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A Trip Up North
By Harry Ward

Shielfield Park

In the late seventies and eighties I routinely looked forward to the many Rye House northern tours with relish. There were some great times and some bad. From watching us winning the at league at Middlesborough more than than twenty years ago to numerous rain offs and even a 'fogged off' at Berwick my trips ceased when the Rockets closed in the early nineties.

This summer I looked at our fixture list and decided that a long weekend up north was in order. We set out on Friday morning with around four hundred miles to do before our first meeting that night in Edinburgh.

We stopped off enroute at Durham and had a look around and a cup of coffee to break up the monotony of a long motorway journey.

It had been a fine day but predictably just as we pulled into our hotel the first drops of rain hit the windscreen. We quickly dropped off our luggage and hit the road for the twenty mile or so journey from our Mussleburgh base. The rain got heavier and heavier as we got close to Armadale and we couldn't believe that the meeting was still on. The track was very wet but the rain magically stopped at the advertised start time but we had a long wait for the track to be dried out.

We spent the time in the tea bar where we were joined by that well known badge and programme collector John Sommerville. We hadn't met before but we had a great chat about our first loves West Ham and Edinburgh Speedway.

The meeting finally got under way about an hour late and although the racing wasn't great the meeting was pretty close. Around halfway through the riders complained about conditions and more track work ensued. When the restart came whatever had been done suited the Rockeets and we ran away fairly comfortable winners. Counting ourselves lucky it was back off to the hotel to dry out.

The following day we made an early start to do a bit of sightseeing on the way to Berwick. I really love the border district and the many towns on the River Tweed. Having recently read the Da Vinci code we couldn't resist the trip to Rosslyn Chapel a few miles out of Edinburgh. Never have I seen so much scaffolding surrounding one building but once inside it was worth the trip, but not the entrance fee I hasten to add. We passed the day in some of the most beautiful countryside in the land and then off to Berwick.

We thought we would seize the oppourtunity to get some food and drink in Berwick but forgot we weren't in London and all the shops were shut at 5.30. Never mind we thought off to the track and yes once again down came the rain. This time it didn't stop but the track held up pretty well but the Bandits enjoyed the home advantage and the racing wasn't bad considering. Well that was one win and one defeat and we were looking forward to Glasgow on sunday.

We moved hotels on Sunday morning staying for a night in Stirling. This gave us a chance for more sightseeing in and around Stirling at the castle and the William Wallace Memorial. Keeping our English heads down in fear of some revenge by the Scots it was on to Glasgow and Ashfield. As an admirer of Shane Parker I was looking forward to the match although I thought we may be onto a bit of a hiding against a strong looking Tigers team. And so it was in almost sunny weather. A real lesson given by the Tigers with limited resistence from the rockets. Three points from the three meetings was not too bad. One word though for the Tigers promotion...please print enough programmes to go round. The extra away support in the coach meant no programme for me...very dissapointing

Monday morning came and we left Scotland to stop off at Belle Vue on the way home to give a little support to Arena Essex which is my local track.

Sadly we didn't get as far as the border before we found ourseves upside down in a field courtesy of some poor road works and a lack of signs..

With the car written off and a badly bruised wife by my side we left for home in the afternoon arriving back in Essex in the early morning. What was going to be a memorable weekend for speedway turned out to be remembered for how easily I could do somersaults in the car.

Now I know this would put many people off but despite the knocks speedway remains in the blood and since then we have continued our support of the Rockets and also been lucky enough to have been to Prague for our third GP of the season.

Will we do it again next year? well apart from the trick driving I suppose we will. It would be pretty dull with no speedway to go to. Lastly thanks to the many Scots who stopped to help us in our time of need. You proved what great people you are.


This article was first published on 28th September 2006

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