So here we are again with the kick off of the 2019 cycle speedway season imminent at Lower Dicker Recreation Ground, home of the Hellingly Lions.
The Lions once again have entered the East South Eastern league, albeit at a slightly lower level of Division 2 for reasons I shall explain. Even though we are far and away the longest surviving cycle speedway club in the ‘World’ (70+yrs continuously), year after year we find it challenging to entice new members away from their phones, laptops, Ipads, xboxes etc., to come and give cycle speedway a try. On that note, we are desperately trying to make contact with a Wealden Council officer regarding permission to erect a sign at either end of the Hellingly recreation ground to make it known to all exactly what goes on at the ground. All too often when club members mention the ‘Hellingly Lions’ in conversation, the response is continually the same “who” or “where is it?”, after explanation, the then response is “Oh, I wondered what went on there”. Our Hellingly council have no objection whatsoever but have suggested we contact Wealden Council as complete authorisation - not easy! And has been intimated it could take several weeks, we need signs up NOW! We have no hope of attracting new riders and supporters if the public is unaware that we are there!
Unfortunately for the club, one or two of the junior brigade have decided to call it a day due to ongoing injuries sustained in racing last season, a couple of seniors also. As with all sports, it great to participate, but it’s also important to have the team strength to be competitive and win matches. With the Lions team now composed of predominately junior riders, it was agreed that they would benefit more by racing against opposition of a similar level in Division 2.
On the team front, the club is looking to Steven Archer, George Morley and last season's young sensation Harry Sexton to improve their skills dramatically and hopefully be backed by the shared experience of Jim Cox, Jamie Morley and the evergreen Eddie Ridley. Opportunities are also available for Eddie's eldest son Harry to grow and improve as he will be included in the 2019 team at this level.
We at the club are starting to reap the benefits of our website (possibly the best in the sport of cycle speedway) as some local lads who have found it are showing interest and keenly awaiting the commencement of our Thursday evening/Sunday training sessions. On the subject of training, we have been blessed with an uncommonly mild winter giving us a track racing surface in near perfect condition some 4-5 weeks earlier than usual. The grassed outfield area of the recreation ground is still a little wet and sticky underfoot, but full-on training sessions will be commencing the 24th March (1:00 pm).
Regarding the ‘Arena’ as Lions prefer to call it, we are frequently praised by visiting teams on how picturesque and superbly presented the raceway is.
At one time there were over a hundred teams in London and the surrounding boroughs alone and as previously stated the sport of cycle speedway is sadly somewhat in decline, now counting just 3o+ teams nationwide. However, the Lions at Lower Dicker are fortunate to have had continuous racing at the circuit for more than 50yrs, primarily due to the dedication and support of George Hollebon who has always appreciated and been aware that it is not only a raceway but also a local village recreation area and has needed to be maintained as such. With this in mind it is pleasing to see that the local council has saw fit to replace the entrance gates, which is so much more secure and presentable.
As previously reported our racing season is fast approaching and as continuously seeking new recruits. All the relevant information can be sourced from our website (hellinglylions.org) including the link to contact us, to which a guaranteed response will be made within 24hrs.
Five members of the Lions club made the trip to Kesgrave Sat 27thApril to take part in the 2nd round of the South East Grand Prix. Neil Hollebon rode in the senior category and comfortably made the ‘A’ final and finished 3rd behind the two Hill brothers from Ipswich. This being Neil's second only competitive meeting, to finish third was acceptable.
George Morley also made the trip competing in the Under 18's category finishing 2nd in the B final, a section that is one of the most competitive with an abundance of talent with all chasing honours. As with Neil, this again was only George's second meeting and it was noticeable that both were lacking sharpness from the tapes but nevertheless an opportunity to blow the cobwebs away.
Next up was the younger brigade with Harry Ridley stepping up a grade this season to race in the Under 10's. He managed to get to the C final which he won ending the afternoon with a creditable 13pts. Younger brother Sam, alongside Lions new recruit, Alfie Stephens both raced in the Under 8's, both reaching the B final with Sam third, Alfie fourth. All good news and great to see at least some of the lions getting in racing mode with the first league match just a week away.
It is a little disconcerting that some of the Lions appear to be lacking total commitment to training with Thursday evening club nights now in full flow from 6.30pm. In an attempt to attract new talent as it were, arrangements are being made with invitations to two scout groups to visit the Lions circuit for a Cycle Speedway ‘taster’. One is our very local Hellingly group who I believe will be on the track on a Tuesday evening (date to be confirmed) and the other from Bexhill, a little further afield, who have elected to visit on a Friday, again date to be confirmed.
Regarding the track itself, the racing surface is in perfect condition, probably the best it has been for quite a few seasons. Undoubtedly the best addition to the arena is the addition of the four flag poles, intended to draw attention to where we are and what we do. They certainly appear to be doing the job, so much so that a local citizen found our contact email address on our website and sent a message saying how pleased they were to see them. Unfortunately, there was also a reference that both union jacks either ends were upside down (not pointing the finger at anyone)! So I made the short trip to rectify the situation. I then emailed the gentleman apologizing and informing him all was now as it should be. He returned a message saying he had seen them, now the right way up.
New! Flagpoles and Flags
New! Entrance Sign
On Tuesday 21st May, the Lower Dicker recreation ground was the place to be, or perhaps not, depending whether or not you like to witness 25 & 30 youngsters having a fabulous time. The recreation ground, the home of Hellingly Lions, was 'invaded' by a local cub scout troop after being invited to come along and give the sport of Cycle Speedway a go. As it was to be a controlled experiment, the kids were allowed to bring their own bikes to ride even though most were fitted with brakes which under normal racing safety rules wouldn't be allowed, but as this was purely a 'taster' concessions were the order of the day. All other safety issues were compulsory, crash helmets and gloves must be worn and all limbs covered.
Due to the high attendance, the youngsters were split into two groups with group leaders. The Lions gazebo was erected at trackside with tables displaying information, photo's, leaflets, a race-ready cycle speedway bike and copious amounts of bottled water. Several Lions club members were on hand to mentor answer questions and demonstrate.
Commencing the evening, one of the divided groups was given various details and information about the Lions Club and the sport of cycle speedway at the Gazebo by Natalie Ridley, the other group being given some of the finer points of the actual riding of cycle speedway under the instruction of a Senior and current Lions rider Eddie Ridley. Of course, all the kids were 'chomping at the bit' to get on their bikes and race following a short demonstration by Ed's two sons Harry & Sam and Alfie Stephens (who are very familiar to cycle speedway bikes and attend the Lions regular Thursday evening training sessions).
After 20-30 minutes of controlled pandemonium with Ed, the two groups swapped track time and tuition by Ed and Natalie. Nearing the end of the session it was suggested that the cub scouts team leaders should give it a go. After considerable coaxing, three of the four adults did eventually get on a bike but a place in the Lions team was not deemed to be forthcoming from the Lions talent scout!
By now, most of the kid's confidence had grown sufficiently and were offered a chance to ride a full-blown cycle speedway bike, (one with NO BRAKES or gears). As the taster session was drawing to a close, it was increasingly difficult to keep the youngsters off the track and the chatter, smiles, and laughter said it all. There were one or two crashes and one or two tears, but they were very short lived with everyone just wanting to ride their bikes.
The overall assessment of the whole event was a massive success with 25-30 kids all going home tired and happy with most wanting to come back for more. Without a doubt, the event would not have taken place without the time and effort submitted by Eddie and Natalie, thankyou both.
We welcome visits from both individuals and associations, for more information and contact can be made via the 'Contact' link above.
Two New Signs for the track made by Chris at The Sign Shop Hailsham and generously donated by Tom Killick, a very long standing rider, member and mentor for the Lions. A big thankyou to both.
Shown here by two 'ex'-lion riders who demonstrate the importance and benefits of maintaining fitness levels by being a current rider!