ANYTHING GOES - AND IT GOES FAST...
ON A MOTORCYCLE AT HOGHTON TOWER
Imagine a long tree lined drive in full spring leaf and livery. In the distance two granite portals guard the entrance to one of England's splendid historic houses and monuments: then imagine you are on board your bike piling on the revs from a standing start, dropping the clutch to obtain maximum torque and grip, and piloting it towards this distant view as fast as you can. This happens at the Hoghton Tower Sprint, a once a year event organised by Marshals North West, a club formed in1991 to provide trained marshalls and equipment for road racing and other speed events in the north west of the country www.marshalsnorthwest.co.uk
Hoghton Tower was built in 1109 atop a hill, fortress like with imposing views across rural Lancashire towards Preston, the north west coastline and the Lakes. It's the ancestral home of the de Hoghton family, who are descended from Harvey de Walter one of William the Conqueror's mates.
Steeped in history
As might be obvious with all those centuries of history a few notable events have taken place - rebuilt in 1565; Shakespeare came by in 1580; King James knighted a loin of beef in 1607 (never underestimate the wonky behaviour of monarchy); the Civil War destroyed the Keep in 1642; and in 1854 Charles Dickens dropped in. Not forgetting Wemoto News turning up in 2015.
The house and estate are now run as a charitable preservation trust, the aim of which is to preserve the Tower as a place of historic and educational interest for the wider community; to preserve the historical archives, and the flora and fauna of the grounds surrounding the estate. To this end all the money from admission, events, and the gift shop and tea room sales are ploughed back into the old place www.hoghtontower.co.uk
Sprint meetings are not always the greatest spectator experience. That is watching bikes go as fast as the rider and machine can run along a straight course. The interest is mostly in the different classes and array of bikes that are parked in the paddock and seeing how their owners have prepared and modified them and how they perform.
The classes at this meeting included vintage and classics: the earliest bike being shown in the programme as a 1933 Velocette KTS. A beautifully prepared Suzuki T500 stood out along with a 1959 500cc Royal Enfield that truly scorched the course. There was a BEAR's class (British European and American Restricted), which always sees an interesting line up of booming four strokes. The three wheeler (sidecar) class stand outs for me were a 1951 Vincent Rapide and and Moto Guzzi Le Mans. Then for contrast the modern superbikes class boasted a 2014 KTM 1200 Superduke, whose rider had trouble keeping the front wheel down. But you didn't have to turn out on 'exotic' bikes in this class, one competitor was running his Yamaha Fazer...sport for all.
The sweet smell of Castrol R in the morning
Called to practice and the timed runs in classes, the competitors lined up in a wooded glade, and were 'escorted' down the start line by travelling marshals. It was a good place to soak up the cacophony of sound and olfactory treats emanating from the Castrol R being burned by some bikes – why doesn't someone bottle this as a bikers cologne, everyone loves it. The start line marshalls were supplied with a decent supply of chalk dust and brooms to dispose of the oily stuff leaking from some of the older bikes.
During breaks between wandering the paddock and watching the runs it was possible to satisfy any hunger from a variety of food stalls: the almost obligatory hog roast, a wood fired pizza oven, Mexican food, and one tent stall even sold coffee and cake incorporating a performance from a blues duo. Great stuff. I took tea and cake in the Vaio Tea Room (a Vaio is a heraldic symbol), part of the main house, very civilised; and you can stay in one of the towers too.
As well as this once a year motorcycle sprint lots of other events take place at Hoghton, and it would make a good venue for a club run, or if you're out at the weekend with motorcycle mates.
Enjoy the pictures.
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