16th April 2014
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Prescott Bike Festival 2014
The Prescott Festival and hill climb features classic bikes of all ages being ridden by keen riders of all ages. Richard Jones reports...
It's an overcast and windy Sunday morning in early April with a forecast of rain and there are three options:-
1. Stay in bed but knowing that guilt would eventually triumph and drive me to the gym
The fact that this article appears indicates Option 1 was rejected - photographs of me in the gym would be distressing to those of a weak disposition. Option 2 had its merits but although I enjoy several hours of reasoned debate as much as the next man I preferred to see bikes in action rather than talking about them. So that left the Prescott Bike Festival which was being held to support the Severn Freewheelers (severnfreewheelers.org.uk), a charitable organisation which provides a free, out of hours service delivering blood, human tissue and other essential medical items between NHS facilities in Hereford and Worcester, Gloucestershire and North Wiltshire. All money raised at the event would be donated to this worthy cause and so I could feel good about myself without going to the gym. Tessie the Triumph was loaded up with the essentials - a camera and Mrs Jones' sandwiches - and off we went.
There cannot be many more attractive venues than the Prescott Hill Climb, set as it is on the side of the Cotswold escarpment with views for miles over the Gloucestershire countryside to the Vale of Evesham and the Malvern Hills in the distance. Throughout the afternoon a plume of steam could also be seen on those occasions when the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway (gwsr.com) ran trains from Toddington to the Cheltenham Race Course, a round trip of about 25 miles. All in all a most pleasant place to be.
Tessie was parked up on a hardstanding of the farm that adjoins the venue along with a large number of other bikes and cars and I entered the home of not only the Prescott Hill Climb but also the Bugatti Owners Club. The Club purchased the Prescott estate in 1937 and commenced converting the muddy, rutted drive into a speed hill climb ready for the opening rally in April 1938 when the current Club President, Earl Howe, opened proceedings by driving his type 57 Bugatti up the Hill. On this particular Sunday in 2014 the grounds had much to offer as well as the main event - sponsors included insurers Bikesure and Carole Nash and there were also many exhibitors.
These included the Norton Owners Club, where I spotted this handsome 1939 Model 30 Inter on display along with some other rather special machinery, as well as an exhibition of some Douglas classics.
Before the main event of the afternoon - bikes, three-wheelers and cars driving up the hill - the spectators were treated to a display of stunt riding by Dave Coates who made doing amazing things on machinery produced by Yamaha look easy (please do not try this at home). He also left a great deal of rubber on the hill from various escapades which must have pleased one of his sponsors, Messrs Pirelli.
The range of machinery making the ascent was eclectic to say the least; as well as more modern bikes there were also a fair number of older machines including this Cotton Blackburne ridden by Chris Sawyer. Regrettably for the riders and drivers the weather took a turn for the worse shortly after the hill climbing started. A downpour it was not, rather more what the Scots call a 'dreich', but it was enough to slow down the pace for most of the entrants. This, however, was fortunate for me - it made taking photographs far easier than may normally have been the case.
There were a number of Velocettes making the climb but the one that caught my eye and camera particularly was this 1955 Velocette LE MKII ridden bravely through the drizzle by Jeffrey Barringer. A nicely patinated machine.
This modified BSA A65 Thunderbolt was said to date from 2008 - perhaps this being the date that it had been restored? Whatever, it proceeded up the hill in fine style piloted by Darren Carter.
Where more than two or three classic bikes are gathered together it is decreed that there must be a Gold Star; this 1967 example was being ridden by Chris Price.
Older motorcycles weren't only limited to British entrants; Haydn Rees rode his 1989 MZ ETZ250 up the slope with panache and clearly was not going to leave his luggage back at the start line.
The Japanese were also represented and this 1980 Honda CB250RS was ridden by Roy Venard.
I have struggled to find any reference to 'Famos' in my reference book 'Unknown Motorcycles - A Blagger's Guide' but this AR50 is what is being ridden hard by Mr Alan Leeson. Any ideas?
Riders as well as machines differed in size and also age; this is Master Blake Ansell riding a GRC BZM Mini Moto. It was heartening to see a new generation of riders taking part in this event and Blake got every bit of available power out of his engine's 40cc as he headed up the slopes.
The other end of the generation continuum was also represented as were three-wheelers; I was unable to discover the name of the gentleman driving this Matchless engined Morgan but did he have style.
Triking three wheelers were also well represented including this 1985 example driven by RealClassic's very own Jacqueline Bickerstaff, aka PUB.
Being as Prescott is the home of Bugatti then it didn't seem unreasonable that a couple took part in the event. Apparently the passenger in this one was a celebrity of some sort; the tannoy was not very distinct where I stood but it sounded like Richard Hamster. Again, any ideas?
I have to say I was very impressed by the riders and drivers who took part - I would not have wanted to take Tessie up the Prescott Hill Climb when the weather was good let alone on a wet and slippery track. There courage is to be applauded as is the cause for which they were raising money. A most enjoyable day and certainly worlds better than the gym (although I suppose I will have to go tomorrow - sigh!)
More photos of classic bikes and vintage vehicles from Richard's travels: flickr.com/.../cerrig_photography.
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