PR Whitaker

Member Stories


The Start Area

In the year 2001 the White Rose trial was not run due to the foot and mouth epidemic running throughout the country, and the Clerk of Course for the past thirty odd years decided to stand down and let some new blood take over the reins.
The first step taken was to transfer the start area up to the present site at Kidhow Gate, some 1700 feet above sea level. This solved the problem of having to transfer petrol from the previous start area of Ribblehead. There wouldn’t be a problem if manufacturers went back to fitting 3 gallon tanks, although some kind soul has just pointed out that the weight of the fuel and the tank would be heavier than the modern day bikes.
In the over 50 years the trial has been running there have only been three starting venues. If you look to the south from Kidhow Gate, at the other side of the range of hills in the background lies the hamlet of Foxup, the original start for the trial in 1961. This was won by Bill Wilkinson, who nowadays is content with running his garage at Kettlewell. The following year the trial was won by the late David Clegg, who unfortunately lost his life a few years later in a road accident just as he was making his name on the national scene in trials, scrambles and the International 6 day event. In that very first year the trial was run, the entry of over 120 were faced with atrocious weather, and only about 20 riders finished the event in the time allowance. Marshals were still pulling riders out of the horrendous bogs on Birkwith Moor and Cosh Inside at 9o/clock at night. One unfortunate soul had to abandon his bike, walk to the nearest farm on Old Ings moor, whereupon he was put up for the night, his bike retrieved the following morning, and then transported back to his home in Leeds.
The course at that time was 70 miles in length, came over Cosh and Birkwith moors, along what is now part of the Pennine Way to Ribblehead, over the Settle and Carlisle tunnel and Bleamire moor to Dent, along the Widdale track and Snaizeholme which are still used today, to the present start here at Kidhow Gate, down the Dodd fell track (past Easy Street) to the sections which are still in use at Troutbeck, back up the road to Kidhow Gate, and then down the Cam Fell track and retraced the course over Birkwith and Cosh.
Foxup which is still in use for the Stan Pitts trial was the headquarters for the next few years until the Pennine Way walk came into being in 1964 or 65 and the event was transferred to the Station Inn, Ribblehead, which remained the headquarters for the trial until 2000.
One advantage of Ribblehead was the fact that all the personnel for the trial were booked in for the weekend under one roof. One disadvantage for the Clerk of Course was that generally most of the personnel were plastered, and one assumes that after 30 years, enough is enough.
The major problem now facing the club with the transfer to Ribblehead was that over 50 per cent of the course had been lost. The Clerk of the Course in those early days the late Reg Roberts had been contemplating the use of Dodd Fell, which today features the sections of Cascades, Legless, Noc Nee etc. but the stream running from the bottom of Duerly had two massive waterfalls which were totally impossible to climb with bikes of that era (it was a good bike that had a ground clearance of 6 1/4in). That obstacle was overcome when the farmer at Duerly offered to pull a wall down before the trial to enable the competitors to get onto the moor, and rebuild it after the event. The next obstacle was how to find a way over this virgin moor, which had no paths and no walls to follow and at times could be completely covered in mist. The solution was to head straight for the trig point, great! The only thing was that the trig point happened to be situated slap in the middle of colossal peat hags and bogs which could be almost bottomless. The new format of the trial now led to a course that featured a leg out, a circuit of Dodd Fell, and the return of the leg out. Estimated times for covering this route with a large entry highlighted the possibility of two way traffic on the leg out and the leg back and so the decision was made to complete two laps of the Dodd Fell circuit to eliminate this occurring.
On the first year of the trial that this format was adopted, the Clerk of Course was positioned at the trig point (in fact he was hiding behind it) observing the mayhem of machines and riders attempting the crossing of those peat hags and bogs. Peter Fletcher the Royal Enfield works rider managed to collar the C of C, didn’t throttle him, but by friendly persuasion pointed out that one lap of the circuit would suffice. The C of C jumped on his machine (a Royal Enfield works replica) with the intention of stopping the first man from starting his second lap. Fate played a fatal hand; the bike promptly sank in the mire up to its tank. The C of C had to hoof it up to the top of the moor on foot only to find the first rider a Mr Maurice Rispin, flying by before he could stop him. Now for those of you who may not know Maurice, (at the time riding a Greeves that had a pair of BSA forks grafted on instead of the usual leading links) was one of the flyers. Generally the flyers can be seen riding flat out, doing handstands, creating valve bounce (not on a two stroke Ed), but the number one fly in the ointment on this particular occasion happened to be one of those riders who did not look particularly quick but nonetheless had finished the Scott trial in time on twelve or thirteen occasions consecutively, so it was obvious he could go a bit. The result was that all competitors were subjected to two laps of torture. The moral of this story is to advise any Clerk of the Course to disappear out of sight at any sign of trouble.
And so to the present. Keep the fingers crossed for good weather, because if it a`int Kidhow Gate is bloody ‘orrible`.
In the early days of the 60‘s the ACU persuaded the Army to run a three day event sometime in June or July, starting from Catterick, to aid selection for the British team in the International 6 days trial. One of the check points was here at Kidhow Gate. Riders in the 500 and 650 classes were at the front of the field and included the likes of Sammy Miller, John Giles, Vic Eastwood, Ray Sayer, Triss and Bryan Sharp, Fritz Selling, the Dutch moto cross champion and a host of others. The majority had a few minutes in time to spare at this check point. Believe it or not it started to sleet, and that in the height of our summer which prompted the remark from Johnny Giles, in his southern twang, “F*****g hell it’s snowin. I‘d hate to fink wot it’s like in winta”

Presented by (as one of our yoof’s kindly put it) one of the West Leeds Dinosaur’s.

3rd Sept 2003