Classic Car Rally takes to the Road

From The Ark to Highclere Castle

A procession of classic cars wound its way through north Hampshire to the beautiful grounds of Highclere Castle in memory of local farmer Geoff Saunders – and the event pulled in thousands of pounds for Ark Cancer Centre Charity.

Geoff, a popular farmer from Baughurst and Bentley enthusiast, was a staunch supporter of the charity up until his death in May 2013. He provided one of the Charity’s first donations - a very generous £12,500. After he passed away, his family picked up the fundraising baton.

The result of their endeavours was the Highclere Classic Car Rally which saw 50 classic cars from across the region being driven from the Ark Conference Centre to the historic ‘Downton Abbey’ home of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon.

The rally – organised by Geoff’s widow Cilla, and friends Philippe and Sue Allison, and James and Karen Phillips – began with a presentation by Ark Cancer Centre Charity trustee Merv Rees.

The cars then travelled in convoy along a 27-mile route through north Hampshire and west Berkshire. The rally passed through Ramsdell, where Geoff farmed, and the bells rang out as the cars passed St Stephen’s Church, in Baughurst, where he is buried.

Crowds lined the route to clap and cheer on the 150 participants and their cars, which included a Citroen Light 15 Roadster, Ford Model T, Aston Martin Vantage V125, Bentley Continental R, Bristol 406 and the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon’s Rolls Royce Phantom 111.

Cilla and Lady Carnarvon presented Merv with a cheque for £30,000 – the figure was boosted to this sum thanks to match-funding from Greenham Common Community Trust, which was represented by chief executive Julian May.

The amount raised was further boosted by the £3,440 proceeds from a promises auction, administered by local businessman Michael Byng.

Merv said: “I feel humbled by such overwhelming support. I know that Geoff, a great local gentleman, would be extremely touched and very proud of such a wonderful achievement and donation. I am very grateful to Cilla, her family and friends for their support and, of course, to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon and all the sponsors who played a part in making this such a great and successful day.”