Edinburgh Trial – the 205 at 181 , 2nd October 1998
by Adrian Tucker-Peake
Friday the 1st was turning into a disaster! Preceding work commitments hosting Russian engineers left the fateful Friday for everything trial-wise. How many articles have we read which begin like this! Insurance? Certificate not arrived. Tax? Not yet. Car? No suspension, brakes or shakedown after summer mods. to the ‘Pug’. But Dennis chooses just that moment to phone asking for a Restart report, so we’d better go hadn’t we? The whole caboodle comes together, off axle stands and away down the M5 for a midnight start at Strensham. Our first MCC run to Derbyshire since 1985. Son Andrew asleep in the back …. and then the engine dies. Liz secretly thinks “I’ll see my bed tonight”, but it’s just a loose coil lead and what I deserve for a last minute rebuild.
John Sargeant and crew usher us all through scrutineering, warning “mind the trucks storming off the motorway!” then it’s away for a steady tour of the urban Midlands by night. In Nuneaton the Law have their hands full of night-clubbers, a contrast to the serene moonlit runs over Salisbury Plain on the western trials. More scrutineering on the A5, within a mile of the motor industry’s research centre and proving grounds, then north to Ashbourne and the misty Dove valley. Along with many others we kill 20 minutes or so catching a quick zizz in a layby, then trundle up to Agnes Meadow. A smooth enough passage for Andrew to remain ‘blotto’ across the back seat. Penalty for early arrival at the Salt Box, so all roads leading hence are sprinkled with languishing crews trying not to upset households and traffic: an unfortunate consequence of a sedentary time schedule dictated by our governing body.
Giles Greenslade has little time for the hearty breakfast, forced to hot wire his Beetle after breaking off the key. We arrive at Clough Wood as the morning brightens: a good filming day, but the TV crew are shuffling back down having naively arrived in road cars and become stuck. Scanning the programme, I hope Steve Cropley (Autocar) number 139, better represents the press. Safely to the top, we encounter our only mechanical failure, the footpump disintegrates! Prompt help from John Ludford, then we buy a replacement at the Bakewell Pet Shop (really, have a look).
Slithering down towards Litton, the sun is on it but few are leaving the line. Those who do, have upsets coming down – we look up to see Peter Jones’ passenger take a tumble as the MG slews to a halt. Tyres well down, Liz well forward, Andrew wide awake….and we’re pleased to accelerate. The “A” boards beckon, but we stop on the rocks. A clean here is always an achievement and of course this year’s scant 4 Triples are at risk. Running down through the escape gate, we meet and help reverse an ambitious spectator, spinning to a halt in his Montego – know the feeling!
To Swan Rake, severely washed out by Nature’s spring rains, featuring a horrifying succession of boulders – more Rubicon Trail than Byway. Surprisingly grippy though, so we’re clean, after Liz slips in some PR with the farmer, who’s impressed with the standard of vehicles and organisation compared with other weekend off-road visitors to the Rakes. Up to the moors and through the splash at Jim Travers’ Bareleg – is this where the Teletubby on Clive Cookes’ ‘Piglet’ suffered a soaking? Turn right at Jenkins Chapel: wonder how the section is having marshalled it 3 years ago in continuous rain! Sprint through Old Longhill, with the crew shouting “astride, astride!” as the engine still accelerates.
Arrive on time at the slick Marquis control: time for a snack, chat and game of conkers with the lad. Over the road for a fiver of juice (big spender, but the tank’s at the back), then Radio Bamford summons to us to Lawrie Knight and Greg Warren. Thomas Bricknell is balked just away from the line, so gallantly rolls back for a proper go and a proper ‘clean’. Cautious about the steps I choose moderate pressures: but 13 years have dulled memories of the hill’s fearsome gradient and we spin to a halt on the greasy concrete. So that’s why our Pop pictures always had front wheels in the air!
More PR for Liz with a mountain biker at Haggside, whilst the crafty Bricknells offer lightning response to the desperate call for pushers on the hidden restart line. If it’s as rocky as they suggest, we’ll put our rear wheels in the box thank you. Scrabble safely through here, then Andrew begins gatekeeping practise ready for Putwell. Hucklow was ‘great’, until the ‘all classes’ ramp out which brought us to an abrupt halt. Well done the 2 FWDs who made it. Pumping up at the top, we find the tyres creeping round the rims, so swap front and rear wheels.
Jacob’s Ladder I recognise from my 1980’s OS119 explorations, noted then as ‘too rocky’! Huh! Quite characteristic of this trial, even if it is knocking the old Pop about, according to Clive, its new owner. Marshals Arrowsmith relate their exasperating arguments with a local objector: a thought here, should part of the Chief Official’s package be some authoritative guidelines for occasions like these, including references to county highways, police and RAC sanction, National Park approval, parish council blessing etc.? Unsuitable for Motors is a phrase equally applicable to an unmade road as to Scotland’s A939 in winter – challenging but quite legal!
Via beautiful Monsal Dale, Derbyshire at its finest in the sun, to approach and clean the Putwells, passing an ebullient John Hayes, and on to finish merely 30 minutes late. Once upon a time we were still marshalling Haydale at 10 pm, so well done Clerks, marshals, stewards and co. At the Robin Hood, a welcome unwind for the 4 Triplets, including Dave Haizelden for getting a FWD to places many 4WD owners wouldn’t dare.