The weather was kind for the 2019 red Marley Hill Climb on Easter Sunday. It was a stark contrast to the 2018 wash out. The event organisers described the previous conditions as, ‘ Wet, in fact it was very wet, just like the proverbial paddy field but with no rice. As time went on the rain stopped, but the conditions underfoot and under wheel became worse.’
That year only half of the 105 entries made an appearance. Without doubt such a remote location will only attract the most hardy of riders and spectators alike in such adverse conditions. Thankfully 2019 made up for it. Large crowds enjoyed the thrill of the races in dry and sunny conditions, whilst sampling the food and drink stalls.
Red Marley Hill Climb is held just outside the Worcestershire village of Great Witley and has been the site of Motorcycle Hill Climb since the nineteen-twenties. Apart from the war years it successfully staged its annual event until 1971. Almost thirty years later, The West Midlands Section of the AJS & Matchless Owners Club literally carved the track from the wooded hillside to bring event back to life.
Riders battled together in back to back races, jostling for position on the leader board. Spectators marveled at their skills and the last few onlookers on the top of the hill, had to chew on the dust clouds in their wake. Looking down on the proceedings from the finishing line offered great views and added to the excitement of the races, but not for the faint-hearted to reach the pinnacle. Climbing the steep hill put things clearly into perspective as to how difficult the task for the rider would be, not really appreciated it from down below.
It was great to see classic BSA bikes flying up the hill, still taking part regardless of their senior years. Obviously their construction was made to last, but the enthusiasm of the owner not to be precious about their collectible bikes warmed my heart. The bikes were there doing what they were made to do, rather than being wrapped in cotton wool, adding to someone’s collection. Well-done guys!!
The Red Marley Hill Climb story
The Old Hill
Motorcycle Hill climbing started at Red Marley in the early twenties. The first track was known as the round course, and included several turns. The Birmingham Motorcycle Club later settled on a quarter mile (440 yard) straight climb, with a 1:1.25 gradient over the famous jump (known as the pimple). Apart from the war years the hillclimb continued in the same two at a time format until 1971.
The news for the year 2000 was that Red Marley was back in business, and that bikes would tackle the famous gradient for the first time in some thirty years. The West Midlands Section of the AJS & Matchless Owners Club was literally carving the track anew from the now wooded hillside. A formidable challenge, but they started early and they really meant business.
The New Hill
Members of the AJS & Matchless owners club, along with Steve Jones, who’s idea it was to revive the event, and a bunch of Great Witley locals, who had all competed in years’ past, staged the event in 2000. Even after almost 12 months of work on the hill, and the event being a massive success, permission was not given to use the hill for the following year.
Local farmers Geoff and Judy Goodman, whose farm is opposite the old hill, stepped up to the mark and offered Walsgrove Hill as an option. With the contours being very similar, and, less than a mile away, it seemed to be the ideal alternative. Their offer was gratefully accepted, and the 440-yard straight climb knockout format was continued, although it is now run four at a time, with only two progressing to the following round.