A Festival and an Extravaganza
May Bank Holiday in Llandudno
Described by the barman in my hotel as ‘a posh version of Blackpool’ Llandudno in North Wales simultaneously hosts both a Victorian Extravaganza and the Llandudno Transport Festival over the MayDay Bank Holiday Weekend. Both attract huge followings and include a significant bus element amidst a broader commercial vehicle following. Much of the main street is closed to accommodate a fair that combines modern high tech rides with the old attractions, a number of which are steam driven. There are Victorian shows and street entertainment, a daily parade of steam powered road vehicles and plenty more besides, more than enough to keep transport enthusiasts, their families and children amused and entertained for a couple of days.
A regular and very well patronised free bus service using heritage vehicles ferried visitors and participants between the town and the rally site which occupies fields overlooking Llandudno’s magnificent bay. This offered ride opportunities on buses covering every decade of the 20th Century from Routemasters and ex Birmingham standards to VRs, Atlanteans and Olympians. I had the choice of two Olympians when I arrived, catching a former Midland Red North example with Mercian branding complete with period promotional advertising on the upper deck coving panels. Olympians still seem comparatively modern to someone like me that remembers the Fleetlines, D9s and D7s that preceded them in the Midland Red fleet, but it was clear from comments overheard that many of the passengers regarded them as quaintly old fashioned, perhaps a testament to the good job Arriva is doing locally with high specification Sapphire deckers on key corridors.
I only attended on the Sunday when the weather was, according to those I met, immeasurably better than the wet and miserable day they had endured on the Saturday. The unfortunate legacy of the vast amount of rain that deposited itself on the rally field was that it so churned up the entrance areas that the promised road run to Conway on the Saturday evening and the trip round the Great Orme on the Sunday evening both had to be cancelled. Sensible though these decisions were, they were a considerable disappointment to many of the participants. The Sunday abandonment, which came quite late in the day, was particularly regrettable for me as I had intended to use it to obtain action shots of the participating vehicles against more inspiring backdrops.
Nevertheless, the chance to wander round the assembled ranks of buses, chat with those that owned and had restored them, many of them operators themselves, was a pleasant way to spend the day. Among those I enjoyed meeting up with Kenny Walsh and his brother Ray from krwalsh-classics.com who specialise in resurrecting vehicles that look impossible to bring back to life. Kenny, who last week won the IRTE Engineer of the Year award at the UK Coach Awards, is the Chief Engineer at Belle Vue Coaches in Manchester. Among vehicles they had given the KR touch were a former Barton AEC Reliance Plaxton and a former Ribble Leyland Tiger PS, both of which are now towing vehicles, an integral Jensen lorry and, making its rally debut, a Duple Firefly bodied Bedford SB5 that had spent most of its working life with Heards of Hartland and is now with Lincolnshire based George and Ruth Atkin. Joining Kenny and Ray on the restoration job were Chris and Darrell Kershaw.
And if the Victorian Extravaganza and the Transport Festival don’t provide sufficient transport interest for you, Llandudno also offers also the Great Orme Tramway, the open top bus services of City Sightseeing, the Marine Drive Tour around the Great Orme operated by Alpine Travel using heritage coaches, a coach station brimming with visiting coaches, the regular bus services of Arriva and others and even ‘Percy’, the road going miniature train ride.
There’s so much for everyone to do. It’s a good reminder of why the UK Coach Rally needs to return to the seaside, indeed Llandudno wouldn’t be a bad place to stage it one year, if it were to move around from year to year.
Pictures and captions from gallery below: