March 98 - Part 2

Nailsworth Ladder

The Ladder

A Singer climbs Nailsworth in the late thirties while in the background Austen May changes the diff on his MG Magnette.

Many years ago “The Ladder” was the original track between the village of Nailsworth up to Rodborough Common. With the advent of the motorcar it was bypassed by a new metalled road with an easier gradient curtesy of some rather severe hairpin bends! The old track then became a trials hill and was a real stopper, as it is for many of us today. Today’s section has a shale surface and a notorious step three quarters of the way up the climb. The dry stone wall on the left is the backdrop to countless photographs and is how you recognise the section in the Classical Gas Quiz!

The earliest reference I found to Nailsworth was in a book of old photographs where there is a picture of W. J. Brunel with a cigarette box awarded for being the only competitor to climb Nailsworth Ladder on a Douglas motorcycle in 1913.

C. A. N. May writes about The Ladder in 1934 when there was a stop-and-go test at the foot of the hill before the observed section. He had fitted a low ratio crown wheel and pinion to his MG J2, finding the low gears enabled him to “get his revs more quickly”.

A few years later he was competing in a six cylinder Magnette. A group of his friends were spectating on the hill by the famous bump. He came charging up and lifted his hand to wave to them, when with a rendering crack the crown-wheel stripped, right in front of Cecil Kimber, the boss man at MG. May waited until a “works” Magnette came along as he knew they carried a spare diff, then spent the afternoon fixing his car for the drive home.

Falcon’s Guy Fawkes used Nailsworth until into the seventies and today it is a feature of the Cotswold Clouds. The bump is still there and can break modern cars just as it used to do old ones!

Old Nailsworth Ladder sign

This sign used to be at the foot of "the ladder" warning of the perils of driving up it in a car! The picture was contributed by Kevin Barnes. Kevin has some great Classic Trials stuff on his site. There's a link on the homepage.