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Golden weekend for rally's jubilee
Published 16/07/13

THE 50th Woodcote Rally has been hailed the most successful to date.

Organisers are yet to announce a final total but say takings on the gate were higher than in any previous year.

More than 20,000 people are thought to have visited the annual transport festival, which was held on Saturday and Sunday.

To mark its 50th anniversary, a Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flew overhead on both days.

The Lancaster was only expected to take part on the Saturday but was added to Sunday’s line-up at the last minute.

There were also aerobatics displays by a De Havilland Tiger Moth biplane and a Chinese Cujiao Nanchang training jet.

On Saturday evening, two hot air balloons were launched and two more were tethered six feet above the ground.

Dozens of tractors, steam engines and vintage cars and bikes were on display.

They paraded around the main arena throughout the weekend. Some were reproductions but others were decades old. Among the traction engines was Old Timer, a Marshall general purpose traction engine built in 1902.

There were also bird of prey displays, a Punch and Judy show and live music by the Woodcote Concert Band.

Organiser Andy Crockett said: “We did all our normal stuff with the steam engines and so on but I think the two air displays were what people really enjoyed.

“It was something really special for our anniversary year, which is what we wanted. When the Lancaster was approaching on the Sunday, the whole field fell deadly silent and everyone stood completely still in anticipation.

“I’ve never known anything like it – it was incredible. Everyone was just watching in admiration.”

The first rally was held in 1964 and raised £175 to help repair the village hall. It has since raised more than £368,000 for the community.

Among this year’s visitors was Simon France, of Penny Royal in Goring Heath, whose father helped run the first rallies. He attended with his sons William, nine, and Jack, six.Mr France, 51, said: “My two uncles, William and Jack Freeman, used to take me here year after year as a tradition.

“Since then I have started to bring my two boys, who are named after them. I have a little brass plaque in my shed at home which says ‘Woodcote Rally, 1972’.”

Last year’s rally was abandoned due to rain, costing the organisers about £10,000.

This year, however, the weather remained dry and temperatures peaked at 30C on Saturday. Mr Crockett said: “If anything, the weather was too hot.

“We had to make announcements warning people to keep their hats on, wear plenty of sun cream and keep drinking water as we didn’t want anybody to overheat or get sunburn. That was the one downside but I do think the weather encouraged lots of people to come.”

Mr Crockett said attendance figures could be up to 20 per cent higher than 2011’s rally, which raised £23,500 for almost 50 local charities.

Exact figures will be announced by September, when planning for next year’s rally with begin. Mr Crockett said: “I don’t think the next rally will be quite as big.

“This year was an exception because of the anniversary.

“Although next year’s is likely to be smaller, it will hopefully be just as successful.”

Published 16/07/13

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