In a supposedly flat Essex it may come as a surprise that a sport such as ‘Mountain’ Biking is being staged here as part of the London 2012 Olympic Games, but it has its precedents.
It’s more than 30 years ago now – probably 1978 – when I followed the roar of motorbike engines on Hadleigh Downs and went over to check it out with my camera. The area owned by the Salvation Army is a hidden landscape gem that can only really be appreciated by actually visiting it. Being on ‘private’ land, I made the best of looking at the convoluting terrain. At the time it was not so tranquil.
It was a very dry and dusty day and the bikes, sometimes with pillion passengers and sometimes with sidecars, churned up the local mud in trails of dust and the noise and loudspeaker announcements added an onslaught to the ears. It was exciting stuff, though, as one could wander about outside the markers and cordoned-off trail.
(Some of the machines had actually been made nearby, at the Manor Trading Estate in New Thundersley, by Greeves Motor Cycles. Greeves stopped production in 1976.)
Hadleigh’s Downs and the Country Park are a delight to the senses, but I fear that with the promised ‘legacy’, tranquillity may no longer be one of its secret assets.