With a date change from its usual month of March to November, the weather that would have affected the event in spring came back to haunt the Pathfinders and Derby Motor Club with its autumnal mist and rain. Everyone, including myself, was looking forward to a clash between the previous year’s winner Sammy Miller on the Bultaco and local rider Mick Andrews on the development Ossa. As it happened, both riders would be missing from the event. In the case of Miller, he had suffered broken ribs in a crash with a gate earlier in the month at the Perce Simon Trial, and after competing in the British Experts, he had to take an enforced rest to allow to them to heal. Andrews was based in Barcelona in Spain, where he had spent the previous six months working at the Ossa factory as they continued the development of their new off-road range of machines. With ongoing work he would remain at the factory until December, forcing him to miss this event.
It was one of my earliest memories of a national trial, which the Hulme family had looked forward to for weeks. My father Ron had been friends with Mick Andrews’ father Tom for a few years, and we would meet him at the trial, where he would apologise to us that his son would not be riding. The trial started as it always had done, on Saturday on the Buxtonto-Ashbourne road from the Bull I’th’ Thorn Inn public house where we made the trip for a programme before the action started in our trusty green Austin Mini estate car, registration number OUT 835D; it’s strange what you remember from your boyhood years!
Fog and rain
With more than 30 hazards to negotiate in a time limit of four-and-a-half hours the entry of more than 140 solo riders and a small gathering of sidecars assembled for the start of this trade supported event. The road ride to the first group of hazards at Churnet would be uncomfortable, to say the least, as the heavens opened up and the rain came down to soak the riders.
With its natural rivers and steep climbs, the group of hazards proved very difficult, and early signs of a new winner was on the cards as Montesa rider Lawrence Telling on the new Cota 247 model cleaned all in front of him. Greeves team rider Derek Adsett also went clean, as did Gaunt Suzuki riders Terry Wright and machine builder Peter Gaunt. Other clean rides through this group would come from Belle Vue Aces speedway rider Ken Eyre, and Dick Hearn on the Triumph Tiger Cub.
The mud at Heathfield, the next hazards, had become deep and difficult, with the only clean ride coming from Greeves rider Malcolm Rathmell. His fast, aggressive approach gave him the only clean ride making him a potential winner in the early stages of the event.
Next, it was to the crowd-lined rocky gulley at Hollinsclough. This long, rock-strewn hazard takes no prisoners, and with the rain making it even worse it turned into a skating rink. Rider after rider were stopped in their tracks before a full-on wide open throttle attempt from the younger of the two Wilkinson brothers, Mick, stayed feet-up to claim the only clean ride, which was greeted by a good round of applause from the patient but very wet spectators which included my good self!
The clock’s ticking
As any trials rider will tell you when the mist comes down the route marking becomes harder to follow. With very poor visibility due to the fog and rain, the four-and-a-half-hour time limit was looking more and more difficult to adhere to.
Booth Farm and its limestone outcrop was in a very cruel mood and took marks from the entire entry before they made the ride to Cheeks Hill at the side of the Buxton-to-Leek road. A very traditional hazard with a long sporting history of use in motorcycle trials, this hazard witnessed the water level rise as the rain continued to fall.
Clean rides were hard fought for before the trial moved to the iconic Hawk’s Nest. The red gritstone turned to provide a very slippery paste on all the rocks, and no end of riders recorded five after five pushing their scores higher and higher. At this late stage, the victory had moved towards two riders, eventual winner Lawrence Telling and Greeves-mounted Gordon Farley.
It was staying on course up Cheeks Hill where Telling had taken the advantage away from Farley, which would prove crucial in the final result. Knowing they needed to be riding at their very best only John Hemingway, Derek Adsett, Farley and Steve Wilson on the Triumph-powered Elstar special, along with Telling and Dennis Jones, recorded clean rides.
Manor Steps, with its red iron-ore coloured river, had a new hazard away from the water in the woods, and these proved very testing. After the Sprite-mounted riders of Hemingway and Chris Leighfield had cleaned them Dennis Jones on the Suzuki made his push for victory with also a clear ride.
As the riders headed to the final group at Ramshaw Rocks it was obvious so many would be late on time and incur penalties. It had been a very testing day on the Derbyshire, East Midlands and Staffordshire borders for all the entry.
Lawrence Telling (250 Montesa): Hawk’s Nest: Known as ‘Sparkie’, he was riding one of the new 250 Montesa Cota 247 models. Introduced earlier in the year this was one of the very first production trials machines from the Spanish manufacturer that were supplied in kit form. Classed as a 1969 model it was priced at £285 and supplied in the UK from the official importers Montala Motors.
Gordon Farley (250 Greeves): Cheeks Hill: You can almost feel the wet and cold here as he attacks Cheeks Hill. Riding the ageing Villiers engined Greeves it’s ironic that the factory’s personnel were at their Puch factory in Austria looking for an alternative engine supplier for a new trials model the same weekend as the trial. Farley had already signed a letter of intent to ride for Montesa in 1969.
Peter Gaunt (128 Suzuki): Cheeks: Riding the machine he created and trying to keep the cigarette in his mouth is ‘Geke’ as he was known by his good friend Barry Robinson. As you can see the water is gushing down Cheeks Hill!
Ken Eyre (125 Sprite): Cheeks Hill: We apologise for the picture quality. A prominent member of the famous Belle Vue Aces speedway team, Ken occasionally joined his brother Norman in local trials.
Mick Wilkinson (250 Greeves): Hollinsclough: The crowd moves out to watch this single feet-up ride of the long rocky hazard from the entire entry; yours truly, John Hulme, was in the crowd to witness it!
Dave Thorpe (250 Ossa): Hawk’s Nest: Check out the body lean as ‘Thorpey’ strives to keep the Ossa on line using the full effect of his technique.
Eric Adcock (250 DOT): Hollinsclough: Keeping the DOT flag flying, Eric prepares to abandon ship on the slippery rocks made worse by the falling rain.
Jeff Smith (250 BSA): Hollinsclough: 500cc World Motocross Champion, Scottish Six Days Trial winner, Scott Trial winner, British Trials Champion; what more can you say about the great ‘Smithy’? Such a brilliant ambassador for the once mighty BSA, with whom he had all his success.
Malcolm Davis (250 AJS): Cheeks Hill: Much better known for his motocross success, on this occasion the younger of the two brothers beat Tony.
Norman Eyre (125 Sprite): Cheeks Hill: This hazard, as you can see here, is a little steeper than many pictures show. It has been a major part of Derbyshire-based trials for as long as most people can remember. No doubt it tested the capabilities of the little 125cc Sachs engined Sprite to its limit. Water cooling was not needed!
Tony Davis (250 AJS): Cheeks Hill: This is the bottom part of the hazard and the machine is the new 250cc Villiers engined AJS. Priced in kit form at £228 this was a last chance for the ailing motorcycle manufacturer to keep the Spanish machines at bay; unfortunately it failed miserably.
Ray Sayer (Triumph): Hollinsclough: This picture typifies the late 60s trials scene. As Ray ‘paddles’ up the hazard the crowd follows his every move. Despite Sammy Miller and Mick Andrews missing from the entry and the inclement weather the crowds still turned out.
Alan Morewood (500 Ariel): With Phil Granby in the ‘chair’ the pairing took a good win in the tough conditions.
Harvey Lloyd (250 Bultaco): Hollinsclough: As Harvey takes a steadying ‘dab’ on the right you will see ‘Nick’s Pics’ man Nick Nicholls. His fantastic collection of motorcycle pictures can be found in the Mortons Archive: www. mortonsarchive.com