Classic Sections – Leckhampton

From the JES (Jesus) Jones collection with thanks to Mike Dalby and Bryan Ditchman.

Leckhampton is interesting for two main reasons: it caused a sensation when first used for the 1935 Colmore Cup, as described in detail by Austen May in Wheelspin; and it is right on the outskirts of Cheltenham and probably closer to a major town than any other section that I can think of. But Leckhampton was no easy drive-through, it was (and still is) as steep as Simms or Blue Hills and three or four times as long.

County OS 100km GR Entry GR Start GR Exit
Gloucestershire SO 949189 949189 949186
ROW Status ID Number First used Last used View map?
Footpath Not known 1935? 1938? Click here

Leckhampton was used for the 1935, 1937 and 1938 Colmore Trials and one can only assume that the chaos caused in 1935 led the trial organisers to think again in 1936. Everything that really needs to be said about the section is contained in the extract from The Autocar report of the 1935 Colmore as quoted, verbatim, in Austen May’s Wheelspin.

Frightful rumours had been current all day concerning the severity of the last hill, called in the programme Leckhampton and known locally as the Jinny. This hill turned out to be like at least four Simms Hills rolled into one, slippery surface, 1 in 2 1/2 gradient, and tractor were all there. (Note: The tractor, actuating a wire cable, was stationed at the summit for the purpose of hauling up cars unable to climb unassisted, it being quite impossible to manhandle a car to the top.) Yet Simms is in the heart of desolate Dartmoor, while the Jinny is on the very outskirts of the far-flung town of Cheltenham, leading off the main road.

Special permission had been obtained for the use of the hill, which is common land, and reserved as a rule for walkers only. (Note: It formed the base of a now dismantled wire-rope railway to the quarry at its summit.) But the police stopped the first cars from ascending, and were only prevailed upon after some delay to allow proceedings to go on. Even with the short, sharp Simms … there was, in the recent London-Exeter Trial, a long queue of cars waiting. With the immense length of this new terror, Leckhampton … a delay would, in any case, have been inevitable, and apart from the short lane leading to the gradient, there was only one place for the waiting cars – the main Cheltenham-Birdlip road!

Rapidly this road became choked as well with a double line of spectators’ cars. A policeman strove nobly at the entrance to the narrow lane, but he could not be everywhere at once, and for a time complete chaos reigned. Main-road congestion, too, was inevitable with “racers climbing a precipice” so near a populous town …

To add to the difficulties of the situation, or, perhaps, to solve them, the tractor broke down when some twenty-two competitors had tried their ascents, of whom Haden with his MG Midget and Attwood with his Magnette were successful. A massive cog burst asunder, and those who were stuck on the hill – were stuck! A six-wheeled lorry was next reversed down to pull up a car which had stuck, but the caterpillars of this broke under the unequal strain, and the car pulled the lorry down the hill. That finished it. The hill was abandoned, the cars waiting in the lane had to reverse, and the competing cars lined up in the main road went on their way.

In Wheelspin, May reports briefly on the 1937 Colmore when Leckhampton (17 successful climbs) was second only to Juniper (15 successful climbs) in severity. May then comments that in 1938 “Leckhampton seemed to be losing its sting … the hill was conquered by more than twice as many cars as got up Juniper – thirty-four in all.” And that, we can only assume, was that with just three events over four years. Leckhampton is not mentioned in More Wheelspin.

The line of the section is still clearly visible today although the banks which feature in the 1937 photographs have long-ago fallen-in and there are now substantial trees growing on what was the trackbed of the old tramway. Tramway Cottage, at the foot of the section and clearly visible on the right-hand-side of the top two photographs below, has a significant place in local history as the scene of the “Leckhampton Riots”.

Those with an interest in the industrial archeology of the area can read more in the article available from the link below. The trials section follows the line of Middle Incline (B3 on the map on page 44 of the article) and the cleans exit route was along the track marked E3 on the same map. Interestingly, the table on page 43 shows the gradient at 1 in 3.5 but I think this may be an average including the flatish section at the very bottom alongside Tramway Cottage. As the incline was abandoned in 1924, and the whole area acquired by the Council in 1929, I think we can assume that there was some sort of hard, if loose, surface in the late 1930s rather than the deep mud and decades of leaf-mould visible today.

Photographs – Then and Now
Click for larger imageJES (Jesus) Jones (MG TA)
1937 Colmore Cup Trial

From the JES (Jesus) Jones collection
with thanks to Mike Dalby and Bryan Ditchman.
Click for larger imageThe same view today
Photographed on 24 March 2008
by Andrew Brown.
Click for larger imageDickie Green (MG PB)
1937 Colmore Cup Trial

With thanks to Bryan Ditchman.
Click for larger imageThe same view today
Photographed on 24 March 2008
by Andrew Brown.
Visiting Leckhampton

Pass through the Cheltenham suburb of Leckhampton on Leckhampton Road, climbing gently all the way. Shortly after the road steepens sharply, and bears round to the right, turn left into Daisybank Road. Pass the bottom of the section and turn right into the public car park. Retrace your route a few yards to Tramway Cottage and the “Public Footpath” sign pointing up the section.

It is a steep climb, generally following the left-hand bank which is clearly visible in the PreWar photographs, until it abruptly levels-off at the old quarry workings. Turn sharp right here and follow the very obvious track (the “cleans” route in the 1930s) which descends gently, with a stone wall to your left, until you eventually return to the main Leckhampton Hill road just a few yards up the hill from the turn into Daisybank Road.

This Post was originally published on 30 December 2015 as a Page on this website and is re-posted here without amendment.

Classic Sections – Ibberton

 From the JES (Jesus) Jones collection with thanks to Mike Dalby.

I’d long wondered about the location of the wonderfully atmospheric picture on Page 161 of Bacon but it wasn’t until August 2007 that Bryan Ditchman positively identified it as Ibberton Church Hill. (There is another picture of Ibberton on Page 106 of Bacon.) Shortly after I received the very similar photograph, above, on a CD from Mike Dalby and this was clearly captioned as Ibberton. Then two photographs of Ibberton were published on the Austin Harris website. But the final impetus to create this page came when Jonathan Elliott provided me with the two photographs below, showing just how little the section had changed in the last seventy or eighty years.

County OS 100km GR Entry GR Start GR Exit
Dorset ST 789077 789077 790075
ROW Status ID Number First used Last used View map?
UCR? Not known 1929? 1936? Click here

According to Cowbourne, Ibberton was first used for the MCC Exeter Trial in 1929 (which is maybe why Autocar magazine decided on a visit to take the photographs published on the Austin Harris website), then every year until 1934. For these six years it was the final hill, before the trial finished in Shaftesbury (1929, 1930, 1931) or Blandford (1932, 1933, 1934). Remember that in the 1930s the Exeter Trial “about-turned” at Exeter before heading back east to the finish, rather than continuing further south-west as it does now.

Ibberton seems to have fallen out of favour with the MCC from 1935, when Meerhay became the final Exeter section for a few years, although Ibberton was used for other clubs’ events until at least 1936.

Photographs – Then and Now
Click for larger imageJES (Jesus) Jones (MG J2)
1934 Banfield Cup Trial

From the JES (Jesus) Jones collection
with thanks to Mike Dalby.
Click for larger imageThe same view today
Photographed on 18 November 2008
by Jonathan Elliott.
Click to view on the Austin Harris websiteEH Williams (Triumph Super Seven)
1929 Exeter Trial

From the Austin Harris website.
Click for larger imageThe same view today
Photographed on 18 November 2008
by Jonathan Elliott.

This Post was originally published on 30 December 2015 as a Page on this website and is re-posted here without amendment.

Classic Sections – Dane

MG Musketeer team captain MacDermid climbs Dane, probably on the 1937 Wye Cup Trial.
Photograph taken from page 48 of Thomas.

Dane Hill in Kent is hardly a well-known PreWar section, so why does it feature here? Solely because Brunell took some photographs there, in 1937, which have been famously mis-attributed.

County OS 100km GR Entry GR Start GR Exit
Kent TR 176479 176479 174480
ROW Status ID Number First used Last used View map?
Private? 1937? 1937? Click here
Discovering Dane

Enthusiasts had known for many years that the Brunell photographs on page 48 of Thomas, and pages 122 and 156 of Bacon, were not New Mill in Cornwall, as captioned in both books, and were highly unlikely to have been taken on the Lands End Trial as they all showed cars with double-figure entry numbers. (At the time, MCC events generally had over 100 motorcycle entries, and motorcycles always took the lower numbers.) It was clear, from a study of the spectators and the non-competing cars, that they had all been taken on the same event, but which event, and where was the hill?.

Then, in January 2004, I received this email from Colin Butchers:

As I said, I was always doubtful about the “New Mill” pictures. The terrain did not look like Cornwall, the buildings did not look Cornish, and the low numbers ruled out the MCC Trials. Then I was browsing through a pre-war “Light Car” Magazine and came across a report of the 1937 Wye Cup Trial and there was a picture of Dickie Green on the same hill, and it was captioned as “Dane Hill near Canterbury”. Now Kent has a number of Danes and another trials nut, Lewis Elgood, suggested that it could be Dane Farm near to the village of Bladbean in the Elham Valley a few miles south of Canterbury.

I visited the site – down a gated public road – very, very rural and whilst I felt certain that I had found the right place, nothing seemed to fit. I then checked a pre-war map and realised that the hill itself was a “white road” which does not appear on the current o/s maps. The lane coming down from the top right corner in the photographs is still there and you can see one of the gates (open) just to left of the farm house. This lane then turns left (I think Colin means right. AKB.) at the bottom of the hill and goes up the bottom of the valley through Covert Wood. The trials section branched off at the bottom of the hill and went more or less straight up the other side of the valley to meet another lane, which still exists, near Palmstead. The farm house has been rebuilt as have the farm buildings but they are all more or less in the same position. The trials hill is now fenced off at the bottom but you can clearly see the line of it winding up the hill between low banks and parallel lines of shrubs.

Strangely “Wheelspin” refers to Palmstead but says nothing about Dane (Page 124 in my edition, referring to the Kentish Border Car Club’s November Trial. May describes Palmstead as “straightforward stuff”. AKB.). Palmstead is at the top of the hill and I can find no other likely site, so I wonder whether Dane and Palmstead were one and the same.

This Post was originally published on 30 December 2015 as a Page on this website and is re-posted here without amendment.

Really Classic Sections

Back in December 2012 I prepared a list of the ten trials sections in longest continuous (or almost continuous) use for major trials, intending it to be used as one of Michael Leete’s Classical Gas Christmas Quiz questions. As it turned out, Michael found some better questions, but I thought people might be interested in the list anyway.

I’ve re-checked all the “first-use” dates with Cowbourne, so if anyone claims earlier use I’d like proof. There are, for example, lots of claims for earlier use of Nailsworth Ladder as a “test hill” but it doesn’t feature in any major trial until the 1933 Gloucester as far as I can determine.

The use of sections from the PreWar MCC Sporting Trial in the current MCC Edinburgh Trial is hardly surprising, but where would the modern MCC Exeter Trial be without the PreWar Brighton-Beer?

The Top Ten
  • Beggar’s Roost
    First use: 1922 MCC Lands End Trial.
    Current use: MCC Lands End Trial.
  • Bluehills Mine (Old Bluehills)
    First use : 1924 MCC Lands End Trial.
    Current use: MCC Lands End Trial (Class 0).
  • Fingle Bridge
    First use: 1929 B&HMC Brighton-Beer Trial. (1932 was first use for MCC Exeter Trial).
    Current use: MCC Exeter Trial.
  • Pepperdon
    First use: 1929 B&HMC Brighton-Beer Trial. (Not used for the MCC Exeter Trial PreWar).
    Current use: MCC Exeter Trial (Class 0).
  • Simms
    First use: 1929 B&HMC Brighton-Beer Trial. (1933 was first use for MCC Exeter Trial).
    Current use: MCC Exeter Trial.
  • Ruses Mill
    First use: 1930 MCC Lands End Trial.
    Current use: MCC Lands End Trial (Class 0).
  • Putwell 1 and Putwell 2
    First use: 1930 MCC Sporting Trial (Not used for the MCC Edinburgh Trial PreWar).
    Last use: 2016 MCC Edinburgh Trial (now downgraded to bridleway and use unlikely to be authorised in the near future).
  • Litton Slack
    First use: 1930 MCC Sporting Trial (Not used for the MCC Edinburgh Trial PreWar).
    Current use: MCC Edinburgh Trial.
  • Waterloo
    First use: 1930 B&HMC Brighton-Beer Trial. (1958 was first use for MCC Exeter Trial).
    Current use: MCC Exeter Trial.
The next three
  • Darracott
    First use: 1933 MCC Lands End Trial (as Gooseham).
    Current use: MCC Lands End Trial.
  • Nailsworth Ladder
    First use: 1933 NWLMC Gloucester Trial.
    Current use: SDMC Cotswold Clouds Trial.
  • Windout
    First use: 1933 B&HMC Brighton-Beer Trial. (1937 was first use for MCC Exeter Trial).
    Current use: MCC Exeter Trial (Class 0).

This Post was originally published on 29 June 2019 as a Page on this website and is re-posted here without amendment.

The Guitings unravelled

The area around Guiting Power and Temple Guiting, on the Cotswold Hills between Cheltenham and Stow-on-the-Wold, was criss-crossed by the three main trials that used the North Cotswolds – the SUNBAC Colmore and NWLMC Gloucester Trials pre-war, and the Falcon Guy Fawkes Trial in the 1950s to 1970s. After discovering Kineton, my attention turned to try and sort out all the various ‘Guitings’. Some of the locations were easy to track-down but the final missing piece of the jigsaw, the location of Lower Guiting, has only been dropped into place in the last couple of days.

  • Guiting Wood(s) (also Woodmill). This was, I think, the first section to be used in this area and appeared on the route of the 1929 Colmore Trial immediately after Kineton, which was also new for 1929. It was used on the Colmore, but not every year, up until 1952 and maybe later. Falcon used the same section, under the name Woodmill, for their Guy Fawkes Trial between 1959 and 1970, latterly split into two sections. The section starts at OS GR SP 080266 and climbs north-east on an unclassified track. This location has been verified for the Colmore by a route map in Light Car for the 1933 Colmore, and for the Guy Fawkes by original route cards.
  • New Guiting. This was used for the 1932 and 1939 Colmore Trials as an alternative to Guiting Woods. The section starts at OS GR SP 080270 and climbs east on what is now a tarmaced road.. This location has been verified by a route map in Light Car for the 1932 Colmore.
  • Guiting Special Test (also Guiting Cross and Guiting Woods). No questions about this one. The crossroads in Guiting Woods at OS GR SP 084259 was a favourite location for special tests on all three trials that used this area..
  • Lower Guiting : This is referred to in “More Wheelspin” as being used for the 1946 Colmore Trial but I was stumped, for years, because there is nowhere on any map shown as “Lower” Guiting. Then, quite by chance, I found out that the village of Temple Guiting had also been known as Lower Guiting in the past. This confirmed, sort-of, my previous guess that the section might have been one of the three tracks that climb away from the ford at OS GR SP 091254. A recent visit to the VSCC Library unearthed, in The Motor for 30th April 1947, a (poor quality) photograph of cars waiting in the queue for Lower Guiting, and yesterday’s dog walk confirmed that the photograph had been taken on the track which descends from Temple Guiting to the ford. So that eliminated one of the three possibilities for the section. After reading reports of the 1946 and 1947 Colmores in both Autocar and The Motor, and an even more careful study of the photograph in The Motor, I’m now firmly (well, 95%) of the view that the section was the track climbing to the west and avoiding the ford, rather than the track which crosses the ford and then climbs to the north.

All the Guitings discovered? Well … hopefully … Yes.

PS. For the very nerdy or very knowledgeable reader, or anyone with access to a copy of The Motor for March 20th 1946, I’m pretty certain that the author of the Colmore Report has got Lower Guiting and Guiting Wood mixed-up.

Classic Sections – Kineton

 The Woodalls, Bertie (driving in the cap) and Victor (passengering in the fedora), in Victor’s Wolseley Ford special at the start of ‘New Kineton’ on the 1939 Colmore Trial. With many thanks to Simon Woodall for providing both the original photographs.

Although Juniper might be considered a very obvious candidate for the first in this series, the choice of the comparatively little-known section of Kineton for the second – first published, on my “Section Begins” website, in November 2001 – warrants rather more explanation. Sometimes the search for historic sections is quite easy. It’s often possible to compare a description in Wheelspin, a map in one of the PreWar copies of Light Car, and the current OS map, to come up with a pretty good idea of where a particular section might be. Then a visit, with old photographs for reference, will complete the research. But tracking-down Kineton was not that easy, by a long way!

Data – Kineton (Old)
County OS 100km GR Entry GR Start GR Exit
Gloucestershire SP 098267 098267 097265
ROW Status ID Number First used Last used View map?
‘Track’ None 1929? 1938? Click here
Data – Kineton (New)
County OS 100km GR Entry GR Start GR Exit
Gloucestershire SP 098267 098267 097266
ROW Status ID Number First used Last used View map?
Footpath FP22 1935 1952? Click here

Donald Cowbourne lists Kineton as used by SUNBAC for the ‘Colmore’ trials of 1929, 1930, and 1933 to 1939 inclusive, and for the NWLMC ‘Gloucester’ trials of 1933 to 1938 inclusive, but without differentiating between the two sections. I’m also fairly certain that SUNBAC had used it before 1929 but whether this was for the motorcycle Colmore ‘Cup’ rather than the car Colmore ‘Trophy’, I’m not sure (… and I’ve not yet checked Donald Cowbourne’s 1919 to 1929 volume). In Wheelspin May states that the 1935 ‘Colmore’ was the first use of New Kineton so it is a reasonable assumption that all PreWar events from then on used the ‘new’ section and it was definitely used for the 1946 and 1947 ‘Colmores’.

 The Woodalls further up the section on the 1939 Colmore Trial.
Apparently they have just failed the section after the pedal assembly ‘fell off’.

More history

Kevin Barnes provided me with four photographs from the 1935, 38, 49, and 50 ‘Colmores’ although, unfortunately, three of them do not reproduce well enough to be worth including here. However I do think the fourth one, of the Austin 7 (below), more than compensates with its wonderfully evocative image of 1930s trialling. Arthur Vowden sent me two photographs from David Kinsella’s book on the Allard but they’re not captioned and I’m not sufficiently sure that they are Kineton to include here, although one does look remarkably similar to the picture of the same car in May’s ‘More Wheelspin’.

Kevin also provided me with more information on the Post-War use of Kineton. In addition to the ’46 and ’47 ‘Colmores’, we’re sure, from contemporary events reports, that Kineton was used for the ‘Colmore’ in ’49, ’50 and ’51.

Discovering Kineton

The small Cotswold village of Kineton sits on a minor road linking the larger villages of Temple Guiting and Guiting Power and, apart from the excellent ‘Halfway House’ pub, it’s only notable features are the two (rather deep) fords on an even more minor road in the valley to the east of the village. None of the climbs out of these fords appear steep enough to have been ‘stoppers’, even allowing for a typical 1930s surface, and the 1:50,000 Landranger map reveals no other obvious ‘trials’ tracks – not even a bridleway or a footpath. So how come this little village gave the Pre War triallers not one but two sections?

Kineton is mentioned several times in both Austen May books, including a detailed description of the ‘new version’ of Kineton in Wheelspin and a 1947 photograph in More Wheelspin, but even these were of no real help in locating either of the sections. I’d even spotted a photograph, of a car very obviously ascending a trials hill, hanging on the wall in the bar of the ‘Halfway House’ but at the time no one seemed to know where it had been taken so I was none the wiser. Tracking-down the two Kineton sections was becoming a bit of an obsession but, without any new information, the search was put on hold.

Some years later, passing through the village, I noticed a new ‘Public Path’ sign pointing down a track that was not even marked on the Landranger map. It was far too narrow for a car, and I was tempted to drive on, but everything began to click into place. I drove down into the bottom of the valley, through one of the fords, then along the narrow lane leading to the other ford. There, sure enough, was the matching new ‘Public Path’ sign pointing up a very obvious track that I had always taken to be a private drive. But it still wasn’t steep enough to justify May’s comments as to “the very real difficulty of Kineton”. [Note: December 2021. This Public Path is ‘Old’ Kineton.]

Not long afterwards, I happened to mention my ongoing search to Simon Woodall. “I think I’ve got a picture of my father on Kineton” he said and just a couple of days later the two photographs featured on this page arrived. The first picture showed, quite clearly, both the ‘massive’ gate-posts referred to so specifically in Wheelspin and, in the background, the river which runs through the two fords. Surely it must now be possible to locate the sections? Once again I revisited the village, starting in the valley and walking up the ‘Public Path’. The track had been cleared since my previous visit and there, just as described by May, was the gate and the gate posts. But now there was also a brand-new ‘Public Footpath’ sign pointing through the gate and up the hill. Forcing my way up the steep and totally-overgrown track it was just about possible to make comparisons with the second of Simon’s photographs showing the two Woodalls on the upper part of the section. This footpath was, quite clearly, ‘New’ Kineton.

Photographs – Then and Now
Click for larger imageE.R.King’s supercharged Austin
1938 Colmore

“By daming the stream the mischievous schoolchildren deepen Kineton’s water splash.” Donald Cowbourne records 1938 as the only year that E.R.King entered the Colmore. Perhaps he was put off by the ‘doctoring’ of this section?
With thanks to Kevin Barnes for providing the photograph.
Click for larger imageThe same view today.
‘Old’ Kineton follows the wall around to the left. ‘New’ Kineton starts at the end of the wall, in the distance, on the right.
Photographed on 14 April 2002.
Click for larger imageThe Woodalls in Victor’s Wolseley Ford special
1939 Colmore Trial – ‘New Kineton’

With thanks to Simon Woodall for providing the photograph.
Click for larger imageThe same view today.
The wall to the left of the gate in the photograph is the wall referred to in the caption above.
Photographed on 14 April 2002.
Click for larger imageThe Woodalls on the section
With thanks to Simon Woodall for providing the photograph.
Click for larger imageThe same view today.
Photographed on 14 April 2002.
Click for larger image‘Old’ Kineton – the gradient steepens
But it doesn’t steepen very much and it’s not difficult to see why it was abandoned after 1934. I’m still researching the exit route as there are two options, both now built over.
Photgraphed on 14 April 2002.
Click for larger image‘New’ Kineton from the start
This is the view that the Woodalls would have had in the first of the two photographs above. As with most photographs of trials hills, the severity of the gradient is not apparent and New Kineton would still be a worthwhile obstacle today. Unfortunately, like Old Kineton, the exit has been restricted and built over.
Photographed on 14 April 2002.
Visiting Kineton

Neither section is marked on OS Landranger Map No. 163. Park somewhere near the ‘Halfway House’ on the main road through the village. Facing the front of the pub, turn right, walk along about 100 yards and turn left where signed downhill towards a ford. Go through the ford (there is a footbridge) and continue along the road parallel to the river turning left where there is a small grassed triangle. As the road bears round to the right, approaching the other ford, you’ll see the ‘Public Path’ clearly marked on the left. Go through the gate and over the river.

The ‘old’ (Pre 1935) section follows the public path as it bears round to the left and climbs between stone walls before a sharp right turn back to the road by the pub. The ‘new’ (Post 1935) section “branches off to the right immediately at the foot of the hill … entered at rather an awkward angle through a gate.” (May’s 1935 description is still accurate.) The now-signed, but overgrown, footpath climbs steeply although, just at the very top, it’s now diverted from its original route by new housing. At the top of both sections you’re back on the main road through the village within sight of the pub.

This Post was originally published on 30 December 2015 as a Page on this website and is re-posted here with minor updates and amendments.

Classic Sections – Juniper

From an illustration in ‘Wheelspin’ by C.A.N.May.

Before the War, Juniper was the most feared of all the hills in the Cotswolds and rates more entries (18) in the index of Austen May’s Wheelspin than any other section. It was also the one about which I’d received more “Do you know where it is?” requests than almost any other before I published the first version of this page on my “Section Begins” website in February 2001. The sheer volume of these requests was enough to justify making Juniper No.1 in this series.

County OS 100km GR Entry GR Start GR Exit
Gloucestershire SO 864079 864079 867079
ROW Status ID Number First used Last used View map?
Footpath Painswick FP15 1934? 1949? Click here
Pre War History

Donald Cowbourne lists Juniper as being used for every NWLMC ‘Gloucester’ Trial between 1934 and 1938, and for the SUNBAC ‘ Colmore’ Trials of 1937 and 1938. Roger Thomas lists it as being used for the MGCC ‘Abingdon’ Trials of 1934 (when it stopped the entire entry) and 1938.

Austen May doesn’t refer to Juniper in his very brief account of the 1934 ‘Abingdon’ (held on 21st April) although he did win the event. Nor does he refer to the 1934 ‘Gloucester’ and I assume that he didn’t enter. The Light Car in its ‘Pre Gloucester’ issue of 7th December 1934 merely records that Juniper is a new hill with a “nasty reputation” which was presumably based on it having stopped everyone in the earlier ‘Abingdon’. I don’t, unfortunately, have any records of the results.

In Wheelspin, May first refers to Juniper in connection with the 1935 ‘Gloucester’ when the organising North-West London Motor Club reserved the right to include a secret hill, not shown on the routecard, “if deemed advisable on the day”. May writes that many drivers assumed that the secret hill would be Juniper and the weekend before the trial saw quite a few ‘trying-out’ the hill – no ban on practising in the 1930s! It was included but, other than recording his own successful climb, May makes no further reference to the hill on that event.

Juniper next features in Wheelspin in connection with a most intriguing event, a match trial between the clubs responsible for organising the two main Cotswold Trials – the NWLMC (‘Gloucester’ Trial) and SUNBAC (‘Colmore’ Trial). This took place on the day after the 1936 Colmore Trial (therefore presumably 23rd February) with teams made up of eight members from each club. May in his N-Type MG Magnette, representing SUNBAC, was paired against Guy Warburton’s 30/98 Vauxhall (featured in the photograph below). May records that Juniper was ‘halved’, both cars spinning to a halt at exactly the same spot.

The 1936 ‘Gloucester’ was May’s first event in the famous ex-Toulmin MG ‘Cream Cracker’ JB 7521, when he was one of only four competitors to clean Juniper on his way to winning The Gloucester Cup. In the 1937 ‘Colmore’, only fifteen competitors cleaned Juniper, May not being one of them, but the section was much easier for the 1937 ‘Gloucester’ failing only thirty nine out of the seventy-odd competitors. It was back on form for the 1938 ‘Colmore’ with just fourteen competitors going clean but, by the time of the MGCC’s ‘Abingdon’ Trial, held on 14th May, a spell of fine weather had rendered Juniper “almost innocuous”. May, having sold JB 7521, was a spectator for the 1938 ‘Gloucester’ when Juniper again figured in the Route Card. Dig out your copy of Wheelspin and read his account, in the chapter entitled Farewell to JB 7521, of taking cine film of the competitors.

What was it like to drive? May describes the hill in his account of the 1936 NWLMC/SUNBAC match trial referred to above and I’ll let him speak for himself:

“Just when I thought I had got away with it, the Magnette spun hectically to a standstill almost in a split second. Breathlessly I watched Warburton come tearing up through the trees, slewing from side to side. The old Vauxhall slid to a standstill, wheels churning furiously, exactly on the same spot as had the Magnette.”

From an illustration in ‘Wheelspin’ by C.A.N.May.

Post War History

May refers to Juniper just twice in his Post-War book More Wheelspin. For the 1946 ‘Gloucester’ Trial, there were only four hills, including Juniper, and each was attempted twice. May describes Juniper as ‘impossible’ the first time around and the organisers moved the ‘section ends’ boards half-way down the hill for the second run allowing just nine competitors to register a ‘clean’.

His next reference to Juniper is on the Cheltenham Motor Club’s ‘Cheltenham’ Trial run on 22nd November 1947. Only three went clear but, much more interesting, is May’s observation that the section was sub-divided and the scores for each section were shown in the results in a similar way to the ‘A’ board system now used by the MCC for Wooston and Simms. May records that twenty three competitors failed in the second part of the section after clearing the first part and only the successful trio cleared the second and third parts. From the way it is described, this was clearly a highly unusual practice at the time and shows just how severe Juniper was considered – was this one of the very first examples of a section being sub-divided?

Just one week after the Cheltenham Trial, the basic petrol ration was withdrawn and trials effectively ceased (May notes an ‘obituary to trials’ in the November 26th issue of The Motor). May does not refer to the 1947 ‘Gloucester’, traditionally run on the first weekend in December, so I can only assume that this event was one of the first trials affected by the ‘basic ban’. We do know, thanks to the wonderful video from Peter Seabrook-Harris, that Juniper was used for the 1948 Gloucester Trial but I have no record of its use after this event.

A section called “Wicked Juniper”, in the same woods but to the south-west of the classic Juniper section, has featured on the route of Stroud & District Motor Club’s Cotswold Clouds Trial since 2005.

Discovering Juniper

When I first published this page in February 2001 I was pretty confident that I’d found the true location of Juniper although I did have a few nagging doubts. The most obvious doubt centred around the track in the background of the Donald Barnes photograph, above, which I thought must be the Old Painswick Road although the lie of the land wasn’t quite right. In late 2003 I discovered that others were having doubts as well and Colin Butchers had been doing his own research based on PreWar photographs of MGs on the hill, and the wonderful short video clip of the 1948 Gloucester Trial which included several seconds-worth of film of cars on Juniper.

The result was that a group of us met up on a beautiful sunny day in late April 2004 to track down the location of a number of Cotswold hills, including Juniper. Colin was convinced that the Juniper section deviated to the right off the line of the footpath, about 100yds above the start line, and went more-or-less straight up the hillside following the line of a stone wall (You can see spectators sitting on this wall right on the extreme left-hand side of the Donald Barnes photograph). I’d obviously missed this deviation when visiting the area in muddy February but it seemed blindingly obvious when we arrived in sun-dappled April. There was a clear line up through the trees, although without any sign of a change in surface from the ‘bottomless’ clayey mud and leaf mould which is typical of so many Cotswold beech woods. 30 or so yards up the clearing we turned around, looked back down, and there was the footpath drifting away to the right EXACTLY like the Donald Barnes photograph. There was absolutely no doubt that we were now on the correct line. See photographs below.

But the questions didn’t end there – “How far up did the section go?”. Looking up through the trees the section seemed a formidable obstacle, even to a modern trials car. Colin was sure that he could remember reading some reference to a gate but hadn’t managed to find one on his previous visit. But seven pairs of eyes were obviously better than one as we quickly spotted a hinge pin embedded into a substantial piece of timber that could have been a gatepost, then the rotted remains of the gate itself, and finally a very rusted hinge. At that point we were convinced that the section must have ended as the competitors forked-right off the main hill and through the gate onto a comparatively level track – looking up, the hill just seemed to go on for ever.

Bryan Ditchman then got out his precious album of photographs belonging to Dickie Green – famous PreWar driver of Frazer-Nash and MG cars, and a member of the ‘Musketeers’ MG works team. We had at least one picture in a very similar location to the Donald Barnes photograph – location now confirmed of course – but another was much more interesting (See below). We’d already checked the car and event with ‘Cowbourne’, and confirmed that Juniper WAS included, so it seemed pretty likely that the caption was correct – but where had the photograph been taken? A pair of eagle eyes spotted what looked like a set of timber boards marking the left-hand side of the section which, at this point, was on a gentle left-hand bend and a gentle left-hand bend could only mean that the section carried on up the hill rather than forking-right through the gate. So on up the main hill we plodded and eventually arrived at a substantial ‘bombhole’ on the left-hand side, quite deep enough to warrant protection to stop competitors sliding off into the undergrowth – and the lie of the land fitted the photograph perfectly. See photographs below.(Postscript: The reference to the gate is on P159 of Wheelspin where May states “… Dickie Green … turning in the gateway above the fork, after a gallant but unavailing effort.” This confirms that the section did carry on above the gateway as we had decided during our visit.)

At this point we could see that we were close to the top of the climb ‘proper’ so, conscious of time moving-on and with a visit to Leckhampton deemed an essential end to the day, we decided not to continue on to confirm the exact exit route – that would have to wait for another day. Walking back down what we were now pretty confident was the true line of section, Juniper looked absolutely awesome and truly deserving of its mythic status among PreWar trials hills. I can think of few comparable ‘modern’ sections, except possibly some of those used for Stroud’s Ebworth Trial (hardly surprising as it’s held in a beech wood only a couple of miles up the road), but none of them remotely approach the length of Juniper which must be well over a quarter of a mile long from the start line on the Old Painswick Road. Remember that we’re not talking about a ‘made’ woodland track, this is just a particularly wide clearing up through the trees on mud and leafmould so it’s hardly surprising that Juniper became virtually unclimbable, except during the driest of summer trials, when ‘knobblies’ were banned.

Photographs – Then and Now
Click for larger imageDonald Barnes (Singer)
1937 Colmore Trophy Trial

Conquering Juniper in the pouring rain.
From an illustration in ‘Wheelspin’ by C.A.N.May.
Click for larger imageThe same view today
Photographed on 26 April 2004.
Click for larger image Dickie Green (MG PB)
1936 or 1937 Gloucester Trial

Climbing Juniper passengered by Norman Lone. (1936 is written on the back of the original photograph but research in ‘Wheelspin’ and ‘Cowbourne’ favours 1937.)
From the Dickie Green album courtesy of Bryan Ditchman and John Reid.
Click for larger imageThe same view today
Photographed on 26 April 2004.
Visiting Juniper

The section is best approached from the B4070 Stroud to Birdlip road at Bulls Cross. Follow the signs for Wick Street until you reach a crossroads, at OS GR 865084, with a stony track on the left. Park here as this is the nearest you’ll get to the start of the section without inconveniencing the locals. Walk on along the road towards Wick Street and Stroud and the start of the section is on the left at the top of a slight rise, just before a cottage, and is clearly marked with a Public Footpath sign.

As you walk up the footpath you’ll see the track branching-off to the right following the line of the stone wall but, as this takes you off the public right-of-way, I cannot encourage you to repeat our illicit exploration. If you carry on up the footpath you’ll eventually join a stony track. Turn left and this will bring you back to your car.

This Post was originally published on 19 December 2015 as a Page on this website and is re-posted here with minor amendments.

Where are they? – #5

Cotswold Clouds sections

Has anyone got any idea where these three “used once only” sections are?

Wellie Wanted – Used for the 1976 Clouds only.
Hayhedge (Special Test) – Used for the 1983 Clouds only.
Lutheridge – Used for the 1983 Clouds only.

Please contact me by email or via Facebook.

Update: 28 December 2021.
I have now confirmed the locations of Hayhedge and Lutheridge, but would still like to track-down Wellie Wanted.


Ashmeads ‘discovered’

1938 Abingdon route through Ashmeads

A section of the route of the 1938 Abingdon trial – Ashmeads is shown in blue.

Ashmeads is one of those Cotswold hills that has been on my ‘to be discovered’ list for a very long time. It was used for the MGCC Abingdon to Abingdon Trial in 1937 and 1938, and a facsimile of the 1938 Route Card is included on pages 80 and 81 of Roger Thomas’s M.G. Trials Cars. There’s an Ashmeads House on the road along the bottom of the Chalford Valley, so why the difficulty in locating the actual section?

The route instruction prior to the section reads “Keep S O through village [Chalford] for 1 1/2 m. where sharp L up:… Ashmeads”. The route card after the section refers to passing a Post Office and Oakridge Lynch has a Post Office, whereas Frances Lynch does not. A quick study of the OS map (see above) reveals three possible routes: (#1) up the ‘yellow’ road to Oakridge Lynch; (#2) up the obvious footpath (shown with magenta diamonds) from the valley road to Oakridge Lynch; (#3) up one of the footpaths from the valley road to France Lynch. But, whichever way I tried to follow the route on the map, I just couldn’t make it ‘work’. Even backtracking the route from Bisley (off the map to the top), it wasn’t clear which Lynch the route passed-through.

I fairly quickly discounted option #1 because I would have expected the route instruction to be “L at T”. I’d also walked option #2 and, although the footpath certainly looks like a possible trials section, I still couldn’t make the route after the section ‘work’. The breakthrough came when it occurred to me to check if France Lynch had had a Post Office in the past, and Google quickly turned-up The Old Post Office (now an AirBnB rental). But, even knowing where the Post Office had been, I still couldn’t follow the route on the map.

So, yesterday afternoon, I set off to check-out option #3. There is a very obvious track that looks even more like an old trials section than the footpath to Oakridge (option #2) and, although the track forks a short distance after the start, I’m pretty certain that the right fork is the old route (the left fork is steeper but dead-ends at a field). I then followed the route card out of the top of the section, through the village, took a couple of wrong turns (those who know the villages of the Chalford Valley will know that they’re a maze of tiny roads), and eventually I found The Old Post Office.

But the Route Card still didn’t read correctly until I realised that, although I’d approached The Old Post Office from the East,  the trial route must have approached from the West. After that ‘Eureka Moment’, everything fell into place and the route shown in red on the map above follows the route card perfectly (each red circle represents a route instruction). But why did the trial follow such a convoluted route on some very narrow roads through France Lynch when the current map shows a much more direct route? Surely the road priorities can’t have changed that much in the last 80 years, or maybe they have?

[Locals might suggest that the long deviation was to allow the competitors to visit the wonderful Kings Head pub, but it’s not mentioned on the Route Card.]

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