A few years ago, when I was doing a lot of TV work, some friends and colleagues at BBC Wales were approached by the Discovery Channel to make a series for them which was scheduled to be called “Castles of Horror” on one channel and “Bloody Towers” on another. I was delighted when the BBC Wales production team asked if I would present these castle shows for them, and use the Harley I then owned to visit the various castles they hoped to include in the series. That was what we had always done when I was presenting “Fortean TV” my unsolved mysteries show on Channel 4.
To make this new castles series, we went all over England, Scotland and Wales, as well as large areas of Europe, and then it was decided to visit Cabo de Especial in Portugal. We took in several other Portuguese castles first and then went down to Sesimbra to look at the spectacularly scenic Cabo de Especial.
Third-division speedway track
As we approached the site, I could see my Director weighing up the best shots and the best photographic angles – and the most dramatic uses for a biker-presenter on a big Harley. The building was a monastery rather than a castle, but it was old and historically and architecturally interesting, and it stood in the centre of a small plateau at the top of a gently sloping grass-swathed hill. The track around it was gravelled and looked for all the world like a third-division speedway track. I think that was what had given my Director his next idea.
“What I want,” said my Director (who was a nice guy and a great Director but not a biker) “is to get some shots of you coming around the track fast – as if it was a speedway, maybe?”
I tried an experimental circuit. The gravel was loose, but not too bad. The bike slithered a few inches on the bends but was well controllable. I did a second testing circuit, then a third.
“Give it a bit more,” said the Director. I opened her up until I was averaging just below seventy around the circuit. I’d taken a good look at the grass slope below the plateau where the gravel track was. It was a gentle slope – no more than about 20° at the worst.
I could still hold the Harley
I was calculating that even if I slithered off the gravel plateau and down on to the slope, I could still hold the Harley. She was heavy, but I’m a weight-training instructor: so no real problems. Circuit by circuit I wound her up to comfortably over seventy.
The cameras were rolling. I was enjoying the challenge. As I got used to the circuit, I noticed a big signboard with letters a foot high in red. It was in Portuguese – of which I speak not one word. At last, the Director was satisfied that he’d got all the footage he wanted of me circuiting Cabo de Especial. I parked the bike and went across to the notice board.
There, in small letters in English, just below the big red Portuguese words, it said: “Extreme hazard. Unfenced cliff.” I took a few steps past the board and peered over the edge of a sheer drop of well over 100 feet onto jagged rocks and pounding waves immediately below.
We could have lost a valuable motor bike!
The gently sloping grass below the plateau was as safe as houses. Except at that one point where the sea had eroded the plateau. To have slithered off there would have been a sensational and spectacular one way trip to the next world! And even the first-class engineers at Webuyanybike couldn’t have salvaged what would have been left of that Harley!
I called my Director over and showed him the precipitous drop. It was about ten yards from where I had been circuiting on loose gravel at well over seventy.
“Wow!” he said thoughtfully. “We could have lost a valuable motor bike!”
It was one of those rare occasions when I was lost for words!
I always like to include a worthwhile biker charity event in my blogs. The North Staffs bike clubs are arranging a great event in aid of the Cheethams Children’s Ward 14/04. Full details from: email@example.com.