We had an unusual start in Comber because almost twice as many cars turned up as we had booked for our run. However, this was due to the MG Car Club starting their run in the same place and at exactly the same time. It was by pure coincidence of course and I believe the first time that this has happened. It presented an interesting opportunity to talk to other like-minded enthusiasts and for some of us to meet with old friends.
The first leg of our run took us through the back roads towards and around the direction of Ballygowan, Annahilt, Kinallen and Waringsford, before joining the A1 dual carriageway for the last few miles into Banbridge. The weather had started fine and I was confident that it would stay that way but it was all to change. The deluge soon started and there was a frantic flashing of headlights as everyone wanted to stop and get the hood up. We eventually arrived at the FE McWilliam Gallery in, what had then become, a serious deluge. Understandably everyone stayed in their cars for ten minutes or so until the rain, thankfully, passed.
The Gallery opened for us and we were treated to an excellent lunch of sandwiches and scones in Quails restaurant. The food was very good and the lovely setting provided our group with a very pleasant and relaxing lunch.
The gallery tour was given by a lovely lady called Joan. She guided us around the paintings in a very informative manner giving an interesting explanation of each painting and the history of the artists. The tour then progressed into the sculpture garden where another guide, Jason, took over. He concentrated on the work of FE McWilliam himself and was able to explain the circumstances under which the Gallery came to be built in the first place. By the time we reached the garden the sun had come out and some of our group were able to relax in the seating overlooking the sculpture displays.
It was soon time to go and we had some miles to do before our next stop in Castlewellan. Leaving Banbridge we headed for Annaclone before veering off towards Ballyroney. On a very narrow road along this route, we came up behind a herd of dairy cows. They blocked the road for a few minutes but it was an interesting encounter – though the deposits they left on the road did nothing for the pristine shine on our cars.
We drove down the side of Lough Island Reavy Reservoir before turning in the direction of Hilltown and the Spelga Dam where we had a relaxing stop. The weather held fair and it was an enjoyable run from there to Bryansford and on to the ice cream stop at Zebedees in Castlewellan. The afternoon sunshine was quite warm by then and we were able to enjoy our ice creams sitting outside on the terrace.
The run back to Banbridge was on a different route via Ballyward, Moneyslane and Katesbridge. These roads had good fairly smooth surfaces with good sweeping curves and were ideally suited to our cars. Great driving roads. The journey was soon over and we arrived at the Banbridge Golf Club for the evening meal. The golf club staff were very friendly and welcoming and the carvery food was excellent.
In all there were 23 people on the run with a further two joining us just for the first leg to the FE McWilliam gallery.