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Milton Keynes visits Mudplug!

(or conversations with a diesel pump)

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In May, four Land Rovers from the Milton Keynes 4x4 Club came to stay for a weekend break here in Northern France. Four well equipped vehicles, two Discoveries and two Defenders. After an uneventful journey they arrived late afternoon at the 3* Hotel Beatus in Cambrai, and after settling into their rooms, were soon sitting out in the garden enjoying the evening sun and a drink.

They were seated at the tables when at 7.00pm I arrived to lead them to Lesdain, about 6 miles away, to join Norah and Tramp (the 4x4 Labrador) for the evening meal. After an enjoyable meal and an interesting conversation as to how we came to be living in France, and about life in a small French village, they returned armed with maps, and GPS navigation systems to the hotel. They arrived safely, evening though one of the GPS's was guiding them down the canal!

The next morning, after breakfast at the hotel, they all came to Lesdain, via the local hypermarket to fill up their tanks. It was here that Jon had an involved conversation with a diesel pump. The filling station has two sections, one which is completely automatic is for store card holders, and holders of credit cards with micro chips, and another section with a payment kiosk for everyone else. Jon attemted to use the automatic pump with a credit card without a micro chip. The talking pump rejected his card, and exclaimed the French equivalent of "Sproggit and Who?" Jon thought it was the girl in the Kiosk who was talking to him, replied to her and waved. She waved back, and smiled at Jon's claim to be English and not understand. Realising that he was getting nowhere fast at this pump Jon asked some French motorists behind him to move, and he drove across to the manual pumps. After tea and coffee, we set off, and drove the 500 yards to the start of the first track.

The lanes were dry and dusty, as we looped round the North of Lesdain, and then down a narrow rutted lane which brought us back into Lesdain, before heading off towards the South-East.

We crossed the canal, and then under the motorway to the village of Ronnsoy where we stopped outside the bakery to buy the bread for the lunch.

Five Land Rovers, Discoveries, 90s and 110s all parked in line in a quiet village street did not go unnoticed, and as I emerged from the bakery with an armful of baguettes, Nicolas appeared and, speaking extremely good English, introduced himself.
He is the proud owner of a TD5 Discovery 2 automatic, which in its first two years has completed 150000 trouble free kilometres ( 93750 miles) many of which were done towing a 3.5 ton trailer. He also owns a 1968 Series 2 diesel, with both hard and soft tops.

He was astonished to find us parked outside his house, and invited us all in for tea and coffee, and showed us his Series 2, which was in very good condition apart from the injection pump which was out of adjustment.

Nicolas had seen our advertisements in various Land Rover magazines, but had not realised we were so close to him. We exchanged telephone numbers, and as Nicolas had to leave for a business meeting, we continued on our way, crossing the old front line prior to the 1917 Battle of Cambrai with its four very isolated War Cemeteries, before stopping for lunch at the edge of one of the woods in which the British tanks were hidden prior to the surprise attack. After lunch we continued looping round Cambrai to the west, crossing under another motorway, and then crossing the large Canal du Nord, which takes the big barges down to Paris. One of the lanes was rather overgrown, so we trimmed back the worst with a saw and a machete before squeezing through.

We then recrossed the canal, and headed to the Chateau at Havrincourt, which had been the German headquarters before being captured by the British in 1917.

After leaving the Chateau, and the Memorial to the West Riding Divisions who captured the village twice, once in 1917 and again in 1918, we continued to the replica Trench which had been constructed for the BBC television series "The Trench".

A series of sunken lanes and exposed ridges lead us across the countryside to the Bon Avis, passing alongside the fence of a motorway parking area on the way.

When we reached the main road by the Bon Avis, the group followed the main road to Cambrai, and I took the back lane to Lesdain, where, after quick showers and a drink, the group joined us for Dinner.

After an enjoyable meal, with lots of laughter as Jon regaled us with the tale of his encounter with the diesel pump, the group returned to the Hotel.

The next morning we gathered at Lesdain. Chris and Carol having, after trying, and failing, at the Pharmacie to buy a film for the camera, and succeeding at the Newsagent, arrived a little later than the others.

We set off using some of the old "pavé" lanes until we came to the "green tunnel" which Steve, who had his roof tent fitted, decided to by-pass, as he didn't want it removed by low branches.
It wasn't Steve's day, as a little further his Discovery, which was the only vehicle in the group to be on small tyres, slipped on the dampish grass and got stuck in the deep ruts. A short pull with a tow rope got him free, and then, to prove that He had big tyres, Richard roared through, doing his little bit to help the farmer with his crop watering by spraying the water in the ruts back onto the field.

After a good days laning we returned to Cambrai where the ladies rounded off the day in the supermarket, while the men retired to wait in the cafeteria.

As it was Chris's birthday, we had got him a French Birthday card, and after Dinner, a surprise Birthday Cake appeared for Chris to cut. It was a lively evening with funny stories being swapped, and Tramp (our black labrador) climbing onto Richard's lap and attempting to wash his ears.

All too quickly as is always the case, the evening came to an end, and it was back to the hotel, and the next morning to Calais, and then back home.


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4x4 Tours in Northern France 4x4 Massif Central Tours 4x4 Battlefield tours 4x4 Special offers. 4x4 Massif Challenge 4x4 Photos from tours 4x4 Tracking the Tank photos 4x4 The Battle of Cambrai Mudplug Calendar Mudplug Guestbook 4x4 Links

Site Last Updated samedi, mai 14, 2005. 19:25:38