The Abingdon Works Centre organised ‘Old Speckled Hen Run’ is always an exceptional event and this, the 25th edition, was no exception. Taking place on the warm and sunny Sunday of the late May Bank Holiday weekend, the traditional start point for the run was the imposing Radley College on the outskirts of Abingdon. Having collected the error-free Route Book, drivers and navigators had the opportunity to peruse the 86-mile route, whilst taking tea and biscuits in the cricket pavilion. There was also plenty of opportunity to peruse the cars, from 1935 PA to 2017 GS, and all models in between.
At 10:30, the first of the cars took the starters flag, ably waved by the Deputy Mayor of Abingdon, Councillor Margaret Crick. Initially, the route skirted Abingdon, along a short section of the old factory test route, before fringing the Vale of the White Horse, all the while accompanied by circling Red Kites, which stayed with us for the whole journey. We then climbed to the top of The Ridge Way, (Britain’s oldest road?) to reveal the stunning views across the North Wessex Downs. Our route looped under the busy M4, before entering the self-proclaimed ‘Valley of the Racehorse’ and passing through the village of Lambourne, with its racing stables and gallops. Continuing through the Lambourne Downs, fabulous views across the Oxfordshire plains distracted the crews as we continued north west.
The lunch halt was taken at the impressive Buscot Park, near Faringdon in Oxfordshire. The AWC marshals directed the crews to a dedicated parking area, just a short stroll from the tea room, gardens and house. The Italianate style Buscot House was built by Edward Loveden between 1779 and 1783. In 1887, Buscot was sold to city financier Alexander Henderson, the 1st Lord Faringdon, who added paintings by Rembrandt and Reynolds to the collection. Gavin Henderson, the 1st Lord Faringdon’s grandson, remodelled the house by removing the Victorian additions. In 1956, the estate was bequeathed to the National Trust and the present Lord Faringdon administers the estate on behalf of the NT.
Unfortunately, the house is currently being re-roofed, so was closed and shrouded in scaffolding and plastic sheeting. However, the jewel in the Buscot crown is the extensive pleasure gardens that surround the house. To the west is the walled Four Seasons garden, with its fountains and wisteria. To the east, woodland paths lead to a water garden, lake and parkland. The gardens are full of sculptures at every turn, including replica Chinese ‘Terracotta Warriors’, Egyptian sphinx and modern art installations.
The shorter return route gave the cars chance to stretch their legs, with long straights and sweeping bends. Running to the south of Brize Norton airfield, we continued east through the gravel pits of the River Windrush valley and eventually back to Abingdon.
Having successfully completed the route and returned to Radley College once more, entrants were rewarded with the traditional cream tea on the college lawns. A fitting way to round off a beautiful day.
Report and photos by David Coulthard.