Where do you start when blogging about the Taffia Fish and Chip run? Drafting this on our return sailing I’m facing such a conundrum. The roads maybe? the people and the cars, possibly even the chips? I mean they’re one of the more important aspects right! Even as I compose this blog a fellow passenger is munching down some chips with salt and vinegar, and the aroma is drifting over reminding me of my recent amazing experience.
I think I’m going to provide my conclusion first and foremost, get to the point if you will. Epic, simply epic! If you own a 7 and haven’t done this then it's a must. I genuinely feel the event is one of the top vehicle-related activities I’ve done to date, this includes stage rallying, track days and other social club events with groups such as the Lotus SELOC. I would argue the attending numbers which this year reached a record-breaking 106 cars simply demonstrates just how well thought of this event actually is. So if you’ve thought about it, and hesitated, get it booked for next year! We are.
If you're not familiar with the Taffia Fish n Chip run, it's basically a group drive or 'blat' as they are commonly known, starting in Chepstow across Wales to Aberdovey which is located on the coast in Cardigan Bay just on the edge of Snowdonia. The route passes through Abergavenny, Brecon and the Epynt ranges.
Why is the event so good? Lots of reasons, but let's consider a couple of the obvious ones.
The route. I’m not sure how much planning went into the route, and how difficult it was to select the roads used, but from the perspective of someone unfamiliar with the areas traversed it was an eclectic mix of countryside roads throwing in just about every conceivable type. If you wanted it, it was there. Slow, fast, twisty, hilly, open, tree line, small villages and open roads.
Unfortunately being unfamiliar with the region it makes it difficult to pick out highlights. Length, diversity and sheer quality of the journey to Aberdovey is what makes the blat so great. The Taffia and Bristol area members are very lucky indeed.
The people? I don’t think you can actually say that Lotus 7 club members and severners made this year's Taffia Fish and Chip run particularly unique. Why? I tend to think all club events would have a similar friendly vibe, but let’s not underestimate just how friendly the club members were. My only regret is we didn’t get to meet more people and furthermore time to chat with those we did meet. I’d like give a shout out to a couple of members that took special attention to ensure we felt welcome. Firstly Neil AKA 7 Wonders of the World, Neil kindly offered to assist our navigation around the road closure from our hotel to the start point in Chepstow. We met Neil and fellow Severner Pat at a petrol station in Monmouth where we all fuelled prior to driving to The Piercefield pub which acts as the start point. Neil went out of his way to help and was a true gent! I’d also like to thank Brian H for contacting me prior to the event so as to provide additional guidance on tools to carry and also emergency contacts should they be needed. Brian also introduced me to a couple of severns including John AKA Purplemeanie, a fellow blogger and author of one of the best blogs around. Of course, there were countless other quick casual conversations during the day, most sparked from my build thread and 7 colour. We also managed a cheeky few beers and cracking chin wag in the hotel the night before with a certain Mr P.
The fish and chips, I suspect this will appear a little fake if I claimed they were the best I’ve ever had, but honestly, they were! I’d not eaten a bacon buttie at The Piercefield, choosing to work up a full appetite for my chip dinner during the drive. When we arrived in Aberdovey, in the tail end of the field I was hungry, very hungry and so ready for my fish and chips. We walked over to the chippy to find a considerable queue, the queue started in the shop, out the rear/side door, down an alleyway and down the street. Understandable when you consider the chippy was servicing 106 7s, and many with double occupancy. Needless to say, we joined the queue and waited our turn. The team in the chippy worked tirelessly preparing chips, dipping and battering fish, they were worth the wait though! I suspect the volume being produced and subsequently provided immediately to a relentless stream of customers ensured immediate freshness, which in turn meant the food was of outstanding quality. I opted for haddock and chips, the chips were so so fresh every one firm but succulent and the fish cooked to perfection. The wife and I took our chips to the beach and sat on a bench and enjoyed the feast in the sun. The start of the day was overcast with no sign of the sun, however by the time we were eating our dinner the sun had broken through and it was a glorious day!
"Not one 7 is the same", it's a phrase I've heard many times through online posts even Caterham themselves. Attending an event such as the Taffia you really get an appreciation for such a sentiment. Over a hundred 7s all looking unique, reflecting their owners' personal taste and needs from their car, each neatly arranged in the pub car park. Walking around the pub car park at the start, looking at the diversity felt like a really special opportunity, with each owner eager to talk about their car and ask about yours. Sadly with so many conversations and distractions in the form of other cars I completely forgot to take more photographs.
Sensibly the event organisers released the cars from the start in groups of around 10 at approximately 3-minute intervals to try and reduce congestion on the public roads, and so during the journey you tended to see a limited set of cars. A further opportunity to chat and once again look at the variety of cars occurred enroute as most owners opted to stop and refuel at a service station along the A470 in Llanwrthwl near the River Wye. Seeing a large proportion of the field within the services was again quite sight. I'm not sure passing motorists wanting fuel agreed.
The planned route for the blat included a return leg from Aberdovey back to Chepstow, however since we'd been staying in Cheshire and had a return sailing to the Isle of Man the following day we opted to continue north from Aberdovey back to Cheshire. This provided the opportunity to drive deeper into Snowdonia, driving through amazing locations such as Ffestiniog. The combination of the route from Chepstow and our return legged accumulated approximately 259 miles in a single day, every minute of which was amazing.
We'd left our hotel at 7am in the morning and returned to our accommodation in Cheshire around 7:30pm. The day flew by and although tired I was surprised I wasn't more tired. Yes my left ankle ached a bit from hovering over the clutch pedal but apart from that I felt fine. The S3 R spec on the 420 had not been overly harsh or uncomfortable, and the carbon race seats amazingly supportive, I'd not felt a numb bum once. The car hadn't missed a beat, it ran faultlessly at all times, it also provided a completely engaging experience at all speeds on all roads. Of course if you did want to push on, it didn't dissapoint. I did make one discovery along the route when trying to keep up with a couple of high powered cars across Brecon. My brakes, or rather the brake pedal. The pedal firmed up and became simply fantastic after a couple of miles of hard braking and heavy use , it felt like the stopping performance went to another level, even my Exige couldn't match the performance. I was really amazed, I guess I need to start driving the car a little harder.
As a final note, I'd like to express my gratitude to Mike and the supporting club members that made the event happen. I'm sure many club members have come away with amazing memories and stories which they'll cherish. Thank you!
I'll update with video once I've had chance to process the video shot with a GoPro mounted to the roll bar. Check back soon for that!