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Wall of Death, Horndean - July 2006


I seem to approach rallies with some trepidation, bordering on total depression waiting for something to go wrong and screw up our weekend away. Fortunately this time it was only a minor mechanical failure the night before the rally. The bike had been running perfectly until I removed the sidecar. I think the two had formed some kind of emotional attachment. I rode the bike solo for the first time in three years and remembered why we fitted the sidecar in the first place. Imagine manhandling an 8ft long wheel barrow that has aspirations in the shopping-trolley I.Q. department and weighing the same as a very large drunk pig.

Flapped to work Thursday morning fine, but coming out after work…solid kick start *#*@*!  I got home in the works van in time to bugger up a BBQ with my father, spending all evening miserably stripping out the gearbox. Find the offending locking ring (unlocked), locked it, and eventually finished at 1am.

Friday: ride home from work and all seems fine. It was Kate’s turn to wait for the baby sitter on Saturday morning so she missed out on Friday night. We were hoping to ride down together but it wasn’t to be.

I loaded up and set off feeling slightly guilty but was told to go and enjoy myself… so I did.  It was a glorious ride west along the A 272 on a warm July evening but still with the feeling that something was going to go wrong. Strangely it didn’t.  I followed a hot air balloon for ages into the setting sun running through some gorgeous real estate until I got to the A3. Back to reality. It tends to concentrate the mind when you find everyone else is doing three times your speed on their Friday night dash home and you are riding a bike the width of a unicycle! Off the M3 and back into countryside. I found the site with relative ease, leaving the Horndean residents wondering why they’d seen the same old clunker go passed three times on two separate occasions. Pulled into a likely field, and unless Chris Palmer’s neighbours also owned Walls of Death, I figured this must be the right place. Found the chaps sitting in the shade of the trees at the top of the field.

Stopping to catch my breath after this Cannonball Baker style epic (Record breaking trans-Sussex run) I stopped for a most welcome beer. More were drunk each being as good as the first. The evening ended with a most spectacular display of lightning blowing our way ….. Considered the implications…..hmm.

We woke up to a damp morning, relieved by coffee from Nobby (thanks!) The old adage ‘Rain at 7 fine by 11’ didn’t seem to apply in this instance, more like dry at 7 Frankenstein type thunderstorms by 11! So the ride out was much anticipated.  ‘Sponged’ breakfast from Ray and Carol (not literally) and waited for the weather to pass. You can tell boredom had set in when a bag of polishing cloths, a pair of Fred’s sunglasses and a roll of stripy tape becomes an acceptable form of entertainment. I did think Keith’s 741 looked mighty pretty though with its lovely bunting. We passed Kate on the way out of the field for the run, a quick wave and off into the wide grey yonder.

Fred led the way via some interesting narrow lanes trying to outrun our pet thunderstorm.

Our first brief stop was what looked to me to be an authentic Sussex farmyard. Fred told me later this was where George Orwell wrote his book ‘Animal Farm’. Absolutely fascinating!

Do a quick U turn and onward to more ‘nadgery’ lanes, I’d forgotten there actually was a road sign for ‘Danger Gravel in Road’. Fortunately the bike did not fall over at any time, for which I was most grateful. Then followed some more pleasant dry and swoopy roads towards Chichester. The town appeared to be closed to road traffic with ‘No Entry’ signs everywhere. So a ride around the outside of town, and off to Selsey Bill.

I’m not going to say it’s the most majestic of coastlines, but once seen never forgotten. We met an interesting retired couple. She had been the manager of the S/H spares department in a London motorcycle dealers after the war, and had been responsible for breaking up thousands of pre-war motorcycles, (Indians included), for spares. I’m still wondering if this was a good thing or not. Selsey is a world renowned centre of excellence in the fresh crab industry and certainly the crabsticks here were first class. We had time enough for a quick fag and a gander at the sea swans which Stuart informed us are “very rare” and dangerous if approached. So we didn’t approach them. Ray needed to check his fuel but his filler cap was stuck so there followed by a quick game of ‘Let’s see who can break Ray’s petrol tank’ which I won.

Back down the A27 and up the A3 to Hornedean, nice to return to a field full of dry people and the Wall of Death well underway. The spit roast pig was cooking and smelled delicious. I meet up with Kate and she tells me she’s ‘blagged’ a ride on the wall. I knew she’d wanted to do this since we first saw it performed by Mr. Ford 20 yrs ago. Climbing up the wooden stairs you forget how tall the building is, and that the bikes and people are in the void in the middle.

It was a brilliant show by Chris and his team doing outrageous things on Indians and Hondas, culminating with the girl on the handle bars routine. I admit to the faintest pang of doubt as to whether my wife and mother of my child should be doing this sort of thing at her age and everythin’ (note: must check life insurance). (How dare you! ~ Kate types) I tried hard not to communicate this to Kate as she merrily waved from the front of Chris’s stripped down, slashed pipe and very loud Scout. It’s surprisingly emotional seeing a loved one flying around inside an enormous wooden drum on the front of someone else’s elderly motorcycle at what I think is referred to as break neck speed. Still, I overcame my concerns with another beer and later met a very happy Kate emerging from the ‘Wall’. The girlie done good.  Chris and his team continued to ‘thrill the throng’ into the evening until they stopped for well earned beers and the mega slap-up BBQ.

What an excellent evening, dancing, eating, more drinking, and even the rain held off. A silly time ensued with Rachel organising the ‘box’ game. Nice to see the gymnastics of Tim’s daughter, Russell (a.k.a. Mr Bendy) Sue and Lynda while Stewart took photographs. I’m always cheered by the sight of Keith setting light to his balls in the dark and flinging them in the air, apparently he has others that glow!

It was good to chat to Dave and his young family. He’s got his own W.O.D and had come for a bit of tuition from the Masters Lee and Ford, nice to know the old walls are still being loved. He’s running a Scout in it at his field in Cornwall. Thanks for the new cocktail recipe Dave! Later still the tone of the evening sunk to new depths (you can say that again!~K) with recitals from the ‘Penguin book of school boy jokes’. I am told this is traditional: ha ha, ha ha. Stewart was burning the candle at both ends (literally) which kept us and the fire going till very late.

Woke up very early on Sunday morning and remembered thankfully that my bike had gone home in Ray’s van, so we jumped in the car and made a sneaky and early exit  before the hangover had a chance to kick in. We returned to discover Charlie has been very active with several pots of glitter. (So an excellent weekend finished with real sparkle!~ K )

Our many thanks go to Chris Palmer for throwing such an exciting and thrilling party and our commiserations go to Sybil and Mike for their break down (tale of woe award), but glad they got there in the end. And, of course, thanks to all the Indian Riders Club members for making it all such fun. Can we do it again?

Ian Hatton  

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Indian Motocycles - you can't wear them out                                  Indian Motocycles - built to last  
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