Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Korczew Excursion - First CCC foray into the 'overnight' stay adventure

Click on photos to enlarge - far superior effect

Korczew or Bust 


Michael Kenny

The 30th April/1st May opened the CCC's summer touring account. 

Meeting up at the KFC in Zakret at 10am with a planned destination of Korczew Palace near Siedlce, 9 cars made it through the unusually heavy morning traffic to open their 2016 touring account by watching Neil Crook sample some of KFC's fine chocolate cake for breakfast (subsequent note by 'Captain' MM: cake later reportedly 'shit' by the consumer - unquote. McCafe remains the rendezvous of choice).

One by one the cars arrived including Neil's Citroen GS4, an aubergine MX5, 2 fine Mercedes SL, one with spurious number plates, 2 equally fine red MGAs (one finer than the other and certainly less smelly), a rasping Porsche 718, a Range Rover on LPG and a divine green E-type. A touring biker group were also amassing in the carpark so the combined group of machines made for interesting viewing.

By 11 a quorum had been reached so we set off taking a back road to try an avoid the snarling A2 traffic. The plan was to amble the inner roads and convene at Liw Castle near Wegrow, about 60km away. Sadly the traffic snailed for the first 20km. With the rain spitting and the temperatures hardly hitting 10 degrees it didn't make for a very enjoyable open top cruise. By the time we arrived at Liw my neck, ears, thighs and lower back were in need of a clothing re-think. 

It was at the point that Mateusz Zulawski brought me up to date on the difference between a roadster and a cabriolet: a roadster essentially has no side windows. The MGA is a roadster while the MX5 is a cabriolet.

We took in the castle's museum and widened our knowledge of the importance of Liw and the surrounding area. After an hour, revived and more optimistic of the driving conditions ahead, we took off with gusto. The roads were now clear and we raced at a steady 80-100km/h through Wegrow and Sokolow Podlaski. It made a fine sight to see the cavalcade snake through the fields with tall wind turbines spinning against the dark afternoon sky.

Jimmy in the Porsche had been given permission to race ahead and warn the palace staff of our impending arrival. The car made such a cracking Formula One-esque noise as it changed gears.  Przemek and his son Michal were very generous in providing a photographic account during this leg. And Blaze found that driving at 70km/h in light rain with the windows up and the roof down was the minimum speed necessary to enough to stay dry. 15 minutes behind the Porsche, the main body of cars arrived triumphantly into the town of Korczew driving past the dairy farms and fish ponds on our left, through the dusty crossroads that define the village centre and then entering the palace through the imposing tall gates. It was a fine sight to see the cars parked in front of the Palace steps.

The destination of Korczew Palace was significant in that Al Harris, driving his recently purchased red MGA 1600, was inviting us to his family's ancestral home. Here his mother and our host, Mrs Beata Ostrawska-Harris, has been born and reared but when WW2 started she was evacuated to England where she grew up and later married. In the early 90's she returned to Poland with her husband and 2 sons Al and Dominic and daughter Helen. The palace by then had fallen into severe disrepair following 50 years of neglect. In the Palace's small museum were many photo's showing the various uses the palace buildings were put to during various periods during and after the war. She told us that rather than go through the bureaucratic process of restitution it was significantly easier to purchase back her family home which happened to be for sale, for the magnanimous total of PLN 1.

Al's MGA is interesting in that it underwent a body-off restoration in Rzeszow in 2014 by a Polish enthusiast. Finished in Ferrari red, it's a fine example of well restored car. I wish Al many years of fun driving.

After a hearty lunch Mrs Harris explained the palace's history and then we visited the carp ponds, the river Bug and the dairy farm. At 5pm or so, 4 of the cars departed back to Warsaw leaving the 2 MGs and the E-type at the Palace. It made a fine sight to see the 3 old classic cars against the backdrop of the palace. In fact, it was at that point that Al revealed to his mother that he had just bought the MGA and it brought a huge smile to her face. As she sat into the car, it appeared to stoke a hundred happy memories of England in the late 50s and early 60s. 

That evening we returned to the Palace dining room and enjoyed a feast of food and wine. We were joined by Harris family friends Adam Komorowski and Peter Pininski and Al's brother Dominic. Peter is a proud owner of an Aston Martin that he keeps in Warsaw and regularly drives on long trips. After dinner we retired to the kitchen and sipped and talked till the late hours. Once Mrs Harris went to bed the conversation descended into a manly discussion of feats and failures. Al, unused to the energy drain of the MG's heavy steering and general open top driving in cold weather, battled to stay awake. Ian Booth omitted to relieve his wife from babysitting duties so she didn't get the chance to join us.

Our very clean and comfortable quarters were across the road in the small hotel. This was another business operated by the palace in conjunction with their Dom Weselny further down the road. 

The next morning we gathered in preparation for the trip back to the city. A group of day tripping cyclists had arrived at the palace and were excited by the unplanned exhibition. We tried to impress them by opening up the bonnets. The tiny hair-dryer sized engines of the MGs were overshadowed by the twin cam engineering of the E-type but I think they were impressed more by the gaseous emissions from my own MG  as I raced off leaving a plume of smoke.

The journey home was uneventful but the road was open and clear enough to maintain a steady 80 km/h, I felt satisfied that the touring summer had kicked off in a nice orderly fashion and Captain Michael Moran would approve.

CCC Participants 

(photos by Blazej Zulawski and Michal Vonau)

Michael Kenny - 1960 MGA 1600, fitted with MGB 1.8 ltr engine, electronic ignition and Weber carburettors 

Al Harris - 1960 MGA 1600 

Ian Booth - Jaguar E-Type, Series 2, 2+2 Coupe, 4.2 Automatic

Przemek Vonau - Mercedes R129 500 SL (face lifted)

Blazej Zulawski - Mercedes R129 320SL (slightly modified & facelifted)

Radzimir Dębski & Klaudia Wróbel - Porsche 718

Mateusz Zulawski - Mazda MX5, 1.8, NB FL model (FL means facelifted)

And so it's 'Goodnight' from him...
...and them

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