The Saddest Site : Dudley Wood Pictures (1999)
It was the end of the 1995 season when a speedway race was last ridden around the Dudley Wood track. The race was fittingly won by Heathens captain Greg Hancock to earn a draw in the Greg v Billy selects challenge match. The famous track was then walked by the loyal Cradley fans who were wondering whether they would ever see another race on the shale beneath their feet.
Since then, the sad story has developed with many twists and turns along the way, but still theres no sign of a racing return to the home of world champions. The stadium has been cruelly demolished at the reqeuest of the land-owners, and there remains no fittings or fixtures - no pits buildings, no stand, no bars, no safety fence - nothing. What is still clearly visible though is the shape and outline of the track which many speedway supporters regarded as one of the best in the country.
Below is the first of a brief collection of photographs taken recently at the now derelict site. This shows the front view of the stadium, taken from Dudley Wood Road. With no gates, walls or turnstiles, the frontage of the site blends in with area just beyond it.
The second image shows the view looking down the home straight. This was taken a little further back from where the starting gate used to stand. The areas either side of the track are now very much overgrown, but the track remains visible with little able to grow through the dusty surface. The home straight grandstand is missing from the right hand side of the image, as is the infamous four-legged referees box.
Image number three is a shot of the first bend, looking back towards Dudley Wood Road. The three buildings to the right of the picture are the houses and the church on the opposite side of the road. Just left of central is The Victoria pub on the near side of the road, often frequented by speedway supporters before a Saturday night meeting.
The fourth image is of the third bend, taken from the end of the back straight, off track. The pits area would have been beyond the right hand edge of the photo. A couple of the advertising banners can still be seen at the top of the wall beyond the fourth turn.
The fifth and final image is also of the pits bend, taken from a little further back. The litter and remains in the foreground seem to make it look that bit more gruesome and depressing.
So thats it. Described so aptly as 'the saddest site'. I know many people have been down to see the state of the place on numerous occasions, I even know of one who visits on an almost daily basis. There are also people who have deliberately not been near the stadium since that last race in 1995. Whether you fall into one of these categories or not, I think these pictures certainly provide an interesting insight.
Photographs by Phil Johnson