A road trip from Norfolk, UK to Schaffhausen, Switzerland – 4th June 2017.
What do a group of woodwind instrument makers do when they want to go on a trip? They visit other instrument makers! An invitation from Kung recorder makers was made last year when 2 of the makers came to the UK. So we thought it would be rude not to take them up on it.
Myself, Peter Worrell (clarinet and flute maker), Daniel Bangham (period clarinet maker), Paul Windridge (Flute maker and repairer) and Tim Cranmore (Recorder maker) decided to make the journey, accompanied by Robert Bangham (Daniels’ son) and Rob Abineri (design consultant). The vehicles of choice are my Figaro (of course) and a 1935 Armstrong Siddeley.
The preparation for such a road trip was undertaken by Daniel, who booked all our stopover destinations. With the ferry booked from Dover to Dunkirk, there was nothing stopping us.
I prepared the Figaro for as much as I could think of. I am new to this road trip game. Checks were made on all the essentials, oil, water, tyres and many other checks. A final clean and polish before we started off was made. Got to have the Figaro looking its best for the continent.
Wacton, Norfolk to Sidcup, Kent. 158 miles
My travel companion was Paul, who drove from Leicester to Wacton. After an afternoon of catch-up we set off on the first leg of the journey, to my daughter Frances’s university digs in Sidcup. Frances was keen for a free lift back to her home, although I did mention it would be a little cramped in the back of the Figaro, with luggage. But luckily, she is not of a tall stature. I did notice a certain relief when we turned into her driveway and she was able to stretch her legs.
We realised very quickly that the Figaro is not the biggest car in the world and it may have been prudent to have left the travel iron, books, coffee percolator and cake at home. Although I am sure there is always room for a fruit cake.
Sidcup to Crecy Sur Serre (France). 205 miles
Tootle down the A2 to Dover and catch the ferry where we meet up with the Armstrong and its occupants. They’ve driven from Cambridge, starting out at 5.30. There will be some tired travellers later. The crossing is an easy one and the Armstrong took the lead when we docked in Dunkirk. Strangely all the cars went to the right or straight on when exiting the terminal. However, we turned left at the first roundabout. Petrol stop I thought. Yes, fuel was needed for the Armstrong (it only does 15 to 20 miles to the gallon as it is a thirsty straight 6 cylinder) but it was also time for Google maps to take over the navigation. Set the app for cycle route and it means you stay off all the main roads and see more of the little villages and countryside. You still have to keep an eye out for dedicated cycle paths though. Arrived in Crecy Sur Serre at about 6pm for a meal at the hotel.
Crecy Sur Serre to Clocher (France) 224 miles
Time for a quick check of the vehicles before we set off. The Armstrong only requiring oil and water. The Figaro was running fine. It wouldn’t be a good road trip without some jeopardy. A burnt hand prior to the journey was causing Daniel some concern, so we spent a lot of the day detouring to a pharmacy, a doctor and the finally the hospital. Everything was fine after a jab and re-dressing of the wound. It did mean arriving at the converted convent accommodation a bit later than anticipated.
Clocher to Engen (Germany) 149 miles
You would not even know we had crossed into Germany, apart from the road signs all abruptly changing language. The style of driving from the Germans instantly became a talking point, certainly not as laid back as the French. Staying at a motorway service hotel does not strike me as the most exciting venue, but the view across the terrace to the mountains was astounding.
Engen to Schaffhausen (Switzerland) 48 miles
A little short hop over the border to Switzerland, and the main treat of the journey. A tour of the Kung recorder workshops. Fantastic.
Schaffhausen to Wasselonne (France) 129 miles
Only minor problems with the Armstrongs starter motor. Nothing that a squirt of WD40 couldn’t solve.
Wasselonne to Crecy Sur Serre 249 miles
Stopping to put the hood up, we lost our guide car and decided to go it alone back to the first hotel destination. After a brief lunch, the sat-nav got its knickers in a twist and we got a little lost, but nothing too serious. Our longest drive of the journey and a cold beer was a very welcome beverage when we were greeted by our hotelier.
Crecy Sur Serre to Wacton 283 miles
The last stretch of the trip. Slightly late for the ferry after a leisurely lunch in a wood yard. Made all the more exciting by a hairy last 40 miles to the port. It must have been a spectacle seeing a 1935 car and a Figaro close to the speed limits going around roundabouts on 2 wheels. Back on British soil I was keen to get back home and pushed the little Figaro a bit hard and the temperature gauge went a bit high, but a few slower miles bought it back to normal.
We covered 1445 miles in 7 days and if you think the Figaro is not up to a long haul, then think again. I did have to buy new tyres for the front as the tracking was quite out when I got home but apart from that the Figaro started and ran smoothly the entire journey. It negotiated the mountains with little more than a sniff.
It would be difficult to beat driving on quiet country roads with the top down in the sunshine in your Figaro.