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Ninove 2019 is the season opener for many road trip fans and one of our favourite European events of the year, too.
Paul and the gang hit the road and check out all the action at Ninove in Belgium (Freddy Files 2019 – Sexy Semaphore Sunday)
Words & Photos: Paul Knight
Now in case you didn’t already know, Ninove 2019 is a 100% air-cooled event. So don’t expect to turn up in a T4 or T5 and be able to join the fun in town on Sunday.
On the other hand, if you rolled up in a semaphore-equipped Bug or Bus (or coachbuilt, schwimm- or kübelwagen, even!), there was premium parking available on the main strip. All other air-cooled rides could park on the streets in and around the town centre. However, there’s a lot more to this meeting than just the Sunday event the centre of Ninove. It’s as much about the adventure on the road and the casual Saturday gathering at a brewery, too!
As I had a few niggles with the brakes on my ’62 Notch, the air-cooled road trip option didn’t work out for us this year. We were faced with either taking the giant Karmann Gipsy T4 to Ninove 2019. Parking out of town, which would provide free accommodation for crew (Jolly Jim, Pete Simpson and myself) or booking a hotel and taking a car instead.
The decision was made when I tried to book a crossing in my oversized Camper (i.e. given the size, it turned out to be quite expensive this year, apparently due to Brexit concerns and lorry spaces booked for food or whatever it was…). The cheapest option was to book a return car ticket on the Eurotunnel and book a budget hotel in a nearby town. We ended up setting off at 8am on Saturday heading for the pre-show gathering at the brewery. Then on to our hotel (at Aalst), before returning to Ninove 2019 for the main event on Sunday morning!
Unless you’re really flash, to get to Belgium from the UK you’re either leaving on a train or a boat. Your choice, but check as far ahead as possible for availability and prices. The later you leave it, the more expensive it generally becomes.
Travelling by train on the Eurotunnel is quickest (around 35 minutes). It is the easiest and delivers you straight onto the main route out of Calais. However, you have to get to Folkestone, so it may not be ideal if you live further north.
Usually we prefer taking the ferry from Dover as it breaks the journey and gives you time to relax. Calais takes around 100 minutes. Dunkirk, two hours. Heading for Ninove, there’s not much in it as Dunkirk is slightly closer. Whichever you choose, we’ve always found the guys at DFDS willing to help load awkward shape or excessively slammed vehicles. This is something to consider if you’re planning on scraping a slammer across Belgium. Of course, if you’re further north, there are other Ferry options available!
Finally, if you’re a fan of cruises, there are several you can join. Some club based, others specifically related to this event. Just search UK Cruise to Ninove on Facebook etc. You’ll find all the contacts and timings of the major cruises and can get involved in all the action.
When we arrived at the Slaghmuylder Brewery (home of the Witkap brew), we knew straight away it was going to be busy inside as we had to park quite some distance away. However, the walk to the brewery past many cool VWs was great. As ever, there were some awesome rides on display and the atmosphere was out of this world. We chatted with some old buddies, snapped a few photos then picked up a couple of crates of the local Witkap brew. This would get us through to the Volksworld show the following weekend!
As this event is based in a town, not at a show site or venue, many people literally park up on the streets and crash out in their cars for the night. However, there are campsites not too far away plus a handful of hotels. Full info is available on the website but book early as they fill up fast.
As we’d booked late, our hotel was around 7 miles away hence we headed off to enjoy a night out near the hotel. Unfortunately, this meant we missed the annual meal and drinks in the bars around Ninove. On the flipside, it also meant we could get an early night (and avoid the usual painful hangover).
After a good night’s sleep we awoke bright and early and set off for Ninove. We arrived around 8.30am and it was already starting to fill up hence we went for a walk around town to check out the cars.
This year’s theme was ‘Sexy Semaphore Sunday’. There were superb early Bugs (and Buses) lined up along the main road. All fitted with funky semaphores as we started our tour of the town.
Things have tightened up in recent years hence once cars are parked up, they can’t be moved until the event has closed. That said, it’s actually made the event a nicer experience. You can wander in the road rather than trying to squeeze past people on the pavements (it’s certainly made it easier to snap photos, anyway!).
We’ll leave you to peruse the pictures and, if you like what you see, perhaps we’ll see you there in 2020?
Mileage: 450 (Essex to Ninove, Belgium and back)
Travelling time: 5hrs door to door by train (7hrs by Ferry)
Costs: £70 on fuel; train/ferry crossing cost about the same
l Freddy Files, Ninove
l Slaghmuylder Brewery, Denderhoutembaan, 9400, Ninove, Belgium