Col’s Woolacombe National Scooter rally flashbacks | NOSTALGIA
If this year’s scooter rallies had gone ahead as normal, many of us would have been heading off this weekend to what should have been the 21st annual Woolacombe National Scooter Rally.
The basic layout for this rally has remained pretty much the same since the first one back in the year 2000. The Golden Coast venue has been welcoming us scooterists back, right from that very first rally. The holiday camp has steadily changed and improved with much investment over the two decades since it began. The date of this rally has never deviated from the 3rd or 4th weekend in September, and more often than not, has been blessed with glorious weather, sometimes unseasonably mild.
At the first-ever rally, we shared the holiday camp with quite a few bemused and concerned-looking holidaymakers. But from the next rally onwards, the site was pretty much exclusively booked out to scooterists. Nowadays it’s completely the norm to sell out the whole camp, and partly fill the sister campsite, just down the road.
As a rally venue, there is everything you could need on the self-contained site; a supermarket for essentials to fill caravans and chalets. The main building has all you need in the way of food and drink sales, as well as a stand-alone on-site pub. I’m often surprised more people don’t take up the offer to camp at the rally, with such decent facilities.
An added twist is that during the Saturday of each rally, a free bus service (owned by the camp) ferries approximately 1000 scooterists down to the seaside at Woolacombe Bay for a day of drinking and partying. At the first four Woolacombe rallies, the Saturday bus trip took us to the town of Ilfracombe. The open-top bus journey was quite lively in those days! Bus surfing and hopping are NOT RECOMMENDED!
Woolacombe Bay’s Red Barn pub is the main focal point down overlooking the beach and in the sunshine it’s as picturesque as any pub on any rally. It’s also the pick up and drop of point for the ever-circling buses from the campsite. Captain Jack’s pub further up in the town has an enclosed beer garden that comes alive on rally weekends too.
Live bands play a massive part of this scooter rally and although traditional rally sounds go down well, punk and psychobilly bands seem to go down the best. The 2009 and 2012 rallies were my two favourites; this was due to the GuanaBatz playing both events. To say the Woolie rally is musically diverse is an understatement; punk legends The Damned at one rally, with Scrumpy and Western legends The Wurzels playing rallies a couple of years either side.
In 2002 /2003 a newly reformed King Kurt put a performance on not seen for many years. The atmosphere was full-on, and it will surely go down as one of the funniest nights at Woolie rally ever.
In all, nearly 40 different bands have graced the stage in the main hall over the years. Rally favourites King Kurt, Basket Case and Neville Staples Band have all played Woolie three times each.
The other bands who have played are as follows…
One Step Behind
The Other Jam
Neville Staple Band
Frank Pop Ensemble
Jennie Bellestar Band
Sex Pistols Experience
The Rocker Covers
Dexys Bootleg Runners
The Last Resort
The Style Councillors
Double J and the Rock and Roll Swindle
Angelo Starr and Team
Anti Nowhere League
Other music rooms away from the main hall on-site give rally goers their Northern Soul and traditional rally sounds fix, if the live bands don’t appeal.
DJs Emma Cox, Terry Walters and Disco Daz to name just three, have been very popular at the rally right from the start, keeping everyone hyped up before and after the bands.
Sunday night is party night!
At the 2010 10th anniversary rally the South West Scooter Clubs introduced the Sunday party, where lots of rally goers stay on at the venue for another day of punishment; a slightly more sedate bus trip to the coast (Ilfracombe) followed by an evening back on site; with a far less traditional theme. Many that stay, say this is the best day of the rally and most arrive in fancy dress. For some strange reason I have never sampled the Sunday at a Woolacombe rally, but I intend to next time.
So far the themed nights have been…
70s Glam Rock theme
Mexican Mariachi Band (Doritos Band)
Blues Brothers tribute
Beach Boys tribute
Boogie Disco theme
Electro 80s theme
- Since the Isle of Wight changed venues, Woolie is now promoted to the UK’s longest continuous running National Rally still using the original venue.
- A regular feature of the Woolie rally is a Saturday afternoon hypnotist who makes Scooterists do even dafter stuff than usual!
- Sunday night’s Woolie party is bigger and busier than any Bank Holiday Sunday night at other rallies.
- A staggering 40,000 single-use plastic drink glasses were used each year at previous events (that changed last year with the introduction of a deposit for a heavy-duty plastic glass.
Saturday daytime’s well-supported dealers market and custom show is a big draw for most, and with it being all outside in the open air it never feels too claustrophobic unlike some of the busier indoor shows. It’s a very good place to chill or get over the previous night’s antics.
The upbeat and jovial scooterists manning the entrance gate to this rally are a credit to the South West Clubs and scooter rallies in general.
If you’ve read through any of my previous rally write-ups or rally flashbacks you will notice I’m rarely critical or negative about the rallies. I always think there’s enough crap stuff going on in the world for people to get stressed out about. For me, the rallies are a massive escape from all of that mundane stuff. They’re a place for us to relax and have some well-deserved fun.
With that in mind, it goes without saying I’m a massive fan of this particular rally, and I will miss it and the people that go there terribly this weekend. I’ve ridden an incredible 13,000 plus miles attending Woolacombe over the years. I hope that doesn’t have to end any time soon.
Cheers South West Scooter Clubs, it’s a blast.
Stay safe SLUKers
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Can’t ride to a rally? Spend the money on yourself and your scooter instead
Woolacombe rallery – the early years
Woolacombe rallery 2
Woolacombe Rallery 3