Sunday, 23 May 2010

The King's Warren

You seemed to like the story of the Silent Pool, so I am going to take you on a tour of this whole magical area, starting from there. You will need to climb on the back of my 1958 Triumph Tiger 110, and hang on tight - it's a bendy road, and the front forks need new bushes.

We are going to walk the few hundred yards back through the woods to the lay-by. There is no ignition key for this bike (the same one that Hagrid has in the Harry Potter films), so I will set the advance/retard lever like so, and jump on the kick-start. The two cylinders will seem to fire in unison to begin with, but when I ease the timing lever forward, they star pounding alternately, you climb on the back, then we're off.

I pull the clutch lever, clamp my foot down, and the gear is engaged with a sharp clunk as the slack on the primary chain is taken up. One last quick check with you, then with a twist of the throttle, we start climbing the steep road to Newlands Corner.

This is a great road for motorcycles. In fact, this is a great road for motor racing in general, and - since the early 20th century - many famous races have taken place here, when the stretch was closed to ordinary traffic, like a rural Monte Carlo. My first job as a stone mason introduced me to the very man who placed Mike Hawthorne - the famous racing-driver - in his coffin after his fatal crash on this road - a genial and jovial Irishman who said that he had to break Hawthorne's legs with a mallet in order to get him in the box. These were the days before massage was introduced to ease rigor-mortis.

After much whining up the hill and round the tight bends, we will arrive at the pot-holed car park of the Newlands Corner cafe - one of the 'Meccas' for all those racing and biking enthusiasts, including all the bikers and Teds from the 1950s. The walls are still covered in old, sepia, racing photos, most of which were taken right here at the Corner, but this is not why we are here.

We are going to turn our backs on the cafe, and spend a few moments looking out over the view from the top - a vista which includes three counties, including Sussex. Then we will walk down the rough, steep, gorse-strewn landscape, and head slightly to the right. After a while, we will see a dense, dark green patch of evergreen woodland, which is where we are heading, before going back for some refreshment at the cafe.

This small patch of pollarded yew trees is all that remains of the 'King's Warren', from where the very staves were cut to make the longbows that were used to great effect at the battle of Agincourt by another Plantagenet king, during the 100 year conflict between England and France. What was once an industrial war resource has now been reduced to a few acres of scrubby yew, still showing signs of the heavy pollarding from hundreds of years ago.

Cro's good friend, (the appropriately named, Simon Fletcher) had a hunch that the Warren would be here, and he and I went out one day to find it. We think we did, and it is still there - I saw it about 3 years ago.

Ok, after a climb back up, some tea and a sandwich, we will go off on another trip on my T110 - if you want to. You've come with me to the pool, we've seen the King's Warren, so now let's go off somewhere else. This place is steeped in history and magic, and - if you have the right eyes - you can see the signs everywhere.


  1. Oh, what a lovely tour!! Thanks for taking us on it :)

  2. Great trip Tom. The last time I was on a bike was with that same Simon Fletcher, and I was almost killed by an idiot motorist who hadn't checked his rear-view mirror.

    More please. Cro.

  3. That trip was brill, Tom, agree with Cro!

  4. Ah but do you agree with my Chinese friend? Ta! - next stop soon.