The South East Autumn Meeting at Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens – September 2020
By Tim Morris
Just one of the signs spotted on the route from Denbies Vineyard to Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens near Horsham which summed up many of the roads that the MGs travelled over on this well-considered and scenic route. It is nothing short of a miracle that the Autumn Meeting happened at all in this year of COVID-19 and many affectations shower upon John Morgan who worked tirelessly to jump through the numerous hoops presented to him by MotorSport UK and the MGCC. An exhausting process but armed with a mountain of regulations and forms to be completed the event inched its way out of the COVID mire to blossom in some late pleasantly late Summer sunshine.
Andrew Mitchell had scouted out Leonardslee weeks before the event, having realised that our planned meeting at Newhaven Fort could not happen due to the size and nature of the venue – the possibility of 120 MGs and 240 people descending on a small south coast fort was pretty much a non-starter unfortunately. However, it is still on the list for an event once we defeat the virus. Leonardslee provided a huge brand new area to park the MGs (although it hadn’t quite been finished when Andrew first visited) and the ability to put in place large spaces between the parked cars. Ideal, as were the lakes and gardens – it was quite easy to lose 200 plus people amongst the trees and pathways of this scenic garden.
In fact, too easy, as we soon became estranged from the people we arrived with – never to be seen again until later in the day. It was a good job we had enjoyed our picnic lunches beforehand, no more than six of us though naturally. The patrolling COVID Marshals made sure that none of us were errant as it was tempting to stop and chat with people you may not have seen for some considerable time.
The event was complicated in that there were two runs organised to Leonardslee. The first From Denbies near Dorking, as already mentioned, and the second from near Tonbridge in Kent. This allowed for members from both sides of the South East region to take part and those closer to the venue could just turn up for a great day out.
It really was splendid to finally see a large group of MGs together once again and in a very safe environment, we did wonder if this day would actually arrive when we were in the depths of Lockdown.
Thanks go to Peter Best Insurance who sponsored the event and the aforementioned John Morgan and Andrew Mitchell plus the many parking marshals and brand new COVID marhsals. A great job done by all and the event is now being taken as a template for approved socially distanced runs and gatherings by the MGCC and MSUK.