Left: 1959 March Hare Trial - Sapsed's Stopper - The final section on which everything appeared to depend for the results is tackled determinedly by I. C. Wilson (Wilson-Ford)
Unlike the Guy Fawkes the March Hare was a local Trial, using hills in the Herts, Beds and Bucks area rather than in the Cotswolds. The first running of the March Hare was in 1958, but a trial was first held in June 1956 and again in 1957 when it was known as the Midsummer Trial. The trouble with running a Trial in midsummer, is that you can't see the tracks for the brambles growing along side, which means a lot of hard work clearing the tracks before you can run the event. So in 1958 the date was moved to March and given the name The March Hare. Tucker was Clark of the Course and arranged two starts, one in Royston the other in Hatfield. The finish was at the club's headquarters, The Chequers in Woolmer Green.
There was one serious incident that was reported on the 1958 March Hare when some competitors cars blocked the road at Hill House and a local resident was upset when the navigator of one car refused to move it.
As with the Guy Fawkes, the March Hare seemed to have changes to the event every year. In 1959 Telegraph Hill was introduced to the route. This was, and indeed still is, a very steep hill on the Icknield Way Roman Road between Lilley and Pegsdon. It must have been one of the toughest hills in the trial. Today it's part of a nature reserve. Another hill that must have been used about that time was Jeremiah's Nob, a chalk track in Barton-le-Clay which was quite easy in the dry but quite impossible in the wet. Another hill that was included was a hill Tucker called "Harlington" because it was at Harlington. Today it has a nice slab of concrete half way up which would make a good place for a restart. Back in 1959 the hill was just a nice muddy climb.
According to the Autosport report of March 20 1959, the start was in the Stevenage New Town Centre car park so perhaps there was a touring assembly type of thing to a central start in Stevenage.
The report went on "There was what should have been a little simple navigation and time-keeping to keep the bouncers amused between observed sections; it is a curious thing, that this never fails to catch someone! Jeff Bradford was not alone as a victim and I remember that last years the bag was quite impressive. The first bit of this "simple navigation" led or should have led to Chalk Hill, where there was a timed test of the double- stop-and-go-restart and-flying-finish variety. There should have been an engine-restarting test also but had to be cut out because a car load of marshals failed to find the hill. Next came Telegraph, a straight grass climb which was not in last year's route: two days before the event this was in a most interesting condition but by Sunday there was nothing in it. Hill House at Barton-le-Clay is a very long climb on, not surprisingly, chalky clay. Half an hour before the arrival of the field it was extremely slippery but it suddenly dried out and was as aforesaid, caused no trouble. Then came Harlington, another hill which was not in last year's menu. This was a beauty up another grassy muddy lane between banks. The first few cars could not manage more than a length or so of progress and then John Bracey arrived with the Anglia and surprised everyone by storming up into sub-section two. Jack Davies followed suit with the VW and this remained the extent of everyone's travel until Norman Tyler rocketed to top at tremendous speed, pursuing an unsuspecting photographer into a thorny resting place in a bank. As we mentioned before the only other cleans here came from Ron Tyler's Cannon. Ron Warren's Dellow and Derek Flemings Primrose.
The trial then moved down into the area south of Tring and Berkhamsted, where the first item was a timed climb of Hastoe Hill. Derek Fleming made the best time here, with Bety Tucker-Peake and Norman Tyler next up. Jeff Bradford was the fastest sports car and John Tucker-Peake the fastest saloon. At Bellingdon Bottom there was a slightly grassy lane which caused no real trouble, followed by a stop-and-restart test on Hawridge: cars had to clear the line within three seconds from the marshal's signal. two cars only failed on this count but a further seven were failed for running back across the line. Tunnel Hill had previously been used as a down hill test but this year it was an observed climb which again caused no real trouble.
Back to Matford near Wheathampstead whence there was a Y-shaped driving test to be used only as a tie-decider. Thence to High Heath Farm near Codicote, where the last two sections were laid out on a high bank at one end of a grass field. The first of these, High Heath itself, was a short, narrow, tight S-bend round trees. The only saloon to get a clean was D Taylor's Dauphine. Jack Davis and E.R Haywood, both in VW's got to top but motored round the outside of the marker flags at five. John Bracey (Anglia), Cliff Smith (Minor) and John Tucker-Peake took the conventional route and scored two each. Jeff Bradford and Reg Horsnell climbed clean for the sports cars, but their copybooks were already irretrievably blotted. The specials had a stop-and-restart at the 8 board: they mostly climbed clean despite this, although the hill caught Daphne Freeman, Ian Wilson and R. J. Dudley in an Austin Powered Riley. Sapsed's Stopper was another excellent hill which showed how well the inbuilt handicapping system can work. It was nearly climbed by several saloons and yet with only slight modifications, it stopped the specials unless they were superbly driven.
So to sign off, clean up and take tea at the Chequers, and a thoroughly good event was over for another year. Congratulations to "Tucker" whose untiring efforts and clever organisation make these all-comers trials the success they so richly deserve to be."
The main award, the appropriately named "Mad Hatter", for Best performance went to, N Tyler. Best performance by an open special, Mrs B Tucker-Peake (Tucker MG). Best performance by an open car, P. G. Gough ( Morgan). Best performance by a saloon J. P. Davis (VW). Team Award, The Falconers (R Warren, D Fleming and Mrs B Tucker-Peake).
There must have been a mad panic before the 1960 March Hare as bad weather the week before the event was to take place, meant that several hills in the Tring/Berkhamsted area had to be abandoned and an entirely new route drawn up. The new route included some hills for a second time, more rain kept them in a sticky state.
There were only three clean sheets on the day, those of M.J. Lawrence (Lawford), R.E.Warren (Dellow) and E.G. Jones (VW). Mr B.B Jones (Morgan Plus Four) was also clean until the last hill which he failed. Had Mr Jones cleaned the hill there would have been at least one clean sheet from each category.
Starting from Woolmer Green the route led to the first two sections at High Heath Farm where the first section, Sapsed's Stopper, started steadily then climbed sharply up a steep bank. Further along was High Heath, which climbed the bank going between and around a couple of trees.
Next came "Constreet Lane" which had a stop-restart which caught out seven competitors. The route continued to a muddy track which led to "Rabbit Run" which was a timed section around a bend in a fair amount of mud. Seven miles further on led the competitors to "Chalk Hill", which was a test for ties. This involved a timed run over three stop and restart lines, the fastest being D. Fleming and R. Warren.
"Agnells Lane" was the next section with another stop and restart which foiled only three competitors as did "Constreet Lane" second time around. "Hill House" was a good long climb necessitating keeping above the ruts, which only two MG's failed to do, a TC and a TF. The competitors then headed for "Telegraph Hill" before returning via "Chalk Hill", Agnells Lane" and the "Rabbit Run" to the field to finish the event with the two sections with which they had begun it. It was noticeable that several competitors reversed their earlier performances by climbing the one they had failed before and vice versa. The event finished at the Roebuck Hotel near Stevenage where tea was served. Results. Mad Hatter Trophy: M.J Lawrence (Lawford) 0 marks lost. Class winners: B.B Jones (Morgan Plus Four) 5: R.E. Warren (Dellow) 0: E.G Walsh (VW) 0: First class awards: A.C. Hobbs (Volvo) 3: K.W. Hobbs (Dauphine) 3: B.A Wilson (Dauphine) 3: J.P. Davies (VW) 4: J.F. Bracey (Anglia) 5:
The regulations for the March Hare of 1962 stated, "All competitors finishing the course without fault, complying with all requirements and instructions, would receive the same award". Other than the category awards, there were 35 competitors of the 53 that started, who won first class awards.
The trial started at 12 noon from Hemel Hempsted and took the competitors to nine hills in different parts of the Chilterns. Six of the hills were straightforward observed climbs. The other three hills had tests laid out on them, one of which was used as a tie decider.
Despite continuous rain the day before, conditions were not too bad and only the Minis' and one or two Sprites' had insufficient ground clearance. A new hill used by the club for the first time was "Boss Hill" which did not fail many competitors. Other more challenging hills included, Tunnel Hill, Hawridge, Hastoe and Bellingdon which were used in both directions. Competitors began arriving back at the finish in Berkhamsted in the late afternoon, where they all sat down to tea. Class winners: B. Hobbs (Sprite), F. Manyweathers (Ford), N. Calvert (VW), P. Le Couteur (Dellow). Team award: A. Hay (Lotus), P. Le Couteur (Dellow), R. Horsnell (A40).
1963 and the 10th anniversary of the March Hare. Despite heavy rain the previous day, which caused one hill to be cancelled, the "Clerk of the Weather" smiled kindly upon the 46 competitors.
From the start in Stevenage Town Centre, there was a short run to Nup End, a short section of about 50 yards which was a nice little appetizer to the start of the event. Nearby "High Heath" proved to be the decider of the day with only 17 competitors making a clean climb. Amongst the failures were, four Volkswagens, two Sprites, one Special and several Ford saloons.
The short lane at Nuffin was ideal for a special test which was a timed hill from line A to line B, with the time counted in seconds and fractions plus the distance beyond B in feet to the nearest foot. Ron Warren had the fastest climb and also slid the farthest beyond line B. Agnells Lane was an easy climb up a green lane between high hedges. A run through the lanes took the competitors to Telegraph I, with its chalky surface and snow drift at the top. The passengers were able to regain their breath again on the easer Telegraph II. The trial then headed back along the lanes to Nuffin, Agnells Lane and the last hill, Sapseds Stopper. Tea was taken at the Roebuck Inn and before all the cakes had vanished, the results were ready. In this event the competitors were competing against the club, so a "clean", won a first class award. Of the 46 entrants only the class winners and 10 others achieved this target, so second class awards went to 14 competitors who failed to complete all but one of the requirements for a first class award. Class winners: W. Vincent (Ford), R. Horsnell (Austin), T. Wood (Messerschmitt), D. Frost (Dellow).
In 1964 The March Hare started in Hemel Hempstead, and finished in Berkhamsted. Starting in Hemel Hempsted, meant that the route must have used Tunnel Hill in Nettleden and Hill Farm near Cholesbury. It is possible that the route also included The Crong near Dancers End.
In 1965 the 59 competitors in the March Hare Trial started from Zeneth Motors in Stevenage at 12.30 pm, to follow a 40 mile course to finish at the Roebuck Hotel. On the way to Latchford Farm, near Puckeridge, where Seven sections were laid out, competitors faced the first timed test before traveling to Kings Hill, where there was a stop and restart test. Despite the good weather and apparent easiness of the course, only slightly more than a third of the entry were clean. On the way back to the Roebuck the route led through another stop and restart test which caused little trouble and the second test to decide ties. Class winners: D. Woodard (Mini Cooper), R. Cullen (Anglia), H. Mawson (Imp), M. Dockray (Dellow). Team award: Falconers (R. Warren, V. Prior and Miss M. Tucker-Peake).
The March Hare of 1966 had the tea stop dropped to avoid route troubles. What sort of troubles isn't reported. The start was at Zenith Motors, Stevenage with a route 15 miles long and finishing at Latchford Farm near Puckeridge.
As you will have noticed from the 1966 March Hare, the trial's road mileage was becoming shorter and the venues less. The trend continued in 1967. The first hill may have been called Bury Lane as it's the continuation of a lane of the same name that runs from north of Datchworth to Watton Road, which links Knebworth to Bragbury End. This is now a Bridleway/Footpath. After Bury Lane the route then included Leatherfield Common followed by Kings Hill. Leatherfield Common is south of Bennington and just north of Blue Hill and is a tree lined mud covered track between two fields. Kings Hill is a little further west between Haultwick and Levens Green and passes through a Ford before a short climb on a mud covered stony track. This was followed by a road section to Latchford Farm, Colliers End, where the remaining sections were held.
By 1968 the trial had become a single venue event, which that year was held at Ringshall Farm near Hemel Hempsted. Despite the fact that only a single venue was used, the trial was still run under Classic rules. Class winners were, P.Marr, B.Walsh, P.Kerridge, F.Jackson, D.Piper, P.LeCoureur. Special Award to C.Morrell, Best Lady: Miss Ann Robbins. Other Falcon award winners were H.Frost, R.Robbins (both 1st), M.Dockray, M.Murray, B.Butler, E Walsh, Mrs. M Knight (all won 2nd class awards)
Again in 1969 The March Hare Trial was held at Ringshall Farm. Class Winners that year Class 1: P.G Kerridge, Class 3: C.N Morrell, Class 5: J. Ventur.
In 1970, the March Hare was held on the 2nd November as, the Guy Fawkes was held in March (very confusing). The venue was Tring Park, a picturesque park on the outskirts of Tring, which became very popular with competitors. The 1971 event also took place in Tring Park but it had returned to a date in March.
It was touch and go as to whether the 1972 March Hare would take place as there was snow on the ground. Tucker took the decision to let the event run. It was a brave decision but in the end the weather got worse and the event had to be abandoned with one and a half inches of snow on the ground.
Enough hills were run however to get a result, which was just as well as there would have been 57 very unhappy competitors to deal with. The largest class was Class 3 with 31 entries including, J & A Tucker-Peake sharing the Runner Bean, H.W. & Mrs S Tucker-Peake sharing an Escort, Miss S Tucker-Peake in a Corsair with David Ovey. Also in Class 3, Mike Furse was driving a Hillman, Geoff Jackson was in a Morris Tourer, John Groves had an Escort GT. The Best Falcon award went to P. Le Couteur (Dellow), The Venus Cup, M.Furse (Hillman), 1st Class Awards, D.Greenslade (Autocavan VW), C.Morrell (Alexis), W.Hone (Alexis), J.Tucker-Peake, D.Ovey and A.Davies. I only have a copy of the entry list and a few notes from the Committee minutes but as you can see there are at least two First class winners from the same class, so perhaps the results were split in to Clubman and Invited which would explain
The following year the conditions were completely different. Very dry. Despite Tuckers best efforts to stop the competitors, there were still seven clean sheets from the entry of sixty six. The result was decided on a tie deciding test with John Tucker-Peake the eventual winner in his 1600 cc Ford Pop. Laurie Knight took the award for best invited club in his 1500 cc Ford Escort fitted with a down draft SU carburetor. Other class winners were Ian Blackburn, (singer Le Mans), M Clarke, (VW), J Bonnett, (Morris), R Walker, (Mini) and Jack Frost, (Beach Buggy), who beat J Whalley, (Ford Special) and Mike Furse (also in a Ford Special) in the tie deciding test. Cliff Morell was the best Imp on the day dropping 10 marks.
The March Hare of 1974 had 46 entries spread over 6 classes. There were seven hills run four times. Looking at the scores of the competitors you have to assume that conditions were less than favourable or at best deteriorated through the day The best score of 8 went to Venus cup winner J Bailey, the worst score of 286 went to J Hare. Other notable Falcons not having quite such a good day were Neil Bray with a score of 178, David Maitland with 76, Murray MacDonald 82, Alan Davies had a disaster with a score of 246. But worst score by a Falcon on the day went to Simon Robson who managed to loose 258 points. The awards were presented as follows:- Venus Cup: J Bailey (8). Duckhams Cup: J Poynter (98). Class 4a: D Greenslade (20). Class4b: G Jackson (46). Class 2: C Morrell (44). Class 6: M Harvey-Murray (76). Class 3: Miss S Halkyard (92). Class 1: M Furse (196). 1st Class award winners were:- W Durling (30), J Frost (44), D MacIver (70), R Walker (152), J Groves (140). 2nd Class winners:- A Booth (70) and L Knight (174). Best team went to Falcon represented by, D MacIver, M MacDonald and J Poynter.
The missing committee minutes are no help again in recording events until 1977, when The March Hare trial took place at Bury Farm, Houghton Conquest. Secretary A Davies. Clerk of the Course, D Maitland, Scrutineer, S Robson, Chief Marshal, C Brown. There were 32 entries, but one was sent home for misbehaviour.
By 1981 The March Hare Trial had been dropped from the calendar due to a lack of venues on which to run the event. With the loss of Tring Park, we had only one good venue at Bury Farm, Houghton Conquest and that was lost due to problems with the land owner and other clubs that used it to run events there. I have found an entry form for the 1980 March Hare to be run under Classic Regulations at Bury Farm. But as I can't find any results or reports, I can only assume the event had to be cancelled.
It wasn't until 1995 when the influx of enthusiastic members came along, bringing with them some very nice venues, that Trials were welcomed back into the Falcon calendar and in 1996 the March Hare took place on 3rd March on Edlesborough Hill.
The 1998 event was given the name The March Hare Mini Classic. The event was again held on Edlesborough Hill, only instead of having 8 or more hills laid out, there were only four. These were much longer than the previous years PCT type sections. The idea was to make them more like Classic Trials sections. The organisers (Mike Pearson & John Parsons) tried to run everything as close to Classic rules as possible. The morning went brilliantly with 8 challenging hills and 2 special tests for the 26 starters to enjoy. Unfortunately after lunch rain made all the hills unclimbable and the event had to be abandoned. The special test times were used to decide the winner from the three clean sheets of, Fred Gregory (Dutton Melos), Ian Davis (VW Buggy) and Henry Allen (Racecorp). Ian Davis was the winner with Fred Gregory, Tom Goggin and Murray MacDonald all winning their classes.
After the success of the first Mini Classic, the possibility of running another event linking suitable Start/Finish venue should be found. The Big Pub on the old A1 Trunk Road at Jacks Hill had the space but was a long way from the venues we wanted to use. The answer was to find some section between Jacks Hill and the other venues to the west. A new route was planed taking in two sections in Whitwell. Cress Bed Lane & Water Tower Lane. Both lanes were used in the fifties (they were probably named differently). Cress Bed Lane is not very challenging in the dry but is a nice opening to any trial, as is Water Tower Lane which was again used in the March Hare of the Fifties. This hill is a lot longer than Cress Bed Lane and despite being only a few yards further up the hill, is more mud covered than Cress Bed Lane, which has a more stony covering. The route then headed out to Miletree Farm and Brickhill. After Brickhill there was another new section used as a special test at Ivinghoe before continuing to Edlesborough and Kensworth. After Kensworth, Half Moon Lane at Markyate, was added before the competitors returned to Whitwell to climb Nortonstreet Lane and return to The Big Pub and the finish. Nortonstreet Lane was again used in the March Hare of the fifties but it had a lot more mud on the hill than it does today and as a result was much more of a challenge to the competitors.
Well that was the plan. However delays in submitting the route to the RAC MSA because the local Route Liaison Officer didn't reply to our request's for approval, the event became a navigational scatter. Not what the organisers (John Parsons, Mike Pearson joint Clarks of the Course, or Verdum Webley, Secretary) or the competitors wanted at all. However 30 cars started from the Big Pub, with most of the competitors returning some hours later having enjoyed the hills, but not finding their own way to them. 2000 winner was Mathew Sharrett.
Having been caught out the previous year, the organisers of the 2001 Murrays March Hare started to prepare early in October. All was going well with the route submitted and approved and the entry getting close to the maximum permitted (fifty). With a month to go to the big day, Foot and Mouth disease reared its ugly head and the event was cancelled.
All that hard work was not wasted as we now had an approved route ready for the 2002 event and with three new sections added in Devils Pit, south of Barton-Le-Clay and a lunch halt at Ivinghoe, everything was set for another March Hare Trial.
However the 2002 event was not without its problems. The Big Pub decided not to open early for us, which meant that there were no loos or food available at the start. The sections at Devils Pit had all been churned up by the 4 wheel drive people and it was very difficult to find three section to lay out on the Saturday before. The day itself went without a hitch. There was a shortage of marshals though on some hills and we just managed to scrape through. The weather was very kind as well and didn't start to rain until after the last car had reached the finish. 32 entries with 28 starters with Ross Nuten the overall winner cleaning every thing in his Dellow.
After the Big Pub let us down the previous year the Committee decided on a new start venue for the 2003 March Hare. The Watling Street Truck stop on the A5 just north of junction 9 of the M1 was the choice, which allowed the route to go a little further south to include two hills in the Berkhamsted area. The other change for this year, David Sheffield stepped in to take over the Secretary's job from Verdun. With a new start came a change in the route with Half Moon Lane the first hill just up the road from the start. More water was left in the bog this year after complaints that too much had been taken out last year. We also ran the hill the other way around. There was a serious delay on this hill after several drivers attacked the water with gusto and came to a halt in the middle of the bog. A lot of time was lost towing them out.
After the cars had dried out they continued to Whitwell to tackle Nortonstreet Lane which was a lot easier this year as the restart had been positioned in a different place. Next followed Whitehill Lane, another new section for this year which started off with a special test and a little further along the lane the section its self. This was never going to cause a problem to anyone as the County Council had regraded the track and it was now more like a motorway.
Cress Beds and Water Tower were followed by Offley Rise, another new section which was quite easy in the dry. The Lunch halt was taken at Brickhill. The break here was increased to allow the marshals time to get to their second duties after the morning delays.
The afternoon started with the Ivinghoe special test followed by Edlesborough and Kensworth before the competitors headed south for the two new sections Hawridge Lane and Hill Farm. Everyone cleaned Hill Farm but Hawridge caught out a few unsuspecting drivers.
Of the 38 crews that started there were 5 clean sheets with Andy Curtis the victor in his buggy on special test times. John Rowland (2 CV), Richard Tompkins (Imp), Peter Manning (Midget), Fred Gregory ( Rickman) all got stuck in the mud on Half Moon Lane. Geoff Hodge ( RDT Special) and Clive Booth (Dellow Replica) both failed the restart. Nortonstreet Lane claimed the clean sheets of Owen Turner and Owen Briggs.
Water Tower wasn't friendly to Keith Pettit (Sprite), Richard Tompkins, Ed Nikel, Owen Turner (All in Imps), and Jason Crowley (Fugitive).
Brickhill was the downfall of many including Ted Holloway (Sierra), Patrick Osbourne (Skoda) and Colin Sumner (Morgan). Hawridge Lane caught out many including Fred Gregory, Matt Robson (Liege), Peter Morley, Simon Groves (Escort) and last year's winner Ross Nuten (Dellow).
Katy Tucker-Peake (Peugeot 205) won Class 1, John Bell (Escort) won Class 3 ahead of Peter Thompson (Opel). Colin Perryman (Skoda) was the Class 4 victor ahead of Michael Leete (Beetle). Class 5 went to Colin Sumner (Morgan) while John Looker (Beetle) took Class 6 victory. John Bouden (Marlin) had the only clean sheet in Class 7 after John Ludford (Marlin) had problems at Brickhill. Pete Crawford (Marlin) was third in Class 7 and took the Best Falcon award. With Andy Curtis winning overall, Ross Nuten took the Class 8 victory, dropping 12 marks, the same as Clive Booth, Ross taking the Class, based on special test times.