Gilsland in 1976, from its original sites at Stonehaugh and Wark
The Campsite was to the North side of the village, in a large field at the side of the river. In fact if you follow the field access road to the end you get to the water treatment works. This never caused any problem and I don't think most people ever realised it was there!
The camping was on two levels. The more adventurous could get up to the top of the field and look down on all the people on the muddy part at the base of the hill. However after the pub it could be interesting getting back up to your tent. Also it had a habit of snowing on the Sunday, which could make it a bit tricky to get the bike back down onto the track. One year Jim and Ian Waugh from the Tees Tornadoes thought that they had found a good place to camp. It was down next to the river on a flat piece of bank. However the water level rose overnight and they had to abandon tent in the early hours and move to higher ground.
The Tyne Cyclones had an ex army marquee type tent as control where they did tea, coffee, soup and burgers. It could get a bit hit and miss on Saturday night after the pub, but the banter was always good, not sure about the burgers!
There were three pubs in the village, The Bridge, The Samson and the Station Hotel; they all seemed to attract a different type of crowd.
The Station was the place to go to get a decent meal, it was the quieter option. The Samson on the other hand was normally the party pub with all sorts of things going on all evening and usually into the early hours too. The Bridge was the nearest pub to the site and people mostly seemed to call in for one or two on their way to or from the other pubs and the site.
Gilsland is in a fine spot to explore Hadrians Wall and the various Roman remains thereabouts. It was a good base for rides out on the Saturday without having to travel miles. Also I had a choice of routes from Bradford to get up there; I could go the easy way via the M6 / A69 or my more interesting route up through the Dales then up via Alston.
Actually my most interesting trip up there was about 1979 when it snowed heavily on the Friday night. I couldn't get anywhere on the Friday, but set off Saturday morning and called in to the Ides of March on my way. Bikes there were buried under the snow in the pub car park, but I decided to carry on. It was not too bad once I got on the Motorway, but as soon as I turned onto the A69 it was just rutted snow and drifts everywhere. The police told me the road was impassable, but I managed to get through on the back roads and via a few fields! Well I was on my trail bike! Not many made it to the site on their bikes that year. A lot were stuck just down the road and set up camp in a handy field and walked in to the village.
We were told not to worry about getting out again on Sunday as the RAF would keep the road open because they had to have access to their secret missile base at Spadeadam (the home of the Blue Streak ballistic missile project in the 60s. Sure enough on Sunday a snow blower appeared through the drifts and cleared the way back to the A69. It was like riding in the alps, with 20 foot walls of snow at each side of the road in places!
- Ted Trett