Dingle´s Golden Age Of Speedway Memories

Leg breaks, cracked vertebrae, and even a rare life threatening lung infection couldn´t keep Dingle Brown from his love of speedway as a rider, manager, and promotor. Now a sprightly 80 year old settled in Adeje, Tenerife, Dingle reflected on his broad siding, shale shifting experiences. “Rayleigh Rockets were quite local to my home in Matching Green, near Harlow in Essex, and I made my debut for them in 1958 but my dad had already got me interested in speedway with trips to see West Ham Hammers, They rode at Custom House Stadium which was bigger than Wembley. ”

Travelling played a big part in a riders life. Each track had its own race night, and with guest slots and second half rides adding to regular duty, riders criss crossed the UK with bikes in vans or just pulled behind their cars on trailers. Injuries were always waiting to add a further test to a riders dedication. “I was racing at Exeter for Stoke and broke my leg in a crash, Stretched out full length I had to be strapped to train seats after windows had been removed to get me on board, The trip home involved a train to Swindon, then across to London via Liverpool Street to Harlow.  Even then after four months I discovered that a stand in doctor had got the traction treatment wrong and that stretched my recovery even further.”

Dingle still has the pin that was inserted into his leg, it ´s among his haul of momentos and photos from those days he still recalls with pleasure and satisfaction. A fractured spine came from a mid week crash at Kings Lynn and the cracked vertebrae was accompanied by a busted seat in another shunt. Few riders achieved the fame of World Champions like Barry Briggs, Ivan Mauger, and Hans Nielsen. For most it was a labour of love limited appearance and travel money. Dingle was working as a brick layer and later had interests in a car breakers yard, and boarding kennels, They were busy times as Dingle went on to ride for West Ham, Poole, and a nice round trip for “home” meetings with Scunthorpe Saints.

Team speedway used the classic formula of seven riders a team, two of each in the 13 heats, with points for finishing places also adding up for the overall team scores. Dingle also got to wear the Great Britain team jacket in an international clash with the Czechs and enjoyed further international experience.”I got to ride in France, Germany, and Holland and met some great riders. Back home, Australian Peter Moore made a big impression on Dingle.”Peter was the fastest out of the gate that I ever saw, One of my special memories was reling him in for a last heat win in a league matvh on a borrowed bike. “Barry Briggs was another top rider who made an impact on the sport. “Barry introduced the Czech made Jawa bikes to British speedway and they took racing to another level.”

Despite his many knocks and bumps, Dingle´s biggest threat came from within. Always young at heart, in his later racing years he began to suffer from bouts of unexplained tiredness and got a medical opinion. ” The doctor found growths on both lungs and warned Dingle it may be cancer. Further tests left the doctor as shocked as I was to find I had sarcoidodis, which was very rare and difficult to treat. Maybe my overall fitness helped, somehow with rest and care it faded away and I felt back to my old self.”

Even when Dingle hung his leathers up, speedway lured him back. “I was asked to be team manager for Mildenhall and was even given the track licence for a while. Later Wimbledon Dons asked me to cover one night as track manager, I ended up there for four years, ending up as promotor just before the Plough Lane stadium closed and was demolished in 2005. ” The site has now been redeveloped as the new home of AFC Wimbledon and should stage football before the end of 2020.

Tenerife has no speedway racing pedigree but the AGM of the British Speedway Promotors Association has taken place in Playa de Las Americas for several decades. Dingle had met a few speedway friends over here and made the full time move eight years ago. That´s how this lapsed Oxford Cheetahs fan came to meet Dingle and flicking hrough his latest copy of the World Speedway Riders magazine, I was thrilled to see a feature on Dag Lovaas, my first Oxford Speedway hero from watching the then named Oxford Rebels in 1975. Dingle spoke warmly of his second half rides at Oxford in the early 1970´s when Colin Goodey, Ronnie Genz, and Arne Pander were senior riders there. Cowley Stadium has defied the wishes of property developers since its 2005 closure and a few good people are still hoping to bring speedway back. The national picture isn´t quite as rosey, a few weeks before meeting Dingle, the BSPA ruled out UK racing for the 2020 season due to the coronavirus. Dingle has speedway in the blood, and new generations are simularly driven and ready to ensure that speedway will overcome all setbacks to thrill more sports fans in the near future.

 

 

 

 

 

Rambla De Castro Unlocks The Coast Of Los Realejos

Foaming and thrashing around a series of beautifully sculpted spits of rock, the north coast sea of Tenerife demands attention. Centuries of powerful waves had crafted the impressive bay of Playa de los Roques in Los Realejos. The beach was sealed as notices warned of possible rock falls, that didn´t deter solo fishermen from taking up precarious perches over this beach and further along the Rambla de Castro walk.

A short bus ride from Puerto de la Cruz station had dropped me in a good position to start the two hour walk looking down from the entrance path behind the blue and white  beacon of the Hotel Maritim. I realised I could have walked from El Burgado at the Loro Parque end of Puerto de la Cruz, the baseball stadium of the Marlins was a reliable indicator of my surroundings.

A steep, narrow track upwards through farming terraces led to a modern housing estate and a sharp right turn onto a pathway overlooking the sea. The opportunity to dip down and skirt along just above wave level was being taken by several groups of young walkers. The sheer scale and defiant nature of the isolated rocks told a tale of years of pounding to prise open clefts in the stacks.

The path looped down through a tight stone arch and round a narrow track that clung to the sturdy cliff. The apray from below added to the feeling of kinship with nature. Back up to the road level, helpful signs pointed onwards to the next interface of sea views. A couple of small streets around an old commercail centre allowed drivers some convenient parking before joining the route in mid flow. The next stage spread out in the distance as the cloudy sky and lush green cascade of plants gave evidence to the increased rain fall in this area. Low edging stones separated the route from the drop below, and wild birdscame and went into concealed caves.

Nearing the mirador of San Pedro, the circular viewing point stood out below just beyond a wooden bridge. History was etched into the Los Realejos coast, one of the most striking examples was the Gordejuela water pumping plant. Built in 1905, it housed the first steam engine to operate in Tenerife. Despite its exposure to the winds and waves of nature, people had been the worst causes of damage. Graffiti daubed over the walls and enlarged window frames gave it a spooky feel but the water pipes trailing up the steep hills showed that the building was made of sturdy stuff. Big waves continued to lick at the walls, not my idea of a remote playground, and the remotest type of urban art gallery.

A path leading up to the busy TF15 road and bus routes was closed off but just a short back track to the commercial centre and an upward stride connected me with  Los Realejos bajo and the bus I was seeking. Los Realejos is a deep xlice into the north of Tenerife with the churches and ravines of Los Realejos Alto well worth a look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full Steam Ahead To The Industrial Age Of Santa Cruz

Even without the rolling bug eyes and Ringo Starr voice over, my memory was side tracked to thoughts of Thomas The Tank Engine. Half way between Playa de Las Teresitas and Santa Cruz, a 1924 green steam locomotive from Cassel, Germany set my mind chugging near the old ports area of the Tenerife capital.

Within five minutes of walking on, a blue 1920 steam crane from Bedford, England (Grafton & Co built) pulled me up. Both machines played a part in the construction and running of the diverse and busy Santa Cruz port that now has big unused gaps waiting to be redeveloped.

Even at the San Andres end of the coast, I had already seen references to maritime history and Horatio Nelson´s failed attack on Tenerife on 25 July 1797. The defeat of the UK icon was in part due to the warning issued by an unknown local lady who spottted the British fleet as she walked to market. Nelson lost his right arm but was treated with respect and honour and his name and image feature prominently around Santa Cruz.

 

Back to the present and my stroll from San Andres to Santa Cruz, Oil rigs have become regular callers for repairs in recent years, The west Eminence, and West Jupiter from Panama were settled just off shore. Further along, the propeller blade  from the Spanish war ship Crucero Canarias, was donated  to the city of Santa Cruz in 198o and stands proudly outside the entrance to the old jet foil station.

On this baking hot July day, young bathers were flocking to any available swimming spot in the Valleseco area. A big new sandy beach has been promised  to replace the run down stretch. Plans have sparked a debate over lost history and jobs, The CIDEMAT water sports centre is in the firing line for privatisation with 15 workers facing anxious times. Updating a big city is always a tricky call. The work on Plaza de España and the opening up of Santa Cruz to the sea front has been long drawn out but very rewarding, especially the way the past has been honoured.

The walk from San Andres offered up some fine examples of classic past work, such as the sculpted sign on the old Ministry of Work and Immigration, and a strip of classic balconied houses with  distinct pink walls. Change is inevitable but hopefully the next  batch of modernising will remember those small touches that catch the eye and tweak the sense of pride.

Las Teresitas, Where Santa Cruz Goes To Play

Even cruise liners rubbing shoulders with fishing boats, and a multi coloured meccano bridge,  couldn´t compete with Playa de Las Teresitas beach, just north of Tenerife capital, Santa Cruz. Eyes are drawn to the majestic spread of orange sand that gives way to turquoise and blue bands of sea becalmed by a long concrete side arm, and a knobbly ridged dyke peeping out of the water.

Who cares if its a fashion mix that could hint of a teenager on a first date. It works wonderfully and recent upgrades have banished the ramshackle economic shadow of a botched commercial development. Stylish blue and white changing huts and gastro club food bars back stop the beach as lycra wrapped cyclists whizz by below the imposing cliff face. Fishing village San Andres clings to the mountain side at the southern end, and from the far end, the ferry port of Santa Cruz is visible on the horizon.

The gently shelving beach makes it a family favourite and a wonderous discovery to those venturing up from the southern beach resorts, adding about 20 minutes to the motorway journey.The regimented clusters of the tall lean pine trees offer shade, and showers and spacious and abundant along the rear of the beach. Peace of mind is under lock and key with several banks of lockers to save swimming from constant backward scanning of the sand.

The squeezing  out of the long established fishing sector to a remote corner is a bone of contention. This important part of local culture, and the crumbled remains of the San Andres defensive tower will probably not be noticed by many visitors, and that´s a missed opportunity. Las Teresitas lures big chunks of the Santa Cruz population across, it is so visually pleasing and offers space for all to stretch out.

For cooling down back in Santa Cruz, there´s always the outdoor Parque Maritimo pool complex, next to the hook nosed auditorium. Open daily from 10 am to 7 pm, it has a selection of pools and chill out areas plus snack and drink outlets. Prices start from five euros per day but they have lots of deals for groups and regular users.

No Almond Blossom, No Snow, Just A Classic Santiago Del Teide Walk

Hot lava carving a path down through the pine forest. Even 111 years later, cold and dormant, the sight was still powerful and invigorating. Chinyero, the Santiago del Teide village where the last Tenerife volcanic eruption halted is forever frozen in time.  the placing of the statue of the virgen fom the local church put on the red light and ensured the status of miacle. On previous February walks over the popular route, snow has capped Mount Teide and pink and white blossom dotted much of the landscape. This time a 20 degrees start from Santiago del Teide church plaza met with warmer air as mother nature showed off her summer collection.

Clearly indicated on route boards, the low stone walls guided me out along the compacted and uneven trail. Summer plants bloomed in sheltered corners and the trees chipped in with charred sculptures and coatings of moss. Rising quickly, the path squeezed by a half full reservoir and an old water channel. Big clearings of almond trees were taking a back seat in their plain clothes attire while a welcome chilled breeze marked my cresting of another hill.

Tell tale twitches and rustles hinted at cautious birds and other wildlife. A large rabbit stood tall in a clump of grass, my heavy footfall had heightened its senses. The wise bunny  turned and bounded powerfully away after one whiff of my trainers. Nearly half way on the 9 km  stroll brought me to the clearing where the abrupt halt of the 1909 eruption attracts pilgrims and history buffs. Flowers are regularly replenished at the shrine and its a good spot to take a breather.

Moving on the lava rose into a high ridge, help was at hand in the form of guide signals. Basically it was a curl around the ridge before taking some roughly hewn steps onto a clear path picked out between the wave of pine trees and the large mounds of ash and stone. The contrasts were amazing to contemplate, dark brooding boulders, perky green pines, and a clear blue sky as natures components battled for supremecy.

The walk wraps around in almost a complete circle, so Santiago del Teide began to appear in the near distance to one side below.  Reassurance of taking the correct path came from yellow and white lines daubed on rocks at key points, a similar two coloured cross was clear advice not to go forward on false trails. The mountain plateau above Arguayo was another good indication of progress to the village finish, and what a wonderful backdrop for the local football stadium. Resting in the spread roots of giant, thick trunked trees was a good chance to cool a little before the final push and a choice.

The undulating nature of the walk left a big descent still to tackle, sign posts indicated two differet routes, past experience had told me they both ended in the same place but presented their own challenges of shifting loose dirt and tufted grass as they meandered between parcels of private land. Arguayo is a small village and I missed the solitary afternoon bus back down to Santiago del Teide (a taxi would be a cheap option) and had to close the circle with a carefull slog down a spiralling main road, adding another hour to a very satisfying day.

Hermano Pedro, The Saint At The End Of Tenerife Airport

Walking down from the TF! motorway and skirting the perimeter fence of Tenerife South airport, an oasis of quiet reflection awaited me cave of Hermano Pedro, the only Canarian to be made a saint. It sounds like an unlikely junction but the modern surroundings wrapped themselves around the sandstone series of caves many years after the 11 year old took his goats to the spot of a well, a good hike south from his Vilaflor place of birth in 1637.

The descendant of a French knight , one of many historical figures to lay claim to Tenerife, Brother Pedro took on the shepherd duties to pay back a family debt. It did seem like a comfortable enclave as cars continued to buzz by just above the level of the sandstone structures in the ravine. Pedro had a lot on his plate very early but was already thinking of helping others and when the chance came to search for a new life in South America, he set off via Hondura and Cuba before settling in Guatemala where he became a missionary.

Setting up a school and hospital was just the start of Pedro´s good works, he also helped the hungry and down trodden in the streets. Dying at the age of 41, Pedro had already acumulated a huge wealth of respect and admiration for his work, and that revernce only continued to grow after he was gone. By 1980 the clamour to canonize him as a Saint had become too much to ignore and the order was made. Plans didn´t fully fit together until 30 July 2002 when Pope John Paul the second was due in Guatemala and able to perform the ceremony. Thousands of Canarians made the pilgrimage to see the historic act.

The El Medano shrine attracts a steady flow of devotees and the curious. As I wandered around, a lady added a lit cndle to his wall inside the main cave amid stacks of religious artefacts and gifts. There was even a small pile of crutches, legend says they were left by thnkful visitors whose rliance on them was removed after a prayer to the great man. It´s a working tribute to Hermano Pedro, regular services are held at the pulpit. There´s a gift shop for those wanting a tangeable  reminder of their visit, and staff are always willing to discuss the life and times of Tenerife´s famous son.

 

There´s no charge to visit the caves, and facilities are on hand for those who come to learn more. There´s even a religious touch to the wash areas of the toilets. Benches and seats scattered around the dircular site encourage reflection and restful contemplation in this important part of Canarian history and culture.It´s a 30 minute walk down from the San Isidro roundabout or up from La Tejita beach at El Medano. There´s a small parking area for drivers as well.Look out for Hermano Pedros statue around Tenerife, at the entrance to Vilaflor, the town of Granadilla, and even on the beach promenade between Los Cristianos and Playa de Las Americas.

 

 

Puerto De La Cruz Is Aching For Awakening

From La Paz mirador I could see a scattering of bathers relaxing to the slow crunching drag of pebbles at Playa Martianez. All around the coast of Puerto de la Cruz people were easing into the sea fom every launch point. Lago Martianez bucked that trend, the spray of the big fountain, the only active part as the large swimming complex awaited its re-opening on 26 June.

The statue of two old time tourists at La Paz was a reminder that the north of Tenerife was a magnet for tourists long before the first package tours hit Playa de Las Americas. The town of Puerto de la Cruz was its usual alluring mix of sprawling shadey plazas, tight streets loaded with cosy cafes and bars, and artistic flair taking a bow where least expected.

The core of Puerto de la Cruz was quiet, chomping at the bit for the return of tourism in the post Coronavirus normality. In historical terms, Puerto was taking a moment to adjust and move on. The canon strewn battlements above Plaza de Europa spoke of stability, and the compact fishing port beyond championed pride in tradition. Further on the vast sweep of Playa Jardin would have been preparing stacked bonfires to mark the Night of San Juan, a symbol of rebirth and renewal.  The loss of one fiesta will be compensated by street entertainment featuring clowns, art, and music during the coming year.

If your into street art, you´ll find some fine examples diverting your gaze as you browse the intersecting streets that seem to always funnel you back to he sea. Some urban redevelopment plans have dragged their feet, so it was good to catch up with the new neat and compact bus station next to the site of the rickety old dungeaon. I have to admit I liked the way the old home used to shudder as buses plunged down the entrance ramp. Down by Playa Jardin, the outdoor swimming pool has been empty and covered in graffiti since 2015, but a new 11.8 million euro plan  has just been published for a replacement with a 2022 completion.

Agatha Christie, a famous past visitor to Puerto, was a mistress of twists and turns but even she could not have forseen the trials and tribulations that would hit the world in 2020. Puerto de la Cruz is a surviver and always offers new delights for returning visitors. A new chapter is about to begin.

 

Spreading The Praise To Las Caletillas

Twelve beaches spread from Las Caletillas to Candelaria, the spirital heart of Tenerife. It´s a mixed bag of small shingle bays, modern excercise zones, and charming designer bathing areas. Candelaria has the history, the stunning basilica church, and the nine Mencey King statues depicting the leaders of the original guanche inhabitants of the island, The old power plant below the TF! motorway approach to Santa Cruz is prominent on the skyline and tends to prejudice peoples impression of Las Caletillas.

Less than five minutes down the motorway slip road, the four star Hotel Catalonia Punta del Rey shows a more inviting face. Just five more minutes walk and the modern pastel shade houses and pedestrian boardwalk are ready to offer surprises. Joggers and cyclists love it and the cleverley laid out  beach outcrops are broken into chunks of charm. Full marks for offering a little extra to beach lovers in the form of a converted mooring point that now serves as a sun lounge with a bridge link to it.

The commercial strip has 29 shops, bars, and cafes. The biggest of the bunch is the Cofradia de Las Caletillas, offering nets full of local fish dishes. A short cut inland will reveal the Commercial Centre Punta Larga, bustling with a spread of food and drink outlets. There was a light touch at work when the Las Caletillas promenade was designed. The sculptured tree and the artistic fish confrontation add to the mood. Once on the edge of the old town of Candelaria, the church rower will lure you across. Blink and you mat miss the two small marinas.

Playa de Candelaria is sometimes sealed off as big waves bark at the feet of the guanche statues in the plaza. Small side roads boast cheery food stops and if you want a souvenir, the main street to the basilica plaza will fix you up with the most wide ranging and at times bizarre items decorated with images of the virgen or her basilica home.

There´s something for everyone on this part of the high east coast. Tourist Information near the main Candelaria car park will load you up with guides to local walks along the coast and up into the surrounding hills. If you want busier and more mainstream nightlife or shopping, your only a 20 minute taxi or bus ride from the Tenerife capital city of Santa Ctuz. Your blessed on all fronts.

 

Reset But No Fast Forward For CD Tenerife

No goals, one point, and two unconvincing, performances marked the resumption of the 2019-2020 season. Nervous and non threatening at Fuenlabrada brought a 1-0 defeat after a defensively suicidal soft goal. Much improved creatively with a combination of bad luck and bad finishing made for a 0-0 home finish with a Malaga side that look odds on for relegation. The overall feeling was of relief to have football back after the three month coronavirus restrictions. The new order gave no room for passion, no fans, no hand shakes, and no close contact celebrations, small hardships compared to lost lives.

An eerily empty Heliodoro Stadium in Santa Cruz was the stage for line up changes following the away defeat. Alberto was dropped in favour of a belated debut for January signing Lluis Lopez who slotted in well to the heart of the defence. American international Shaq Moore (right) and Daniel Asure (left) added width to the stale midfield. Dani Gomez couldn´t convert from an early hard won Moore cross. Lopez dropped a deep ball out to Joselu who fared little better.

Tenerife should have seized the second half after Bare was sent off for two bookings just before the break but it didn´t work out that way. On the hour Tenerife made a double swap, Nahuel for Luis Perez, and Javi Muñoz for Lasure, but still that vital spark wasn´t there for the home side. Dani Gomez was always the best goal hope, his work rate was up to his usual level but his final touch was short of the quality that had made him such a great player before the league lay off. Joselu has been a let down since his initial goal burst when joining in January. Bermejo has struggled to turn back the clock to his pre injury contributions, it all added up to an easier half than 10 man Malaga should have expected.

Forgotten striker Mierez took over from a frustrated Gomez with 10 minutes left, he could have dropped a big hint for a new contract, his header was just off target and no threat to Munir in goal. So a point was all that Tenerife could salvage from the game. Notorious slow starters, Tenerife are clearly going to need a few more of the remaining nine games to find their best form. Standing in 13th place there´s a lot of work to do to ensure they don´t slide into relegation worries. Minds should be sharpened for players like Mierez and joselu whose contracts run out when this season expires. Luis Milla showed plenty of fight in both games, thats going to impress the clutch of Primera clubs that want to swoop for him before the next season gets under way in mid August. The frustration was more intense than usual for the fans, hopefully a proposed July return to the stadium for around a third of the 23,000 capacity will add some much needed vocal encouragement.

 

Corks A Popping In El Sauzal

Perched on the lip of the valley, terraces tumble down to the rocky coast. With the hint of moisture in the air, the Casa del Vino (House Of Wine) in El Sauzal boasts a vintage and character to reflect Tenerife´s long  history of fine wines. The courtyard on the La Baranda estate, between La Laguna and Puerto de la Cruz is dominated by a huge wooden wine press and scattered barrels.

A tour through the rooms revealed the origins and diversity of wine on the island with each growing area hugely proud of their distinctive flavour. The shelves groaned with bottled bliss, and the shop and tasting room were ready to encourage carry outs of a superior kind, The large outdoor patio is a great place to observe the views and enjoy a restaurant meal with the appropriate liquid company.

Just beyond the wine gardens, a smaller museum, Casa de La Miel /(The House) Of Honey9 paid homage to the prolific output of nature. Just imagine honey with hints of avocado, chestnuts, or the iconic local tajinaste flower. The twin centre is well worth seeking out, my visit was during the coronavirus restriction hours of 10 am to 5 pm, normally it´s noon to 9 pm, but always closed on a Monday. Entry is a mere 3 euros or free for residents, and free parking attached.

 

Don´t hurry home to click glasses, plunge down to the coast and experience the serene nature of the town of El Sauzal. Town halls are seldom just functional in Tenerife, the multi layered facade of El Sauzal´s HQ is modern ans stylish – they even have their own Drago Tree. I had been looking forward to seeing the latest wood sculpture from Luigi Stinga, originally from Napoli but settled in La Laguna. The italians flair and imagination knows no bounds, his peacock was draped down the main steps, at home among the green curtain of surrounding plants.

A short walk up the coast offered a church that showed how basic black and white stone could also make a big impression on the eyes. Along the other direction a nice selection of bars and cafes awaited, lycra clad cyclists were glad of a breather after testing themselves on the big dipper roads. For me it was a good point from which to look out for the La Laguna bus. My glass was running over when I spotted another Stinga figure striding out with a basket on her head.

It had been a good few years since my last call at El Sauzal, it was noticeable that a lot of new development had taken place but it enhanced the overall bright and well looked after outlook of the place. The wine museum is best accessed from the motorway but if you approach from the town, a stout uphill walk will take around 20 minutes.