Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Classic Car Show, Layer Marney Tower

Even though we have only had 2 Fathers Days in our relatively new family, we already have a Fathers Day tradition. Classic Car shows. On Fathers Day last year, when the baby was 3 weeks old, we took him to a Classic Car show at Audley End ("Ahh, he's the youngest visitor we've ever had"). I remember still being so terrified of dropping him, Wig had to take him to the baby changing toilet as it was across some rather uneven flagstones and I was still in my 'I'm going to fall over. All the time' stage.  So, when we saw an advert for a Car show at Layer Marney Tower we were very excited to go. Not only as it carried on with tradition but also as it's a 15 minute drive away from our new home.

We went to the Tower for the first time a couple of months ago for a friends wedding, which was rather wonderful so we knew what a spectacular location it is. It is Britain' s tallest Tudor Gatehouse and was built by Henry Marney, a Courtier of Henry VIII, in 1518. Not only does it boast stunning architecture and awesome views from the tower (apparently, we didn't make it up there ourselves with the buggy) it's also surrounded by beautiful gardens and has a farm! Please try to imagine a blue sky when looking at the photos.

The Tower

The Long Gallery. 
Originally a stable block but now used as a wedding venue.

The Church of St Mary the Virgin.

View of lower garden.

View towards the Blackwater Estury.

Unfortunately, what the Tower provides in beauty, the event lacked in organisation. On arrival we were charged an entrance fee of £7. I don't have the best memory at the moment due to a year of no sleep, but I'm pretty sure this wasn't mentioned on the website. Also, £7 is rather steep. A fiver would have been fairer I think. But the biggest shocker was the food situation. For those that know me or have read this blog, you will know that food is a big part of my life. A massive part of a day trip out is the food. Sometimes its the only reason I go on a day trip. So, before we left home we checked there would be something to eat at the Tower as no one wants to be anywhere near a hungry me. "Tea Room Open", said the website, "Hurrah!" said we.

Stables Tea Room.

But, oh dear. First of all we queued for 10 minutes (it was very busy) outside The Stables Tea room. They had made a tea room from some of the old stables, it was decorated very nicely and I was very much looking forward to either the Cheese Ploughmans, Ham Ploughmans or Local Dunmow Pasty that was advertised on the menu board. However, after waiting patiently, as we got to the counter, the teenager working behind it told us "If you want food, you have to go over there", while pointing across the courtyard to a hall with a trestle table in it and a few cartons of Ribena stacked on one end. Gripe number 1: if there's no food to be ordered, put up a sign saying 'Drinks only'. And maybe take down the board advertising the food you can't actually order.

So, we trotted across the cobbles and queued up again. Another 10 minutes. By the time we arrived at the sad trestle table "There's no ham. Its all gone". It was 1:15pm. The show opened at 12pm. So either there had been an unnatural amount of pork lovers at the show or the organisers hadn't organised enough ham. Gripe number 2: bad ham planning.

When we finally got to place our order, 2 x Dunmow Pasty's, £5 each . . . we were pretty ravenous, but were told "It will be with you in 15-20 minutes". ?? Really? Ok. They must be warming them to order I thought. Well, thats ok. I'll just eat some of the baby's packed lunch behind his back while we wait. Or maybe I'll have a mocha to kill some time. £2.75? More than Starbucks? Ok, I wont have a mocha. I'll have a warm carton of Ribena. Gripe number 3: Expensive food and drinks.

When the pasty eventually arrived, 20 minutes later, imagine my surprise when it was stone cold. How it took so long to shove it on a plate with a few salad leaves is beyond me. Needless to say, IF we come to another event here we would bring a packed lunch. The sad thing is, these are really simple things to resolve but it left a rather bad taste after paying seven quid to get in, metaphorically and literally.

The good news though, the cars were great. It had been advertised as an event with Classic Cars, Motorbikes and buses although we saw no bikes and only one bus but it didn't really matter. After the cold pasty my expectation levels had dropped anyway.

My dream car and I don't even mind the colour.

But of all the things we saw that afternoon, the most impressive thing to me, even better than my beloved dream Fiat, are these little guys.

So, the moral of this story is 'show me a pygmy goat and I'll forgive you a cold and overpriced pasty'. Maybe this next time year, we won't need to go to car show, maybe we'll have our own classic car to look at, but if we do, I'll let you look for free.

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