HILL HUNTING WITH A RILEY ” REDWING ” A typical day’s hill hunting in the South Downs with a Riley” Redwing” is here recalled by R. G. V. Venables. He vividly portrays the atmosphere of those happier times and makes one itch to get out amongst the hills in a potent car.—Ed.1
FROM the bulging door-pockets of the Aston Martin I was turning out old
trials paraphernalia in a fru it i;ss search for sparking plugs. It was thus that a battered and begrimed postcard came to light. Autumn was here, and with it hail come the mud. Mud, in turn, had inevitably brought. memories—menniries NN hich Iv( re in no Nvav lessened by tin pile Of routeinarking material which triw i. dorned the garage floor. It. just needed something such as this postcard, therefore, to touch off the fuse ()I recolleetion, for having removed the generous coating of oil and chalky mud I was rewarded by half-adozen words—the sight Of which immediately carried my thoughts bak to the autumn of 1938. At once the hunt for plugs was forgotten, and I WaS compelled to sit in the car and resign myself to long and pleasant meditation Wanted–new hills. Please oblige,” read the van!, in a handwriting so appalling as to have no doubt as to its orhYin. In any ease. the Southsea postmark on Ow other side provided an ample substitute for the quite illegible signature, and as I idly turned the little rectangle of card over and over my mind was filled with an ever-clearing picture. The seeme was in Poterslield market-place almost exactly three years ago : beneath the statue stood a unlit-bespattered Iiiley ” R edw ing. It was surely a sight to gladden the heart of itny enthusiast. km
a pair of s’ ti 1111 adorned the rear wheels, a spade was lashed to the side and three spare wheels were mounted at the hack.
The girl-friend and I had been around to purchase pork pies from a very special Shop and upon returning to our grotesque emwevance we were in tune to overhear a small boy authoritatively assuring his companion that the external exhaust s,vsteni proved Le% otel all possible doubt that the uniFir4ar was indeed a ‘weer.” Baying inveigled ourselves into tin two bucket seats (a procedure necessitating 1111101 tolerance and team-work), we commenced the 1,c( ! rk S . !.“.’1(‘ l ‘ted a suitable cog, cursed volubly at the cone clutch and pointed the sharp end towards the
Downs. New hills they wanted and new hills they should have ; but, despitc the brilliant sunshine which on that. joyous morning lent emphasis to the gold and Ilksset beech leaves, there had of late been much hard rain, and it N,yas not long before we had this fact brought home to us in a manner at Once deeisive and disconcerting. Rounding the S-1-iendi on the approach to that infainims bill ” Aduxus.” we were confronted by what is in normal weather it wait and muddy iseetion of the track ; but the recent, rains tad altered all that. and the unsuspecting Riley plunged_ w ithout warning into what can quite accurately be descrihed as a Pond. With fountains of challo,water flying high from the spinning VI, heels we c_hurnedhallway through before an unseen boulder lifted the front axle and arrested all forward motion with depressing
But We were in familiar hunting grounds, and after several half-hearted atteinpts to find It solid footing for the jack somewhere beneath the surface of the horribly cold water, we took ourselves off to locate our very good friend the traetor driver. Our expectant ears had already caught the welcome sound of his Massey-Harris engine in an adjoining field, and before long we were bumping Our -way in triumph back to the scene of our Waterloo (no pun intended), seated upon the mudguards of the brightly coloured machine. Five minutes later the Riley was once again motoring under its own not inconsiderable power. in the year of its birth (192u) this was equal to that of 11 horses, and although the gallant ” Redwing ” is now 15 years old, the presence of a four
speed box with ratios hiIihv
,4OtalOe for trials work goes a long way limards keeping the performance quite lively -more surprisingly so when one bears in mind the fact that ” Redwings ” had s.v. engines.
After repeatedly unsuccessful attempts to scale “Afluxus” (in the Course of whIch we rounded I he bolt ont bend quite a lot faster than is humanly possihle), we extricated ourselves by way of the adjoining hill hniavit tt ” Watertight.” We were in no Way depressed by our thilure to climb ” Aduxus,” for. after all, this feat huts been veemnplisheit only four or live times amongst which can be numbered our inexplicable ascent, in an oh! Morris(Ow ley. Front the Lou of ” Watertight ” one eonmninds a grand view down towards Goodwood and. immediately below US On our left was a preeiiiitoits and most
inviting vhiky. the !’,i( les of which appeared to offer endless scope for providing some of these new hills for which we were in search. We descernied at a highly alarming angle—every mole-hill all but capsizing the motor-car • but not until the bottom was reached did we notice a stout wire fence running right tteniss the valley. This at once niadc any idea of failure to regain the top a rather distasteful thought. But by backing up one side as far as possible, and then, with a suicidal disregard for the mole-hills, storming the opposite slope itbsolutely that in second, we sornellow niatiaged to get threequarters of the way up out of the valley before spin set in. It was then only a question of turning across at an everincreasing tangent –the girl-friend having, with adndrable foretlantght, already mounted herself over the rear wheel on the ” up-hill ” side. Assailed by visions Of what would
inevitably happen to ‘in-” ap.”..-shOd CaVS, we prudently (keit led to leave that partienlar tit-hit out of the forthcoming trial, and having dug up (and replaced) a just hio-tiarrow gate in the aforementioned wire fence, %VC continued upon our nefarious prirjeq t. Keepingto tin top 10.’ the Downs as far as the Chichester road, we struck down through the village of Cocking, with its Cowdray-yellow paint work, into Midhurst. Here ‘ve conformed to tradition livpayinL,,:1 isit to Francis Luff, a 100 per cent enthusiast for :,11 forms of motor sport. amid, against his better judgment, we persuaded him to conduct us III it brand new hill of his upon quite the most narrow-track side-car out which it has ever been my misfortune t ) behold. Lull’s section proved ideal it’ taken in the downhill direction, but there appeared to
be no means of egress at the bottom, and, in any case, the smell of the mud was particularly venomous, so we bade our friend a hasty farewell and turned the Riley back towards Petersfield.
Before long we were attacking the rough slopes of Dinner Common—a hill which subsequently proved the tit-hit of the trial. An interview with the exceptionally amenable land-owner was the next item on the agenda, and with this successfully accomplished we put in some rapid cross-country motoring to an infernal hill known locally as “Brickbat Lane.” When last I had visited this littleknown sec tion it had been merely muddy ; but having reached the’ foot of the hill by way of a marshy track, over which it was quite impossible to retrace our ” steps,” we were dismayed to behold an enormous number of boulders dumped along the entire length of the section. There was nothing for it but to take off our coats and set to work, and when we had finally cleared a path wide enough for the ” Redwing ” it was for all the world like driving between two high stone walls. Our flagging spirits revived with the partaking of a belated lunch, and after examining the sump for abnormal bruises we removed ourselves to Lythe. Managing somehow to avoid the “Tree of Many Scars” (the scar inflicted by Stanley being noticeable more on account of its depth than its freshness), we ascended this infamous hill in all directions and, going by way of Coekshott Lane, we indulged in an equally hair-raising descent of Wheatham. This brought us into the
prolific Hawkley -area, where I had a re all choice hill in mind, but after careful inspection and repeatedly unsuccessful attacks it became evident that considerable spade-work would be necessary ere four-wheeled vehicles could be waxed to the summit.
There was, however, a convenient bypass, up which we drove back to the top of the Wheatham ridge (having first cleared a fallen tree with the aid of a double-edged sword which resides in the car for this purpose). A desire to get across to Selborne decided us to take a short (?) cut down “Granny’s Way “of Ford Enthusiasts’ Club ‘fame. But apparently ” Granny ” could not be classed as enthusiastic, for she had caused a large cart to be placed across the foot of the hill—and once again we thus found ourselves in the awkward predicament of being unable either to go forward or back. More hard work proved to be the solution, and with the offending cart. heaved across into a convenient gateway we were able to continue upon our way.
Several admirable -finds were made near Selborne, but Our enthusiasm was more than a little damped upon rounding a bend in a track which had hitherto been open and unimpeded—only to find a temporary gate erected less than a dozen yards away. In actual fact, the gate turned out to be even more temporary than the farmer had intended, and I still bear the marks of the top bar where it broke across my head. This highly unfortunate incident necessitated a visit to a friend’s house, where
a little first-aid treatment quickly put matters right ; had we not gone to this house we should never have found the “Switchback,” and had we not found the ” Switchback ” we should never have been compelled to abandon the steaming Riley in two feet of stagnant water. The ” Switchback ” has since proved an outstandingly successful section in several trials, but on that golden autumn afternoon it was in a condition calculated to discourage even an Allard. We fiddled half-heartedly with the magneto and the carburetter for a while, but all in vain, and we were compelled eventually to call in the help of three old men and an even older horse. With much cursing and countermanding of orders, they somehow extracted the Riley from its watery grave and, after another fruitless endeavour to coax the sodden engine into life, we decided that the opportune offer of a lorry driver to take us home was really too good a chance to miss.
An hour later we were back at the scene of the drowning—complete with spare car and tow-rope. A crimson sun had already disappeared behind the high wooded hills of Empshott, and the prospect of an after-dark tow was not too inviting, so that when the girl-friend whimsically decided to press the starter and the deep note of the ” Redwing’s ” exhaust immediately cut through the frosty air, it can well be imagined that our satisfaction knew no bounds. There followed an exhilarating race back through the gathering dusk, the
scent of burning pine logs drifting down from the cottage chimneys and mingling Pleasantly (at any rate to the nose of an enthusiast) w Rh the smell of Discol and baking mud. The Riley acquitted herself nobly by coming home an easy winner, and a perfect day was brought to a finish around a blazing fire, with a vast pile of crumpets keeping warm on the hearth. The new hills were discussed in detail, and some of our more adventurous moments were lived over again. The conversation, as always upon slick oaasions, turned to accounts of other hill-hunting expeditions of the time when we came through Newbury on market day with no clutch (tins rather desirable component having given up the ghost whilst journeying along the Ridge Way), and of one awful occasion when we descended an all but vertical rampart out at Scratchbury (amp, and another when we contrived to get the old Cowley hopelessly bogged near Alton and finally persuaded the farmer’s sister to come to our aid on her brother’s massive tractor (the brother being out et the time and the sister, inci
dentally, being quite remarkably pretty).
Perfect days they all were, and typical, too, and for a long while we re-lived those varied scenes of slime-storming which once took the place of black-outs, air raid warning and the like. . . .
But that was all three years ago and more, and with a sigh I reluctantly realised that I was still seated in the Aston and that no new Champion 16 H. had yet come to light. . . .
Oh, well ! all good things must come to an cm]. But that remark applies to bad things, too, and a sudden impulse made me stuff all my flags and tapes and cords and stakes back into the protesting door-pockets. One day they may be wanted again. . . .
I never did find any sparking plugs after all, but I do not regret my fruitless search—for without that I might never have come across that postcard from Southsea, and without the postcard I might never have gone on that imaginary hill-hunt, and in these dismal days a vivid imagination is worth quite half-adozen petrol coupons (especially in October).