Back in 1933 the International Six Days Trial (ISDT) first visited Wales and in a report in the ‘Western Daily Press‘ of the event, the course was described as requiring competitors each day to ‘ride over the most difficult and dangerous roads in the British Isles‘ this was Britain between the wars with little need to travel to far off countries for excitement and adventure. The ISDT started in 1913 and much of its course followed tracks that in pictures appear they were made for farm carts yet, today, many of them are surfaced ‘A’ class roads.
Gallt y badi
Hyll, du, budr, yw Allt y Badi; – un serth,
Mae’n hawdd syrthio arni;
Pe syrthiwn ar ei serthni;
Yn ’sgyrion hollt â’i’m hesgyrn i.
The fact was the nation’s road network had been a considered such a national disgrace in the 1800’s that it required a Parliamentary Commission to fix, this ultimately led to the decision when establishing the new County Councils in the mid 1800’s for them to take over managing main roads. By the 1927 Local Government Act, what roads were left being managed by the District and Parish Councils were passed over the the County Councils. This was at a time there was an increasing demand by the public for the metalling of highways with the increasingly popular Tar Macadam to provide a level all weather surface better suited to the needs of motor cars.
Not a problem then worrying the ISDT organisers, who knew that many of the rural roads were still unmade and which, occaisionally, might only be treated to heaps of crushed rock to fill up holes to ensure the carts full of farmer’s turnips could be safely wheeled to market towns for sale. The roads of the early ISDT years were sufficient for their intended purpose to test motorcycle reliability. Although some private land was available for events, with heavy bikes with little or no suspension the public road network, as it was then, was more than adequate for the job. Local communities were also keen to see the event come though their area, both for the people it bought in and the distraction from the daily norm it gave to those in rural areas long before the distraction of TV or radio became popular social barbiturates.
In the Heritage Highways features we will try to examine a bit more about Roads that hold a particular iconic legacy for the event. If you have a candidate highway let me know, this is the first edition which is the ‘Allt y Baddy’, near Llangollen, Denbighshire. The earliest written reference to the road is found in a poem published in 1878 by the Welsh poet Ioan Myllon which is as follows
Gallt y badi
Hyll, du, budr, yw Allt y Badi; – un serth,
Mae’n hawdd syrthio arni;
Pe syrthiwn ar ei serthni;
Yn ’sgyrion hollt â’i’m hesgyrn i.
in english it reads
Gallt y badi
Ugly, black, dirty is Allt y Badi – so steep
It’s easy to slip on her
If I fell on her steepness
Wholly splintered my bones would be
This famous road was used for many events over the years, as part of the course based on Llandrindod Wells, the Allt y Badi was part of the last 2 days of the 1933 event, part of the course in 1937, 1938, 1949, The track lies to the slight South East of the Denbighshire town of Llangollen in the Dee Valley and passed up a notoriously steep hill to pass over a ridge to descend with similar extreme gradient into the Ceiriog Valley
Quite how old the Allt y Badi is remains a question for the historians and hopefully one day we can tell you. However it is very likely that the track is significantly old and has sat enclosed from the surrounding land for a very long time. The oldest maps we know of show it has existed for over 200 years. When did vehicles first start using it? The presumption would make it easy to say horses and carts may have used the route throughout its life, however, the gradient may make some today think it impossible however it is clear that when all you had was horsepower necessity meant you would use the shortest route you could and many tracks were being built at that time on farmland to enable access for farming purposes. In Thomas Pennats’s History of the Parish of Whitford, he describes how in order to descend the notorious Pen y Ball Hill in Holywell after a day at the races, the carriage of Lord Mostyn would have wooden checks strapped to the wheels and the carriage driver would in effect skid the carriage down the hill which was a similar gradient to the Allt y Bady.
The earliest association of the route with motor vehicles is likely to be the making of an order in 1907 listed in ‘the London Gazette‘ of the 1st November 1907, which advertises an order made under the Motor Car Act 1903, by the County Council of Denbigh and submitted to the Local Government Board for the introduction of a 10mph speed limit on a number of roads in the Llangollen area including the A5 London Holyhead Coach Road and which listed the Allt y Badi in its description of the routes the restrictions would apply to.
MOTOR CAR ACT, 1903. County of Denbigh.
“WHEREAS by sub-section. 1 of section. 9 of the Motor Car Act, 1903, it is enacted that within any limits or place referred to in regulations made by the Local Government Board, with a view to the safety of the public, on the application of the local authority of the area in which the limits or place are situate, a person shall not drive a motor car at a speed exceeding ten miles per hour :
Notice is hereby given, that the County Council of Denbigh have made application to the Local Government Board for a regulation to be made in pursuance of the said sub-section, putting the above provisions of that sub-section in force within the limits comprising the following roads or parts of roads within the urban districtof Llangollen, that is to say:— So much of the Shrewsbury and Holyhead road as is comprised within the urban district, including the parts thereof known as Berwyn-street, Regent-street,and Queen-street; so much of the Ruthin and Ruabon main road as is comprised within the urban district, including the parts thereof known as Abbey-road and Mill-street; the road leading from Victoria-place on the Shrewsbury and Holyhead road, up Hill-street, past Plas Newydd Gate, over the Pont-felin-Bache, through Pengwern Valley, past Tyndwfr Hall, and down Birch Hill, rejoining the said Shrewsbury and Holyhead road at the eastern extremity of Queen-street; so much of the Allt-y-Badi road as extends from its junction with the Pengwern Valley road near Cherry Tree Cottage, to the boundary of the urban district near Penylan Farm; so much of the Gwernant road as extends from its junction with the Pengwern Valley road at Troed-y-Gwernant, to the boundary of the urban district at the south end of the Gwernant Woods; so much of the Vron Bache road as……..”
The above map which formed part of the first significant survey of the enture British Isles by the Government’s Surveying body the Ordnance Survey. At a 1 ” to the mile the relief relied heavily on shading (similar to Swiss Maps) to enable users to understand the relief of the landscape.
In this small scale OS mapping the Allt y Baddy is shown by a thin single black line. This indicates the road is of sufficient importance to be recorded but its condition would not be as good as those tracks marked with twin parallel lines.
This map based on the Popular 1″ Grid Series was principally created for Military needs during the WW II. The Allt y Baddy is shown marked in the same brown as the surrounding roads and the black arrows indicate points of significant steepness.
This article below appeared in the ‘Llangollen Advertiser‘ 30th June 1916 and recalls what appears to be a jolly outing by some fellows having a jape, rather than an outbreak of Anti-Social Loutish Behaviour which some may try to describe it to day
Allt-y-bady is a well-known proposition to cyclists; and for several years motor cyclist reliability tests have been held here by Mersey-side clubs
PLUCKY MOTOR DRIVER
DRIVING DOWN ALLT-y-BADY.
A THRILLING EXPERIENCE.
On Friday night, a party of motorists had an exciting experience on the steep descent over the Berwyn mountains between Glyn Ceiriog and Llangollen. The party had cycled via Chirk, along the valley of the Ceiriog to the village; and they decided to descend the slope of Allt-y-bady, in making the return journey to Llangollen. It is stated that the same driver has previously steered a motor both up and down the steep hill side that, in places, is of a gradient that renders it almost unbelievable that locomotion of the kind should be practicable. It is not possible, apart from the possession and exercise of very cool nerve and extreme skill, and that the possession of these enabled the driver to previously accomplish the feat would appear to have justified him in again attempting it. Allt-y-bady is a well-known proposition to cyclists; and for several years motor cyclist reliability tests have been held here by Mersey-side clubs: but the number of those who have succeeded in scaling the hill is very few indeed, and the number of those who have come from the Glyn side, down the steep descent, perhaps smaller still, a rider on an ordinary cycle who essayed the feat a year or so ago and who lost his nerve paying the penalty with his life. Special local knowledge of the character of the descent and how best to negotiate it is imperative if the task is to be achieved — and this Mr. Shaw has had exceptional opportunities of acquiring — whilst, we are informed a Llangollen motor cyclist is regularly in the habit of riding over the Bady to do business, and accomplishing it in very smart time. On Friday night it would appear that the brakes of the motor-car became unduly heated, and it was necessary, when travelling at a great pace, to pull up, at the side of the descent to permit them to cool. Somehow, in doing this, the wheels became suddenly locked, causing the motor to “turn turtle.” with the result that the steering gear and other parts were considerably damaged. Bv the greatest of good fortune, the intrepid riders all escaped with a severe, shaking and ore or two slight bruises; one of them actually falling under the motor and emerging completely all right. The motorcar was conveyed to the nearest garage for necessary repairs, whilst the unfortunate riders proceeded home on foot to receive the congratulations of their friends. They had failed when within an ace of accomplishing what, until some few years ago, was considered altogether impossible.”
The Hill before it became popular with the ISDT was often used for motorcycle and car trials from shortly after the beginning of the 20th Century. Nearly 100 years ago in 1919 this report appeared in the ‘Llangollen Advertiser‘ of 4th July 1919. This article appears to confirm the christening of the road with the nickname ‘ the Bady’ and it also mentions the motorcyclists encountered four horses.
“MOTOR CYCLE TRIALS IN LLANGOLLEN
The Midland Cycling and Athletic Club held motor cycle trials in Llangollen on Saturday. The competitors numbered 84, but only 70 odd set off from Birmingham. A minute interval was given between each rider, the first leaving 6 a.m. and the last at 7:23 a.m.
At Llangollen a strong party of marshals and officials guided the competitors, and greatly assisted the local police in the regulation of the traffic. The route to Llangollen was via Wenlock, Shrewsbury, Gobowen and Chirk, and the first competitor rode into the Smithfield at 10 o’clock, where the cycles were all grouped. After breakfast in the town a start was made at 11 o’clock on the Ruthin road to Pentredwr Hill, thence to Dafarn Dyrwd on the Holyhead road to Corwen, and back to Llangollen. The party then took on the Bache Calial descent after that climbing round Barber’s Hill. Without returning to the town, the Allt-y-Bady was climbed and over into Glyn Ceiriog back to Llangollen via Chirk. At 2 o’clock lunch was served as the riders came in, and the first man left for the starting point at 3:30 p.m. End was timed to arrive at 7 p.m. On the Allt-y-Bady ascent only 21 competitors made a clean climb, although 62 were timed in on the return to Llangollen district, One competitor fell out on the trip to Pentredwr on account of his engine being clogged with oil. No mishaps were reported in the Llangollen district, although several riders experienced difficulties when meeting four horses halfway up the Bady.”
Motorcycle Reliability trials often visited the Allt y Bady. In the December 1924 issue of ‘the Brookland Gazette‘ reported on the Sale and District Motorcycle Club’s Hill Cup Trial held the month before.
After lunch an immediate ascent of Allt-y-Bady was made. The hill was in very bad condition indeed, the surface being a mixture of boulders and grease.
This Club’s Annual Hill Cup Trial was run off recently, in an interesting way, on lines which the Committee of the Club have found to be most generally acceptable to the average member. There were no checks on those portions of the route which ran along good main roads. There were some stiff hills to be observed and some short stretches of colonial section had to be traversed in order to reach them. Checks were instituted over the Colonial Section and hills only. The route led over Helsley Bluff and Glyn Ceiriog, and lunch was taken at Llangollen. After lunch Allt-yBady had to be negotiated and the run home from there was comparatively easy.
The start was made at 9.30 a.m. from the Sale Hotel. , Out of 28 entries, 25 actually faced the starter. Helsley Bluff was the first observed Test Hill and up this one competitor failed altogether and four were penalised for foot assistance. It was at this point that J. B. Donaldson had the misfortune to lose his chance of retaining the cup, of which he himself was the holder, by putting his foot down in order to balance himself. The next hill, Glyn Ceriog, caused little trouble. E. White (Dot J .A.P.) stopped owing to a faulty plug, and, as events turned out, this stoppage lost him the cup. It is of interest, and somewhat significant, perhaps, to note that all competitors were on time at the lunch check.
After lunch an immediate ascent of Allt-y-Bady was made. The hill was in very bad condition indeed, the surface being a mixture of boulders and grease. E. White (Dot J .A.P.) was the only competitor to make a clean ascent, although D. Galloway (N. Scale and sidecar) had very hard lines indeed. No difficulty was encountered at Conquering Hero, the next hill, and subsequently the competitors had an opportunity of enjoying glorious scenery in the course of a sunny ride on the Llantysilis (sic) mountains. A clean and uneventful run home found 18 competitors at the finish.
Tribute should be paid to the careful organisation of the trial which, however, is rapidly becoming a recognised feature of events conducted under the auspices of this Club. One popular feature was the amount of the entry fee, which is 2s. 6d., and this we understand is to be the standard amount for all future reliability trials conducted by this Club. In view of the almost total failure on Allt-y-Bady, no competitor qualified for an award, but the Trials Committee have made the following special awards :
P. G. Thomasson (398 A.B.C.), Hill Cup. He lost 20 marks.
A. R. Coiling (499 Triumph), who lost 21 marks, Gold Medal.
F. W. Hampson (348 A. J.S.), with a loss of 22 marks, Silver Medal,
Dr. R. L. Halloway (348 New Scale Bradshaw and sidecar), with a loss of 23 marks, Bronze Medal.
A report appears in the December 1926 issue of Motor Sport of a Trial run by Liverpool MCC starting in Chester
Many competitors lost their chance of gold medals on Maes-y-Safn and Alt-y-Bady
There were 31 entries for the sporting trial run over a mixed course, consisting of ” rough stuff” and main and secondary roads, starting at Chester. Only three riders failed to face the starter. Many competitors lost their chance of gold medals on Maes-y-Safn and Alt-y-Bady, and only eight clean climbs of the first-named hill were recorded; the successful riders being C. H. Joynson (4.9 h.p. Norton and sidecar), H. Morten (4.9. h.p. P. and M.), E. Brook (5.5 h.p. Ariel), A. D. Elgar (3.46 h.p. Rudge-Whitworth), P. G. Thomason (4.94 h.p. Triumph), J. B. Donaldson (4.93 h.p. B.S.A.), Sgt. S. W. Sparkes (4.99 h.p. Rudge-Whitworth), and G. Edmunds (3.48 h.p. Raleigh). On Alt-y-Bady there were also eight clean climbs, E. F. Dackers (3.48 h.g. Raleigh) had a spill just outside Maes-y-Safn village, which caused him to retire with a buckled back wheel. His team mates S. Higson and G. Edmunds, sportingly retired in order to give him assistance. After lunch the course led along the shores of Bala Lake to Dolgelly, and back over Bwlch-y-Groes, which caused no trouble. Conquering Hero, although in a very wet condition, was climbed by all the remaining 20 competitors.
The Classification trial, run over an easier course having the same start, lunch stop and finish, was divided into three sections, namely — expert, general and novice, and attracted 20 starters. There were three observed hills — Maes-y-Safn (easier side), Bwlch-y-Groes and the Old Horse-Shoe Pass, Llangollen, only one of which claimed no failures. G. W. Prior (4.99 h.p. RudgeWhitworth and sidecar) failed on Bwlch-y-Groes, while L. A. Clarke (6.80 h.p. Zenith and sidecar) was baulked at the very foot by a non-competing car. He was allowed to stop while the car extricated itself from its difficulties. All the starters finished.
Sadly I missed a listing of a rare image on US eBay auction during 2013 but found a link to a thumbnail which was taken in 1932 featuring a Crossley 3-Man Armored Car during Trials on Allt-Y-Bady, this is from an original Press Photo from AP and if anyone finds a copy with better resolution please let me know. I am sure there will be many more out there.
It was with a lot of pleasure I stumbled upon a copy of Motor Cycling of 28 November 1934, in which they undertook a test of two Triumph twin motorbikes. The tests followed the well established Reliance Trial and the images for the test article were taken on the Allt y Badi
Originally I thought that images of the use of the road in the ISDT might be hard to find, my scepticism was quashed upon acquiring a copy of the issue of ‘Motor Cycling’ of the 27th September 1933 and ‘The Motor Cycle‘ of the 15th July 1937 featuring a detailed report of the ISDT.
On page 654 of the 1933 report issue
after a check in Pen-y-Bont Fawr came some real trials going, which embraced the climb of Glyn Ceiriog and the descent of Allt-y-Bady (thoroughly nasty and expected to cause a lot of bother to-morrow when tackled “in reverse”)
“At the top of the Bwlch-y-Groes came the “loop” which has to be covered in the reverse direction tomorrow. In this was covered the Eunant Pass, with it’s mass of cross gullies, and the road alongside Lake Vyrnwy, which as far as a gift; after a check in Pen-y-Bont Fawr came some real trials going, which embraced the climb of Glyn Ceiriog and the descent of Allt-y-Bady (thoroughly nasty and expected to cause a lot of bother to-morrow when tackled “in reverse”). Thence came the lunch check at Llangollen, where hardly anyone had time to snatch more than a hasty drink.”
Photo – #139 Len Heath (499cc Ariel), looking very unfamiliar in his overalls and helmet turns a pretty corner at Llangollen on Friday’s run. His stylish riding was admired everywhere during the week. This photography also gives another glimpse of some of the wonderful scenery. ISDT 1933 (from Speedtracktales Archive)
Len Heath was of course a well known Motorcycle Trials rider with wins of the Scott Trial and later became the mentor of a young Ralph Venables. Without a map of the route, immediate instinct based on the subsequent loop of tracks used for the ISDT around Llangollen means this rider might be climbing either the road up Fron Bache, in which case the wood in the background is the wood alongside the Allt y Bady, or possibly he is riding up the Allt y Gwernant to the east of the Allt y Badi. Further local research will resolve this. The rider Len Heath won the Scottish Six Days in 1933 on an Ariel single and won the Scott Trial 4 times in the 1930′s including 1933. In the ISDT he was self entered and part of the 4th placed British Vase ‘B’ team and with a clean ride picked up a Gold Medal.
On Page 655
Last night there was plenty of ‘wind-up’ about the climb of the ‘Allt-y-Bady‘ and the tightness of this section. Actually the Hill did not prove to very terrible, and a labourer had moved most of the stones to one side
“Last night there was plenty of ‘wind-up’ about the climb of the ‘Allt-y-Bady‘ and the tightness of this section. Actually the Hill did not prove to very terrible, and a labourer had moved most of the stones to one side.Things did happen, however, Les Simpson, certianly one of the outstanding Sidecar drivers in the trial, had his gear jump out, but dealt with the nasty situation excellently. His brother-in-law, Perrey, suffered an exactly similar misfortune and did his stuff.
Godall’s and Harris’s Morgans were very fast indeed; Finden’s AJS seemed on the point of killing its plug, so did Marjorie Cottle’s BSA. Quite as fast as the most dashing 500- and there was plenty of fast motoring – was young Tiffen’s 250 Velocette. Tim Robbins on the new 350 Triumph, was also particularly good.
Poor HF Edwards, who had been having a struggle with his P&M outfit all the week, had chain trouble. In next to no time he mended it, and then there was a fearful tussle to restart on the stoney and slightly greasy 1-in-4 gradient. If he gets through to his ‘Gold’ it will be to a great extent due to his lady passenger , who pushed and pushed like a real heroine.
The high spot of the whole proceedings was Skelton Ginn’s effort. He had been riding for a considerable distance controlling a broken throttle wire with a pair of pliers, and it can be imagined that this was not the ideal arrangement for climbing ‘Alty’. After several attempts, some earnest pushing , with spare petrol tins (carried for his leaking tank) ajingling the while, and some really brilliant feet up riding in the rough, he managed it amid loud applause. Nor was he late at the check. A very stout effort Mr Ginn.
WF Bicknell (Royal Enfield), the steady one, touched a couple of times, but Stewart, the Irish Enfield rider cleverly kept his feet up , though investigating all the rocks on the hill. Thacker also wandered about, but at fairly high speed. Jack White (Ariel), behind him, tacking from side to side trying to get past.”
Photo – Two Dutchmen #102 PJ Nortier(497cc Ariel) and #101 JH Sybrandy (493cc AJS) on Allt y Bady. ISDT 1933 (from Speedtracktales Archive)
Part of the long list of international riders who found their way to the Allt y Bady either side of the WWII following the ISDT. Both self entered riders lost considerable road penalties over the week but were able to hang onto Bronze Medal finishes. Sybrandy was a member of the Holland Vase ‘B’ team that finished 6th.
Photo – #6 GH Goodall roaring up the same gradient with his 990cc Morgan [GC 4]. His spectacular climbing was one of the features of the trial. ISDT 1933 (from Speedtracktales Archive)
Goodall managed to keep his time card clean all week and was rewarded with a Gold Medal.
The August 1934 issue of Motor Sport provides a report of a car trial based on Llandudno organised by the MCC that had previously been the Scarborough Trial. Sadly there are no images for this report.
Allt-y-Bady came next, short, very steep, and claiming thirty-three victims. Here the trouble lies in the gradient starting immediately round a sharp corner, but if the throttle is kept open wide there is no reason why a good modern sports car should not register a clean climb.
THE M.C.C. GO TO LLANDUDNO NEW EVENT TO REPLACE THE ” SCARBOROUGH ” A GREAT SUCCESS— ONLY 11 RETIREMENTS OUT OF 126 STARTERS.
FOR some reason or other the M.C.C. Scarborough Trial never became really popular, and its brief life was ended when the organisers decided to substitute a different trial in the Welsh hills this year. There were three starting points, London, Exeter and Buxton, and the cars left these places for the night section to Shrewsbury. Plenty of latitude was allowed as to route, and only two controls were held on each run, and as the average speed was scheduled at 30 m.p.h. this part of the trial passed off a good deal less tediously than is sometimes the case.
After ravenously eating a hearty breakfast at the Raven Hotel (sorry!) the competitors set off on a sunny morning for the real work of the trial. After following main roads through Oswestry the first hill was encountered, to wit, Dolywern. It turned out that this was to be the most difficult climb of the whole trial, not because the gradient is excessive, but owing to the fact that its acute hairpin bends call for calm, unhurried driving. The small cars scored here, for a large proportion of the bigger machines failed to get round the second bend and had to reverse. Allt-y-Bady came next, short, very steep, and claiming thirty-three victims. Here the trouble lies in the gradient starting immediately round a sharp corner, but if the throttle is kept open wide there is no reason why a good modern sports car should not register a clean climb. It is always a little onerous to pick out individual climbs for special mention, especially among M.C.C. members, but we did notice good performances by Singer and M.G. owners, such as M. H. Lawson, W. J. B. Richardson (atoning for his failure on Dolywern) and J. A. M. Patrick for Coventry, and E. H. Banfield, L. K. Brownson and J. N. Hibbitt for Abingdon. Failures were removed from the fairway by means of the traction engine which now supplants the usual team of horses. While doing its job quickly and efficiently the only fault of this machine is that it is apt to instill an inferiority complex into competitors who have already been assisted in this manner on such hills as Simms !
The hot sun certainly took the sting out of hills in this trial, but it had its handicap in scorching the weary competitors and choking them in thick dust. By the time the next hill was reached, Old Bwlch, people were beginning to look pretty travel-stained, and their troubles were not relieved by overheating engines and their attendant discomforts. This hill was long and not too steep, and stopped only one car in the whole entry, A. E. Teesdale’s Wolseley Hornet.
Maes-y-Safn is a hill that would be a wonderful ” gold-saver ” in the winter, for rain would make its bumpy, rocky surface the most difficult of all types known to trials drivers. On a torrid summer day it did no more than exercise the suspension of the cars to their fullest capacity and dealt hearty blows to the nethermost details, such as battery boxes, undertrays and exhaust pipes. The noises given off by many cars in this way were positively sickening. There were only a few stoppages, and of these D. E. Harris (Le Mans Singer) failed through losing his sense of direction and charging up a bank.
Dust, and still more dust, at the end of which came Bodfari, the last hill of the trial. Fine weather and a dry surface again helped the competitors here, and only three were brought to a standstill by the 1 in 3 gradient. The unlucky (and unwise) ones were W. J. Milton (Austin Ten), A. H. Garland (Triumph Nine) and F. How (B.S.A.).
After this the by-now thoroughly uncomfortable competitors made their way to the finish at Llandudno. The final tests brought out weaknesses in the condition of both cars and drivers. Acceleration for a hundred yards was followed by violent braking, reversing into a bay, more acceleration and a brake test in which any deviation from the straight was penalised. Performances were good, bad and indifferent, some people being obviously a bit clumsy through fatigue. It was easier, here, to pick out specially good shows, for example, J. Horsfall (Wolseley Hornet), H. C. Hobron (Lagonda Rapier), M. H. Lawson (Singer), E. Long (Vauxhall 30/98), and N. E. Bracey (Wolseley Hornet).
Altogether, the new Llandudno Trial can be rated a great success. It is interesting enough to attract regular trials competitors and, at the same time, not too difficult for newcomers to the game. That seemed to be the general impression at the dance in the evening at the Grand Hotel.
Cars up to 110 tax : I. Winner of “The Autocar ” Trophy : M. H. Lawson (Singer Le Mans) ; 2. W. J. B. Richardson ; (3) A. B. Langley (both Singers) ; 4, W. P. Uglow ; 5, J. E. Mellor ; 6, K. R. Biscombe (all Hillman Aero Minxes).
Cars over £10 and up to 216 tax : 1. Winner of ” The Motor” Trophy, J. Horsfalllseley Hornet) ; 2. E. H. Banfield (M.G. Magnette ; 3. J. Tweedale (Frazer-Nash) ; 4, J. A. M. Patrick (Singer Le Mans 11-litre) ; 5, N. E. Bracey (Wolseley Hornet Special) ; 6, L. Mills (Lea-Francis).
Cars over £10 tax : I. Winner of Llandudno Motor Traders Trophy : II. Hillcoat (Ford V 8) ; 2, E. Long Vauxhall) ; 3, G. Dracup (Alvis) ; 4, F. H. Lye Talbot); 5, E. E. Rednall (Ford V 8) ; 6, G. M. Denton (Ford V 8).
Team Awards : 1. Winners of The Red Garages Trophy, No. 11 team (Hillman Aero Minxes), W. P. Uglow, M. Biscombe and K. R. Biscombe. 2. No. 8 team (Ford V 8s), G. M. Denton, M. L. Curtis and H. Hillcoat. 3. No. 4 team (Singer Nine I.e Mans), W. J. B. Richardson, A. B. Langley and H. M. Avery.”
In ‘the Motor Cycle’ report of the Reliance Trial that was published October 24th 1935 the event that started from Mold and ended in Llangollen reported “Allt-y-Bady, which is slowly reverting to trials calibre after being repaired a few years ago, was used for the timed restart. In spite of the 1 in 3.8 gradient now having a surface “like a heap of dominoes’.’ (as one rider put it), even two-fifties made no bones about standing starts, which is an indication of the improvement in modern engines and the grip of present-day “comp.” tyres. The sidecars, however, were not too happy; they needed all the urge available from a gradient point of view, and yet when their skippers “gave them the gun” it mostly happened that the front wheels caressed the earth lightly and sportively and the outfits slewed round crabwise, and that was that.”
In the Official Programme for the 1937 ISDT the organisers describing the route leading to Llangollen said “until the course converges on its 1933 equivalent at Llanrhaiadr, although it does not follow strictly the old itinery. A narrow loop is avoided after Llanarmon, and a detour is made around Glyn Ceiriog to get to the foot of Allt-y-Bady, a hill which presents little difficulty nowadays. Competitors are then bought in a circle to Llangollen, where the luncheon check is situated”
‘Motor Cycling‘ covering the first days riding in its issue of the 14th July sent it’s photographer the Allt y Bady and returned with these images and this report.
The trouble with present-day Internationals is as there are no observed hills or timed hill climbs it is difficult to select a spot to watch the lads doing their stuff and observe the various styles of riding. Alt-y-Bady, however, is well known and is still a severe test hill on account of its length and average gradient of 1 in 3.8. The surface is good nowadays
“From here the route follows give-and-take main and secondary roads to Walton, at which point it turns north into new country at Berriew and Llanfyllin then onto Llanrhaeadr and round Glyn Ceiriog to reach the famous old test of, Alt-y-Bady.
As competitors rode into North Wales the weather cleared up nicely and even the sun condescended to shine. It was not surprising, therefore, to find a large crowd of spectators on Alt-y-Bady.
The trouble with present-day Internationals is as there are no observed hills or timed hill climbs it is difficult to select a spot to watch the lads doing their stuff and observe the various styles of riding. Alt-y-Bady, however, is well known and is still a severe test hill on account of its length and average gradient of 1 in 3.8. The surface is good nowadays.
The first man to arrive was Harold Taylor (497 Ariel) who toured up in fine style. He was followed by two more sidecar outfits, LEC Hall’s 499 Rudge and H Tozer’s 496 BSA. Both of these men made excellent climbs, although Tozer very nearly missed his gear change when engaging the bottom cog. After a fairly long wait RL Galloway (Rudge sc) and Graham Oates (497 Ariel sc) appeared on the scene and climbed up with plenty of power in hand. F Juhan (598 Jawa sc) was not risking anything, however, as becomes a member of a Trophy team – He is in the Czechoslovakia trio – and had his passenger sitting on the pillion all the way up. Jack Williams (348 Norton) was smothered in dust as he arrived. He was behind Tim Robbins (248 Royal Enfield) who very politely gave way for him to pass. E Halter (497 Zundapp) was another sidecar driver who had his passenger on the pillion seat.
A series of steady climbs followed and Miss Marjorie Cottle (249 BSA) was loudly cheered as she romped up the gradient. On the other hand another lady, Frau Thouret (245 DKW) passed almost unnoticed largely because her attire was exactly the same as many of the German male riders. A lot of them, incidentally, wear crash hats throughout the day in addition to leather suits and smart riding boots. To keep the rain off they are equipped with rubber coats rather after the style of our own ponchos.
While our riders were, almost without exception, most neat and tidy in their riding style, the foreigners were inclined to open the taps fairly wide. Most of the BMW riders gave exhibitions of the tremendous power at their command, especially the Dutch ‘A’ Vase trio.
As might be expected, the team men in the Trophy competition were most careful; Vic Brittain (348 Norton) and George Rowley (346 AJS) of our own trio and J Stelzer (494 BMW) of the German team were especially good. So the sidecar men, S Waycott (595 Velocette sc) and L Kraus (596 BMW sc). When R Macgregor (499 Rudge sc) of our Vase ‘B’ team came up the hill P Struwe (494 BMW) tried to overtake him, but Bob was not having any. He opened the taps wide and shot away from the German rider with ease. W. Leppin (248 DKW) had to get off and run alongside which made it rather akward for FH Whittle (598 Panther sc) but he managed to pass successfully.
For the little 98cc DKWs the hill was a severe proposition indeed, and most of the lads riding these models had to run alongside – a most exacting business when one was clad in leathers, rubber coat and crash hat. E Barth 98 DKW) was the first of these ‘under 100s’ to tackle the hill and he had to get off and push. Others who had to do the same thing were GW Sannes (98 DKW), W Zylaard (98 DKW) and Heusden (98 DKW). H Zuur (494 BMW sc) seemed to push most of the way.
The Morgans handled by Henry Laird and W Goodall were most impressive.
After an Hour’s break for lunch in Llangollen, competitors were sent back to Bala and over the Hirnant and Eunant passes to the top of the Bwlch y Groes. Lunch was provided by the Triumph Comany, the meals being arranged under the experienced supervision of Mrs ML Anning”
‘the Motor Cycle‘ report on the 1937 ISDT in it’s 15th July Issue also focussed on and provided good coverage of the event at the Allt y Badi
On page 78 of this issue
After skirting Llangollen, the route led over dusty roads to Allt-y-Bady, where a large crowd of spectators eagerly looked forward to watching a truly international entry tackle the steep though fairly easy gradient
“After skirting Llangollen, the route led over dusty roads to Allt-y-Bady, where a large crowd of spectators eagerly looked forward to watching a truly international entry tackle the steep though fairly easy gradient.
Allt y Bady, an old Reliance* favourite which has in recent years developed into an easy climb that can be taken at speed caused very little trouble except for the smallest machines. Again H. Klopfer (98 D.K.W.) distinguished himself himself with a non-stop ascent where others in his class had to resort to running alongside. Most foreign riders approached the gradient with caution and, gaining confidence, proceeded to accelerate, some climbing really quickly, to the delight of the large crowd. The British riders treated the hill with caution. B. Stronge (246 matchless), Jack Williams (348 Norton) and V.N. Brittain (348 Norton) were particularly neat and cautious. Both Girls, Miss Cottle 249 B.S.A.) and Frau Thouret (245 D.K.W.), received a great ovation, the former waving back cheerily.
R. MacGregor (499 Rudge) seemed as purposeful as ever, even though he was faster than usual. W. S. Waycott (595 Velocette sc) was as safe as he always looks, and G Bakker Schut (494 B.M.W.) A Möhrke (494 B.M.W.) and A. v. Falkenhausen (494 B.M.W.) made a trio of excellent fast climbs. J. Stelzer (496 B.M.W.), of the German Trophy team, looked as he is apt to look – worried – but made an excellent , well-judged climb.
Riding in a sense in his own back yard, Colin Edge (498 Matchless) came up really fast, waved to the crowd and then held on hard, for an awkwardly placed stone tried to deflect his front wheel.
Next came an arduous and dusty descent into Llangollen to the Lunch Check with its half hour respite and free lunch kindly provided by a group of British Manufacturers. Here T. Barnes (997 Ariel sc) discovered a large hole in his crankcase and wisely considered retiring. Maurice Greenwood (495 New Imperial), the veteran of the trial, who has ridden since the first event in 1913 was as cheery as ever.
At lunch most of the riders agreed that the course was a good one, its cross gullies and twist turns providing plenty of fun. The time schedule was very definitely on the easy side. Praise was unanimous for the police, who at all dangerous points in the villages did their utmost to keep the roads clear of vehicles. Indeed, the whole route was remarkably clear of traffic.”
The below images came from the German Motorcycle Magazine ‘Das Motorrad’ report on the ISDT in its 1937 issue
Below is the same view above taken from Google Streetview in 2009
‘Motor Sport‘ in August 1938 reports on the Welsh Trial, a car trial, which included a class for women entrants who competed for the Women’s Automobile and Sports Association Wakefield Trophy which was competed for over three events each year.
Then came an acceleration test on Allt-y-Bady, the famous hill close to Llangollen. It is now easier than in past years, for the surface is much improved, but cross gullies and a 1 in 3½ gradient still present difficulties
“The W.A.S.A. event immediately followed the International Six Days Trial, and part of the arduous route in North Wales used by the motor-cyclists was scheduled for the women drivers. The trial started from Llangollen, and on the very first hill, Fron Bache, the International competitors had experienced a lot of trouble on the previous day. Fortunately the weather was better for the W.A.S.A., but it was a creditable showing that, with competition tyres banned—a feature of W.A.S.A. events for years, now endorsed by the R.A.C. manifesto—only two women drivers stopped on the steep, narrow climb. Then came an acceleration test on Allt-y-Bady, the famous hill close to Llangollen. It is now easier than in past years, for the surface is much improved, but cross gullies and a 1 in 3½ gradient still present difficulties. The test, in which 20 yards had to be covered in a maximum of 7 secs., was not on the steepest part of the hill, and everyone fulfilled the required time, though Miss M. V. Milne with her Singer coupe only just managed it, taking Of sees. Best times were those of Mrs. H. Wood’s T.T. Frazer-Nash-B.M.W. (41 secs.). and Miss E. V. Watson’s Frazer-Nash-B.M.W. and Mrs. K. Hague’s Riley (4f secs.). P. S. Hollings, however, one of the few men competitors, stopped with clutch slip on his Morris.
The final check was at the top of Allty-Gwernant, above Llangollen, with a glorious view over the valley. Following the check came a special test, to decide the destination of various trophies, apart from the Wakefield Trophy contest. Drivers had to coast downhill, stop astride a line, reverse back, and accelerate over a final line. The gradient was not steep enough to cause overshooting, and some of the drivers carried out the reverse so adroitly that they had evidently practised assiduously. Mrs. Hague was particularly clever, stopping with her Riley’s front wheels only just over the middle line, and thus having the minimum distance to reverse. Hers was the best time (17 secs.), which won her the Isabel Sander Trophy and replica, for best performance of the day. R. F. Hield with his M.G. was next best, taking 171 secs., and winning the Association Trophy for the best performance by a visitor. Miss Dobson again showed up well with the 0.3f., taking 19 secs., but Mrs. Wood’s time with the fast B.M.W. was spoilt by a gear jumping out. The team prize was not awarded, as no team finished complete.”
Stabl Pugh and Fron Bache Hills
In the July 20th 1938 edition of Motor Cycling the photographers stayed clear of the Allt y Bady but instead set up positions on Fron Bache. We saw in 1937, a photo of Len Heath taken we suspected on Stabl Pugh but not named, in 1938 the photos credit and point out to the severity of Fron bache and Stabl Pugh due to the wet weather conditions prevailing at the time.
Can anyone spot the subtly tucked away uniformed Sergeant of the Denbighshire Constabulary’s Llangollen Police Station who has no doubt popped out to check all is in order and nobody is speeding.
From the report on Wednesdays action on page 418 it is reported
“Last night everyone went to bed thinking that to-days excursion into North Wales would be relatively easy compared with the three previous days, but it is far from the case. To begin with, it rained all day and the course was in a really bad state, particularly the long hill Fron Bache, which continues into Stabl Pugh, just outside Llangollen.
This hill is used in the open one-day sporting *Reliance Trophy Trial – an event using a course that is expected to ‘sort out’ our finest trials riding experts on specially built machines fitted with competition tyres. This double-barrelled hill was in a much worse state than when it was used last in the Reliance, and, although our International competitors were practically all on ‘standards,’ nothing was done to see that there would be no repetition of Monday’s shambles.
The hill starts off with several bends but the surface is good to begin with. It then rises very quickly and at the steepest part of all, which is near the top, it is straight with a grass covered surface that to-day was very slippery.
Early numbers had the advantage, but gradually the lads churned up the ground near the steepest parts so much that it appeared to be next to impossible to get an atom of wheelgrip. As more and more riders failed, so the congestion among the fresh arrivals increased until in the end a marshall watching the proceedings decided to sanction pushing to relieve the pressure – not before some of the lads had had at least four goes and were practically exhausted. Even so delays were considerable, although riders who knew the hill as a result of competing in the Reliance, such as GE Rowley (AJS) VN Brittain and J Williams (Nortons) A Jeffries (Triumph and Co., and thus knew what to do, opened the taps as wide as they dared and romped up fairly satisfactorily. Credit for the best solo and sidecar ascents must go to G Wolsey (Triumph) and WS Waycott (Velocette sc).
Nevertheless, everyone had a lot to say about it, and we understand that no results of to-days run will be published before the stewards have met so, obviously, the organizers realize their slip.’
The following two Images are from Google Streetview showing the Fron Bache and Stabl Pugh
Mentioned in a previous cutting was a story of a fatality on the road when a cyclist crashed. This tale dated back to 1915 and was covered in an article found in the newspaper ‘the Welsh Voice’ 27 March 1915 and went as follows
FATAL LOVE TRYST.
CYCLIST ATTEMPTS AN IMPOSSIBLE FEAT.
A cyclist’s attempt to cross the Berwyn mountains by a steep and dangerous path, cutting six miles off the journey to Glyn Ceiriog to Llangollen in order to keep a tryst with his sweetheart, had a fatal sequel on Monday. A Liverpool motorist on Sunday afternoon found the cyclist, George Leek, of Australia Street, Rhos, lying unconscious at the foot of the Allt-y-Bady. He was removed to Llangollen Hospital, where he died last evening without having regained consciousness. he had cycled from his home to meet his sweetheart, by appointment at Glyn Ceiriog, travelling by the highway via Chirk. At Glyn Ceiriog a message waited him to travel with all haste to keep the tryst at Llangollen, and to this end he attempted to negotiate the steep pass over the Berwyns, a feat recognised as impossible for cyclists.
*The Reliance Trial was a trial first run in 1911 by the Liverpool Auto-Cycle Club starting on Merseyside and passing through the mountains of North Wales becoming one of the important trials events in the national calendar of the ACU. It has more recently been reborn as an event for pre 65 machines.
There is plenty of other evidence of Trials and later Enduros that may have used the Allt y Badi. The National Library of Wales’s online public history archive – ‘People’s Collection’ includes a Photo held by ‘Llangollen museum‘ of a lone trials bike in the mid 1930’s on the Allt y Bady
Eric Stevens with George Burton of Nettlebed. Here they compete in the 1937 Deva Cup trial on a 490cc Norton CS1. The Daily Express photographer caught them just as Dad hit the wall. It looks like a very steep hill. Probably near Llangollen again.
The Track’s name Allt y Bady, Allt y Baddy or Allt y Badi is an unusual mix of words, Allt is an old word in the welsh language for a Hill or Hillside, but the often belief it means ‘Bad Hill’ is lost by the fact the welsh word for bad is Drwg, Bad is an english word but there may be another explanation of its root other than the obvious.
George Borrow wrote his book ‘Wild Wales – it’s people, language and scenery‘ in 1862 and in its course visited Llangollen on a number of occaissions. His observations of welsh life he tried to tease out of the words of locals in their own language. In one trip he leaves Llangollen heading south to Glyn Ceiriog which he describes as follows.
“I did so, and away we went. We passed over the bridge, and turning to the right went by the back of the town through a field. As we passed by the Plas Newydd John Jones said:
“No one lives there now, sir; all dark and dreary; very different from the state of things when the ladies lived there – all gay then and cheerful. I remember the ladies, sir, particularly the last, who lived by herself after her companion died. She was a good lady, and very kind to the poor; when they came to her gate they were never sent away without something to cheer them. She was a grand lady too – kept grand company, and used to be drawn about in a coach by four horses. But she too is gone, and the house is cold and empty; no fire in it, sir; no furniture. There was an auction after her death; and a grand auction it was and lasted four days. Oh, what a throng of people there was, some of whom came from a great distance to buy the curious things, of which there were plenty.”
We passed over a bridge, which crosses a torrent, which descends from the mountain on the south side of Llangollen, which bridge John Jones told me was called the bridge of the Melin Bac, or mill of the nook, from a mill of that name close by. Continuing our way we came to a glen, down which the torrent comes which passes under the bridge. There was little water in the bed of the torrent, and we crossed easily enough by stepping-stones. I looked up the glen; a wild place enough, its sides overgrown with trees. Dreary and dismal it looked in the gloom of the closing evening. John Jones said that there was no regular path up it, and that one could only get along by jumping from stone to stone, at the hazard of breaking one’s legs. Having passed over the bed of the torrent, we came to a path, which led up the mountain. The path was very steep and stony; the glen with its trees and darkness on our right. We proceeded some way. At length John Jones pointed to a hollow lane on our right, seemingly leading into the glen.
“That place, sir,” said he, “is called Pant y Gwyddel – the Irishman’s dingle, and sometimes Pant Paddy, from the Irish being fond of taking up their quarters there. It was just here, at the entrance of the pant, that the tribe were encamped, when I passed two months ago at night, in returning from the other side of the hill with ten shillings in my pocket, which I had been paid for a piece of my work, which I had carried over the mountain to the very place where I am now carrying this. I shall never forget the fright I was in, both on account of my life, and my ten shillings. I ran down what remained of the hill as fast as I could, not minding the stones. Should I meet a tribe now on my return I shall not run; you will be with me, and I shall not fear for my life nor for my money, which will be now more than ten shillings, provided the man over the hills pays me, as I have no doubt he will.”
As we ascended higher we gradually diverged from the glen, though we did not lose sight of it till we reached the top of the mountain. The top was nearly level. On our right were a few fields enclosed with stone walls. On our left was an open space where whin, furze and heath were growing. We passed over the summit, and began to descend by a tolerably good, though steep road. But for the darkness of evening and a drizzling mist, which, for some time past, had been coming on, we should have enjoyed a glorious prospect down into the valley, or perhaps I should say that I should have enjoyed a glorious prospect, for John Jones, like a true mountaineer, cared not a brass farthing for prospects.”
The above route passing Pont Bache in order to have travelled to Glyn Ceiriog by the most direct route would have passed up the Allt y Bady or nearby. If the Nant Paddy is a local nickname for the Dingle of the Paddies (Irish) the Welsh expression Allt y Paddy would see that after a Y the letter P is mutated to B like Paddy to Baddy hence ‘Allt y Baddy’ is ‘Hill of the Irish’ and named so because of the regular visits by the Irish Tinkers still an often seen sight in abandoned lay-byes and road side wastes around the roads.
We know from Records held in the local Public Records Office that in the beginning of 1950 the Llangollen Borough Council, who looked after the roads of the area, were in a bit of a dilemna. Reports were being made of the Allt y Badi having become severely damaged as a result of its use during the war by the army to move tanks and tank transporters to training areas. The War Department agreed it had caused the damage and an award was made to cover the cost of the repair of the road. In 1955 the Council were again considering if it should now be surfaced with tarmac.
After an estimate of about £5000 was given the Council decided to abort the plan as the nearby Allt Gwernant which was as steep as the Allt y Badi had recently been tarmaced and would suffice to meet the needs for local motorists to get to the top of the ridge separating the Dee and Ceiriog Valleys. The Allt y Badi was bypassed leaving the road open and still available for the random agricultural traffic and those motorcyclists who had been introduced to its challenges since before the ISDT had arrived.
As we find more on the Baddy we will post more so please return again and future features will include the Bwlch y Groes and the routes over the Cambrian mountain still popular in events such as the Welsh Two Day Trial.
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This is still an awesome route. Regularly drive it in a Land rover and always a challenge.
What a wonderful tale, ive also driven it many times from the early 90’s onwards
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