The Landy is Coming Home to Glen Dye.
The most exciting thing that happened to my family in 1969 -well the most exciting thing after moving house and the arrival of my brother- was that my dad bought a brand spanking new Land Rover Safari. The Safari bit referred to the fact that the windscreen could fold down onto the bonnet to allow the desert air to cool the driver and passengers. But we lived in Wales and desert air was not an issue and so we didn’t ever use that.
It arrived with us in Wales on 1st August 1969 and a week later we drove it to Glen Dye for our summer holiday. In those days you had to ‘break a car in’ which meant driving it very slowly for the first few thousand miles. That first 350 mile journey took us twelve hours but we didn’t mind; we all loved the car.
Thereafter we drove all over the UK in it; us children in the back with the dogs, all facing each other, singing, laughing, hitting each other. That’s the magic about those cars, the way you face each other in the back. It spent many happy summers in Scotland, ferrying us up the motorway and along bumpy hill tracks and through rivers at speed (Dad’s favourite trick; and ours too).
Dad continued to use the car for the rest of his life; as our main family car and then, later on, for driving around our land in Wales. I am not sure it had a single bit of proper maintenance between about 1995 and 2017 and it was almost on its knees when I decided to restore it to its former glory. I was driving it through the woods in Wales, its exhaust pipe scraping the track and the dash board caught fire. That was the final straw; time for action.
We love Land Rovers. Caroline and I have four and one of our daughters has another. Loving Land Rovers is one of those ‘you either get it or you don’t’ things; there’s an unofficial club full of gentle nerds and enthusiasts. Sure they are sluggish, noisy, awkward to handle, thirsty and unreliable. And the air conditioning doesn’t work and you can’t hear the radio, let alone your fellow passengers. But, the Land Rover (now known as the Defender) is a perfect looking beast; elegant, strong, confident, unshowy, brilliant in mud, functional, built to last and a symbol of so much that is right in design. But hey, as I say, you either get it or you don’t.
But back to 2017. It was time to rebuild the Land Rover in time for its 50th birthday this year. It occurred to me that if we got this right it might well make it to 100. We have a remarkable man called Karl who works for us in Wales. He’s one of those rare people blessed of patience and genuine skill. And if he doesn’t know how to do something, he’ll learn. And so, gradually, over the course of two years Karl -with the help of YouTube and endless manuals- rebuilt the Land Rover from scratch. He welded and sprayed and cleaned and oiled and hammered and very occasionally swore. But he did it. And in June 2019 -gleaming and without a glitch- it took our eldest daughter and her husband away from their wedding.
And later this year it will return to its spiritual home at Glen Dye to work on our cabins and cottages and Camps. I can’t wait.
Charlie Gladstone June 2019.