VISIT TO CHANDLER MANOR FARM STUD NEAR WANTAGE
TO SEE SHILPA, MONEY MAID AND THEIR FOALS
SATURDAY 02 JUNE 2018
Money Maid and ‘Cookie’
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This excursion was to meet the EPDS-owned Shilpa and Money Maid and their respective 2018 foals.
Shilpa was the first horse owned by EPDS and had, at one time, been trained by Alan King and often ridden by Choc. However, her racing career had been curtailed by injury in March 2013 when trained by Simon Earle. In fact she’d been injured, coincidently, in the same race at Southwell in which Choc had re-broken his arm when piloting Our Phylli Vera. It is my understanding that her tendon had been sliced into when she was hampered as a result of this unfortunate fall, although she did complete the race. She was now aged 13.
Shilpa’s second foal, a colt by Swiss Spirit, had been born at Easter. The first foal, a filly named Champas, was three years old and currently being broken in by Mark Grant. Mark was currently engaged to Fiona Johnson’s sister Eimear; they are daughters of former Cheltenham Gold Cup winning trainer Noel Chance.
Money Maid’s foal, a filly by Eagle Top, was born in mid-May. After the birth, arrangements were made for the visit to Chandler Manor Farm Stud, near Wantage, to take place. Although suffering an injury during her latest run, Money Maid was solely taking time out from her career to recover whilst also giving birth to a foal, with the hope of recommencing her racing career with Graeme McPherson once her foal was weaned; she was currently 10 years old.
As usual, I researched my route using Google Maps. There were four possible outbound routes – the M25/M4/B4494 route, the M25/M40/A34 route, the A41/A418/A40 route via Aylesbury, or possibly the A41/A34 route via Bicester.
I chose the M25/M40/A34 option on this occasion; the estimated journey time was one hour and 45 minutes. I got up at 05:45 and, having showered and washed and dried my hair, applied basic make-up and eaten a breakfast of two croissants, I set off at 07:55.
Today’s outfit was a pair of electric blue jeggings, a grey with navy blue stripes M & S tunic with godet inserts, navy blue fleece gillet, navy blue and silver dichroic glass earrings; I took three pairs of boots – my snow-boots, brown M & S footglove ankle boots and black M & S footglove ankle boots. I wore the latter whilst driving, and the snow-boots whilst at the stud. The brown boots were just in case I chose to wear the black ankle boots and needed a clean pair to drive home in! I also took my black ‘monkey’ design Gabbie-style Kipling handbag.
My route took me via a housing estate to the London Colney roundabout, before I headed down the London Colney bypass to reach the M25 at junction 22. Having joined the motorway, I headed around the anti-clockwise carriageway. There’s a viaduct across the River Gade Valley, just prior to Junction 20; although still being driven over, the expansion joint was exposed, with contractors engaged to replace it. I transferred onto the westbound carriageway of the M40 at Junction 16. There was a brief hold-up on the M40 just via to the High Wycombe viaduct, due to workman carrying out what appeared to be tree pruning activity just beyond the Junction 3 slip-road! Anyway, I continued along the M40, descending through the chalky escarpment in due course, before leaving the motorway at Junction 8.
My journey then took me along the M40 dual carriageway towards Oxford. Conscious that I might the travelling ahead of schedule, I slowed down to around 50 mph along this stretch, which resulted in numerous vehicles overtaking me. Having passed through a set of traffic lights, shortly afterwards I arrived at the Headington roundabout. As I was due to travel along the southbound carriageway of the A34, logic would have dictated that I should have headed along the Oxford eastbound bypass. But, having got lost on the eastbound carriageway back in December, I chose to follow the familiar northbound bypass to the Wolvercote roundabout instead.
I had to turn right at this roundabout in order to reach the A34 junction; I knew exactly where I was going, although the driver ahead of me appeared confused and almost overshot the turning! I negotiated the Peartree Interchange and headed up the slip-road to join the A34 southbound carriageway.
The dual carriageway skirts around the western perimeter of Oxford and traffic was flowing freely. I did get annoyed however, by a grey car which seemed intent on tailgating me. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr. However, the road has to follow the contours of the downs as it heads south so, having found myself driving behind a lorry, I decided to overtake it before gravity took its toll on the speed thereof. It was still before 09:30, but traffic heading northbound was already beginning to form into a queue!
Having finally ‘shaken off’ the tailgater as a result of my overtaking manoeurve, I continued along the southbound dual-carriageway of the A34, past Abingdon and Didcot, until I reached the ‘minor’ West Ilsley turning. I headed up the slip-road to the left, turned right at the roundabout to head across a bridge above the A34, followed by another roundabout where I continued straight ahead. The lane was situated high up on the Berkshire/Oxfordshire downs, and crossed the Ridgeway path shortly afterwards; I’d actually just entered Berkshire.
The crops to either side of the road were pretty high, so I progressed with caution along this unfamiliar route before reaching the outskirts of West Ilsley, which is Mick Channon country, and descending a hill to reach a T-junction; their main street was imaginatively named Main Street! A bus had just passed by on this through route, so it was on the edge of civilisation! I turned right, driving past a pub and a cricket pitch on my way out of the village once more.
The lane wound its way through further fields of crops, and I passed a number of cyclists heading in the opposite direction before I arrived at the village of Farnborough. Upon entering the village, there was a large but seemingly no longer occupied house to the right of the lane; perhaps an old farm house. I continued along the lane to the church; All Saints. There was a van parked in the gravelled area adjacent to the thoroughfare. The lane circumnavigated the churchyard and headed past a number of quaint cottages. There was a lane signposted off to the left; this led to Chandler Manor Farm Stud’s main buildings, but I continued straight ahead, as my destination was the foaling unit adjacent to the B4494.
Just before the T-junction, there is a small driveway to the left; the entrance to the foaling unit. I pulled off the road, but didn’t drive through the open gate, as it was still only 09:40 and we’d been asked not to arrive before 09:45 at the earliest; the official start time was 10:00.
Another EPDS member arrived shortly afterwards; she drove in through the gate but then turned around and came out again. We wound down our windows and spoke before deciding to go inside and park up. As we did so, Lesley came out of the barn adjacent to the parking area and introduced herself; her daughter Rachel would be along later.
I put on my snow-boots, just in case, although the surroundings were pretty dry and mud free. Chandler Manor Farm is the highest farm on the Berkshire Downs, with extensive views, and presumably the land drains well, being chalk.
I headed around the corner to where two large foaling boxes were located. Shilpa and her colt foal were in the first box, Money Maid and her foal in the second one. Lesley explained that she’d been up all night when Shilpa foaled at Easter time, although she did make it to church. The vicar suggested that the colt be called ‘Christus’, which is Latin for Christ. Being over two months old, he was eager to meet and greet.
Money Maid’s filly foal, which the stud were calling ‘Holly’, was less than three weeks old and currently resting on the floor of the other box. I took numerous photos of her chilling out, before returning to see Shilpa and Christus.
John Powell of EPDS and his toddler son Alfie arrived shortly afterwards. Alfie had decided that Money Maid’s foal should be named ‘Cookie’, so I think that will be the name which sticks from now on. Besides, it could be Fortune ‘Cookie’ or ‘Cookie’ Dough; very appropriate if your mum is called Money Maid! John was referring to Christus as ‘Toni’, presumably as in ‘Swiss Toni’; I prefer Christus. So, hopefully, their pet names will be Cookie and Christus. So that’s Champas, Christus and Cookie ... they all begin with the letter ‘C’!
Evidently Money Maid is very maternal; looking after her foal and keeping Cookie on the straight and narrow. Shilpa is less maternal in nature. Having rested, Cookie got to her feet, thus providing further photo opportunities.
Being a lovely day, the mares and their respective foals were to be turned out in two nearby paddocks. This provided another photo opportunity for three of the EPDS members who were able to have their photograph taken whilst holding Christus, before he and his mother were turned out in one of the paddocks.
Cookie was a little too young to cope with this kind of excitement, and Money Maid was now banging on her stable door, eager to be led out into her respective paddock. Lesley led Money Maid, whilst Rachel guided her filly foal, on the walk to the enclosure. At first, both foals and mothers couldn’t contain their excitement at this freedom, but they soon settled down to graze. There was a timber lodge situated between the foaling boxes and the paddocks, providing accommodation for family members to oversee their charges at critical moments.
Will (or Bill) the Cirencester ‘cricketer’ attended today; he has a share in Ami Desbois and Stynes amongst others. He journeyed to Cartmel on Bank Holiday Monday to see the latter run; the southern Lake District course currently holds 9 fixtures a season, taking place from May to the end of August. He said it is a beautiful racecourse, situated immediately adjacent to the village.
Trainer Graeme McPherson had been unable to attend the race fixture, spending time with his young family instead. However, he’d given a wodge of notes to his Head Lass Steph and told her to look after everyone! Cartmel village is the home of Sticky Toffee Pudding, and winners of races at Cartmel receive one as a gift.
Stynes won his chase and, evidently, the weather was so hot at the prize giving, that the toffee melted and ran all down Steph’s front! Despite being a jockey, Kielan Woods said that he and his travelling companion jockey would have no problem in polishing off their own sticky toffee pudding on the way home! Will had brought along the glass trophy and an official photograph which had been presented to the winning connections. I now also think that Will’s friend ‘Murray’ may, in fact, be ‘Barry’.
There were biscuits and tea or coffee or water to drink. I ate two shortbread fingers. I didn’t drink anything, just in case I was caught short on my way home! However, I did notice there were an alpaca mug and a sloth mug, either of which would have been particularly suited to me!
I spent ages taking photographs of the horses and foals in their respective paddocks. There were a number of other familiar faces in attendance. We spoke about the EPDS racing experience being far more than just attending the races when the horses run and, obviously, that it has to be treated as a hobby rather than an opportunity to make money! Very few owners make money from their horse’s racing exploits.
The lady from Thame, which has featured in many Midsomer Murders, said she’d visited Watlington the previous week and they’d been filming scenes for a new episode whilst she was there!
John told Lesley that next year there will be one EPDS mare to deliver a foal, namely Wildehearted Woman (born 2011) who had just been confirmed as being in foal to Jack Hobbs. She was also retired through injury, in January 2017, having broken a bone behind her knee as a result of a fall at Leicester.
By 12:10 it was time for the remaining visitors, including me, to depart.
Having exited the gate, bypassing a couple of cyclists who had stopped on the driveway for a break, I turned left and, almost immediately, turned right onto the B4494. I’m not sure if it was Will who followed me out of the driveway, but whoever it was, they soon overtook me and whizzed off into the distance over the downs. I found the road quite tricky as, although it was possible to see much of the roadway ahead, there were a number of sharp bends to contend with! Having re-entered Oxfordshire, I was soon heading down a steep hill into Wantage.
I’ve travelled through Wantage on three previous occasions, always on a homebound route from Lambourn, so I knew the area quite well; once via the B4001 over the downs, once via Great Shefford and over the downs via the A338, and once via Stanford in the Vale upon the A417! My present route joined Ormond Road at a T-junction. I turned right and soon reached a small roundabout where I turned right again; there was another mini-roundabout within metres and I carried on straight ahead along Charlton Road, designated as the A417.
Further along, there are two additional mini-roundabouts and I continued straight ahead along the Reading Road. Two housing estates were in the process of being constructed to the north of this section of road, and there were two sets of temporary traffic lights along this stretch too; the first of which was definitely associated with the house building. Having reached Rowstock, I continued upon the A417 rather than join the A34; the latter road is prone to traffic jams, even on a Saturday.
My chosen route took me through Upton and Blewbury and onwards to Streatley. It would have been quicker to head back through West Ilsley, and then continue on to East Ilsley and Compton in order to join the B4009; but I wasn’t too keen on driving along too many narrow and unfamiliar lanes. Having reached Streatley, I turned left to cross the River Thames and subsequently entered Goring. There was a brief holdup due to vehicles parked on the left-hand side of the road, thus reducing the width for two-way traffic.
Having crossed the railway bridge at the far end, I turned left at the T-junction. I continued upon the B4009 through South Stoke and North Stoke, negotiating speed bumps along the way, and also a delivery vehicle parked to the left at the brow of a hill; the driver had to wave me by because I couldn’t see the possibility of oncoming traffic!
My route joined the A4074 close to the Wallingford bypass. I continued in a northerly direction until I reached the Shillingford roundabout, where I turned right in order to head through Warborough; on this occasion I was held up by a cyclist travelling on my side of the road! I continued through Newington to Stadhampton. Fortunately, today, there were no traffic problems at the T-junction and I was able to turn right with little delay before heading across the ‘recreation ground’ to a small roundabout, where I turned left.
The road wound around in front of a beautiful farmhouse; there was a hand-painted warning sign on the verge outside ‘SLOW HORSES CROSSING AHEAD’. I continued along the A329 to Little Milton. There was a traffic calming chicane just prior to the village, with oncoming traffic being given priority. I noticed a couple of ramblers, who had exited from a side street, waiting to cross the main road. Also, I was being followed by a motor-cyclist; he soon overtook me, taking absolutely no notice of the 30 mph speed limit on this section of the road.
As I was concentrating on the road ahead, I didn’t notice the Lamb Inn to the left-hand side; Mark and I visited the pub during a particularly long walk which I’d planned ... it was a circular walk, setting out from nearby Garsington. However, the steppings stones in the River Thame had been washed away so we had to go ‘off piste’ without a map to follow! We found our way back, via the main road, although we must have walked around 18 miles all told!
I continued along the A329, past the lanes leading off to Great Milton on the left and Great Haseley on the right, in the direction of the M40. Amazingly, I missed the windmill over to the right of the road; it’s been restored with sails in recent years. Perhaps the hedges were now too high, and green, being early June. My route crossed the M40 and the A40 too, almost immediately afterwards. I continued towards Thame, passing a golf course to my right ... I’ve rambled through their grounds too!
I carried on straight ahead at the next roundabout, subsequently heading around the Thame bypass, followed by the Haddenham bypass. I was now journeying towards Aylesbury. Fortunately I didn’t get stuck behind a farm vehicle; it pulled out from a field at the side of the road just after I’d passed it. Phew! Dinton Folly, which sits within a grove of trees to the northwest of the road, was clearly visible having been restored recently. Workmen appeared to still be on site; at least two were standing beside the entrance gateway. The Folly is allegedly haunted by the Dinton Hermit!
I continued through the village of Stone; a boarded up Chapel can be seen to the right-hand side of the road; it belonged to the local Asylum evidently. I continued past Hartwell House Hotel and Spa before reaching Aylesbury. Having made a route error on a previous visit, when I ended up in the Stoke Mandeville area, I remembered to turn left at the second large roundabout, this enabled me to continue past the local College and join the ring-road.
My route took me close to the railway station, although I did end up in the outside lane when I should have been in the inside lane at the ‘Wendover’ roundabout. However, it was certainly easier for me to continue straight ahead at this point, than it was for the van which was in the inside lane to turn right! I just knew the driver was about to attempt this manoeuvre, so I managed to avoid him.
Anyway, I continued to the next roundabout and turned right, eventually heading out of Aylesbury upon the A41. Further along there is a roundabout where I turned left in order to head along the A41 bypass; this bypassed Tring, Berkhamsted and Hemel Hempstead on its journey towards the M25 motorway. I continued to the Hemel Hempstead junction; I had to follow a slow vehicle for the final stretch approaching the junction, and they left at this junction too.
I continued down the hill and straight through the traffic lights which showed green. The ‘Magic Roundabout’ is situated at the far end of Two Waters Road. I successfully negotiated this, before heading up the hill upon the dual carriageway and turning right at the Maylands Avenue roundabout. I continued through Leverstock Green, and along the Hemel Hempstead Road; ensuring that I kept within the speed limit to avoid being caught by the speed cameras along this stretch of the road.
Once beyond the speed limited areas, I speed over the M1 and under the A414 bridges, to reach the roundabout at the top of Blue House Hill. I continued down this road, beside Verulamium Park, to reach the next roundabout and subsequently join the ring-road. I’m happy to report that all of the Smiley SIDs did just that, as I kept within the 30 miles per hour speed limit.
I arrived home at 14:25. My outbound journey had taken just 1 hour and 45 minutes, whereas my homebound one took 2 hours and 15 minutes.
In addition to uploading the photographs I’d taken during my visit, I watched the Epsom Derby on TV. I actually watched the ITV coverage, rather than RUK, as the latter was covering other fixtures too. I also tuned into ATR just after 16:00 to see EPDS Racing’s Jessica Rabbit make her bumper debut at Worcester. She ran well, for a long way, but showed her lack of experience in the end. She finished 6th of 9.