scotland had all but disappeared.

It was strange to think we had just 6 piers left to visit and the first pier of the day was at Burnham on Sea, some 70 miles away. However this wasn’t our first rendezvous point of the day. A week or two before heading off on Pier Pressure I had been chatting with Paul Branfield, (South West Buggy Club man, Swanage weekend regular and long time buggy owner), who had arranged for us to stop off for tea and cake at his local Custom and American car show a few miles outside of Burnham. Paul and Sarah had arranged with Blueridge Runners for us to gate crash their show for free and even promote Pier Pressure on their facebook page and at the show itself. Great support form Paul and Sarah. It would be good to catch up with them again after we had seen them two days earlier at the reunion Waiting for Bonaparte gig.

The weather this morning was much kinder than it had been the night before and although cloudy and quite cold, it was dry with a promise of sun. Rather than a simple blast along the A361 and up the M5, we decided to take a really nice scenic route right through the heart of Exmoor.

The 3 buggies left Barnstaple around 8:30am and after a quick splash and dash at the BP station next door, we did a short 10 mile cruise up the A361 before peeling off into Exmoor proper. We took a turn towards a small place called Simonsbath along a narrow road that was actually signposted ‘Not suitable for Long Vehicles’ – no problems there then. Dave told me later that he thought we had taken a wrong turn as the road was so narrow, but the views along the route were stunning. We didn’t see any ponies though!.

A few miles on and we joined the more ‘normal’ B3233, well at least it had two lanes, one in each direction, which took us through the town of Exford. To me Exford felt a bit like an alpine village for some reason. I think it was the little bridge over the river and large ivy covered hotel / lodge on the opposite bank.

Eventually we joined the A396 which took us into the lovely town of Dunstar on the north east edge of Exmoor. I say an A road, but you wouldn’t have wanted to meet an HGV in Dunstar that’s for sure.

Dunstar is a medieval castle town, dating from Norman times and the road through the centre around the church was a single track road (its an ‘A’ road remember) controlled by traffic signals. Whilst we sat at the lights it gave me a great opportunity to get a nice picture of the guys and girls behind, I have grabbed a screen shot from Googlemaps to illustrate the ‘A-road’ as I didn’t manage to get any pictures of my own.

I really liked our flying visit to Exmoor and particularly the village of Dunstar and we will hopefully visit the area for a little longer in the future. The roads, although still damp, were drying nicely and the weather was starting to warm up by the time we joined the A39 and headed towards Bridgewater.

As a slight side story, prior to starting our challenge we had received great support from Ian Stent, the editor of Complete Kit Car magazine, who had published a number of articles in their magazine about our impending challenge. Ian had even planned to join us for the whole of Day 8 and come along to the gig at Ottery St Mary, but due to a big accident on the M4 he had to turn back for home after huge delays. However, Ian didn’t stop there and arranged for members of his own kit car club to come and support us on Day 10 instead. Brilliant support once again.

We didn’t actually drive through Bridgwater, but took the ring road to the north. Just before we reached the ring road, three kit cars were waiting for us by the side of the road, Allan in his Lotus 7 replica, Brian in his Westfield and Dave and his wife in their Marlin Roadster. Very welcome support for our challenge from the wider kit car family.

Soon we were heading directly north, running directly parallel to the M5 and on to our first stop at the Blueridge Runners car show. Less than a mile from the show, there, waiting for us in a bus stop were Snoopy, Hugh, Carl and Dyliss from the Midland Buggy Club, in their three respective buggies. We could tell we were getting back closer to our home in the Midlands as today a lot of the Midland Buggy Club had come to join us on our cruise. Some had joined us on the first couple of days of our trip over a week beofre and were now coming to support us once more. For instance Carl and Hugh had already had joined us on the very first day of our challenge (which now seemed a million years ago) and had come back for more.

We were now six buggies and 3 kit cars as we drove up to the gates of the custom show in Dunball, just 6 miles from Burnham-on-Sea. We arrived bang on our planned scheduled time of 10:40am and waiting for us at the gate was a madly waving Paul and Damien the event organiser, who was very welcoming and had even saved a spot for us all alongside Paul’s Blue Mantaray buggy.

As we climbed out of the cars it was nice to see we had collected another buggy at the gate, Matt in his red sparkly sidewinder buggy. We had planned for a 30 minute stop at the show which gave us ample time to take a look around the stunning custom, classic, trucks and American cars on show. It also gave Ruth time to hand out the latest bunch of Pier Pressure stickers and we were now up to a total of 54 cars that had joined us on our cruise since we began in Oldbury some 10 days ago.It really was

 a well organised local show and one I would like to re-visit for longer in future years. Thanks to Damien, Paul, Sarah and the crew for the invite, for the opportunity to collect donations and for looking after us. The stop also allowed us to sample Sarah’s wonderful pink ribbon topped home made muffins and a very welcome cup of tea. (I had jokingly said to Paul previously that we would stop for cake and teas and Sarah had thankfully obliged).

Somehow I also managed to enter a competition to win a car. Sadly I didn’t win a car but I did seem to win a weekly postal invite to buy insurance, change my electricity supplier or try out the latest pile cream !!. That will teach me.

Ruth also used the time at the show to try and contact all of today’s piers as we had not heard back from any of them as yet. In reality the one we were most concerned about was Weston Super Mare which we knew would be very busy this time of year. Thankfully the pier replied that they were more than happy for us to display on the promenade outside, a huge relief considering we had such a large cruise with us on today.

It was good to catch up with Paul and Sarah again, but all too soon we need to make our goodbyes and head off. As I approached the gate and looked right, there was Mick B in his dark blue JAS buggy. He was franticly fixing his steering wheel which had come loose. It turns out Mick and hispartner had left Bristol very early that morning to come and met us at Barnstaple, however due to the breakage had only just caught up with us.

Thankfully I think people at the show had helped him out with tools etc., whilst we had been swanning around eating cake and drinking tea, making sure he could join us for the next part of the trip.

The weather was warming up nicely and the quick 6 mile trip down to our first pier of the day at Burnham on Sea was really pleasant. We now had 8 buggies and 3 kit cars in our ever growing convoy.

Paul and Sarah were to catch us up later on at Weston as they still had stuff to do at the car show. The Pier Pressure gang had already travelled 70 miles today and arrived at Burnham-on-Sea Pier just before 11:30am and remarkably just 10 minutes behind schedule.

PIER 52 - Burnham-on-Sea

Burnham on Sea Pier is Britain's shortest pier and is just basically a shoreward end pavilion on concrete piles which still retains its Edwardian features. It was the first concrete structure of its kind in Europe but now, it is essentially a large café to the shore front, with the main pavilion housing an amusement arcade.

The only place to park was on the double yellow lines on the road right outside the pier café. At least the parking restrictions meant that no one else had parked there.This allowed all 11 of us to park up together and made for some great photo opportunities.

I actually got talking to an older couple outside the pier who, after a bit of chat, turned out to be Black Country folk like myself and who lived just a couple of streets away from Ruth and myself. To be fair Midland accents can be heard a lot along the coast between Burnham-on-Sea and Weston Super Mare as it is only 100 mile door to door straight down the M5, with the most easily reached beaches and seaside from Birmingham and the Black Country.

After the scheduled 30 minutes we set off again for the relatively quick 11 mile trip to Weston-super-Mare Grand Pier. The sun was well and truly shinning now as we drove up the promenade at Weston, As we thought it would be, the place was heaving with tourists. My arm nearly fell off by the time we reached the Grand pier from all the waving to folk on the way along the sea front, but it was good to put so many smiles on so many faces.

Thankfully we had been given permission earlier in the day to pull on the promenade, as we had to leave the road via the pelican crossing and through a gap in the sea wall, which lead right to the pedestrianised area in front of the pierl. If I am being truthful there were a lot of people about and it was a bit of a squeeze to get the 9 buggies in this area (Paul and Sarah had caught up with us by now as promised). The three kit car guys decided against squeezing in the area and parked further up the road.

PIER 53 - Weston-super-Mare Grand

As we parked up outside the pier we thought we were in for some trouble as;

1. The RNLI guys with the inflatable life boat at the entrance to the pier were a little miffed as they thought we were muscling in on their collection point.

2. The driver of the land train was less than happy for having to wait whilst 9 buggies drove onto and then manoeuvred around the promenade, all the time doing so over his normal train route.

3. The vocal sea shanty choir that was just setting up would not be too happy with noisy buggies drowning them out.

After a chat;

1. As soon as the RNLI collectors realised we would be there no longer than 1 hour they were more than happy, especially as we had attracted quite a large crowd of potential donators by now.

2. The train driver, although still miserable, was happy we would leave him a clear track and

3. The sea shanty acapella group thought the cars were great and even had a few promotional band shots in and around my buggy.

As we were getting out the cars I noticed there were a good number of guys around wearing Pier Pressure t-shirts. It turned out they were some of our charity sponsors, whose companies were advertised on the side of our buggies and who had made it possible for us to undertake the challenge. As though they hadn’t supported us enough, it was great to see them out in force to meet up with us at Weston Super Mare. Thank you all for helping us undertake this challenge,

In the crowd were Mart (WFB keyboard player), his wife Pip and 2 friends (Andy and Hayley) from my work, who had been at the gig on Friday and were now making their way home after a weekend in Devon. On the way back they had decided to stop off to catch up with us once more.

We decided to stop at Weston Grand Pier for an hour and take lunch, as the location was just brilliant, the weather was nice and warm and it was very busy.

This gave me time to have a chat with Mike Bull, blue JAS buggy, and it was nice to put another face to a name.

On the pier we intended to get one of ‘Somerset’s best hot dogs’ (their words, not mine) but a rather surly serf behind the counter told us he didn’t have any today. In contrast to the humourless hotdog hobgoblin’s attitude, the advertising did make me smile, although I don’t know why?

So fish and chips it was then and yet another cup of tea (I got to the point of needing at least 15 cups a day towards the end) whilst listening to sea shanties, chin wagging with anyone that would listen, soaking up the rays and catching up with friends old and new. We were starting to get a bit de-mob happy and we could feel the end edging ever closer. Just 4 piers left and our challenge would be complete.

PIER 53 - Western-super-Mare Birnbeck

When people inevitably get around to asking me which pier was my favourite of all the ones we visited, I always answer that certainly one of my top three would be Birnbeck. As a Midlander I have visited Weston-super-Mare on many occasions but never knew of the existence of Birnbeck Pier, which lies slightly north of the town centre and around a headland.

The pier is now derelict and has been closed to the public since 1994, but I found it truly captivating. It is the only pier in the country which links the mainland to an island, Birnbeck Island, and was opened in 1867. In its heyday the island housed was effectively the equivalent of a Victorian theme park with two pavilions, a bioscope (the earliest form of cinema), numerous wooden rides, a switchback rollercoaster, swing boats, toboggan ride, water splach ride into the sea, cafes, bars, a church and a barbers. It was basically a small 3 acre amusement town, linked to the mainland by a steel and wooden pier.

After a brilliant hour and more, we almost reluctantly got back in the cars and because we are such nice folk, waited until the acapella group finished their latest ditty before firing up 9 buggies simultaneously. The singing group’s lead bod bid us farewell over the mic and we left to an accompaniment of tooting buggy horns, surrounded by many smiling faces and waving hands. Paul and Sarah who have lived in the area all their life said they never thought that they would get permission to put their buggy on the Promenade at Weston so I am happy we could help fulfil that dream for them too.

We had a truly rememberable experience at the very busy Weston-super-Mare Grand Pier which would be in complete contrast to our next stop just a mile or two up the coast at Weston-super-Mare Birnbeck Pier.

It was originally built as a boarding point for steamers, especially coming over from Penarth Pier in Cardiff. At the turn of the century it was particularly popular with Welsh tourists who would come over to the island on Sundays to party all day on the island, as it was illegal to drink alcohol in Wales on the Sabbath. However the residents and businesses of Weston-super-Mare initially we not supportive of this as it took valuable tourism away from the main town.

During World War II the pier was commissioned as HMS Birnbeck as part of the Directorate of Miscellaneous Weapons Development (DMWD) for research into new weapons. The bouncing bomb was in part developed here. Unfortunately, after the war the number of visitors gradually reduced and the last steamer visited in 1979.

The pier was the first in the country to house a lifeboat station which it did until 2016, when the RNLI deemed it too unsafe for crews to still reach the station. However, the current private owners are in dispute with the council over redevelopment plans and aren’t bothered at all about its listed status. They are just leaving it to rot and drop into the sea and it is now on the Historic England’s top 10 most endangered buildings. As well as the pier and northern landing stage, there are derelict buildings on the island in the distance, including the original life boat house, pavilions and clock tower.

As you can tell I found the place fascinating. 

We had re-connected with the guys in their kit cars on the way to Birnbeck and along with the 9 buggies, we all pulled up on the almost deserted car park next to the pier around 1:30pm, just 30 minutes behind our planned schedule.

Birnbeck has a very active Friends of the Pier Society who run a small gift shop out of the restored Victorian tram signal box next to the closed pier entrance. Their aim is simple, get the current owners to restore the pier. Members of the society came out meet us and made us feel very welcome. We talked for quite a while and they gave us all the information I have shared above.

Until this point, Alex had managed to touch each and every single pier on our mad trip around Britain. However because Birnbeck is closed to the public, it was impossible for him to get near any part of the actual pier in the time we had.

However later in the year we ventured back down to Weston and stopped off at Birnbeck for another look. This time we spotted steps down to the very rocky and craggy beach, so Alex and myself headed off until we reached the underside of the pier.

Here, he managed to touch one of the pier trusses, fulfilling his wish to touch every Victorian Pier in Britain and I don’t know of any other 9 year old that can lay claim to this feat.

We stayed a good deal longer at Birbank than our originally planned 10 minutes as we originally thought it was just a simple derelict pier when planning the trip. Eventually though it was time to say goodbye and move on. The clouds had started to roll in and the sun and blue skies of early had disappeared. At this point, Paul and Sarah in their buggy and Alan and Brian in their kit cars bid us farewell and we were grateful for their support during the day, especially Paul and Sarah’s work on our behalf at the custom car show earlier.

We turned left out of the car park and headed along the coast road for a few miles on towards our next stop at Clevedon, no more than 12 miles north. The odd thing about this coast road was the signed 25mph limit, a strange one even for me as a traffic engineer.

Unfortunately, our route to Clevedon necessitated a one junction trip up the M5 and to get to the motorway we had to pass through a series of traffic lights. The lights managed to successfully split up our 9 car convoy, and as I pulled onto the M5, looking back from the slip road I saw buggies going straight over the roundabout above. To be fair it had been nearly 2 days since we had lost someone.

At that moment there was just myself, George and Carl together, so I dropped my speed to around 50mph to try and give time for the others to catch up. What I didn’t expect was for my bonnet catch to suddenly release and my bonnet pop up as we were about half way towards the next junction. I had thought earlier in the day that my bonnet catch mechanism had seemed sticky when I filled up with fuel and put it down to the monsoon like rain we had driven through for a good while yesterday. Luckily I now have a secondary catch fitted (lesson learned long ago) and so a quick visit to the hard shoulder and all was sorted.

This little interlude did give time for the others to catch up and as we pulled off the motorway at the next junction all but one of the others came into view behind. It turned out Matt’s buggy was having some problems with retaining revs in 4th gear and so he couldn’t maintain any sort of speed. Matt had wisely decided to turn for home in Frome and it was just a shame I didn’t get to say goodbye.

We actually got caught up in some congestion as we left the motorway but it was only for a short while and just 1.5 miles later we could see Clevedon Pier in the distance. As we approached the last left turn towards the pier it was great to see Hazel and Miller from the MBC approaching form the other direction in her orange GP buggy. We had last seen Hazel looking for propelled parts off her exhaust at Blackpool North Pier on Day 2, so it was good to know the car was all fit and healthy once more. The Glympse App had once again been invaluable as she had been able to track our progress.

As we approached the small area in front of the pier I had one of those moments when you go ‘I know that bloke sat on the wall’. My excuse is we were proper fatigued by now and so it took me a few seconds to realise it was actually my old man – Archie Chad, my sister Louise and Brother-in-Law Dave and my Dad’s partner Lynn. They had made the trip down from the Midlands that morning to surprise us, and that they certainly had.

PIER 55 - Clevedon

Clevedon Pier has the record of being the tallest in Britain due to the very large tidal flows in the Bristol Channel. It was beautifully restored a few years back and is in tip top condition, showing off all its Victorian Splendor. The pier entrance is accessed off a hill, through a small ticket office where there is just a small gate and parking enough for two cars out the front. George and myself obviously took up prime position at the gate whilst the other guys and girls had to just park anywhere they could find in the locality, which made for a great sight of abandoned buggies all over the place.

Ruth popped into the pier shop and the staff were more than happy for us to occupy the double yellow lines for a while, even coming out to take pictures for their blog as so many others had done before. We managed to get the obligatory pier number shot before being joined by the wider Chadwick family for a couple more.

It was a really nice surprise for us, and just what we needed to spur us on to get to the last two piers left on our challenge. My sister, bless her, had bought along half the contents of our local Sainsburys store in 2 cool bags full of cakes, chocolate, crisps, sandwiches, 3 tupaware boxes full of more cakes baked by Lynne, 3 bottles of pop and 47 carrier bags – you get the picture. She then uttered the words ‘do you have anywhere to put this?

My family had come down in a golf estate and a new Ford Kuga and we were in two SWB buggies with cases full of clothes. You can guess our answer. We squirreled away what we could but Carl, Dyliss, Hazel and Miller were happiest of all as they got the rest of what was left to enjoy on route (and for the next two weeks I should think). It’s the thought that counts and I love my sister to bits for it.

Then our worst fears were realised as the first spots of rain were felt. The spots turned into drizzle and then into a steady’ish light rain. Such a shame as we were nearing the end of our challenge and had managed all the way to 2:30pm today before getting rained on. Unfortunately my family re-union was all over all too quick and after a quick couple of minutes to put our hoods on, before we knew it we were back in our Pier Pressure chariots awaiting the off.

At this point Dave and his wife in their Marlin had put the roof and and called it a day with the threat of increasing bad weather. We wished them well as we set off ourselves towards our next encounter which would be with one of Britain’s most iconic bridges.

As we left Clevedon, I pulled out followed by George and then an Audi pulled out of a car park space and cut up the rest of our following buggy cruisers. The problem was we now had our hoods on which were trying their best to steam up which limitied our visibility and by the time I realised we didn’t have the rest of the buggies with us, we had taken one or two quick turns and headed off across land towards Clifton.

Thankfully Snoopy, being next in the line up, had a sat-nav with him and graciously directed everyone else back towards the M5 and on towards our next pier stop at Penarth near Cardiff.. The rain was starting to get a little more persistent by the time George, Ruth, Alex and myself reached the Clifton Suspension Bridge access road.

The Grade 1 listed Clifton Suspension bridge spans the Avon Gorge, connecting Bristol and North Somerset. Isambard Kingdom Brunnel finally won the design competition to build his single span wrought iron bridge. The bridge was completed in 1864, the chains being recycled from an old bridge that used to span the Thames. The feat of engineering was amazing, especially when most had said it was too far for a single span and could only be built out of stone.

As a qualified civil engineer myself, this was like visiting Mecca. Therefore I was a little disappointed to find that when we got there, half the bridge was under scaffold and tarpaulin, undergoing some form of restoration, bugger! We paid our toll and cruised slowly across the bridge before heading through a twisty myriad of back streets to drive back beneath the bridge deck 101m above.

As we came down to the hill to turn right back under the bridge we caught a glimpse of the rear of Mick’s blue JAS buggy heading off home. I found out later the rain on the M5 and the potential for even more in Wales had put Mick and his other half off joining us on the last leg, as the temptation of home just 15 minutes away was too much.

And as if we hadn’t crossed enough Iconic bridges on this trip, just 13 miles further on, and after a short sojourn along the M5. M49 and M4, we were crossing into Wales on the Second Severn Bridge, built in 1996 to supplement the original Severn Suspension Bridge. 

Ironically as we passed into Wales the rain eased off but the winds had picked up and we seemed to have found a little pocket of dryness. Just after the bridge we made for Magnor Services on the M4 for a suddenly needed comfort break. This was also the place ear marked on our published schedule, so we didn’t know if the others may have been waiting here.

As it was the place was pretty deserted of buggies so a quick 10 minute splash and dash and we were back on our way to our penultimate pier at Penarth, just south of Cardiff. As we left the services the rain started again. To be truthful, I don’t remember much about the journey to Penarth other than there seemed to be far too many roundabouts and a sea of indistinguishable traffic light junctions, whilst all the time the rain got heavier and more persistent.

The road we took did run through a tunnel which unfortunately meant we actually passed beneath the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, famous to Doctor Who fans as the place where Torchwood was set.

Eventually an hour later and just after 5:00pm we trundled down the hill on the aptly named Beach Road and Penarth Pier came into view. Waiting for us on the street nearby were a number of buggies and their owners, but strangely not all the ones we had in-avertedly left behind in Clevedon. We had appeared to have lost 3 buggies but gained 2 new ones !

PIER 56 - Penarth

The penultimate pier on our epic trip was Penarth Pier. The pier was dominated by a really well maintained 1930’s art deco pavilion across the whole front and had a medium length of traditional decking to the rear. The pier is owned by the local council and unusually doesn’t have an amusement arcade at the front to spoil the pavilion area. The pavilion housed an art display, tourist information centre, café’, community cinema and community rooms.

There was a lovely ornate tiled compass on the floor of the pavilion which can be viewed from the floor above through a purpose cut oculus. Outside the main pavilion was flanked by a couple of ice cream and burger places and thankfully they were still open, allowing us to get our much needed cup of tea.

George and myself wasted no time in bumping up the high kerb outside the pier for our customary pier number picture, whilst the others went off to move their buggies from a raft of parking spots in the nearby streets. Some did face the wrath of a local shop owner for driving the wrong way up the one way street, but as it was now nearing 5:30pm on a Sunday evening there was no one else about. The lady from the pier reception did come out and told us we couldn’t park there on the pavement, but once we explained what we were doing and how long we would be stopping for, she gave us a big smile, said no worries and, as you may have guessed, got her camera out.

Having a good chat with the guys over a cup of tea (what else) it would appear that after we had got split in Clevedon, Snoopy had gotten everyone to the M5 at which point Mick B had headed for home Bristol – remember we saw his pass by as we left Clifton. Snoopy and Hazel, having no hoods, had also headed straight north towards home and avoided both the heavy rain in Wales and the Severn Bridge crossing with its large £7 toll. Wise move guys and one I would have taken myself had I not got a challenge to finish.

Carl had taken the mantle of the auxiliary convoy lead, as Dyliss his wife is a native of South Wales, so he basically sort of knew the way. Unfortunately somewhere after they had crossed the bridge and passed through a tunnel, Dave Dream blew something on his distributor and had to make a fast repair on the hard shoulder.

When Carl, Dyliss, Dave and Hugh reached Penarth some 30 minutes before we did, they were greeted by Dai and Donna in their light blue and cream Sidewinder buggy and Wilf Box in his bonkers Lime Green and Black Check modified GP buggy with semi hard top. Dai had been waiting for us at the M4 services but as we were running late he had decided to meet us at the pier instead. Wilf had travelled over from Swansea to do the last two piers with us and I had only chatted with him on Facebook previously, so it was nice to finally meet up in person.

Penarth was the only pier we actually took our proof of visit shot whilst stood under an umbrella, as the rain was now pretty heavy. Good old Wales. We spent a little time chatting, getting some nice group shots, drinking tea, visiting the visitor centre, taking more pictures, going to the loo, drinking tea and basically chatting.

Whilst drinking tea we stood looking at my engine, as buggy owners tend to do. That’s when I spotted one of the welds on the bracket holding my exhaust silencer steady, had simple sheered away. This now meant my silencer was only being held on by a single spring and was wobbling around freely. I have had this exhaust on for over 20,000 miles so why should it happen now? Who knows. Just when we thought we would make it unscathed to the end !

Luckily, I remembered that Dave from Paignton had given me some stainless steel cable ties a couple of days before saying ‘you never know when you might need these’. Thankfully he did as they are not be something I would normally carry in my spares. A couple of minutes of cable tie origami and the exhaust was suitably bodged enough to get us over the finish line.

I really liked Penarth Pier and the ambience around it, and both Ruth and myself agreed it was a place we would re-visit for a better look around in the future. And then it hit us. We had just one pier left to visit, brilliantly named The Mumbles, situated south of Swansea on the Gower Peninsula.

The Mumbles was 48 miles away, it was getting on for 6:00pm, it was a Sunday afternoon and it was properly peeing down by now. So with smiles on our faces, the 7 buggies headed off in a rainbow of colours for another 75 minute drive eastwards across Wales. Unfortunately most of the trip involved using dual carriageways and the M4 but it was the only viable route between the two major cities, especially if 1. We wanted to get there today in the light and 2. I did want to run the risk of losing anyone else again today.

PIER 57 - The Mumbles

Mumbles Pier had only very recently re-opened after an extensive refurbishment by the current owners. It now has a nice smart Victorian Tea Rooms, café and amusements at the shore end, with a restored pier with full functioning life Boat station at the end. It sits right beneath a relatively high cliff and juts out from the peninsula, towards Mumbles lighthouse.

Waiting for us on the car park were Mumbles locals, Will and his wife, in their blue Kango buggy. Will’s buggy was remarkably the 57th additional vehicle to join us on our pressure challenge to visit 57 piers. You couldn’t write it (although I just did, but you know what I mean) !


Oh boy, did the rain come down again. Not quite in the biblical proportions we had endured the day before in Cornwall, but still very heavy none the less. As much as the rain was a pain in the backside, the spray 7 buggies can make whilst travelling at around 45mph in convoy is a fantastic sight. Well it is if your wipers work and you can see it. Unfortunately in Wilf’s case he managed to lose all his electrics expect, thankfully, his ignition so he travelled most of the way with no lights or wipers – scary and either brave or bonkers, you decide. Carl & Dyliss, Dave Dream and Dai & Donna, only having hard tops on their buggies with no side doors, also felt the full force of the rain, getting a little bit more than damp on route.

Unbelievably the rain actually stopped just a couple of miles outside of The Mumbles, as we passed Swansea to the south. Eventually there we were, driving along the coastline on Mumbles Road with the promise of our challenge goal at the end of it. Finally, after driving along the narrow one way road along the bottom of the cliffs, the pier comes into view and all I can think of is, “we have made it, thank goodness”. It was 7.05pm, just a mere 35 minutes later than scheduled, not bad after 10 whole days of non-stop travelling.

10 days after setting off on our challenge and over 2500 miles later we had made it, we were actually there at the Mumbles. We had done it and achieved our goal of 3 ½ people in two home built cars made from old VW’s and a couple of fibreglass bath tubs, driving around the outside of Britain, visiting 57 piers in just 10 days. We had completed our challenge.

Woooooooooooooo Hooooooooooooooo. Not forgetting the real reason for doing so, raising money and awareness of three cancer charities that are very dear to us and very close to our hearts.

You can see from the last two pictures how physically tired we actually looked. Talking with the others afterwards we all admitted to feeling strangely odd. A mix of elation, relief, disbelief we had completed our challenge, but at the same feeling exhausted and glad it was all over. Perhaps we knew that we had fulfilled our purpose, but being 7:30pm on a very damp Sunday in Wales, the only people really sharing the experience with us were our other buggy brothers and sisters. There was no big fanfare or welcome although we never really expected a grand ceremony I suppose.

Reflecting now I am pretty sure it was the battle with the weather over the last 3 days that had done its best to dampen our spirits and the fatigue of very early mornings, late nights and very little down time in between. Buggies are certainly not modern, quiet, power assisted cars and they can be very tiring after 10 non-stop days of driving, particularly in bad weather.

Surprisingly the car par was quite full although there seemed to be very few people actually about, so we backed into a couple of spaces, got the double banners out and had our proof of visit photo taken for the last time. The rest of the guys made do with a bit or reckless abandonment of their vehicles as we all stood around chatting about who was the wettest, the coldest etc.

Ruth and Alex went off in search of tea, had a rummage along the pier and returned with tea and surprisingly Ice Cream.  Alex had wanted to treat us so used some of his own pocket money to get the ice creams. Unfortunately in a full re-inactment of a classic Eddie Murphy stand up routine, Alex managed to drop his bubble-gum flavoured ice cream and broke down in tears, more through complete tiredness that ice cream loss, we could tell. 

The others returned with Fish and Chips and we spent quite a while just taking it all in at our last pier.

At this point I feel the need to make special mention of our young lad Alex. I know he can sometimes be firey (red hair) but during the whole trip he had been brilliant.

He had got on with it, got ready when asked to, travelled quietly in the cars, had no tempers and only asked for his Nintendo DS once all trip, when we were sat in the traffic for four hours on Day 6.

He had achieved something I doubt any other 9 year old had ever done previously, in visiting all the remaining Victorian piers in Britain. We did have reservations about taking him with us but thankfully he proved us wrong and we were and still are very proud of him.

Although there was no real fanfare, we did still manage to talk with visitors and locals alike and managed to get a few more coppers in the ever bulging rattle collection cans. Then a young Jack the Lad pulls up in his BMW, lowers the window and asks what its all about. As soon as we mention the cancer charities, he empties his dashboard stash of pound coins into one of the tins, then proceeds to pull out a wad of notes from his wallet and forces them into another. Simply saying it was something very close to him and drives off. We were stunned but very thankful.

And suddenly there is was, the pier visiting was over and it was time to leave. Carl, Dyliss, Dave, Wilf and Will all headed their separate ways off home, whilst Hugh had booked in the same travel lodge with us for the night and intended to make the trip back home with us tomorrow.

The way out of the pier car park was straight up the side of the mountain (or so it felt like), up a steep single lane track at about 1 in 7. To be fair it did sound good as the buggies roared up the hill, leaving the pier behind us over our shoulder. Aware we needed to eat and time was pushing past 8:00pm, Ruth and myself decided we would pull in to the first decent place we saw. Thankfully all of 300 yards along the cliff road we spotted a great looking Italian restaurant, Castellamare, overlooking the bay and Mumbles lighthouse in the distance. The choice was made.

It turned out the restaurant was great, just what we needed, nice properly fresh cooked pasta and they even gave us a seat next to the panoramic windows over-looking the lighthouse to watch the sun set. Well at least to watch it go dark, as no sun was shining through the dark grey clouds. Castellamare is highly recommended if you ever find yourself at The Mumbles. The waiter who served us even made a nice donation to the collection pot after he found out what we had been doing. Unfortunately, we couldn’t celebrate with a beer as we still had 10 miles left to drive to our stop for the night at the Travelodge on the M4 at Swansea.

We finally left the restaurant around 9:45pm and it was now very dark and very wet once again.

What we had trouble finding was the actual entrance and reception as the website said is was to the rear of the services. After two or three trips around the car park we finally saw the ill placed sign which said the reception was indeed at the rear of the services, but what it meant was the services next to the food halls and WH Smiths. Doh !!

Before long we were unpacked and our rooms were allocated. The only slight issue we had was that the Automatic Number Plate Recognition software for Travelodge, needed to stop us getting a hefty parking fine on the services, failed to pick up both Hugh’s and my buggy’s black and silver plates.

George having normal black on white had no problem. Some manual manipulation by the receptionist and she hoped it was all sorted. Being as I have never since had a fine from Swansea Services I presume whatever she did worked.

I don’t remember much of the 30 minute journey up to the Travelodge as I was just blindly following the Sat-Nav. I really just wanted to be done for the day and find my bed. This actually turned out to be a little more difficult they we perhaps intended it to be. The Travelodge at the M4 services at Swansea is very easy to spot as it’s a great big hotel stuck to the side of the service station. 

As was now customary on the trip, we all piled into the Chadwick’s room for our end of day cuppa, but being our last night we also celebrated with a chaser of a warm can of larger each – living the dream! For some reason at that point we decided to empty the four collection cans and count up how much donation we had collected on the way around the piers. This led to one of my funniest memories of the trip, as already looking a little socially uncomfortable sat in our bedroom drinking warm larger, Hugh was now witness to a stash of money being spread across one of the beds and being counted. Hugh admitted to feeling like part of a bank robbery gang, counting the loot after a heist.

Beers drunk and money counted, (over £1000 in collections on route), George and Hugh headed for their respective rooms and the promise of a good night’s sleep. We had even decided to have a bit of a lie in and not set off until around 9:30am the next morning for the final leg home, to close the circle. Even though I felt utterly knackered sleep didn’t come easy. I read my book for a while and then reflected on the past 10 days and the unbelievable memories we had shared with so many brilliant friends and family who had gone out of their way to support us and join us on our journey.

We had done it, we had completed the challenge set to us to visit all the piers in Britain in 10 days. We had made some new friends, had great times with old friends and most importantly had made a bundle of cash for our chosen charities to enable them to continue their invaluable work.

And finally I slept……....

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