Hosting speed hill climbs since 1905 Shelsley Walsh, located in rural Worcestershire, is one of the oldest motorsport venues in the world and is the oldest to have been staged continuously (wartime excepted) on its original course - it is definitely something of a ‘best-kept-secret’! In fact I’d go as far to say that only die-hard hill climb fans would have heard of this historical course – I hadn’t until last year!
It’s more senior in years than Le Mans, Monza or Indianapolis and whilst the likes of Brooklands have had their day Shelsley Walsh continues to present an annual calendar of motoring events throughout the year.
The ‘hill’ at Shelsley Walsh is 1,000 yards (914m) long, is only 12 feet (3.66m) wide at its minimum width and rises 328 feet (100m) in height with an average gradient of 1:9.14. I can vouch for how steep the hill is having walked up it several times loaded with camera gear and always ending up near the top of the hill completely knackered!
My first visit to Shelsley Walsh was last year for their Classic Nostalgia event, in fact I’ve only ever been to two hill climb events and they’ve both been at Shelsley Walsh with the last visit taking place only this past weekend.
The Classic Nostalgia event I attended last year is one of their ‘headline’ events attracting a huge entry list of competitors resulting in an action packed weekend with supporting entertainment to keep the whole family occupied. In fact Sir Stirling Moss once commented “Classic Nostalgia produces some wonderful sights, sounds and magnificent machines from over the years, in a pretty setting amongst the wonderful Worcestershire hills."
The event also paid tribute to the 5 time Le Mans winner Derek Bell with him running up the hill in the Porsche 956 that he drove in the 1983 season (top image).
This year’s Classic Nostalgia event will celebrate the 80th anniversary of an Auto Union Type C similar to the car that Hans Stuck drove up the hill in June 1936 – an Audi Sport quattro will also make an appearance as part of a tribute to the days of Group B rallying alongside a Metro 6R4, Lancia Delta S4 and Ford RS200.
After catching up with Mark Constanduros, the Company Secretary & Commercial Manager at Shelsley Walsh the week before at the Silverstone Classic Media Day I decided that I’d left my second visit to the Worcestershire countryside for far too long! A quick check of the weather forecast for the Sunday suggested that I may not be blessed with the glorious sunshine of my previous visit – so waterproofs packed I headed off.
The weekend’s event, ‘Speed Into Spring’, was the first hill climb event of the season and with a number of classes running throughout the day. On my previous visit the paddock was a lot busier and a real hive of activity with a lot more going on and a lot more to get the ‘creative juices’ flowing. This time I decided to stay out on the hill and try out some different photo positions and techniques that would hopefully help me learn more about the hill and make life easier on my future visits!
Wanting to try and avoid the obligatory moving car ‘parked’ on a piece of tarmac shots I was keen to utilise the rural setting that the hill is in whilst trying to stay dry! The rain, whilst not heavy seemed to fall steadily for most of the day making driving conditions a little slippery!
Speed hill climbing is a popular motorsport in the UK with regular championship events held not only at Shelsley Walsh but also at venues such as Prescott, Loton Park and Harewood to name only a few and one-off events at venues such as Chateau Impney located in the heart of Worcestershire.
There’s a great camaraderie amongst the competitors within the paddock and it feels like a really friendly atmosphere – maybe this has something to do with the fact that whilst they are competing against each other the only thing that matters is the time on the stopwatch and at the end of the day only you can screw things up for yourself – not anyone else!
Scott Dennis is a freelance photographer based in the UK and can be found on Instagram: @scottdennisphotography and Twitter: @scott_dennis and at http://scottdennis.photoshelter.com/index.