Cars and Conversation – Driving the Howardian Hills.

Cars and Conversation was a new event for 2018, in support of Wooden Spoon. We had asked the invited drivers to bring the car that made them smile the most, leave the daily driver at home, and join us for a day on the beautiful roads out through Yorkshire’s Howardian Hills.

Our guests came in a fine array of metal. We had ultra modern cars with the  McLaren at the front of the picture, the Honda NSX hybrid whispering into place at the back, and a fine Mercedes AMG.

Some more ancient cars had also made it with a few Porsche examples from several decades, a couple of Morgans, a beautiful Alfa Romeo, a Toyota MR2 ( whose owner has just sold his 911 he tells us ). And finally a huge Bentley 4×4 with an embarrassed owner muttering about his classic car not starting and so turning up in his top end mud plugger instead.

Bowcliffe Hall ( ) did us proud with coffee and a bacon butty in their Potting Shed conference room, and a fine back drop for this shot of the cars ready for the day.

Cars and Conversation – Crayke

We were testing a new event, combining a chance to drive great cars around beautiful Yorkshire roads, and getting a chance to meet and chat to a bunch of different and new people. Our drivers had each found a friend to join them as navigator, with one bringing her husband – good to know that husbands can still be friends, I think you will agree.

Our route was not fixed, with navigators briefed only to find an interesting route, avoid using Sat Nav unless totally lost. They were asked to arrive at the Durham Ox ( ) in Crayke by about 10am. Warning were issued on the new speed bumps on Aldwark Bridge for the lower slung, and off we went.

All made it without mishaps to the Crayke. The best route included a manned railway crossing at which the Alfa was asked to wait whilst the attendant called down the line to ask if it was OK to open up the gates – Victorian railway safety officers would have been proud. Not sure what the attendant does on this very very quiet road when Alfa Romeo’s are not roaring down it.

Refreshed with coffee and some delicious biscuits the chef had whipped up, our navigators then switched cars.  Navigators then  shook hands with a new driver, and plotted a route to The Carpenters Arms ( ) at Felixkirk.

Cars and Conversation – Felixkirk

I overheard one or two navigators declare themselves lost and not sure on where to go. We were venturing further into the untamed wilds of the Howardian Hills, but I struck lucky. My new navigator  lived around the corner and knew the area intimately. We were off, closely followed by a couple of cars who must have overheard and were keen to follow our local expert. To keep all on their toes we headed for Stillington to the south before swinging around to come back north via  The Stray, a gorgeous stretch of road running alongside Castle Howard.

Before we could get to Felixkirk, we came up against the unwelcome news that Sutton Bank was closed, and our plan to drop onto the A170 just above Sutton Bank was shot to pieces. Sutton Bank is one of the collection of vicious hills  around here, not for the faint hearted if going down at speed, or for the under-powered if facing the uphill struggle. We dropped down to the beautiful road through Ampleforth, Wass and Coxwold taking in the awesome views down across the valley as we drove, and then, looking to pick up lost time used the A roads into Thirsk before doubling back to Felixkirk.

After our last coffee stop and again with a swapping of cars for the navigators, the last leg took us over to Masham and Swinton for a late lunch at the Swinton Estate Hotel ( ). We left the cars causing a bit of a stir in the turning circle at the front of the hotel.

The Cars and Conversation test drive was a winner

The day was organised to test the Cars and Conversation concept.   Our guests were all delighted by the day and we are therefore sitting down to plan the next event. And here is a rough guide from Google maps for those who want to go and take a look for themselves.

( We came at the Gatehouse at Castle Howard from the south. For some reason Google Maps keeps adjusting the route when we save the map – perhaps Google just love the view across the lake towards the castle so much that they assume all drivers will want to drive down from the north to catch that!)




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