Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Kirkby Stephen Easter Rally

One of the things I intend to do now that I no longer have Starcross is to spend more time with my family going to those places and events that you can't get to by boat. One of these is the annual Easter Commercial Vehicle Rally in the Westmoreland town of Kirkby Stephen. It's a two-day event but as the town isn't accessible by public transport from Lancaster on Sundays I went on the Saturday. The journey there was interesting in itself. A two-stage affair leaving Lancaster on the recently introuduced motorway express to Kendal (it's only taken the local bus operators forty years to recognise the existance of the M6), then a superb ride over the hills to Kirkby on the inappropriately named "Grand Prix Services" number 563!
The Rally itself is spread over several sites in the town and the neighbouring village of Brough. These are linked by a regular free bus service using some of the rally entrants themselves. This arrangement means that a totally flexible approach can be taken to the day and I spent a happy afternoon riding up and down on a number of "Leyland Titans", "AEC Regals and Regents" and even an "Atlantean" although to be honest it's not the vehicles themselves that interest me as much as the liveries they carry. Ironically, most of Britain's traditional bus companies survived nationalisation and the National Bus Company with their identities intact - these were only swept away with privatisation and the rise of groups such as Stagecoach, First and Arriva, so much of the interest in rallies such as these is the appearance of buses bearing the fleetnames and colours of the likes of "Crosville" (KA226 in the image above), "United" and "Ribble" as well as more local "municipal" operators such as Blackburn and Barrow-in-Furness Corporations.

The journey home was by another Grand Prix bus to Penrith (and another scenic ride) and, after a 50 minute wait in the Agricultural Hotel (which was anything but) over a pint or two of Jennings Bitter, a Virgin Trains Pendolino (more scenery) back to Lancaster.

You can a fuller report of the rally here.

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