The Rotary Grand Tour was a chance to raise funds and awareness of the international campaign to eradicate Polio from the world. Teams from around the country travelled to various checkpoints around Great Britain in a range of vehicles. Our trip was for two days in a converted Toyota people carrier. This was Day 1…

We were one of over fifty teams who took part in the Rotary Grand Tour. The event ran for four days, and we’d allocated two of those to do a route around Great Britain which would allow us to visit the three mainland home nations. Our first day planned to take in England, going from our home base towards the East, and then following the A1 route up the East Coast to Scotland, to spend the night near Livingstone.

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We began our journey around 6:30am travelling down the M6 towards Coventry, and it’s Motor Museum. This was one of the ‘official’ stops on the route, though we knew it would not be open when we arrived, so we’d planned just a picture outside. What we’d not realised was just how difficult it would be to find a way to the front entrance in a vehicle, so in the end we began with a slightly less salubrious picture by the goods entrance! But we were on our way, and the next stop was due to be open too – the Rockingham Motor Speedway in Corby. When we arrived there we were met at the entrance by a security guard who knew about the event, but thought it started tomorrow, not today. But, a short discussion later we were allowed in, and parked outside the stadium before wandering inside to take a look around and take the opportunity of breakfast at the on-site café – a very nice breakfast wrap with a splendid cup of coffee. Here we also met our first of the other teams, a chap who was touring all of the race related venues, of which this was the first. He was heading south towards Brands Hatch and then the south coast, so we were not likely to bump into one another again.

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With generally only one ‘official’ checkpoint per Rotary District it was notable that the distance between points was often quite large. From Corby we had to travel north to Ye Olde Bell Hotel & Restaurant in Retford. That was the other notable thing about the tour ‘stops’ – these weren’t all places you’d especially seek out as a tourist. This was our third stop, and disappointingly there was not any Rotary presence (though we did wonder if a chap who appeared to be asleep near the window might have been a Rotarian!). Still, a nice venue, and with the sun out a good chance to stretch our legs before continuing north to the next stop, the more exciting proposition of the Beamish Museum in the North East.

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The visit to the Beamish Museum was an absolute highlight so far. As we pulled in there was a Rotary gazebo, manned, and we were able to have a great chat before taking a wander down towards the museum itself. With no time to visit we were really pleased that one of the Rotarians was able to sneak us inside for a quick preview and a couple of fantastic photo opportunities with Ash, our much traveled club mascot. He was heading up the soft toy contingent of our entourage – over 100 of them, each of which had been sponsored to come along for the ride along with our three Rotarians, Steve, Steve and Troy. You’ll notice some of them popping up in the images along the way; it was our way of getting some of our younger members of society engaged with what we were doing and why, and I’m sure each of the loved toys had a story to tell once they’d been returned home at the end of our two day adventure.

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After several long gaps between stops we had a couple of closer non-official stops coming up next. First we decided to drop off and see the Angel of the North, before heading to meet up with Alan & Elaine. Alan was previously a member of Darlaston Rotary, but having retired had relocated and is now a member of the Rotary Club of Amble and Warkworth. They greeted us with coffee and (rather wonderful) cake before taking us along with a couple of their members to see their excellent Rotary Way where we were able to get a few more pictures.

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After this, we took a scenic route up towards South Queensferry (another official stop), stopping a couple of times along the way before eventually finding our hotel for the night, a Premier Inn just outside Livingstone. We’d traveled a fair distance, so the carvery and a pint (or two) was just the ticket for our refreshment before a good night’s sleep ready for the next day.

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