ON THE UP…AND UP! Taking on the Red Marley challenge

Ian Kerr reports from a historic hill climb in Worcestershire that’s been going great guns since it was revived 17 years ago.

Since the beginning of this century, the place for all classic bike enthusiasts to be on Easter Monday has been the Red Marley Hill Climb in Worcestershire. Here can be seen an eclectic mix of motorcycles and riders pitting themselves against the terrain as they try and conquer a grassy hill.

It’s neck and neck as two riders get to grips with the gradient.

It might not sound that exciting, but believe me it is all action for just over 20 seconds and not everybody makes it, although everyone is cheered on as they struggle to reach the summit.

Way back in the pioneering days of motorcycle sport hill climbs, or ‘American freak hill climbs’ to give them their proper title, they became very popular with competitors and spectators alike.

The ‘Red Marley’ in Worcestershire was definitely one of these early events in the 1920s, along with others such as one in the south at Fingle Bridge (now a regular MCC hill) run by The West of England Club and up in Yorkshire at Post Hill, Pudsey, run by the West Leeds Club.

Len Vale-Onslow, the famed motorcycle competitor, dealer and manufacturer, was responsible for founding the Red Marley Hill Climb quite by chance some years later. The story goes that he wrote a sign on a lorry for a gentleman farmer, one Captain Alan Price, and when he declined money for the job,
Price invited him over to his farm on a Sunday after a ‘shoot’ to pay him in kind.

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