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Cotswold Caper

25th June 2017

As anyone who has ever organised a charity car run will know, it requires a lot of organising, especially with an entry of 175 cars.

This year’s Cotswold Caper was no exception and planning for the event started shortly after the 2016 event had finished. The first thing to be decided was the venue and for this, our 12th Caper, it was felt that somewhere grand should be chosen. What better venue than the Royal Agricultural University at Cirencester, which is the oldest of its kind in the English-speaking world and has been at the forefront of agricultural education since 1845. After a site visit by the Caper Committee it was felt eminently suitable as our venue with its impressive buildings, grounds and a tithe barn to welcome entrants for registration.

Having decided the venue, the next piece of the jigsaw was to decide on a route, including a half way stop. After heading East last year, it was felt that we should head South this year and venture into the wilds of Wiltshire. Our Route Supremo Paul was set the task and went away to study his maps. Another part of the jigsaw was deciding where to make the half-way stop; obviously this had to be somewhere with refreshment facilities as well as toilets and a reasonable size car park. After a few visits to various potential sites Paul & Trev settled upon Bowood House near Chippenham, home of the Lansdowne family for over 250 years, a grade I listed Georgian country house with interiors by Robert Adam and a garden designed by Lancelot "Capability" Brown. They were very accommodating, even offering entry vouchers into the house for our entrants.


With that sorted, Paul could then complete the rest of the route and set to work on compiling the tulip diagrams and looking for interesting facts about the places en route.

 The remaining piece of the jigsaw was to decide on the charity to benefit from this year’s event. After much discussion at the club meetings, it was time to vote at the October meeting and the Willow Trust won.


The Willow Trust owns two specially built wheelchair accessible broad beamed canal boats, moored on the Gloucester- Sharpness Canal near Frampton- on –Severn. They are used every weekday for 7 months of the year by disabled and seriously ill children and adults together with their carers.  The guests come from an approximate 50 mile radius of the moorings.  There is always a great demand for the boats. All the facilities on the boats allow even the most severely and profoundly disabled person to spend a day away from their usual surroundings. It was the fact that the Trust deals with so many other charities in the area, including some we have helped previously, that made them an ideal choice as this year’s charity.

With the Route Guides and plaques printed, everything was now in place and we awaited the 25th June with bated breath, having driven the route the day before ….

Several of the team were staying at the Agricultural University the night before to be on hand for an early start in setting up on the day. However, just as we were getting ready to go out for a meal, we had a ‘phone call. It was from the Crudwell Bike Ride Committee, who had realised that our route would pass over some of the route they would be using for their 24-hour Le Mans style event. Mixing bikes and cars in narrow lanes would not be a good idea and their team put on their thinking caps and came with a small diversion to our route that would avoid any convergence of the 2 routes. They even offered to print off the directions and a map showing the diversion and where it slotted into our route. This was graciously accepted and we could then go out to have our meal.

The day dawned rather blustery and a little damp, but that didn’t deter our Marshalls, our Pink Ladies, the Willow Trust helpers or indeed our entrants. 163 cars arrived all eager to explore another part of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. The printed copies of the diversion around Crudwell were duly delivered and there was frantic activity by the Pink Ladies to get them stapled into the Route Guides.


As usual, we awarded 2 trophies – to the club with the highest number of entrants and the car furthest travelled. This year the club trophy went the Exeter Club and the furthest travelled were Brian & Jill Rainford from Cleveland. The Willow Trust had arranged for the Mayor of Cirencester, Nigel Robbins OBE, to officiate and he proved a natural at waving off the cars with a flourish of the flag.


If you haven’t met a tulip diagram before, it can be a bit confusing to start with, although we had put a quick tutorial at the start of guide. However, one entrant was clearly having trouble understanding what they were looking at, until it was pointed out they were looking at Page 2 and not the first page of instructions! The cars set off down the tree lined avenue from the imposing entrance to the University, heading towards the Cotswold Water Park. After taking the diversion around Crudwell, the next stop was Tetbury, known for its Royal Patronage and the Woolsack Races.


A popular feature of previous Cotswold Capers is the photographs of cars going through a water splash somewhere en route. This year we planned to continue that tradition but alas not a drop of water was to be found in the ford just outside Tetbury, so we had to make do with photos of the cars as they came down the avenue at the start.


The route continued through Sherston and on through the Badminton Estate, famed for its Horse Trials, then passing through Castle Combe, which has been dubbed ‘the Prettiest Village in England’. Next came Corsham, Chippenham was skirted to reach Lacock, another popular film location with its famous abbey.

It was then a short run through Derry Hill to reach the mid-way stopping point at Bowood House. After a run of some 50 miles, this proved a popular stopping point and somewhere to enjoy a spot of lunch or a picnic.

Passing through Calne, the route circled round the hills and a White Horse to reach the ancient Stone Circle of Avebury, originally erected 4,500 years ago. Royal Wootton Bassett was next on the route, awarded Royal status for the tributes paid by the town to the military repatriation funeral processions, which passed through the town from nearby RAF Lyneham. It was whilst filling up at a garage here, that one of our entrants was so keen to get back on the run that he forgot to pay and drove off!


Fortunately another entrant was also at the garage, realised what had happened and pacified the garage owner and persuaded him not to ring the police. They had made a note of the car in question and rang Paul with the details. When they arrived back at Cirencester, Paul gave them the bad news about not paying and then the good news that they weren’t going to be arrested! Mortified, they then hurried off back to the garage to settle their debt.

Another section of the Cotswold Water Park was passed through before heading back to the Agricultural University, having completed a second half run of some 45 miles. Here the returning entrants could check if they had won anything in the Raffle and enjoy a pre-booked cream team if they had ordered one.

We got most of the entrants back okay and everyone was very complimentary on the route, the clarity of the Route Guide and the friendliness of the marshals and Pink Ladies.


Thanks must go to all those from the club who either helped out on the day or donated raffle prizes and to the numerous companies that either donated raffle prizes or sponsored an advert in our Route Guide. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, this year we have raised the magnificent sum of £6,109, which has beaten last year’s figure of £5,038 by a considerable amount. This means that, since we started the Caper 12 years ago, we have raised over £46,00 for our charities. The cheque was presented to The Willow Trust at our club meeting in September.

Finally, a big thank you to all our friends who entered, especially those that we see year after year – we are very grateful for your continued support over the years.

Next year’s run is already being planned and will most likely start from a venue in Cheltenham we have used previously and will be on Sunday 1st July 2018. We will be reducing the number of entrants compared to this year – so get those entries in!



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To check the list of current entrants please go to Caper entrants list

To see the previous Capers please click 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 2014, 2015 ,2016 or 2017





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