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Collecting in aid of

Pier Pressure 2016

Day 8 - Friday 19th August 2016

Ryde I.O.W to Ottery St Mary - 198 Miles

I had a restless night fuelled in the main by pre-gig nerves, worry over the buggy, worry over getting through Bournemouth and not missing the early ferry off the Isle of Wight.

At least I was already awake when the 6:00am alarm went off, in readiness for our planned 7:00am start. It was funny to see Alex’s face as he woke up on a bed made of two chairs, considering he had gone to sleep the night before in our double bed.

I hoped that my late night temporary fix on the buggy would work today as otherwise I would need to disconnect the Alternator to stop it overcharging the battery and causing lots of other associated wiring issues.

With such a tight deadline today we just needed everything to run smoothly with no additional challenges. Well of course today was the day nature decided to throw it’s hat into the ring too, and after 7 days of dry sunny weather (other than a little sprinkling for an hour in Snowdon on Day 1), this morning it was persisting down. Proper good old English summer rain. Brilliant !!!

As normal we met up with George on the car park and we were all belted in and on the road by 7:15am, just a few minutes behind our scheduled start. This unfortunately meant we were too early for breakfast at the hotel and would need to grab something on route.

Our first pier rendezvous of the day was to be at Sandown, just a short 6 mile trip straight down to the south coast of the Island. Initially I was overjoyed as the fix I had done to the LED charging light, changing it to a standard bulb seemed to be working. The volts were at a steady 14.5V and holding. However just a couple of miles down and suddenly my rev counter had a Bermuda Triangle moment as the voltmeter shot off the end of the scale and most startlingly my wipers started to flick at hyper speed. I had no choice but to pull on the hazards, pull over to the side of the road and disconnect the alternator wires.

At the point I faced at least another 150 miles of driving before we reached Ollie and his crew at Bettlemagic near Weymouth. Luckily the same thing had happened to me before, about 5 years ago on my way from Swanage. At that time, I also had George as my wing man and we had basically bunny hopped all the way home changing batteries between the two buggies every 35 to 40 miles. So we simply employed the same strategy here once again. Whilst I ran the battery down, George would charge the other one up before the next change every 30 to 40 miles, at least until we hopefully made it to Ollie’s later in the day.

Just what I really needed on this day of all days, a none charging battery and rain, which normally would mean using side lights and wipers. My concern was that I was running an electronic ignition and unlike points which will give you a mis-fire warning when the volts start to drop, the electronic module would simply just cut out without warning. Therefore I employed a ‘flick the wipers on once every 30 seconds’ approach to try and conserve at least a few volts for longer periods. Strangely it reminded me a bit of the Apollo 13 film.

PIER 39 - Sandown

At 7:30am we rolled up to our first pier of the day at Sandown. As you would expect there were very few people about at that time on a rainy Friday morning. However amazingly, there waiting for us, and without any sort of hood, was Nick and family in the Breast Cancer Tribute Pink Doon. They had decided to join us for the whole of the Isle of Wight leg and stick two fingers up to the weather. Great commitment and a really welcome sight.   

Thankfully at that time in a morning there were also no traffic wardens about and so we managed to drive and park up in the restricted ‘no vehicles allowed’ area outside the pier. Sandown was a very traditional seaside pier, although the front was now typically dominated by an amusement arcade and very pink colouring.  We managed to have a chat with a coach driver waiting for the Tinsel and Turkey brigade to emerge from the hotel opposite the pier and he even made a welcome donation to our cause, thank you.

As we were strictly on the clock today, at 7:50am and bang on schedule the three buggies hit the road. Our next stop was completely across the island, on the west coast at Totland Bay and the rain was steadily getting heavier just for good measure. Initially I intended to take the coast road around the south of the island but with the poor weather, limited visibility with the hoods on the buggies and the limited time we had today, we headed directly across the middle of the Isle, taking the shortest and quickest route possible.

This took us through the capital, Newport, which has lots of roundabouts and one way streets. With the increasing rain which was leading to internal fine rain seeping in under the top of my hood and constant misting up of the screen, I was surprised it took this long before we had a sat-nav faux pas today. As we hit a large roundabout, the sat-nav managed to completely cover the route we were taking with petrol station, fast food and car park symbols. The traffic was increasing as it was now the morning rush hour and with the hood up visibility wasn’t the best. So we had a bit of a merry go round and round and round moment and a few horns from angry motorists, before I just picked what I thought was the right way. Well after a bit of back street running (as obviously it wasn’t the right way), we were eventually ended up back on the correct road heading west to Totland Bay.

When I visited the Isle of Wight in May for my friend’s wedding, I had already done some recognisance and so I knew Totland was a small derelict pier awaiting restoration. In fact there was very little else around the pier other than just a small car park.  The pier had had some minor work in the recent past but sadly still require a lot more to bring it back into public use.

PIER 40 - Totland Bay

By 8:30aqm we were driving down the steep narrow lane to the sea front and to what was left of Totland Pier came into view.

Nick and his family were now truly wet and because I realised we would not be at this pier long I even left my buggy running to save on the battery powered required to start it again. This meant we stopped no longer than 10 minutes at Totland Bay pier.

PIER 41 - Yarmouth

Our next pier stop was at Yarmouth, just a 3 mile hop, skip and a jump north up the coast. This was also to be the last of the Isle of Wight piers we would be visiting. Less than 10 minutes later we pulled into the car park right out the front of the Pier. Yarmouth Pier was built as a small Victorian passenger ferry pier, which served paddle steamers taking people daily across to the mainland at Hythe and Lymington.

The pier itself was in beautiful and well maintained condition and the old ticket office right next to the car park was converted into a charming café. As the three buggies backed up to some none existent spaces in front of the ‘Gossips Café’, a couple of waitresses came out to see what all the noise was about. Fearing another Clacton experience, we couldn’t have been more wrong as they started taking photos and welcomed us with open arms. They also informed us that the car park was pay and display but not to worry as the warden didn’t even start his rounds until 10am at the earliest.

Whilst we were taking our requisite pier photos, I got cheeky and put an order in with the Cafe ladies in the car park for 4 bacon butties and 4 cups of tea. At this point Nick and his brilliant supporting family were proper wet as the rain had kicked up another notch and decided to make a run for it back to their holiday home to dry off. But not before Nick’s mom arrived for a quick spin in the new pink member of their family. This was great considering the buggy had been built as a tribute to her own fight against the terrible breast cancer disease.

As Nick left, the four of us dived into the café for a 10 minute break from the rain and to grab our teas and sarnies. Our waitress then not only informed us she had given us a discount on our bill, but presented us with a collection all the café staff have put together whilst we were outside taking photos. A massive thank you to the Gossip Café in Yarmouth for their support.

We perhaps stayed 10 minutes longer than planned at Yarmouth as it was nice and dry and warm in the café, but we considered we have more than enough time to reach the ferry port in East Cowes. Thankfully my buggy fired up first time and with the rain now getting heavier I had no choice but to have my wipers switched on permanently.

It was now time for the second Sat-nav faux pas of the day. What I hate about sat-navs is that unlike a map, they only ever show you about 200 yards in front of you on the screen at any one time. I know you can zoom out but then you can’t see the route to follow in any detail. So with the ferry terminal postcode now set, the 2 buggies headed back towards Newport and then onto East Cowes.

The ferry we were taking back to Southampton was leaving at 10:30 and so the latest check in was 10:00am. Therefore we felt we had more than enough time to get East Cowes. Well we would have had if the sat-nav hadn’t sent us down towards West Cowes instead of East Cowes on the opposite side of  the River Medina and expected us to take the buggies with us on the small foot ferry across the mouth of the river!

By the time I realised we were going the wrong way, we had travelled a good 3 miles down the wrong side of the river. We had to make a quick U-turn and travelled back into busy Newport before finally we were on the correct road to East Cowes and the ferry port. Thankfully we arrived at the port just 5 minutes before 10:00am and thankfully were allowed into the car lanes, basically getting the last two spots in the lines for the ferry.

Already by 10:00am we had visited 3 piers and travelled over 50 miles on the Island in crappy wet weather. Waiting at the port was Angie from the tourist board who we had met the night before. She had bought us some gifts and come to wish us luck for the rest of the challenge. Alex got a stuffed red squirrel (toy not a real one) whilst each buggy got a superb book of pier pictures from around Britain, a really thoughtful gift to remember our visit to the IOW.

The IOW had certainly made us feel welcome and it was a pity the weather had been such that we didn’t get to experience the full beauty the Island had to offer. Very soon the ferry was once again devouring vehicles and for some reason they choose to split George and myself, forcing George to reverse in a small gap on the opposite side of the boat. This normally wouldn’t be a problem, but with my lack of charging I was uncertain if I would actually have enough juice to start my buggy over at the other end.

Considering today was promising to be a manic non-stop day, we managed to get an hour’s worth of relative serenity on the ferry crossing back to the mainland. This gave me time to set the rest of the Sat-nav route for the day, (I had only had time to put in the IOW section that morning due to the very early start), and do a bit of social media updating.

Taking time outside for a bit of fresh air, I caught a glimpse of our next destination, Hythe Pier, stretching out into the Solent on the portside of the boat, at the point where the Rivers Test and Itchen meet. Normally we didn’t get to see the piers from the sea point of view.

As the ferry docked, George’s line was called off relatively quickly, whilst I sit there for a good few minutes longer. Thankfully my buggy fired up and Alex and myself headed off in search of Geroge and Ruth. Waiting on the docks were also Jazzy and Snowy in their T5 van and the look on their faces was priceless as initially George and then a couple of minutes later, myself, drove straight passed them and into the large car park around the back of Southampton Pier. As they drove around to us, it soon became obvious to them that I have a problem as this was the point of our first battery swap. I had managed around 55 miles on my own battery and it seemed prudent to swap over with George now, to ensure we made it through the next leg of our journey.

Our next scheduled stop was Hythe Pier, some 10 miles up and down the coastline, crossing the mouth of the River Test on the Redbridge Causeway. On route we also took the opportunity to re-fuel somewhere north of Southampton. Thankfully the rain had eased off and had actually stopped for a short while, although the sky was still dark grey and looked like it hadn’t finished soaking us for the day. We arrived at Hythe Pier at just around mid-day, some 5 hours after we had set off that morning in the IOW. At that point Ottery St Mary and the reunion gig seemed a very very long way away.

PIER 42 - Hythe

Waiting for us in the car park at Hythe Pier was a certain Dutch guy in his white T4 VW van. I was unsure where Ruben had spent the night but it was good to meet up with him again at the pier.

Hythe Pier, much like Yarmouth was a small pier with just a ticket office at the land end. It certainly wasn’t a traditional feeling pier and wasn’t particularly attractive but was still a working passenger ferry pier which had a small train that ran along its length to the head end where the ferries still docked.

We spent 20 or so minutes at Hythe before heading off towards out next stop for lunch at ‘The Mill’ at Gordleton, as guests of head chef Karl. I had spoken with Karl the evening before and he suggested that it was easiest to simply put on a shared ploughman’s platter for the Pier Pressure party. That was brilliant and fine by us.

To get to Gordleton we had to drive through the New Forest and I have always been told it is a beautiful part of the world and a great road to drive. Perhaps it is in normal conditions but as the sky had threatened earlier, the heavens had properly opened once more and it was bucketing down. We drove through the New Forest is a mix of heavy mist, rain and spray and visibility was extremely poor. Alex had resorted to putting my waterproof jacket over his lap as the amount of water now finding its way inside my hood was increasing by the minute. Some long lines of tissue between the hood and screen were just about holding the water at bay on my side of the buggy.

14 miles on and bang on 1:00pm we pulled into The Mill. To say Karl had under-stated the place at which he worked and his own roll at the ‘pub’ was obvious to us all. The Mill was a lovely country pub restaurant built of stone, set by the side of the river. Karl had arranged two V.I.P parking spaces right outside the door for our buggies, whilst the vans had to use the plebs car park the other side of the river.

As we walked the pub in the Maître’ d welcomed us, directed us to a private room and said Karl would be with us in a minute or two. It turns out the restaurant was full to bursting and due to the heavy rain, the early sittings had stayed put hoping for the rain to stop, whilst the late sittings had turned up early because of the rain. Hence Karl, as head chef, was run off his feet. How they fitted us in that day I still don’t know.

The private room was down a small flight of stairs and was set out like a meeting or board room, but far better in terms of period décor and architecture. Before long the massive wooden table is covered in home made bread, massive chunks of cheese, freshly cooked chips, home made chutneys and pickles, massive home pickled onions, freshly sliced gammon ham etc, etc. freshly squeezed orange juice, pots of tea, coffee and bottled water. This certainly nothing anything like any simple ploughman’s lunch I had ever had before at any pub before. It’s fair to say we were all blown away by the food and the hospitality we were shown by Karl and his team.

We managed to get a couple of minutes chatting with Karl before he unfortunately had to head off to the kitchen again. We felt really bad having to leave this wonderfully serene, dry and comfy place after on;y 30 minutes, but today we simply had no choice. With contented full tummies, we were back in the soggy seated buggies by 1:30pm and on our way to the potential air show chaos awaiting us in Boscombe and Bournemouth. Alex had managed to acquire a whole block of cheese and spent the rest of the day nibbling at it like some giant ginger mouse – kids are strange!

Boscombe was another 14 miles away and the rain was now getting really heavy, with no visible break anywhere apparent in the heavy low cloud. However, what we didn’t realise at the how this would actually very soon become a massive blessing in disguise for us when we reached Boscombe. Deep puddles were now regular on the road and somewhere between The Mill and Christchurch I drove through a 6 inch deep puddle at the same time as Range Rover coming the other way. This led to a biblical sized wave heading straight up in the air before landing as one huge deluge of water right on George’s screen and bonnet, with most of said water ending up on Ruth’s lap.

I had been warned how busy the Boscombe and Bournemouth Air Show was from previous years and we were expecting huge delays in getting through this part of the journey. Therefore it was quite unexpected, but very welcome, to find large crowds of people walking away from the beach as we hit the outskirts of town. I would say the weather was probably now at the worst it had been all day which had caused the air show to be cancelled for the rest of the day due to safety concerns. All the open air band concerts had also been cancelled for the day too.

PIER 43 - Boscombe

I had arranged a pass through the road closures through my professional contact at the local highways department. As it turned out there was no traffic anyway due to the cancellation of the air show and hence we rolled right up to the traffic officer near Boscombe Pier without any delays. We were let through the barriers and set up right outside the pier in double quick time. George and Ruth emerged from the buggy looking like damp dogs after nature’s own ice bucket challenge they had endured earlier.

It was still raining heavy and although Boscombe had a lovely welcoming art deco style frontage to the pier, we got about taking our photos quickly, fully aware of the time constraints still looming over our every move today. Whilst taking the photos an elderly couple appear and give us their support. They turn out to be Gary’s from the Midland Buggy Club’s parents, who were on holiday and came to see us. Gary had been with us on Day 1 in his buggy and it was good to see his family carrying on the support over a week later.

After not too long we headed off to our next stop at Bournemouth Pier less than 2 miles away by road. Due to the airshow the whole promenade and under-cliff drive had been closed to traffic for the next few days. This would have been the normal route to the front of Bournemouth pier. However, after speaking with the guy from the local highways he had suggested that if we could get to Bath Road before 4:00pm we would be able to park up at one of the car parks off this road before the road closed for the evening festivities. Luckily we were still bang on schedule and arrived at Bournemoiuth Pier around 2:45pm.

PIER 44 - Bournemouth

Rather than finding a car park nearby and walking down to the pier, we took the opportunity to bump up the anti-pedestrian paving on the side of the elevated section of road, right above the promenade in front of Bournemouth Pier. This did put the photographers at risk of being run over, but it was great fun and part and parcel of the Pier Pressure challenge.

Up until this point Alex had touched each and every pier we had visited and hence Bournemouth was no exceptio and so we took a quick run down to the promenade for Alex to carry on his tradition. The pier itself was very well maintained and a typical seaside pleasure pier with a large amusement arcade at the land end and a wooden deck leading towards a large theatre hall at the head.

A special thanks must go to Jazzy and Snowy for putting themselves in the line of fire with their van to protect us whilst taking pictures.

When planning Pier Pressure I had initially planned to head for Swanage Pier over the chain link ferry from Sandbanks to Studland – a trip we know well from many holidays in Swanage. However, we had heard horror stories that at peak times the queue for the ferry at Studland could be as long as 2 hours. So when we heard about the air festival and the likely traffic chaos that could cause, we had made the decision to take out the potential for ferry hell and instead took the longer route to the north of Poole on the A35, before heading down to Swanage via Wareham and Corfe Castle.

In terms of distance this had added 13 miles to the trip but at least we could be relatively sure of not being unduly held up at the chain link ferry, on this day of all days. This also gave us the opportunity to re-fuel a the petrol station in Sandford. Waiting for us there were Dave in his fresh out of the box sparkly green Hustler GT buggy and Dom in his left hand drive Ruska buggy.

Needless to say we didn’t stay long at Bournemouth, mainly to avoid becoming people of interest to the local police. Soon we were on our way (with the vans doing their normal job of blocking the traffic for us) and were actually very slightly ahead of our planned schedule for the day. When we woke up we were really disappointed by the poor weather, but on reflection, today of all days it had actually worked to our advantage. The cancellation of the days flying activities and live music meant we sailed through the Boscombe and Bournemouth area, where on any other day we would have inevitably been caught up in it all for hours.

At this point my buggy was on auto pilot, having driven this route down to Swanage on many many occasions over the past 10 years. After 3 solid days of driving on unfamiliar roads, this felt very comfortable and relaxing is some way. The welcome sight of Corfe Castle loomed into view and I knew that within a few short miles we would be heading down the hill into Swanage.

Around this time, some kind of miracle occurred. It is often said it never rains in Swanage, and today was no exception. All I can say is what a difference a bay makes – in this case Poole Bay – as suddenly the weather cleared and we were greeted by blue skies. I kid you not, just take a look at the pictures. In less than 1 hour we had gone from heavy, air show cancelling rain, to un-blotted blue sky. Nature is a wonderful thing. I just had the feeling fate was smiling on us that day – keeping the heavy rain to help us through Bournemouth, but giving us sun and blue sky to enjoy the rest of the day.

We had already done a dummy run to Swanage Pier just a couple of weeks earlier at the Swanage buggy and carnival weekend. This had given us the opportunity to meet with the pier master and he had agreed for us to park up out the front of the pier during Pier Pressure.

PIER 45 - Swanage

The four buggies pulled up on the pre-determined footpath area right outside the front of the pier, now drenched in sun under blue skies. We decided to spend just a little longer here than initially planned to help us dry out and grab a cup of tea. Whilst Ruth went off in search of the char, it was time for a second battery swap. This time around I had managed over 80 miles on just the battery and was very thankful of George’s continued help.

In the distance the unmistakable sound of a buggy could be heard and a few moments later Hunter and Carol turn up in their yellow and black CRT buggy. Then a second rumbling in the streets and John and Hilary turn up in their blue and white FF buggy. I hadn’t met John and Hilary before but they had read about our planned trip on social media and come to meet us in the New Forest at the Old Station tea rooms in Holmsley. Unfortunately we had changed the itinerary last minute and met up with Karl instead at The Mill – oops. Because I hadn’t had prior knowledge that anyone planned to meet up with us there, I hadn’t broadcast the change of route. Sorry guys. By all accounts though they had had a lovely lunch and still decided to catch us up at Swanage.

Whilst drinking our tea, over strolled Nigel G who had come to meet up with us on his way home from work. He planned to join in the cruise later in the day in his high rise Doon Buggy and come to our charity gig, but had also decided to come and say hello on the way back home. Apparently Nigel too had decided to surprise us at Holmsley – doh!. After a while he decided we must have changed route, looked at our progress on the Glympse App and saw we were elsewhere.

He had actually caught up with us in Bournemouth in his white works van but apparently we had ignored his frantic tooting and waving. It was raining at the time and as we had already had such a lot of tooting on route already over the past 8 days, we hadn’t taken much notice. It also turns out Nigel had headed for the chain link ferry and because of the poor weather had driven straight on with no queue – hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Earlier in the day I had made contact with Flags to check everything was still ok to meet up at Ollie’s Beetlemagic workshop to change out my Alternator. Whilst we were milling about the sea front at Swanage I contacted Flags once again to let him know we would be with them in around 30 to 40 minutes.

As the sun was now well and truly out, the hoods came off again and the six buggies and two vans headed off towards Beetlemagic just 20 miles away.

We headed back through the town up towards Wareham, passing Corfe Castle for a second time in less than an hour, passed straight through the middle of the tank training grounds in Bovington before finally making it to Ollie’s workshop around 5:00pm.

It was hard to believe that just 10 hours before we had been leaving our hotel on the Isle of Wight. We had already visited 7 piers that day but still had 2 more to go and the best part of 60 miles left to travel before reaching the gig at Ottery St Mary.

At Ollie’s Beetlemagic worshop Flags was waiting to take everyone except myself, George and Jazzy, off to his house around the corner to make them all cups of teas and coffee whilst we got my buggy fixed. Flags did a wonderful thing by ensuring Ollie and is son Ben could work uninterruptedly without being disturbed by a large number of well meaning, but in the way, buggyists.

Almost before my buggy stopped, Ollie and Ben were on it like a Mercedes pit crew. I have never see two folk work so quickly and within what seemed minutes the alternator was out. They managed to remove the alternator without removing the whole engine as would be the normal way, by extracting the stud bolts that hold the stand from the engine case and drawing the alternator and stand out as one. An unconventional way, but very quick under the circumstances. Thank goodness we are lucky to know such experts.

Whist Ben disappeared into the work shop to change the fan onto the new alternator, Ollie showed us a really rare 1960’s fibreclass VW special that he was restoring for a guy. When complete this will be the only one in the UK. Before long the alternator was back in. The buggy fired up first time and instantly the charging light went out at the voltmeter held steady at 14.5 volts. I was one happy Chad, I can tell you. I will be forever thankful to Ollie and Ben for getting me out the mire and all done in just under 1 ½ hours – amazing.

Whilst Ollie went off to get changed out of his overalls, we followed Ben down to Flags’ place literally 300 yards down the road. It was great to turn the corner and see his whole close covered in buggies and people, although I don’t know how his neighbours felt. Flags now joined us in his wife’s Karen’s Raspberry Doon buggy and a lovely deep rumbling sound announced the arrival of Ollie in his highly modified 2.3 litre red JAS buggy. Paul had also come to meet us in his daily at Flags, after waiting for 1 ½ hours down by Weymouth Pier, not realising about my unexpected pit stop as I had kept this off social media at the time.

Feeling far better than I had earlier in the day, but still acutely aware of the time restraints and the need to press on towards the gig at Ottery, I led a nice long line of 8 buggies and two vans off towards our next 2 piers, both in Weymouth, just 10 miles down the road.

I admit that I was happy at being back on the road and I gave the buggy a nice bit of revs as I left the side road onto the B3390. All was going great and finally I had the foolish notion all would now be plain sailing the rest of the day. Well Fate can be a fickle friend and within a mile of leaving Flags’ suddenly I was met with a loud, very tractor like noise from my engine. Thinking it could just be something loose, I pulled over in the little village of Warmwell. Admittedly my stopping place wasn’t the best of places to pick, with the rest of the convoy causing traffic chaos as they stopped. Sorry guys.

Ollie quickly jumped out of his buggy and after a quick inspection confirms nothing was loose. We decided to soldier on to Weymouth and take a closer look there. The power of my engine did seem to be a little less than normal now but we really needed to carry on if I was ever going to get to my gig today. Weymouth appeared on the horizon as we passed the ‘man on the horse’ chalk carving on our left, before heading down to the coast and finally arriving at our next destination and penultimate pier of the day at around 6:45pm.

PIER 46 - Weymouth Bandstand

Considering it was a Friday night in August there were very few people about. However, this did allow us to find a way through the planting beds and park up all 8 buggies right outside the pier on the wide promenade.

Weymouth Bandstand Pier was never very long when it was built in the 1890’s, but in the 1970’s the bandstand and stage area out to sea was demolished leaving just the 1930’s art deco entrance building still standing. This means the pier is now one of the shortest left in Britain and barely reaches the beach off the promenade. The pier was in really nice condition and had benefited from a refurbishment as part of the 2012 Olympics due to Weymouth being the main yachting venue.

After the taking requisite proof of visit photos, we ventured around the back of my buggy to investigate the source of the tractor noises. Very quickly it became obvious the issue was that I had blown out half of No.4 piston’s exhaust to head gasket. This wasn’t going to unduly hurt my engine but just make it noisy until I could replace the missing gasket sometime the following day. This also explained the slight loss of power I had felt.

As we were now running 1 ½ hours late after the unscheduled pit stop at Ollie’s workshop, we quickly moved on to our 9th and final pier visit of the day, just 1 mile away straight down the sea front.

PIER 47 - Weymouth Pleasure

Weymouth Pleasure Pier was the polar opposite to the lovely art deco Bandstand Pier, an odd pier which was difficult to determine where it actually started and ended. The ‘pier’ now consists of the Pavillion Theatre at the land end, a large car park on a huge area of reclaimed land behind the theatre to cater for the cross channel ferry that operates off the head of the pier and the recently opened Jurassic Skyline 53m high viewing tower.

At the land end the 8 buggies and 2 vans pulled up between the Pavillion and the adjacent fairground to get our proof of visit photos. To be honest it made a great sight to see the buggies just dumped randomly anywhere they could and sort of oddly becoming entwined with the fairground.

We were aware however that the Pavilion didn’t look much like a pier and didn’t mentioned the word pier anywhere. A quick look round the side of the theatre revealed a nice little entrance arch with the words ‘Pleasure Pier’.

To get a picture, George and myself park against on the access to the ferry port car park, against the flow. Luckily it was now getting on for 7:30pm so traffic was light and we managed to get the shot we wanted without too much hassle.

However by now I was also acutely aware that my old band, Waiting for Bonaparte, would already have set up in Ottery St Mary, sound checked and would simply be waiting for me to arrive. Mart the guitarist had managed to get one of the local bands to put on a support act so hopefully they were keeping the audience entertained whilst I madly made my way there.

Without any more delay we started the final 45 mile leg of our journey for today. The route would take us up over the West Dorset Heritage Coast on the B3517 towards Bridport. It was time to now say goodbye to many of our latest Day 8 support team, including Flags, Ollie, Hunter, Dom, John and Hilary. This left just George, Ruth, Alex, Dave, Jazzy, Snowy, Ruben and myself heading off westward bound towards the gig in Ottery st Mary.

Unfortunately, as we drove off in front, Ruben waited patiently to join at the back of the cruise of buggies in his van as he had done all day. This unfortunately meant he missed myself, George, Dave and Jazzy turning left in Weymouth town centre and consequently he followed a few of the other buggies who were heading home, leaving Weymouth in the other direction. I felt bad that for the second time in three days I had managed to misplace our Dutch friend Ruben.

The sun was now beginning to set and we headed off along one of the nicest roads we would drive along during the whole trip; the B3157 between Weymouth and Bridport. The road climbed up higher and higher until we were driving straight into the sun along the top of the Heritage Coast cliffs. We were blessed with amazing views across the Atlantic and I would have enjoyed this road far more if I hadn’t had pre-gig nerves kicking in and wasn’t worried about the peace shattering noise now coming out of the back of my buggy.

At Bridport we re-joined the A35 which would take us all the way to Ottery St Mary. True to his word, sat on the verge at the junction of A35 and B3157, Nigel and Fiona were waiting for us in their High Rise Red 3.5 litre Range Rover powered Doon Buggy. They had travelled up from Beer on the Devon coast and had watched us on the Glympse App to make sure they would be ready as we passed.

In all honesty I can’t remember much about the rest of the 28 mile trip up the A35 and the A30, as I was just clock watching and getting more and more nervous about my impending performance after 10 years away from the limelight. Then, there it was at last, a sign for Ottery St Mary and as we pulled off the A30 we waved goodbye to Dave who overtook us and headed off home to Paignton in search of new exhaust gaskets for me to fit. We would catch up with Dave again tomorrow when we would pass through his home town.

Finally, the concert venue (Ottery’s Football Club) was in sight and we headed up the driveway at 8:40pm, just 1 hour 20minutes later than originally planned and advertised. To be frank, with all that had gone on earlier today I was just glad we had actually made it at all. Jazzy and Snowy had headed off to their hotel to check in and would be back with us in time for the gig. Unfortunately there was no sign of Ruben, but we knew he would be was somewhere in the vicinity and he did eventually find us and arrived about 15 minutes after the main convoy.

What was nice to see was the large crowd of folk clapping and cheering us in, with many wearing our Pier Pressure Tour t-shirts.

It was great to see so many people there including Paul and Donna, buggy folk from Weston Super Mare, a group off my work colleagues who had ventured south from the midlands, some old work colleagues who now work and live in Devon as well as family, friends and long suffering partners of the rest of the band. There was also a good mix of local folk there too, rustled up by Mart and Alison.

The support act had already warmed up the crowd nicely, but unfortunately had finished before we arrived, so I missed them. I just had enough time to throw a couple of pre-ordered pizza slices down my throat, change into my gig wear in the toilets (which in reality meant a clean t-shirt and change out of my combats into jeans) and put the hood of my buggy as the rain from earlier had caught us back up. Then, there I was, stood in front of an expectant crowd ready to hit my first live note in 10 years.

At this point I was proper knackered, deep deep down tired and the thought of performing a 2 hour set was not something at all appealing. But I just reminded myself that it was all for charity, for really important cancer fighting charities and a little bit of tiredness was no reason to moan.

The lights dimmed, the audience did the obligatory cough, two clicks off the drum sticks and we launched into an old favourite opening song; 15 years by the Levellers. I am surprised that we actually sound OK, even considering Rob our rhythm guitarist had sound checked my bass earlier in the day. This basically meant it had loads of treble and no bass, typical guitarist. A few nob twiddles and this was soon rectified; nice smooth deep bass sound.

Muscle memory kicked in and before we knew it the first song was over and people were actually clapping. My tiredness was gone in an instant adrenaline kicked in and the tingly feeling of playing live once again pulsed through my veins. We then played through a mix of covers and our own penned material with just a couple of false starts and the odd bum note. Nobody would probably have noticed had we not all broke down laughing and pointed at the guilty party. Glad I didn’t drop a note anytime - (tongue in cheek!!).

Admittedly we were a little rusty but folk seemed to be enjoying it. Then the last song of the first half set arrived – Lady Marmalade, Christina Aguilera version - and we are just about to start when I have a complete blank. I simply couldn’t remember the really great funky bass riff. I was stumped. After a good round of cat calling and laughter, my fingers finally remembered what they should be doing and we finished the first half on a high. Preeeetty Ladieeeeee Marmaladeeeeeeeeee.....Dum de dum de dum de dum dum.. badda dah! – cymbal crash, end.

A quick 10 minutes for the obligatory raffle (‘they love a raffle down ‘ere in the sticks’ says Mart) where Mart has donated one of his myriad of older guitar stock. Luckily the young lad who won it could actually play pretty good and with a little provoking he was convinced to give us a short recital whilst the band indulged in a quick comfort break and some half time refreshment.

For the second time, the lights were turned down a little and we struck up for the start of our second set. Looking at the ‘audience’ it seemed Ruth and George were starting to wilt after the last three days constantly on the go, but Alex was still going strong. The beauty of youth. We carry on through a mix of covers and our own material and we are all becoming more confident as a band. It was starting to feel like it used to do in our ‘heyday’. One big difference between now and then was that in those days, whilst adopting my best Steve Harrison pose, I would not have got interrupted half way through a song by a 9 year old walking up to the front of the stage and whispering important stuff about toilets and such like.

Eventually, and perhaps to the relief of the crowd, we piled into our last number – the appropriately titled Money by the Beatles – ‘now give me money, that’s what I want’. Loud applause, more than likely fuelled by a night of booze, and off we popped ‘off stage’ in the well used traditional ploy of ‘let’s pretend we’ve finished but in reality we would really like an encore call and still have 2 number to do.’

After the inevitable false encore shouts, probably instigated by Ruth to make sure we could finish up and get to bed, we started with a really old band favourite. A finger numbing, fast finger walking, ditty by the Men they Couldn’t Hang called Walking Talking… a 2 ½ minute none stop folky romp. And then the real last song of the night, a brand new one to us (what were we thinking?). 500 miles by the Proclaimers, with subtle lyric changes along the lines of ‘We will drive 500 miles etc…..’

Then it was over, my bass was placed in its stand, hopefully not for another 10 years this time, and we headed off to do the obligatory after gig chat with those foolish enough to have suffered to the end. If I am being truthful I was apprehensive about the gig almost the second after I had agreed to do it some 8 months previously, especially with everything else we were doing on the trip, but I really and truly ruddy well loved it. And best of all we collected £300+ extra for the charities just from donations and proceeds from the night.

The time was now well passed 11:30pm and suddenly fatigue hit me hard. The rest of the band thankfully agreed to pack down the gear whilst George, Ruth, Alex, Ruben and myself headed off to Mart and Al’s home in Venn Ottery a short trip away, following Al’s car in our two buggies.

Even though it was a relatively short trip of 4 miles, getting back in the buggies in the rain and driving through dark single track roads was not the most pleasant of experiences to end the day. The added extra noise from my buggy was also causing me concern as we passed through a couple of small villages on the way. Just before midnight we pulled up on Al’s drive and Ruben parked his van across the end, which would be his place for the night. We emptied the buggies and dropped our gear in our allocated bedrooms. 

We got Alex to bed but some reason, even though being totally fatigued, our minds were all still fired up after the day we had. So Ruth, George, Ruben and myself ended up in Alison’s kitchen drinking tea and talking until the rest of the band arrived back with the gear around 12:30am. We finally headed off to bed at just after 1:00am, some 18 hours after we had left the hotel in Ryde IOW that morning.

I lay in bed thinking back and realised we had done it, we had conquered the extra challenges of Day 8. It had tried its best to defeat us, but we had made it through somehow. What a challenge within a challenge.

I am eternally grateful to the band Alison, Mart W, Mart D, Pete and Rob for agreeing to reform, for giving up evenings and one long weekend to rehearse, setting up and breaking down the gear without me and for putting on a great performance on the night. Massive thanks also to Ollie and Ben for giving up their valuable time that day and fixing the buggy, to Flags for orchestrating the repair, to all those that joined in on the day and came to the gig and finally to George, Ruth and Alex for agreeing to an early start, a late finish and generally being great support even though being totally exhausted.

I felt blessed by having such a great group of friends and family. Hopefully Day 9 would be a more relaxing day for us, one we could settle in and enjoy in a different, less stressful way.

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