BACK in the day, off-road racetracks in the region were almost as common as days in the week. The bountiful locations were testament to the local undulating topography which meant on most weekends, you could find some event or other on without venturing too far.

That ‘day’ would have been anytime between the 1950s, when good old British scrambling morphed into the future by adopting the French word ‘moto-cross’, through to the 1980s as the sport arguably hit its peak of popularity.

Places like Carlton Bank in the Cleveland foothills, Woodhouse Farm at Great Ayton, Hutton Conyers near Ripon and Hunter’s Hill Farm at Nether Silton, all within half an hour or so of my home in Northallerton, all regularly hosted events, not to mention the forgotten tracks at Hailstone Moor and Target Wood in the Bullamoor region within sight of my office.

Not only that, but the star names of the times, many of them local, and quite often the television cameras rocked up too, to expose North Yorkshire and the surrounding areas in all its natural glory.

But they’ve mostly disappeared now. A combination of commercial or domestic developments proved more lucrative than permit fees in some cases, changes of land-ownership in others. But probably the biggest reason was the increased burden for organisers regarding stifling HSE and insurance legislation as well as the increasing pressure by the environmental lobby.

And whilst there are a few notable exceptions that remain, mainly out towards the East Coast at Pickering, Whitby and Scarborough, as well as Thirsk & DMC continuing to use arch-motorsport enthusiast Derek Cornforth’s land at the top of Sutton Bank, other than an odd outline on Google Earth, only memories remain.

Two other major venues in the area, which like Carlton Bank hosted British Championship action in the region, have also being condemned to the annals of history. Boltby and Howe Hills.

Anyone who has traversed Sneck Yate Bank will vouch for the gradient between the low-lying and quaint village of Boltby near Thirsk and the top of the Hambleton Hills. Thus, the landscape to the west, on the fringes of the famous forest, made an ideal motocross course, in fact a world-class one which had hosted events since 1945.

One such occasion was the penultimate round of the 1989 British Championship which saw Northallerton & DMC team up with their counterparts from Thirsk to organise the event on Mr Stephen Gilchrist’s estate. The best riders in the UK attracted a massive crowd to watch them do battle over eight races as reigning champion Kurt Nicoll and main rival Dave Thorpe went head to head for the crown.

However, it was KTM rider Brian Wheeler who took the overall victory on the day with local riders Jared Smith from Guisborough and Bishop Auckland’s Carl Shaw also in action as well as a number of other locals in the Qualifying Championship.

Just over a decade earlier, in the summer of 1978, another big motocross meeting was staged in the region, this time at the Howe Hills circuit near Sedgefield. Again, a host of top names, many to later become world champions, descended on the tortuous County Durham track, noted for its difficult and unforgiving terrain.

The motor clubs of Northallerton and Middlesbrough put on a great event with Neil Hudson taking the first ‘moto’ ahead of Graham Noyce, with Noyce getting his revenge in the second outing over 40 minutes plus two laps later in the day. Both riders would go on to win world titles within the next couple of years whilst local honour was upheld that day by Barnard Castle-based Scot, Jimmy Aird.

Nowadays, it’s mainly walkers and mountain bikers who get to use the Boltby forest complex whilst a stable yard and racing horses of one power each fill the fields of Howe Hills. A contrast in both cases compared to where those two-wheeled gladiators once battled it out for supremacy.

Dateline: Sunday, July 9, 1978

Location: Howe Hills Moto-Cross Circuit, nr Sedgefield

Meeting: Fifth Round British Motocross Championship

Dateline: Sunday, July 16, 1989

Location: Boltby Moto Parc, nr Thirsk

Meeting Fifth Round British Motocross Championship