High Beach meet: 'Ancient woodland attracting bikers for almost 90 years'
To the north east of London lies Epping Forest, a swath of ancient woodland that has been attracting riders for nigh on 90 years. Though its rural roads make a great escape from city grime, it’s the heritage at the heart of this region that draws people in – a heritage that many visitors may not even be aware of.
Deep in the forest is the village of High Beach, or High Beech as it was known when it played host to the UK’s first ever speedway meeting on the 18th of February 1928. It’s estimated that some 30,000 people turned out for this auspicious event and for the next few years it was a major fixture of the Southern League. Its success was relatively short lived, however, and despite a brief resurgence in the ‘40s and ‘50s, by 1960 the track had become largely defunct.
But ask any local biker where the best place to meet is and chances are they’ll answer High Beach - so why is this location so enduring? It was in the huge crowds that attended those early speedway meetings that young Ernie Miller spotted a golden business opportunity and in 1930 he opened what is known today as the Original Tea Hut. Although the racing came and went, Ernie’s hut continued as a popular meeting place and he went on to run it for a further fifty years before handing over to his son Bert.
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Today it’s owned and operated by Ernie’s great nephew Bradley Melton and despite being upgraded once or twice over the years still stands within 10 metres of its original location on Fairmead Road. A major revamp in 2016 saw it reopen in a purpose-built metal container and in addition to the traditional tea and cakes Bradley serves up butties, burgers, muffins and, in line with the times, a selection of wraps.
The Original Tea Hut (or Bert’s as it’s still widely known) is open from 9am to 5pm throughout the year.
Where is it? Fairmead Road, Loughton IG10 4HR
What does it cost? Fuel and food
For more information visit www.originalteahut.com