MARTIN KEIGHLEY’S PUBLIC OPEN DAY
IN AID OF THE ANDERS FOUNDATION
AND CANCER RESEARCH UK
SUNDAY 07 SEPTEMBER 2014
My ‘unnamed’ favourite,
seen during my visit last year,
is now called Jeans Lady!
It had been a very quiet summer on the horseracing front, with Choc remaining on the sidelines following the neck injury which he’d picked up at Chepstow on 25 April. However, indications were that he was aiming to return to action before the end of September.
The Keighleys had been planning to hold a Public Open Day for a while and this was the first one of its nature; although they do hold an Owners’ Day every odd numbered year, which I’ve been fortunate to receive an invite to and attend on the last three occasions. Today’s public event was held in aid of two charities close to the Keighley’s heart, namely Cancer Research UK and The Anders Foundation. The latter organisation will also sponsor the yard for the next two years.
When I met up with my friend Lesley to attend a Lee Mead concert in Guildford on 13 August I asked if she’d like to accompany me to the Open Day; affirmative. We were thus all set for a day out in the Cotswolds in early September.
The day itself turned out to be beautifully warm, after a slightly cool and cloudy start in Hertfordshire. I set my alarm for 06:00 with the aim of picking Lesley up from her home in a village near Dunstable at around 09:00. I had a shower, washed and dried my hair and applied my warpaint; breakfast consisted of porridge and warm buttered toast.
My outfit today was blue jeggings, cerise knitted tunic, purple anorak, burgundy ankle boots, a tan per una handbag purchased earlier in the year and a nickel-free ‘rose’ pendant necklace strung with blue glass pearls and cerise facetted glass beads with matching earrings that I’d run up the previous day to match my outfit ... as you do!
I set off at 08:15. I dropped in to the local petrol station to fill up the car, as my tank was only just over a quarter full. I had intended to then go via the city centre but, having been fortunate to find all the traffic lit junctions on green, I encountered a Sunday diversion; roadworks. Which way should I go? Had I not visited the petrol station I’d have travelled via Harpenden, and for a few short seconds I was thinking that I’d head to Hemel Hempstead instead. Then it occurred to me that I needed to visit Bedfordshire to pick-up Lesley. Whoops!
This being the case, I set off along the old A5 to reach the Redbourn bypass, I drove beneath the M1 motorway at Junction 9, past Flamstead and Markyate to reach the turning to Kensworth where I turned left. I’d usually travel via Dunstable but my preferred route through the housing estate along Lowther Road, Langdale Road and Meadway has been seriously compromised by a 20mph speed limit and numerous speed-bumps!
Thus my route today took me through Kensworth, past the thatched Old Hunters Lodge pub, across Whipsnade green and up past the Zoo. A sharp right turn outside the entrance of the latter is soon followed by a steep decline down the escarpment slope of Dunstable Downs. I did glance across to my left to see if there was any sign of the bison which live on the hill, or perhaps used to live on the hill; nothing.
At the bottom of the hill, my route joined Dagnell Road; I turned right and headed the short distance to a roundabout on the B489. Straight across took me to Eaton Bray, but not before having to drive carefully around a number of right-angled turns where oncoming vehicles had a habit of drifting onto my side of the road.
I arrived at Lesley’s house just before 09:00. I parked up and rang the bell ... there were no stirrings in the house, despite the fact I’d texted her 45 minutes previously to say I was on my way and she’d replied too! Anyway, having loitered in the garden for a couple of minutes, I banged the door knocker. This resulted in all hell letting loose as Lesley’s dog, Max, and her daughter Hollie’s ‘temporary’ dog (she’s looking after it for a friend), a chug named Lily, began barking incessently. I’m reliably informed that a chug is a cross between a chihuahua and a pug.
The door was answered by Hollie’s boyfriend, Pete. He called up the stairs, ‘There’s a woman to see you Lesley’! He’s not met me before!!! He did, however, show me into the sitting room, where I waited for a couple of minutes before Lesley appeared. We set off shortly afterwards.
Our route took us via Billington to the petrol station beside the Leighton Buzzard bypass, as Lesley hoped to withdraw cash from the cashpoint on the forecourt; it was out of order. We re-joined the bypass to reach the A418, where we turned left and headed through Wing to reach Aylesbury. Our route then took us around the town’s ring-road to find the A41 where we then headed westwards through Waddesdon to Bicester. En route it was noted that the roundabout on the A41 beside the Woodham Industrial area has now been completed; it was under construction during my trips to the Cheltenham Festival in March. It’s a very big roundabout considering its rural location!
Having reached the far end of the Bicester bypass, I turned right, then left onto the Middleton Stoney Road. Cotswolds here we come! The housing estate through which it passes continues to grow. The road crosses over the M40 motorway to reach a traffic-lighted junction with the B430. After crossing this slightly-staggered junction we headed along the next stretch of the route, through Caulcott to reach a T-junction where we turned left and headed down Station Road (Heyford) to the causeway over the River Cherwell.
The causeway is narrow, single-file, controlled by traffic lights. These were on red when we arrived; a cyclist wearing ‘Wiggle’ gear was the sole ‘vehicle’ ahead of us waiting to the use the crossing. The lights having changed to green, we were able to pass the cyclist soon afterwards as the causeway was wide enough to do so. I noticed that red cats eyes had been installed along the edges of the roadway; that’s new I’m sure. Perhaps someone drove off the side in the dark necessitating this?
Following this, the road rises up through trees initially to join the traffic-signalled junction beside the allegedly haunted Hopcroft’s Holt Hotel on the A4260. We continued forward across the staggered junction and headed for the Bartons – Bartongate, Middle Barton and Westcott Barton. The road then heads through Gagingwell to reach Enstone. Due to the nature of the junction of the B4030 with the A44, vehicles are directed to turn left and head down the B4022 to join the A-road instead.
Having reached the A44, we turned right, headed through Enstone and onwards to Southcombe where, at traffic lights, the aforementioned road bears off to the left to reach Chipping Norton. At a set of mini-roundabouts we turned left and headed through the main shopping street of the Oxfordshire town, at the end of which the road veers right to travel down the hill past the Bliss Wool Mill situated in the valley to the left.
We continued along the A44 Worcester Road until we reached the A436, turning left through a wooded corridor to eventually head down the hill past the Adlestrop turning, over the narrowing railway/Evenlode river bridge and then uphill to Stow-on-the-Wold. We passed The Bell, Choc’s current local, to our left on the way up the hill to the town.
We waited for the traffic lights to change at the junction with the A429 Roman Road (Fosse Way). A right turn, followed by a left turn at the following set of traffic lights took us onto the A424 heading towards Evesham. On each occasion that we’ve visited Martin Keighley’s yard, I’ve taken the first available turning signposted Condicote, knowing that the third one is probably the quickest route!
Having taken the first turning, the second route joins shortly afterwards and the lane heads downhill to the Donnington Trout Farm. We encountered a group of ramblers on the way and they kindly moved to the side of the narrow lane to let me drive by; I gestured a sign of thanks. Having climbed up the hill beyond the fishery, we took the first turning on the right. The lanes were narrow and a couple of vehicles heading in the opposite direction gave way for me to pass ... it’s wonderful to encounter other well-mannered road users; unlike those in Hertfordshire where they are sorely lacking!
Having reached the outskirts of Condicote I turned right and headed along the lane to Luckley where the yard is situated. Arriving vehicles were directed to park in the field to the right, as usual. I had to wait for two or three vehicles to head in from the opposite direction; the route I should take but never do! The last of the drivers was a young lad, who turned out to be one of the work riders; he had to make two attempts to manoeuvre through the stone-surrounded gate. But I shouldn’t make fun ... as I managed to stall my vehicle prior to turning into the field!
Anyway, we paid our £5 per car and were directed to park to the far side of the field, almost in the far corner. It was definitely after 10:30, gate opening time, but I believe it was before 11:00. It always takes longer than expected to drive from my home to the Cotswolds, because much of the latter part of the journey is across country.
I changed into my ankle boots, put on my jacket and we walked back through the field gate, across the lane and into the area attached to the yard. Helpers were selling programmes, two for £5; we bought one each. Lesley also bought two pages of raffle tickets. I said a brief hello to Martin, who was chatting to someone by the entrance gate, as we walked past. We stopped to purchase two hot drinks in the area just outside the main barn. Having drunk these, we headed into the aforementioned building to begin our tour of the horses.
We got as far as Thomas and Dinky at the far end of the barn before being ushered out in preparation for the horses to be led out for the parade. Any Currency had become noticeably frisky in his large open box two along from the ponies; the excitement of the numerous visitors no doubt. Also, along the way, I’d found my favourite filly, now mare, unnamed last year but now called Jeans Lady.
We wandered out of the barn via the row of outside loose-boxes, before heading to the mound above the warm-up/warm-down area to get a good view of the proceedings. There was a 20-minute delay to the scheduled parade, after which the horses were brought out in ‘stable order’, commencing with Seymour Eric from the row of outside boxes. ATR’s Robert Cooper, who lives locally, was on hand to assist Martin with the commentary regarding the horses as they paraded.
Lesley made a note of the horses names for easy identification, as I took the photographs. Martin explained that one-eyed Right On Roy lost his right eye as a two-week old foal when his mother kicked it out; poor boy. Last season one of the youngest horses was discovered to be a two-year-old rather than a three-year-old, which explained why the training schedule had been a problem, which had resulted in the inmate being ‘turned away’ until this season And the plans for Any Currency are to enter him in the three cross-country chases at Cheltenham this season, plus maybe one other race. And he will have an in-house rival in these races ... but I can’t remember who!
Any Currency was the final racehorse to parade, followed by Thomas (ridden by Freddie) and Dinky (ridden by Harry). The parade excluded the six horses who would be exercised on the gallops across the road, and these soon appeared namely Annacotty, Champion Court, Kyles Faith, Primo Capitano, Creepy and Always Bold; ridden by Ian Popham, Mark Caswell, Tom Bellamy, Chris Ward, Tom Siddall, and John Suthern respectively. Freddie had now transferred to veteran Dinky, who is 24-years-old, and followed Always Bold around the warm-up area.
Those wishing to see the horses on the gallop headed out through the gate and across the lane to the area above it. The horses were warmed up before heading across to the beginning of the all-weather strip in the valley bottom. The first pair to gallop were Creepy and Primo Capitano, followed by Annacotty upsides Champion Court, and finally Always Bold and Kyles Faith.
The horses walked back along the top of the field, heading back to be warmed-down, spectators following them at a safe distance. Having returned to the area adjacent to the warm up track, we did a brief tour of the trade tents before heading to the hot food van located close to the stable block. Robert Cooper was first in the queue, having ordered his meal ahead of collecting it. We ordered ours, sausage and chips for Lesley with a lemon Fanta and a large pallet of chips for me plus an orange Fanta. The raffle results were announced whilst we waited in the queue to collect our food.
We went to sit on the plastic covered bails of bedding situated beside the warm-up track to eat our food. At one point we were joined by black labrador George, son of Windsor. I accidently dropped a couple of chips, but the dog was well-behaved and wasn’t interested in eating them. Lesley said that her dog Max would have woofed them down! Having finished our meal we took the packaging, including the two dropped chips, and the empty drink cans over to the waste bin beside the food van. We bumped into Martin again at this point; following a brief chat Lesley and I headed back to the stables to continue our tour.
Harry and Freddie were riding their bikes around the area beside the stables. We began at Seymour Eric’s stable, took a photo of ‘Pickle’ and the very dark grey Sugar Mix before saying hello to Right On Roy, and heading into the barn to see the ponies once more. I took a photo of Lesley with Westerly Breeze who lives in the open box next to the ponies; also a picture of Lesley with Thomas, and she took one of me with the pony too.
I noticed Hannah Bishop, Racing Manager to Liz Prowting, chatting to a couple of gentlemen further up the barn and I introduced myself shortly afterwards. Soon it was time to leave the yard and begin our journey home. Having returned to the car, I changed into my driving shoes and we set off to drive to The Plough at Ford. I confess I exited via the ‘no exit’ gate because there was a car driver ahead of me who seemed to be umming and ahhing about his route out, resulting in him temporarily blocking the way! Well that is my excuse anyway!
We headed to the pub via Condicote with its walled green in the centre of the village. Having reached the B4077 we turned to the right and drove to Ford. There are two car parks serving the hostelry, one behind the pub and one across the road, we parked in the latter as on a previous visit. This area is located next to the driveway of Jackdaws Castle, the home of trainer Jonjo O’Neill. Due to the location of the pub, on a corner, extra care must be taken before crossing the road, especially on the return leg of the walk!
We entered via the gate and headed into the bar area to purchase drinks; mine was an Apple and Raspberry J2O ... no change there then. As it was such a nice day, we then went to sit at a bench table in the garden. Choc had recently tweeted a photograph of William playing table tennis at a pub and I thought I recognised the location as The Plough. It was, as there was a large ping pong table situated on the concrete area in the garden! Well spotted Jane!
Having finished drinking, and then spending a penny, we returned to my car and set off back along the B4077 to Stow-on-the-Wold, via Lower Swell where care must be taken when driving over a narrow river bridge. I’m far from keen when pulling out at the junction where this road joins the A424; however a car driver heading from our left let us out, which was kind of them. I like these Cotswold road manners!
Upon reaching the traffic lights at the top of Stow’s main street, we turned left and drove down the hill past The Bell, heading back past the Adlestrop turning to join the A44. We had soon arrived on the outskirts of Chipping Norton, where we noticed cattle mating in the field to our right, above Bliss Mill! We drove up the hill into the town, through the high street and took the ‘local traffic only’ road to reach a set of traffic lights where we turned right to head towards Enstone.
The road to Bicester veers off to the left just beyond a bend in the road; we took this route heading back through Gagingwell and the Bartons. It’s at this point that I feel sad that I’ve got to return home to Hertfordshire. Anyway, we eventually reached Bicester and were soon heading along the A41 to Aylesbury. Having joined their ring-road, we took the Leighton Buzzard road through Wing. We drove along the Leighton Buzzard bypass, took the road though Billington once more and soon arrived back in Lesley’s village. I dropped her off at 18:15.
I decided to return home via Dunstable, which meant driving through Totternhoe to reach the town. Having chosen this route it took me via Meadway, Langdale Road and Lowther Road; the speed-bump nightmare. Upon reaching the old A5 I turned right and headed towards Markyate or, to be specific, the Markyate bypass. Having driven through the traffic lights at the junction of the Luton Road, the traffic suddenly slowed down to a crawl; this continued until Flamstead. It transpired that a didicoy and painted trotting horse were out for an early evening drive. Finally it was my turn to overtake him and I was on my way again.
The remainder of my route took me via the Redbourn bypass and Harpenden back to St Albans, then home around the ring-road. I arrived back at 19:00. I had been panicking, thinking I was at risk of missing the Strictly Come Dancing 2014 introduction programme but, as it transpired, that didn’t begin until after 20:00. Phew! This being the case, I had time to eat penne mozzarella for my evening meal before it started.
The weather had been so nice on this Sunday that I actually caught the sun across the back of my neck, which I noticed when I undressed at the end of the day!
It has been a lovely day, with pleasant company, good weather and beautiful countryside too. Wicked.