Back in the early 70's, when some of the finest rallies were born, one of the most endearing ones was the Solent, held near Portsmouth.
Organised by the Solent M.C.C., the first rally was attended by, I think, no more than a couple of dozen riders. In fact, the rally entry was so small that the club couldn't even afford to have any badges struck until the following year. The first Solent was held on the gloriously hot weekend of 25th and 26th July, 1970, and the entry fee was ten shillings (half a quid in old money...a.k.a "A set of four half-crowns" - remember that expression?)
The venue for Saturday was a kindly provided at the Beaulieu Motor Museum, where a marquee had been erected, and a local dealer, Harry Gill Motors of Gosport, had provided a display of machinery. He had thoughtfully brought along the latest Norton Commando, and many of us took up his kind offer of a free test ride. How many rallies do you know where this much gets thrown in? By good fortune, the entrepreneurial Mr Gill had also brought a bag full of enamel badges advertising his company, which of course immediately became the honorary badges of the rally!
The campsite for the night was a few miles to the west; a clearing in the New Forest just beyond Hatchet Pond, where our humble group of tents were erected at the side of the road. I still wonder if anybody had actually asked permission of the landowner.
A year later, the second Solent was held on the first weekend in September of 1971. Now slightly later in the year, the rally had moved to a woodland site near Tichfield, on the edge of a derelict military airfield of some sort. The rally at last boasted its own badge - a shield with a map of the Solent, and a suspended date bar. Warm, sunny, friendly, and one of the nicest rallies of the year.
For the next two years the Solent held to the same weekend, and the same site beneath the trees. But as with so many rallies it soon outgrew the tender days of its youth, growing larger and acquiring its own beer tent.
For later years, somebody else must take up the story. Looking back to those early years though, the memories are of good friends, of the long, late summer runs down to the south coast, and of a girl with a guitar leading songs around the campfire on a warm September night. Happy days.
- Jan Heiland
I was Chairman of the SMCC from 1980 to 1983 and the club is still going, operating out of a pub near Titchfield.