COLIN TIZZARD’S PUBLIC OPEN DAY
AT MILBORNE PORT IN SOMERSET
BANK HOLIDAY MONDAY 27 AUGUST 2018
Colin Tizzard’s website:
I had wanted to attend Colin Tizzard’s annual Public Open Day ever since it was instigated and, this year, I finally overcame my one reservation – the distance I’d need to drive to get there, namely just over 130 miles. Although that’s not much further than the equivalent of driving to Worcester, which is around 120 miles away, and not quite as far as Market Rasen, which I’ve visited twice on day trips; although I was 10 years younger than I am now!
Timewise, for today’s trip, anything between 2¾ and 5 hours each way was suggested by Google Maps! It was the August Bank Holiday too so, outgoing there might be day-tripper traffic and, incoming, returning day-tripper traffic and Bank Holiday weekend traffic too.
As I was thinking along the lines of a 3 hour journey time, with a little bit of ‘wiggle room’, I decided my departure time would be between 07:30 and 08:00. I thus set my alarm for 05:45ish, having turned-in in reasonable time too. Unlike on Saturday evening when I’d dozed off at around 22:30, only to wake at 02:00 but fail to get back to sleep until 04:30; hindered latterly by the sound of a police helicopter on search duty overhead for at least 20 minutes.
Anyway, I made myself a cup of tea before having a shower, which included washing and drying my hair, before eating porridge for breakfast and setting off at 07:40. Having loaded up the car with my necessities, the last task was to apply some emollient cream on the palm of my left hand and place said hand inside a white cotton glove. A pharmacist suggested I may have been suffering from a recent outbreak of contact dermatitis, which solely affected the outside portion of my left palm. It had flared up again during the Bank Holiday weekend; hence the precautionary glove to protect it whilst driving, as it had been sore previously ... the white glove was all very Michael Jackson-esque!
My outfit was a navy and cream horizontal striped fleece-lined thermal T-shirt, a purple fleece, navy blue fleece gillet, burgundy with brown epaulettes jacket, bright blue M & S jeggings, cotton M & S socks with an alpaca design thereon, grey Aura Hotter shoes to drive in and black snow-boots to wear. I also took my brown Footglove ankle boots as a back-up. I wore my navy blue and silver dichroic earrings and took my blue/navy/white/gold animal graphics ‘Defea’ Hotter handbag. I also wore a purple-patterned scarf which my friend Denise bought me as a present a few years ago.
My route took me around the ring-road and down to the London Colney roundabout; having encountered an issue with the traffic lights at said island when I’d set out to drive to my recent alpaca walk, it had been discovered subsequently that the traffic controls were being completely revamped over the quiet summer school-holiday period, with upgraded traffic lights due to be installed as part of the process.
Fortunately it was quiet on this morning and I was able to sneak across onto the dual carriageway which leads to the Bell roundabout. I joined the M25 at nearby junction 20 and headed along the anti-clockwise carriageway to Junction 16, which is the M4; the traffic flowed freely throughout. I subsequently joined the westbound carriageway of the latter motorway and continued to the Reading West services, where I took a brief comfort break. Despite it being a Bank Holiday, there were more lorries on the road than I expected.
Having re-joined the motorway 10 to 15 minutes later, I continued to Junction 13, which is the Lambourn/Hungerford turning. Having left the motorway, I turned left at the bottom of the slip-road to head into Hungerford, following the route of the A338. Hungerford high street is very picturesque, although it will always be remember for the massacre which took place in August 1987 in which Michael Ryan shot dead 16 people and injured 15 others, before killing himself. In 1987, I worked with someone who said they’d attended the same school as Ryan.
Anyway having exited the market town, I continued along the route of the A338 through rolling countryside; East Grafton is a charming village. I noticed tourist information signs denoting a windmill and a beam engine along this section of my journey. I also passed one of Richard Hannon’s horseboxes and, later on in my journey, one of Ralph Beckett’s ... the former’s stables are located at Herridge near Collingbourne Ducis, the latter’s at Kimpton near Andover.
Having reached a roundabout at Burbage, I turned south to continue upon the A338 through Collingbourne Ducis and the garrison town of Tidworth; there were many recently constructed houses within the built-up area. Having arrived at a mini-roundabout, I had to wait for a bus to exit onto the road in front of me; fortunately it turned left a little further up the road. It had begun to rain by this stage ... that was strange, as I don’t recall my favourite weather forecaster, Tomasz Schafernaker, mentioning rain for today, although yesterday had been very wet, everywhere, at some point during the day.
I continued until I reached the A303, artery to the southwest ... if you don’t wish to use the M4 followed by the M5 that is! I visited Penzance on a couple of occasions, for holidays in the early noughties, and we used this route on both occasions. I found the signposting a little scant; I had to head through an underpass, before turning right at the following roundabout in order to head up the slip-road onto the westbound carriageway.
The next part of my journey went well, until there was a hold-up approaching the roundabout on the Amesbury bypass. I managed to overtake a large lorry carrying bales of hay at said traffic island but, further along, close to Stonehenge where the road reverted to single lane, I got stuck behind a livestock transporter. This was okay, until we went up a hill, at which point slurry poured from the lower left-hand corner onto the road in front of me; I kept wide, but it still seemed to splash up the widescreen. Yuck!
Fortunately, at the next roundabout, I took the outside lane once more and overtook him. Phew! The road now continued downhill, into the village of Winterbourne Stoke and onwards to Wincanton, with dual carriageways punctuating the route. My tally of counties was now six – Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, a tiny outlier of Hampshire, Wiltshire and, finally, Somerset.
Wincanton racecourse, which is situated to the north of the town, is signposted at the junction to the east of Wincanton; I continued to the next junction. The slip-road exited to the left, before winding around to the right and passing over the A303; it terminated at a roundabout. I had been thinking about refuelling and noticed a petrol station to my right; however, I turned left then, at the next roundabout, left again as the arrow stated ‘Services’ ... it transpired that ‘Services’ was a McDonalds, a Travelodge plus what appeared to be a hostelry! Erh, no!
I did a U-turn, making note to call in at the petrol station on the way home instead; just in case my fuel ran very low due to traffic holdups. I continued to a further roundabout, where I turned left to head under the A303 before taking the B3145, within the village of Lattiford; signposted Sherbourne.
I’d travelled this part of the route on Googlemaps and knew I was looking for a left-hand turning, after the church, within the village of Charlton Horethorne; 3 miles to Milborne Port. I headed along the lane, beneath a railway bridge (it was Station Road after all), before encountering the first village houses further along. There was a sharp right-hand bend in the road at this point, followed by a left-handed bend further on.
Some way prior to the A30 which runs through the village, the car in front of me took a left turn, at a sign stating ‘Colin Tizzard’; another car came in from the other direction, and others were following me too. We headed along Wheathill Lane, past a number of houses, before briefly heading uphill through a wooded area and then being directed to enter a field on the right; this was adjacent to the stable-yard. I arrived at 10:50.
Fortunately it had stopped raining by the time I reached the yard, but it had also rained enough to wash away any slurry which might have been present on the vehicle following my livestock lorry encounter!
Having parked up, I put on my snow-boots and headed to the entrance; the entry fee was a mere £5 per person, with younger children admitted for free. Monies would be donated to Cancer Research UK, along with local charities. A paper wristband was issued to me, after which I headed to the entrance of the nearest barn which, it just so happened, housed the majority of Colin’s star performers, including Cue Card, Native River, Thistlecrack, Fox Norton, newbie to the yard Cyrus Darius, Slate House, The Dutchman, Elegant Escape and Ultra Gold.
Cue Card wasn’t particularly interested in the visitors; he’s probably seen it all before. But Native River, stable-name ‘Garfield’ presumably after the orange cartoon cat (I have a Garfield landline phone at home), was very friendly and accommodating to everyone. Having noticed that a number of people were carrying a copy of Colin’s brochure, at one point I headed outside to purchase one too!
I think I overheard someone say there were over 100 horses currently in residence; the central corridor, which ran between barns, seemed to stretch on forever! Having moved on from Native River, eventually, I moved up and down each stabling section, photographing the horses, and their name-plates, so that I could identify each one for posterity ... and for the website album too.
Others of note were, of course, veteran Grand Vision for which this will be his last season racing, Kilbricken Storm, Third Intention, Theatre Guide, Shanahan’s Turn, White Moon who showed much promise before sustaining an injury last season, Lostintranslation, Vision Des Flos, West Approach, Padleyourowncanoe, Sizing Tennessee, Sizing Codelco, Pingshou, Royal Vacation, Quite By Chance and Leg Lock Luke. One horse, a chestnut, was currently off limits because he/she had ringworm.
Whilst I was doing the rounds, I also encountered jockey Harry Cobden, suited and booted. He was currently on the injury sidelines, having suffered a small fracture in his neck during the summer jumping campaign. He was chatting to someone and I heard him mention that he doesn’t like jogging, but has to do it as part of his job in order to get and stay fit!
The first parade of horses took place at 12:30 in the area in front of the ‘stars’ barn but, with so many horses to see, I missed the beginning and, by the time I did turn up, the crowds were too deep for me to see as much as I’d like ... and certainly not enough to take photos.
However, I could hear the commentary given by Colin himself; he said that, when Native River won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, he was contacted by many people who had come into contact with the horse during its formative years, including the breeder. The guy who bred him said that, during the birthing process, he’d been slightly dismayed when two white socks had appeared, even more so when a white nose had appeared and very much so when he discovered two white socks/stockings on the foal’s hind-legs too. It’s that old adage:
One white sock, buy a horse
Two white socks, try a horse
Three white socks, look well about him
Four white socks, do without him
Colin said it didn’t seem to have done Native River any harm, having four white socks! Having missed the beginning of the parade, and then suffered from a ‘restricted view’ for the remainder, I decided I’d have to stay for the second and final parade, which was due to take place at 14:30! Besides, having travelled from Hertfordshire, I might as well make an entire day of it!
Once the first parade had ended, I headed back into the ‘Stars’ barn to see Native River once more. I revisited a handful more too, before heading outside to reserve my place ahead of the second parade. I managed to find a space on one of the plastic-covered bales, looking in a westerly direction. I was pleased to be able to sit down, although it proved to be a little hard on my bottom, and especially towards the end of the second parade when cramp almost set-in in my right thigh!
Prior to the second parade commencing, a lady saw Harry Cobden, so trotted across the parade area to get his autograph, in the Cue Card book she’d purchased earlier. She also had a photo taken with the jockey.
At 14:30 the parade began, with a number of horses taking part, with up to two on show at any one time. Colin started off the proceedings on this occasion, with Joe taking over for a while, before professional photographer Mel Fordham assumed the microphone when his two French-bred fillies were paraded.
These fillies had been brought over from France, to take part in the extensive Mares’ programme which now takes place in the UK, as this route was deemed the most suitable for them. They were being syndicated, under Mel’s banner; Golden Etoile would remain in the same ownership after her racing days had drawn to a close, whereas Golden Papillon would be sold. Golden Etoile is the daughter of Golden Firebird, formerly trained by Alan King.
One of the lesser known horses paraded was Devil’s Bridge. Colin told the story that the horse is named after a local beauty spot, used by courting couples; he also said that his brother was conceived there ... although, when he asked his mother to confirm this today, she was nowhere to be seen!
When one of the younger horses was paraded (I can’t remember the name), Colin said he’d got back in the saddle for the first time in around 6 months just recently, in order to discover for himself just how nice a horse he was. I have to say that all of the horses looked wonderful; the Tizzards certainly know how to choose a lovely beast when purchasing at the sales or bought privately!
As had been the case earlier in the day, the last two horses to be paraded were Cue Card and Native River. Colin said that the most emotional victory he’d ever experienced was when Cue Card won the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival, back in 2010. Obviously he was mighty proud of both horses and their accomplishments.
A draw took place, during the afternoon’s demonstration; the prizes being a set of shoes from Cue Card, Native River and Thistlecrack. I was obviously wearing blinkers today, as I was unaware of the prize draw, or a number of items which were available to purchase; activities too! I did notice the food stalls but, as I’d brought food and drink with me, I had no need to visit these.
There was an announcement that a lady named Nikki Crampton, who performs massages on both humans and horses, would demonstrate her art upon one of the stable’s inmates following the parade. The horse chosen was Grand Vision. As this sounded interesting ... and because Grand Vision is one of my favourites – I headed along to his stable, along with others, to watch.
Nikki started by ‘introducing’ herself to the horse which, throughout, was held by his stable-lass. Once the horse was receptive, she got to work on a number of tension points which she’d found, starting in his shoulder. Grand Vision was obviously enjoying it, as his eyelids began to droop at one stage, despite the close proximity of people outside his stable. Nikki also pointed out that a horse would start to chew and lick its lips during the treatment; which Grand Vision did. Having finished his off-side, Nikki turned the horse around and completed same on the nearside.
Often she’ll work with both the horse and the rider, ironing out issues so they can work in harmony. The stable-lass who looks after him and rides him out every day, admitted that her charge ‘looks after himself’ in his old age!
A number of visitors stayed slightly beyond the end time of 16:00, including me, having become engrossed in Grand Vision’s massage therapy session. With far fewer visitors around the barn, I now had easy access to Native River; I headed back via Cyrus Darius - he was friendlier than earlier in the day. I took the opportunity of a couple of photos ... and an accidental video ... with the Gold Cup winner before heading outside.
To be on the safe side, I visited one of the portaloos on my way back to the car, washing my hands with a sanitiser too, as I had four cheese rolls waiting to be consumed once back at my car. Although, in the event, I ate just two before departure, the remainder I’d eat later in the evening.
It was approximately 16:15 when I departed; there was a gateway designated ‘EXIT’. However, upon reaching the lane shortly afterwards, I discovered a number of vehicles ahead of me were having to do a three-point turn to negotiate a very tight corner in order to return from whence we came. I followed suit although, in hindsight, may have managed it in one manoeuvre because my car is just a small Ford Fiesta.
Anyway, I followed a number of vehicles down the hill beneath the trees and through the residential area. The two cars immediately ahead of me turned left, whereas I turned right to travel back to Charlton Horethorne, passing through the narrow railway arch en route.
The T-junction with the B3145 was a little difficult to negotiate, being at an oblique angle; I waited for two or three vans heading from the left to pass by, and a motorcycle from my right too. I followed the vans all the way back to Wincanton, they didn’t abide by the speed limits where specified - locals I presume!
Having reached the roundabout where the slip-road headed down towards the A303, I continued forward to a second roundabout and turned right to enter the road leading to a Morrisons Supermarket; there was a petrol station on the right-hand side. I waited briefly as, although pump 3 was available, the driver of the car parked at pump 7 was heading back to their vehicle. As she left, I drove between cars to pull-up at pump 3 on the ‘front grid’.
The petrol cost £19.32 and, in hindsight, I would probably have had plenty; however, I wanted peace of mind because I had no way of knowing at this stage, what traffic snarl-ups I’d encounter during my journey home. Having completed this task, I returned to the junction and headed down to slip-road to enter the eastbound carriageway of the A303.
Everything was going well, until I began encountering single carriageway sections of the road; the worst holdups being close to Winterbourne Stoke. I recall getting stuck on a hill, with a number of vehicles deciding to do a U-turn. There were expansive views across Salisbury plain, which I was able to enjoy as I was stationary! I also got held up on the approach and exit to a roundabout, with traffic coming from the south adding to the congestion, and vehicles having to cross between stationary vehicles in order to continue their journey north-south and south-north.
Having reached Stonehenge at around 17:50, I was surprised to see tourists still visiting the famous standing stones this late in the day. I’d seen numerous visitors when I’d passed by on my outbound journey too.
The A303 is solely dual-carriageway from just east of Stonehenge, until it merges with the M3. I knew that I wasn’t going to return via the A338, but had been contemplating the A34, all the way to Bicester, then the A41 back to Hertfordshire. However, in the event, I decided to bite the bullet and continue to the M3 instead; besides, it is the most direct route available and the one also recommended by Google Maps.
The A303 bypasses Andover; the Weyhill services, on both the west and eastbound carriageways, were fenced off and closed – I’m sure I’ve stopped there in the past, when travelling to and/or from holiday in Devon/Cornwall (last century rather than in the noughties, that is). The A303 is a very pleasant drive, when there’s no congestion!
There was a bit of a hold-up when I joined the M3, caused by vehicles travelling back from the Hampshire/Dorset area at the end of the Bank Holiday. Once this had cleared, traffic flowed smoothly until I approached the Fleet Services; this appeared to be caused by an incident between a red car which was stationary in the outside lane and a white van which was parked on the grass verge. These were positioned between the Service Station entrance and exit points.
Once beyond this holdup, traffic moved smoothly once again and, having reached the M25, I headed along the slip-road to join the clockwise carriageway. Although a little slow in places, the London orbital motorway wasn’t as slow moving as I’d expected – I was able to move into lane 3 in plenty of time so as to bypass the lanes exiting onto the M4 and remained there beyond too, as the inside lane exits onto the M40 further on. Traffic had slowed a little as vehicles were assimilated onto the M25 from the M4, and again just beyond the M40, but less so.
I continued into Hertfordshire, whilst mulling over which junction to leave at. Junction 21A was an option, if I wanted to avoid the London Colney roundabout with its lack of traffic lights currently; I chose to continue to Junction 20 as is my preference these days. However, instead of heading up the London Colney bypass, I took the turning into the village and, further along, turned left along Kings Road/Napsbury Avenue in order to reach Shenley Lane (the B5378).
I turned right at the roundabout and continued in the direction of St Albans; heading over the A414, where the thoroughfare becomes Napsbury Lane, then over the Thameslink/Midlands railway line before reaching a mini-roundabout. I turned right here, to head under the railway line and into Mile House Lane. At the far end I turned right, into London Road, and continued to the Drakes Drive, which is the start of the ring-road.
The driver of the car in front of me must have been almost asleep, because he/she ignored the green filter light, waiting for the lights to change instead. However, despite the speed limit being 30mph now, said car proceeded to pull away from me! Not a very good driver; me thinks. Anyway, I arrived back home at 19:50, giving me enough time to eat a meal of spaghetti on toast, before settling down the watch episode two of BBC1’s new series Bodyguard! Richard Madden is rather nice!!! I gather he appeared in early series of Game of Thrones; which I’ve never watched.
The outbound journey had been 07:40 to 10:50, which included a stop at Reading West Services, and inbound 16:15 to 19:50, which included a stop at the petrol station in Wincanton. So that’s further (141 miles) but quicker (3 hours and 10 minutes) on the outbound journey and 132 miles in 3 hours and 35 minutes on the homebound route, mainly courtesy of the stop start stop start road configuration of dual carriageways interspersed by single lane sections on the A303.
I was later informed there had been no rain in St Albans on Monday, during the day.
I can thoroughly recommend Colin Tizzard’s annual Public Open Day ... it may have been a long way to travel but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world! And I love Native River; not only is he beautiful and very talented, he’s got such a lovely nature too. Y I also enjoyed meeting Grand Vision and Cyrus Darius; they are favourites of mine as well.