Friday, 9th of September was the day that we had planned to steam Victoria to the vintage harvesting weekend at Heyshott, in West Sussex, so a fire was lit at about 8.30 am and steam was raised while we made final preparations for the weekend away. The mornings weather hinted at the approaching autumn but the sun soon burned off the mist and shone on Victorias’ brightwork and varnished paint, she was looking her usual fine self and soon the hand on the pressure gauge began to move. Once Wendy had stowed the last of the provisions and the final case of wine, we were ready to hitch the wagon to the engine and set off. Our route was down into Liss village, up East Hill to Hill Brow, cross the border into West Sussex, then the long descent to Rogate where we would join the A 272 to Midhurst. From Midhurst the village of Heyshott was only a couple of miles on the Chichester road, piece of cake.
We had recently mounted a flashing amber beacon onto our support vehicle and we found this very useful when travelling the narrow and winding lanes to Rogate, sending the car on ahead to alert approaching motorists to hopefully lessen the shock when they came face to face with a traction engine filling the road. Rogate was reached without incident and we joined the main road, now being able to make a bit better speed. The day was fine, the engine was behaving herself and all was well, this is what our hobby is all about… hold that thought.
On previous trips to Heyshott we had found a convenient hydrant to stop and pick up water, it was in a lay-by and nicely off the road, so we planned to stop here again. On our arrival we discovered that a car was parked partially covering the hydrant so as to make it impossible to access. As we stood there scratching our heads, several locals joined us offering various helpful suggestions but unable to tell us who owned the offending car. An alternative plan was required. After some scouting we chanced upon another hydrant that was a little way back along our route so we abandoned the living wagon, drove back to it and managed to successfully fill up with water. After recoupling we continued our trip moaning a bit about cars parked over hydrants and the resulting loss of time but our moods soon brightened as we neared the rally field. The ground was really quite soft and after positioning the living wagon and parking Victoria the bit of field in front of our camp resembled Clapham Junction and had the effect of speed humps on passing traffic, even the local bobby on his motorbike commented on the fact.
We had arrived safe and sound, Victoria had, generally behaved like a lady and we were looking to the weekend at what is our favourite rally of the year.