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Classical Gas is an independent web site and is not affiliated to any of the clubs or organisers of the events featured. Words and Pictures by Michael unless attributed otherwise. Michael is a proud member of the MCC, ACTC, Dellow Register and Falcon amongst others, but does not represent their views nor the views of any other organisers or clubs.
January 2003 - Part 2

The History of The March Hare Trial

by Mike Hayward

0301ICW.jpg (10487 bytes)

1959 March Hare Trial - Sapsed's Stopper - The final section on which everything appeared to depend for the results is tackled determinedly by I. C. Wilson (Wilson-Ford)

Unlike Falcon’s Guy Fawkes, which was based in The Cotswolds, its March Hare was a local Trial, using hills in the Herts, Beds and Bucks area. The first running of the March Hare was in 1958. But a trial was first held in June 1956 and again in 1957 when it was known as the Midsummer Trial. The trouble with running a Trial in midsummer is that you can't see the tracks for the brambles growing along side, which means a lot of hard work clearing the tracks before you can run the event. So in 1958 the date was moved to March and given the name "The March Hare". Tucker (H. W. Tucker-Peake - The driving Force behind Falcon and the MCC for so many years) was Clerk-of-the-Course and arranged two starts, one in Royston, the other in Hatfield. The finish was at the club's headquarters, "The Chequers" in Woolmer Green. The main award, the appropriately named "Mad Hatter", for Best Performance went to, N. Tyler, Best Category 1: F.   Freeman, Category 2: A.  Hay, Category 3: K.  Hobbs. There was one serious incident that was reported on the 1958 March Hare when some competitors cars blocked the road at Hill House and a local resident was upset when the navigator of one car refused to move it.

As with the Guy Fawkes the March Hare seemed to change every year. In 1959 the Trial started from Lisles Garage in Woolmer Green and finished at the Kings Arms, Berkhamsted. Telegraph Hill was introduced to the route. This was, and indeed still is, a very steep hill on The Icknield Way Roman Road between Lilley and Pegsdon. It must have been one of the toughest hills in the trial. Today it's part of a nature reserve. Another hill that must have been used about that time was Jeremiah's Nob (also known as Jeremiah's Hump) a chalk track in Barton-le-Clay which was quite easy in the dry but quite impossible in the wet. Another hill that was included was a hill Tucker called "Harlington" because it was at Harlington! Today it has a nice slab of concrete half way up which would make a good place for a restart. Back in 1959, the hill was just a nice muddy climb. It's reported that "There was a smaller entry than the previous year but early morning rain did improve some sections". The Mad Hatter award again went to N. Tyler.

There was another new start, Jacks Hill Cafe, in 1963. Jacks Hill is on the old A1 north of Stevenage. This was a traditional "Greasy Spoon" Transport cafe. Over the years, the building has played a big part in Falcon's history. The Start of the March Hare in 1963, it later became a Night Club and bar called "The Silver Hall" and not only hosted Falcon’s annual dinners for a few years but became the club's headquarters as well. Today it is still a part of the clubs history. Under the name of "The Big Pub" it's the start and finish venue of the March Hare.

In 1964 The March Hare started in Hemel Hempstead, and finished in Berkhamsted. Starting in Berkhamsted meant that the route must have used "Tunnel Hill" in Nettleden and Hill Farm near Cholesbury. It is possible that the route also included "The Crong" near Dancers End.

In 1965 the 59 competitors in the March Hare Trial started from Stevenage to follow a 30 mile course to finish at the Roebuck Hotel. Seven sections were at Latchford Farm, and despite the good weather and apparent easiness of the course, only slightly more than a third of the entry were clean.

The March Hare of 1966 had the tea stop dropped from the route to avoid route troubles. What sort of troubles isn't reported. The start was at Zenith Motors Stevenage with a route 15 miles long and finishing at Latchford Farm near Puckeridge.

You will have noticed that The March Hare’s road mileage was becoming shorter and the venues less. The trend continued in 1967. The first hill may have been called Bury Lane as its the continuation of a lane of the same name that runs from north of Datchworth to Watton Road, which links Knebworth to Bragbury End. This is now a Bridleway/Footpath. After Bury Lane, the route then included Leatherfield Common followed by Kings Hill. Leatherfield Common is south of Bennington and just north of Blue Hill and is a tree lined mud covered track between two fields. Kings Hill is a little further west, between Haultwick and Levens Green, and passes through a Ford before a short climb on a mud covered stony track. A road section followed this, to Latchford Farm, Colliers End, where the remaining sections were held.

By 1968 the trial had become a single venue event, which that year was held at Ringshall Farm near Hemel Hempstead. Despite the fact that only a single venue was used, the trial was still run under Classic rules. Class winners were, P. Marr, B. Walsh, P. Kerridge, F. Jackson, D. Piper, P. LeCouteur. Special Award to C. Morre1l, Best Lady Miss Ann Robbins. Other Falcon award winners were H. Frost, R. Robbins (both lst), M. Dockray, M. Murray, B. Butler. E. Walsh, Mrs. M. Knight (all won 2nd class awards)

The March Hare Trial was held at Ringshall Farm again in 1969. Class Winners that year were Class 1 P. G. Kerridge, Class 3 C. N. Morrell, Class 5 J. Ventur.

In 1970, the March Hare was held on the 2nd November as, the Guy Fawkes was held in March (very confusing). The venue was Tring Park, a picturesque venue on the outskirts of Tring, which became very popular with competitors. The 1971 event also took place in Tring Park but it had returned to a date in March.

It was touch and go as to whether the 1972 March Hare would take place as there was snow on the ground. Tucker took the decision to let the event run. It was a brave decision but in the end the weather got worse and the event had to be abandoned with one and a half inches of snow on the ground. Enough hills were run however to get a result:- Best Falcon, P. Le Couteur, Venus Cup, M. Furse, 1st Class Awards, D. Greenslade, C. Morrell, W. Hone, J. Tucker-Peake, D. Ovey, A. Davies.

The following year the conditions were completely different, Very dry. Despite Tuckers best efforts to stop the competitors, there were still seven clean sheets from the entry of sixty six. The result was decided on a tie deciding test with John Tucker-Peake the eventual winner in his 1600 cc Ford Pop. Laurie Knight took the award for best invited club in his 1500 cc Ford Escort fitted with a down-draught SU carburettor. Other class winners were Ian Blackburn. (Singer Le Mans). M. Clarke. (VW), J. Bonnett. (Morris), R. Walker (Mini) and Jack Frost. (Beach Buggy), who beat J. Whalley. (Ford Special) and Mike Furse (also in a Ford Special) in the tie deciding test. Cliff Morell was the best Imp on the day dropping 10 marks.

The missing committee minutes are no help again, in recording events until 1977, when The March Hare trial took place at Bury Farm, Houghton Conquest. Secretary: Alan Davies. Clerk-of-the-Course: David Maitland, Scrutineer: Simon Robson, Chief Marshal: C Brown. There were 32 entries, but one was sent home for misbehaviour!

By 1981 The March Hare Trial had been dropped from the calendar of events due to a lack of venues to run the event. With the loss of Tring Park, we had only one good venue at Bury Farm, Houghton Conquest and that was lost due to problems between the landowner and some of the clubs that used it to run events there. I have found an entry form for the 1980 March Hare to be run under Classic Regulations at Bury Farm. But as I can't find any results or reports, I can only assume the event had to be cancelled.

Falcon was out of the trials scene for a few years, until 1995 when a one of the other local clubs became un-friendly to triallers and a number of renowned local enthusiasts joined Falcon, bringing with them years of organising experience and a host of contacts with local landowners. Soon Trials returned to the Falcon calendar and on 3rd March 1996 the March Hare took place on Edlesborough Hill.

The 1998 event was given the name "The March Hare Mini Classic". The event was again held on Edlesborough Hill, only instead of having 8 or more hills laid out, there were only four. These were much longer than the previous years PCT type sections. The idea was to make them more like Classic Trials sections. The organisers (Mike Pearson & John Parsons) tried to run everything as close to Classic rules as possible. The morning went brilliantly with 8 challenging hills and two special tests for the 26 starters to enjoy. Unfortunately after lunch, rain made all the hills un-climbable and the event had to be abandoned. The special test times were used to decide the winner from the three clean sheets of, Fred Gregory (Dutton Melos ), Ian Davis (VW Buggy) and Henry Allen (Racecorp). Ian Davis was the winner with Fred Gregory, Tom Goggin and Murray MacDonald all winning their classes.

After the success of the first Mini Classic, the possibility of running another event, linking several venues together was discussed. By the time the year 2000 event took place four venues had been linked to road sections to make the event even more of a Classic Trial. The start and finish were at Brickhill on the 18th April. The competitors then followed the 62-mile route calling in at Mile Tree Farm, Edlesborough and Kensworth, returning to Edlesborough and Miletree Farm and Brickhill for a second time, to complete 14 hills and 2 special tests. Thirty starters enjoyed a smoothly run event, sponsored for the first time by Murray Macdonald's company, Murray's VW Spares, with favourable comments from most of the competitors.

It was felt after the 2000 event, that if we were to run a proper Classic Trial, a more suitable Start Finish venue should be found. The Big Pub, on the old Al Trunk Road at Jacks Hill had the space, but was a long way from the venues we wanted to use. The answer was to find some sections between Jacks Hill and the other venues to the west. A new route was planed taking in two sections in Whitwell. Cress Bed Lane and Water Tower Lane. Both lanes were used in the fifties (they were probably named differently). Cress Bed Lane is not very challenging in the dry but is a nice opening to any trial, as is Water Tower Lane which was again used in the March Hare of the Fifties. This hill is a lot longer than Cress Bed Lane and despite being only a few yards further up the hill, is more mud covered than Cress Bed Lane, which has a more stony covering. The route then headed out to Mile Tree Farm and Brickhill. After Brickhill there was another new section used as a special test at Ivinghoe before continuing to Edlesborough and Kensworth. After Kensworth, Half Moon Lane, at Markyate, was added before the competitors returned to Whitwell to climb Nortonstreet Lane and return to The Big Pub and the finish. Norton Street Lane was again used in the March Hare of the fifties but it had a lot more mud on the hill than it does today and as a result was much more of a challenge to the competitors.

Well that was the plan. However, delays in submitting the route to the RAC MSA, because the local Route Liaison Officer didn't reply to our request's for approval, forced the organisers to run the event became as a navigational scatter. Not what the organisers (John Parsons, Mike Pearson joint Clarks of the Course, or Verdum Webley, Secretary) or the competitors wanted at all. However 30 cars started from the Big Pub, with most of the competitors returning some hours later having enjoyed the hills, but not finding their own way to them! 2000 winner was Mathew Sharrett.

Having been caught out the previous year, the organisers of the 2001 "Murrays March Hare" started to prepare early in October. All was going well, with the route submitted and approved and the entry getting close to the maximum permitted (fifty). With a month to go to the big day, Foot and Mouth disease reared its ugly head again and the event was cancelled.

All that hard work was not wasted as we now had an approved route ready for the 2002 event and with three new sections added in Devils Pit, south of Barton-Le-Clay and a lunch halt at Ivinghoe everything was set for another March Hare Trial.

However, the 2002 event was not without its problems. The Big Pub decided not to open early for us, which meant that there were no loos or food available at the start. The 4-wheel drive people had churned all the sections at Devils Pit up, and it was very difficult to find three sections to lay out on the Saturday before. The day itself went without a hitch. There was a shortage of marshals on some hills but we just managed to scrape through. The weather was very kind as well and didn't start to rain until after the last car had reached the finish. There were 32 entries and 28 starters with Ross Nuten the overall winner cleaning every thing in his Dellow.

That’s the story so far but it isn’t finished yet as Falcon’s March Hare is still going strong and there will soon be much more to add to The History Book.

 

Many thanks to Mike Hayward for this article. Mike and I would be very grateful for any other information, pictures or anecdotes so we can make it even better. Please Mail Michael if you can help.

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