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The National Speedway Museum

This is speedway - country style. You are looking at the first bend of the King’s Oak track at High Beach, where it all started that sunny February day in 1928 in these unique and picturesque surroundings at the heart of Epping Forest.

High Beech

By John Chaplin

The stadium is showing a little more sophistication than on that chaotic first day when decorum, pay booths and perimeter fences, were swept aside by the enthusiastic hordes desperate to witness the smell, spectacle and thrill of the brand new sport of dirt track racing. There is a safety fence, for one thing, instead of a rope.

For another thing they have shifted all the spectators to the outside of the circuit, instead of allowing them onto the centre green. Well what would you have done when 30,000 people turned up and you only had facilities to cope with an expected mere 2,000? They had regular Sunday meetings then, and the fans on a day out expected a little comfort.

It was a nice big track, and it’s got a bit of dirt on it so there’s probably plenty of grip. We do not know for sure who the riders are, but the style of the one in the lead bears an uncanny resemblance to pre-war West Ham and England captain Harold ‘Tiger’ Stevenson. High Beech never did much as a team, Jack Barnett, Syd Edmunds and Phil Bishop were the stars, but the side lasted only two years in the top flight, 1930 and 1931, then later operated as a training track.

There was a famous gathering in 1968, speedway’s 40th year, when the old circuit could just about be made out. Latterly there have been annual events to celebrate the sport’s birthday, and nowadays the action has shifted to the Paradise Wildlife Park, home of the Speedway Museum.

Of that historic original speedway at High Beech only a plaque remains on the wall of the Forestry Commission’s information centre which stands roughly smack in the middle of that first bend.

Courtesy John Chaplin

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