THE GREAT TREK TO EDINBURGH
BY A COMPETITOR.
THE London to Edinburgh Reliability Trial, which is usually one of the most popular trials organised by the Motor Cyling Club, was not so well supported this year by motor cyclists, as the date on which it was run clashed with the ” Sunbeam 200.” However, the car enthusiasts were more numerous than ever, and in spite of having sent our entry in some time before they closed, we were well towards the end of the entries. On arriving at Wrotham Park, Barnet, with plenty of time to spare before we were due out, we decided to make a tour of inspection of the competing cars and to look up old friends who we had not seen for some time and who were also entered.
Having managed to get a ” Gold ” in each of the previous Exeter and Land’s End runs, we decided to attempt to get ” The triple award,” and so we again condemned ourselves to that uninteresting long stretch of the Great North Road which had to be covered during the night.
On the day before the trial we had bad luck in that our petrol tank sprang a very bad leak, and so on our return from town in the evening we were obliged to set to work replacing the old tank with another odd one which we fortunately had by us. As usual, all sorts of difficulties cropped up to hinder our doing this easily, and it was 3 o’clock on Friday morning before the job was finished and we retired to bed for a few hours. We were naturally somewhat sleepy at the start and began to wonder how we would get on during the night, but after nearly emptying one of our thermos flasks of tea we felt much better and began to secure our numbers preparatory to starting. Before going any further I should say that ” we ” consisted of my passenger, Dan and myself.
THE START. Five minutes before we were due to start we were told to get ready and queue up. The usual crowd of questions were hurled at us; what spirit are you using? what oil, etc., whilst we were waiting, and at last it was our turn to start, so letting in the clutch
we began ” The Great Trek.” The Edinburgh run this year appeared to attract the attention of the Public much more than usual, and a surprising number of people had gathered outside the gates of Wrotham Park to watch the competitors. In fact, all along the road far into the night little knots of enthusiasts were seen waiting for the cars to pass and cheering them on their way. Being competitors, we naturally did not see very much of what went on except in our near vicinity since we were obliged to run near our schedule, but we came across a few competitors who were unfortunate enough to have trouble.
The first check marked on the route card was at Biggleswade, but we did not have to sign here, so carried on. Just before Stamford we came across a competitor who had had the misfortune to break his crankshaft. Being rather late we did not have time to stop, but learnt what had happened to him on our arrival at Stamford. We were here entertained to coffee by members of the Stamford Club, who very kindly handed the welcome refreshments to us so as to save us the trouble of getting out of our cars. Twenty-one miles further on, just as we were beginning to feel very sleepy, at Grantham, we had a stop of one hour, and after signing on, went for a short walk to while away the time. Shortly before restarting we were presented with some “York ” chocolate. which proved very welcome later on. This year we did not encounter any fog on this part of the journey, the night being perfect. Soon after passing Newark dawn began to break, and at Doncaster more tea was very welcome. Between here and Ilkley we had great difficulty in keeping awake, and at last, after what seemed an eternity, we arrived at the breakfast stop. After having a good wash and large breakfast we felt thoroughly refreshed, and looked forward to restarting for the test hills with a light heart.
After leaving Ilkley the road becomes very narrow and winding and begins a steady ascent to the foot of Stake Moss. This hill was in very much better condition this year than last, and changing into second speed near the first bend we completed the climb on that gear. The descent of the grass-grown slope down from the summit of Stake Moss was very tricky, as the grass appeared to be very damp in places, and the majority of the cars skidded about quite a lot. The next of the test hills, Askrigg, was in poor condition near the summit, and though not a really steep hill, is a very long grinding climb. If we had not been obliged to keep to the 20 m.p.h. average we would have loved to have stopped around here to admire the scenery, but this was impossible as the roads were very difficult and narrow, so we had to keep going. At the foot of West Stonesdale we were held up for some time because some unfortunate competitor had succeeded in charging the bank near the second
bend, and bent his front axle. Eventually our turn came, and starting off in second gear we approached the second bend. Our wheels began to spin rather badly just here, and owing to loss of speed we were obliged to change to first gear to round the hairpin, after which we changed up to second and completed the climb. From the top of West Stonesdale to the summit of Tan Hill, which, according to the route card is 1,732 ft. high, the road ascends steadily, and there are few engines which have much power in hand for the last little stretch just before the summit.
Passing the check on the summit, we turned sharp left and proceeded to gradually descend to Appleby, where there was another check, and this time we had to sign.
A WELCOME WASH. The sun, which had been beating down on us steadily, now began to make itself really objection
able, and our faces started to get very sore. At Carlisle, where we were allowed an hour’s stop, we had a very welcome wash at the Railway station, but we had great difficulty in drying our faces, they were so sunburned. However, once accomplished, they felt much better for it, and we again began to take an interest in things. Leaving Carlisle we followed the Glasgow road, and after crossing the Tweed and going under the A.A. banner, welcoming us to Scotland, which was stretched across the road, we passed the famous
Gretna Green Smithy. It certainly looked very attractive in its new coat of white paint, but there did not seem to be anything going on when we passed ! The next check was held at Moffat, and here we were allowed 14 minutes for tea and refreshments,
etc. The cars were parked in the Market Square, and whilst waiting for our turn to start we fell asleep, which fact probably accounted for our being several minutes late starting.
THE LAST STRETCH. After leaving Moffat the route goes past the Devil’s Beef Tub, and then follows the course of the Tweed from its source. This part of the route is probably as interesting as any, and we would have enjoyed it much more had we not got to make up time, which we managed to do before reaching the next check at Newbiggin corner. The road from here runs by the edge of Talla reservoir, and is extremely pretty. At the end of the reservoir is the last observed hill Talla Linn, though why the M.C.C. officials considered it stiff enough to be observed we cannot imagine. We heard later that there was not one failure on it, and that several competitors whilst climbing it shouted out to the numer
ous spectators Where’s the hill ? Leaving the summit the road is extremely narrow and winding, and we could not help wondering what would happen if some unfortunate individual happened to be motoring in the opposite direction ! Fortunately, this did not happen and we eventually joined the main Edinburgh road 12 miles out. Edinburgh itself was so crowded this year that in spite of allowing ourselves plenty of time to get from Liberton to Waverley Market House we were very nearly late, but just managed to check in dead on time. After removing our number plates we handed
them in together with our claim for a Gold,and having signed the time sheet, we finished what most people considered (ourselves included) to have been a most perfect trial, favoured throughout by beautiful weather.
Reader's Letters, June 1995
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