Driving the Morris from Norfolk to Sutherland

Day 1 Great Massingham to Beverley

We arrived at the storage yard and opened the container to reveal the Morris, standing with its offside front wheel in a large puddle of oil. Erik found that it appeared the damper on that side had leaked. Meanwhile, Lizzie and I got the hood down and sorted out some of the stuff that had been stashed in the back of the car, then checked the tyre pressures and topped them up.

Erik connected the battery and we turned on the petrol and the cut-off switch, I turned on the ignition and the petrol pump ticked merrily. Erik gave the primer on the carb a few tickles, I pulled out the choke, pulled the starter and the car burst into life.

Feeling very relieved, I backed the car out and Erik took the front wheel off and topped up the damper, then went round checking for problems. Suddenly, the engine stopped dead. Erik found that the petrol pump had stopped working. We cleaned the filter, and he took the pump apart, establishing that the motor was working. He tracked the issue to a blockage in the fuel line from the pump to the filter, and the engine fired up again. The exhaust manifold was blowing, and despite Erik’s best efforts, it couldn’t be tightened, so I would have to put up with the noise.

All checks completed, I set off with Lizzie and Erik following. The car was running well, but the steering felt extremely wayward, which I put down to me having got out of practice. We stopped for a picnic on Roydon Common, and then I was off on my own.

I topped up the tank and filled my two cans at the first petrol station I came to. With a tank capacity of just 5 gallons and a consumption of less than 30mpg, I needed the extra range. On the roads I was going to use, petrol stations would be rare. I turned the ignition, and the switch disintegrated! Fortunately, the ignition came on, but I couldn’t switch it off again. I knew I could use the cut-off switch, so started up and went on my way.

The route through King’s Lynn and then along the old course of the A17 was easy going, as it was mostly in 30mph or 40mph speed limits, but I had to come out onto the A17 proper to cross the River Nene by the swing bridge at Sutton Bridge. This accomplished, I was back on the old road, and then crossed the main road to go through Holbeach, but eventually I had to brave the main A17. I was buffeted about by the many large lorries, and despite hopping from one layby to the next to allow traffic to pass, kept accumulating large convoys. At last I turned off onto the B1395 and headed north, having the road almost to myself.

I navigated my planned route using a printed sheet of road names and numbers and a road atlas, and I had a satnav to confirm that I was where I thought I was. It was, of course, mostly useless for route planning, as it couldn’t be made to accept the route via B roads and unclassified roads that I had planned.

All went well, and in what seemed like no time at all, I turned a corner on the B1188 and was astonished to find Lincoln Cathedral, looking beautifully mellow in the bright sunlight, towering on the hill in front of me. It seems inevitable that the camera is never running at such times.

I stopped in a side road running along South Common, and got out to stretch my legs and have a bite to eat and some coffee from my flask. I had covered approximately 70 miles in about three hours – say 24mph including stops to buy fuel and to allow traffic to pass.

When I was planning the route, I had imagined that Lincoln would be far enough on the first day, as I wasn’t able to start until midday, but the day seemed young, the sun was shining and I was feeling much more confident, so I pressed on, and promptly got lost in Lincoln, finding myself in the road where my seven-year-old self went to school.

I set the satnav for Kirton in Lindsay, the next village on my itinerary, and after queueing in a traffic jam on the ring road, found my way back onto my route. All went smoothly, and I again surprised myself by arriving at the Humber Bridge.

Not much further north, I came to Beverley, a beautiful old Yorkshire town with a splendid minster and an equally beautiful parish church, so I drove into the town centre for a look round.

This proved to be my downfall, as on the way out, I couldn’t find my route. I was looking for the A1305, but couldn’t find it, as I had made a typo on my itinerary, and should have been looking for the A1035. This eventually dawned on me, and having found the road, I looked in the atlas to decide which direction I wanted, only to find the relevant page missing.

The satnav was no help, so as one direction was signposted Humber Bridge, I went the other way, but that didn’t seem right, so I turned back and tried the other way and tried a road that looked hopeful, but didn’t recognise any place names or road numbers, so went back again. I was at Tickton, well on my way to Horncastle, when I decided I was wrong, and rang Jayne, who checked Google Maps and was able to put me back on my route.

Having returned to Beverley and picked up the right road, I drove on in the dusk along the B1248 until I found an unofficial layby – a large area of hard earth leading to an overgrown disused gate into the woods. An expensive-looking modern convertible pulled in behind me, and a young man leapt out and asked if I was OK. I said yes and thanked him, and he turned round and drove off the way he’d come.

I put up the hood, and after a supper of a couple of slices of the fruitcake that Jayne had made me, a few swigs of water and my tablets, I had a small nip of whisky from my flask and settled down to sleep in the car having, with all my extra miles, travelled something like 140 miles in one day.