Noel & Menace (2).jpg


Menace is led around the Pre-Parade Ring

by trainer Noel Williams



This was to be my first trip to the races of the 2015/2016 National Hunt season.  On this occasion the reason for doing so was to see the Twitterati horse, Menace, take part in the second race of his career, a Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race taking place at Worcester on the first Monday of July.  It was almost six months to the day since Menace had made his debut at Lingfield Park; on that occasion his bumper race had been run on their all-weather surface.


I’d met Menace in mid-February during an Open Morning arranged at trainer Noel Williams’ yard for members of the syndicate.  However, he did suffer a minor set-back in the interim when he was discovered to be lame behind; the initial thought was an issue with his back, but it was later diagnosed as some slackness in his hind suspensory ligaments, which meant there was slight movement in the long and short pastern bones.  So, as a result, he needed rest to recover and special shoes too.


Whilst he was sidelined, EPDS Racing arranged for a super-substitute horse to run for the syndicate – namely Galactic Power who is also owned by EPDS and is trained by Robin Dickin.  He ran three times in hurdle races, finishing 2nd at Newton Abbot, 3rd at Worcester and 2nd at Market Rasen.  Members of any of the EPDS syndicates can attend any Open Day organised by one of their trainers, provided there are spaces available; evidently Robin’s Open Day comes highly recommended.  I recall there was one on May Day Bank Holiday Monday ... but I was in Aintree diary drafting panic mode at that time so didn’t feel I had time to attend; his yard is based near Alcester in Warwickshire which, strangely enough, is almost on my outward route to Worcester.


Initially there were plans to run Menace at Stratford on Tuesday 30 June; an evening fixture.  At this stage, Worcester was the back-up plan.  However, as the Warwickshire meeting approached, Noel thought that his charge needed another couple of good gallops to put him right.  I wouldn’t have been able to make the first choice fixture, especially as the bumper was the final race on the card at around 21:00, so I’d provisionally booked 06 July as leave just in case the back-up plan came to fruition. 


So, once Worcester had been decided upon, I confirmed my holiday and sent an email to John Powell to ask if I might be considered for one of the six owners’ badges which would be available.  I was notified early on Sunday that I had been lucky, although I think everyone who asked for a badge got one because he was able to arrange one or two extra badges on this particular occasion.  I think I was going to go to Worcester regardless, but this sealed it for me; it saved me the £17 entry fee and £3 for the programme and I could have had a free meal in Worcester’s Croft Restaurant had I wished too.   


Gates opened at 12:15 with the first race at 14:20.  My initial thought had been to leave home between 09:15 and 09:30; in the event it was 09:35, mainly due to a last minute change of mind regarding an itemt of my outfit for the day!    


I wore a white camisole vest, under a frill-edged white with blue flowers Per Una shirt, knee-length denim skirt, neon blue Wallis cardigan, taupe-coloured Hotter shoes, mauve M & S raincoat as rain was promised today, plus my brown ASOS handbag.  I think I wore my blue Totally Beads Rosalind kit necklace and matching earrings. 


I wore my glasses to drive to and from the racecourse, and my contact lenses whilst there; I’ve not had my lense prescription updated yet, unlike my glasses.  Fortunately I have only around six sets of disposable lenses left to use before I need to update them anyway. 


My first task upon leaving home was to fill up the petrol tank of my car at the local supermarket forecourt; I had three quarters of a tank anyway, but just felt I wanted to top it up.  There was localised flooding at the junction on my way to the supermarket due to a burst waterpipe in someone’s driveway; I’d initially encountered the flow of water streaming across the footpath the previous afternoon when out for a walk.   


Having left the petrol forecourt I set off to the City Centre; it was one of those days when I got caught by each and every set of traffic lights.  At one of the junctions, just after the bridge over the railway line, myself and a number of cars in front of me got stuck for two changes when the driver of a huge articulated lorry decided to turn left thus blocking the entire roadway in the process.  Typical.


There were no hold-ups once I’d crossed the main shopping street and was heading downhill to the Batchwood roundabout.  I turned left here and headed up Bluehouse Hill and onwards to Hemel Hempstead via Leverstock Green.  Having reached the roundabout leading to the Industrial Estate, I turned left and soon headed down the steep hill to the ‘Magic Roundabout’.  I then drove along Two Waters Road, where a white van man decided to pull out in front of me so that I had to brake; no surprise there then! 


After waiting at the traffic lights, I drove up the hill to reach the A41 bypass, where I took the westbound carriageway.  I was pleased to see the herd of belted Galloway cattle in one of the fields at Boxmoor; I hadn’t seen them for ages!  Further along, between the Chesham and Tring junctions, two wooden pallets had fallen off the back of a lorry and lay on the inside carriageway; fortunately there were no vehicles in the outside lane so I was able to maneouvre around them to continue my journey.  


Having arrived at the far end of the bypass, I turned right at the roundabout and headed into Aylesbury.  I recall that, on the ring-road just prior to the Leighton Buzzard road, there were barriers in the gutter due to workmen nearby.  Shortly afterwards I saw a red kite soaring overhead.  Having reached the A41 once more, I turned right and headed towards Waddesdon.  I noticed that sections of the road surface have been replaced to the west of the village; in fact, the layby beside the opposite carriageway, prior to the Quainton turning was closed due to a heaps of asphalt blocking access. 


My route took me through the hamlet of Kingswood and on to Bicester; their bypass had recently been resurfaced and temporary loose chippings signs suggested a speed limit of 20 mph to avoid slipping on the surface if braking sharply.  Vehicles were actually travelling at 40 mph, as most of the loose chippings had dispersed by this stage.  At the far end of the bypass I turned left and headed down the final section of the A41; the stretch following the final roundabout I travelled in the outside lane in order to turn right and join the M40 northbound carriageway.            


I had been in two minds as to whether to leave the motorway at the Banbury junction in order to take the scenic route to Stratford Upon Avon using the A422 or to continue on the M40 to Junction 15; in the event I chose the latter as the mid-morning traffic was flowing freely.  It began to rain shortly after I exited the motorway to travel westwards along the A46 and around the northern outskirts of Stratford-On-Avon, negotiating three roundabout in the process.  I headed away from Stratford towards Alcester, turning right at the roundabout adjacent to a Travel Lodge to briefly join the A435.  Shortly afterwards there is another large roundabout where I turned left.

Having now entered the village of Arrow, there is a signpost directing traffic to turn right to continue their journey to Worcester; this is the A422 once more.  The road winds between fields separated from the thoroughfare by banks; no much further along is a T-junction. Turn right and the A441 takes you to Redditch, left and the B4088 leads to Evesham.  To reach Worcester one needs to turn left, then almost immediately right, to remain upon the A422.  Embarrassingly I managed to stall my car at the T-junction, although no-one saw fortunately.

The road meanders once more, with a number of almost 90 degree turns and passes through the village of Inkberrow; on the western side thereof was a gypsy encampment, with a number of horses tethered upon an open stretch of land to the north of the road. There were a number of traditional wooden gypsy caravans parked there too, and a sign stating lucky horseshoes for sale!  Somewhere along the stretch of road between Arrow and Upton Snodsbury, a medium-sized bird of prey flew across the road, only just above hedge level.

A little further on, having passed through Upton Snodsbury, I reached a roundabout upon the A4538.  Continuing straight across, and over a narrow railway bridge, the road passes below a metal ornamental bridge, close to Spetchley Park - a Victorian garden with woodland and herbaceous plants seldom found outside the major botanical gardens evidently.  Having crossed over the M5 motorway, I reached a large roundabout shortly afterwards and turned left then, at the end of that dual carriageway, I turned right and headed into Worcester.

The centre of Worcester being close to the River Severn, the road soon heads steeply downhill and passes beside the Cathedral and the Worcester College of Technology before entering the one-way system close to the river itself.  This being my fifth visit to the City, although not since 2011, I managed to steer into the outside lane to avoid being sent over the river bridge itself but, having eventually entered North Parade I still had to move into the inside lane in order to continue along Croft Road and take a left into The Moors.

A short distance along the latter to the left is the entrance to a public car park and, at the back of which, is the gate to the racecourse car park too. The route across the back straight of the racecourse is covered with woodchip and a member of the ground staff was levelling out the surface of it.  Having waited briefly for him to complete his task on my side of the crossing, I drove across and entered the parking area within the centre of the racecourse.

Initially it seemed that I would be directed to park to the far left of the recently arrived vehicles but, in the event, it was my turn to begin a new row next to the main exit driveway; the back row of two.  It was 12:20 when I arrived and it had stopped raining by this stage, apart from the odd spit spot!  Today was Senior Citizens Raceday ... but I won’t say that I felt at home ... so there were a number of mainly older people arriving ahead of the day, none of whom seemed to be expecting a particularly wet afternoon in view of their clothing!  I decided that I’d need to wear my raincoat but my snow boots, that I’d placed in the boot of my car before departure, would not be necessary! 

So, having eaten a couple of cheese rolls and inserted my contact lenses, I set off in my Hotter shoes for the entry turnstiles.  Having walked across the green carpet which protects the racecourse from the footfall, I climbed up a short flight of concrete steps to reach the Owners and Trainers turnstile.  The names of the owners were listed against each horse racing today, and the lady eventually found my name and handed me a badge (it was a small slip of paper), the food voucher mentioned earlier, and complimentary programme too. 

My first task was a visit to the ladies loos located upon the ground floor of the Grandstand.  Following that, I decided to head upstairs to the Croft Suite; I took a brief look inside but decided I didn’t fancy sitting all alone therein eating a lunch. Oh well.  So I exited the grandstand and took a brief walk through the betting ring located in front of the grandstand steppings and headed along the path towards the Parade Ring.  Sadly, due to the earlier rain, the benches located on the grassed area just prior to the walkway crossing were very wet.

As I still fancied a sit down, in the warm, I returned to the foyer outside the Croft Suite and waited for around 30 minutes in one of the two comfy armchairs.  The racecourse office was situated across the hallway and they received a number of visitors with racecourse-related queries.

At almost 13:45 I decided to head to the Pre-Parade Ring to see the horses arrive therein ahead of the first race of the day.  The horseboxes are parked to the far side of the back straight; their drivers having approached the racecourse via The Moors, the racecourse stables also.   This being the case, the runners are led across the back straight, then the infield, and finally the home straight to reach the Pre-Parade Ring.  It has to be thus because the River Severn runs immediately behind the saddling boxes, weighing room and grandstand!   

As the racecourse now uses portable fences, each fixture begins with chases, followed by a standard open flat race if scheduled, then the fixed-brush hurdles races.  Mick Fitzgerald was presenting for ATR today.

Martin Keighley had a runner in the first race of the day, Always Bold ridden by Andrew Tinkler in the Handicap Chase.  Martin didn’t think he’d be at the races for Always Bold’s run due to his children’s sport day; but that was postponed due to the weather.  Martin had walked the course ahead of racing, as I saw him return. 

Once the horses had been led from the Pre-Parade Ring to the Parade Ring itself, I walked along the pathway to stand beside the latter.  Then, the runners having exited onto the racecourse, it was just a matter of walking a few paces to reach the course-side rails.  The starting gate for the first race was at the beginning of the back straight, with almost two full circuits to travel.

Here is the result of the first race ...

Race 1 – Handicap Chase - 2 miles 7 furlongs – 13 ran


Foxes Bridge  

Gavin Sheehan

Nick Mitchell


Patricktom Boru

Adam Wedge

Evan Williams



Ben Poste

Rosemary Gasson


Dr Dreamy     

Trevor Whelan

Claire Dyson



Always Bold                

Andrew Tinkler

Martin Keighley


The winner, which was a 33-1 shot and had beaten the 11-8 favourite, had benefitted from the first time application of a visor.


The second race commenced part way down the back straight, with one and two thirds of a circuit to travel, and here is the result ...


Race 2 – Handicap Chase – 2 miles 4 furlongs – 5 ran



James Cowley

Donald McCain


Mr Moss

Paul Moloney

Evan Williams



Richard Johnson

Tim Vaughan


Foundation Man

Will Kennedy

Jonjo O’Neill


Half way through the second race of the day I decided to reposition myself to the far side of the Parade Ring, hoping to find John and the Twitterati members as they headed to the Pre-Parade Ring.  I’d already seen Noel arrive, and he’d caught up with our jockey James Banks following the first race, the latter having ridden Royaume Bleu in that event.  Once James had weighed out and Noel had collected his saddle, he set off across the racecourse to rendezvous with Menace; he saddled him prior to leading his charge back to the Pre-Parade Ring rather than saddle him in one of the boxes to the rear of the area.


In the meantime I’d found my group, and was greeted by John, who introduced me to his partner Ellie, and the other syndicate members in attendance.  One lady had driven all the way up from Basingstoke in a camper van!  But, having said that, her journey would have been 100 miles in distance compared to my 110 miles! 


Anyway, we set off along the concourse, past the weighing room steps to the Pre-Parade Ring; we showed our passes to a security guard to gain access.  We waited on the grass area within the aforementioned for Noel and Menace to arrive.  Due to staff holidays, Noel was acting as stable lad today, as he was leading up our horse!   Clare Ludlow, who describes herself as ‘Jack of All Trades’ at Noel Williams’ Racing was there too, and she told us that Menace had been accompanied in the horsebox by a pony.  In an attempt to get Menace’s mane under control, it appeared that it had been plaited and then un-plaited.  Clare said that she loves the little horse; he’s a character, but not in a nasty way.    


John also shared a joke with Brendan Powell senior.  Having been led around the Pre-Parade Ring a number of times, Noel took Menace through to the main Parade Ring and we followed.  Jockey James Banks soon arrived and shook hands with each of us before it was time for him to be legged up into the plate and head out onto the racecourse.  We congregated close to the exit point in order to watch the race upon the big screen which was situated to the far side of the home straight within the centre racecourse enclosure.       


Whilst Menace was being led around the Parade Ring I noticed a familiar face leading one of the other competitors around.  It was strange, as I recognised him as one of Alan King’s stable staff.  So I looked up the horse’s number in the programme and it transpired to be a filly named Lovefromabove trained by Dan Skelton.  At that point I didn’t know his name, but had often seen him deputising for Matt Howells, Alan’s Travelling Head Lad.  Research needed.  When I got home I took a look at Dan’s website and recognised the name of Phil Hayward, who was listed on Alan’s website as assisting Matt Howells.  He’s transferred yard!       


Being a two mile race, the starting gate was at the far end of the home straight, with that and one full circuit to travel.  Having turned left upon exiting the Parade Ring, the horses cantered to the start.  Once they’d all had their girths checked, they headed away from the tape and formed into a group; Menace was jogging at first, on the left-hand side of it, James intent on taking the shortest route after the off.


There was obviously a concern that one or more of the field might dwell at the start, so a Starter’s assistant cracked a long hunting whip to get the horses going.  Unfortunately this frightened Gentle Nature, who didn’t live up to his name; instead he turned into a rodeo horse and bucked his way across the track behind the other runners, heading for the Starter’s rostrum!  He collided with the obstacle and fell over, depositing jockey Rhys Flint upon the ground, before getting to his feet and trotting across to the far rails, apparently none the worse for the incident.  The Starter subsequently jumped to the ground and trotted off after Gentle Nature, although another assistant actually caught him.  Rhys had been riding the horse for his dad, John.


Meanwhile, the hooded favourite Dusk Till Dawn led the remaining seven runners up the home straight.  Our little pony travelled in third position, to the inside of the racing line; Mixit brought up the rear.  The horses headed up past the winning post and around the Cathedral bend and into the back straight.  Menace remained in mid-field, and they were closely grouped and remained so as they entered the far bend. 


However upon exiting it, Morthanalegend took our boy’s ground before he had clearance and, as a result, Menace collided with the plastic rail and stumbled; both Lovefromabove and Klaazia were affected too, as they were forced to swing out wide.  Fortunately Menace had remained upon his feet, but he had now lost a number of lengths and been relegated to sixth position.   


Dusk Till Dawn and Oneforthenure were soon joined by Morthanalegend, the latter heading through a gap between them.  The favourite endeavoured to fight off the challenge but, as they approached the final furlong, he had to give best to the Brendan Powell Senior-trained runner, with son Brendan Powell junior aboard.  Dusk Till Dawn did rally as they approached the line but it was too late, Morethanalegend had won by three quarters of a length. 


Klaazia finished a modest 3rd, 14 lengths behind the second, and the mare Oneforthenure completed in 4th.  Lovefromabove was 5th and Menace trailed in 28 lengths further back having been eased; but at least he wasn’t last, that honour went to Mixit who trailed in 47 lengths behind our runner.  And, of course, Gentle Nature had got no further than the starting gate!


Here is the official result ...


Race 3 – Standard Open NH Flat Race – 2 miles – 8 ran



Brendan Powell

Brendan Powell Senior


Dusk Till Dawn

Tom Scudamore

David Pipe



Andrew Tinkler

J Gask



Daryl Jacob

Richard Woollacott




James Banks

Noel Williams


Brendan Powell Senior joked that he’d have a word with his son regarding the final bend incident. 


Having unsaddled Menace out on the racecourse, jockey James Banks returned to brief us on his way back to the weighing room.  He explained that due to the ground, later described by Noel Fehily as good to soft in patches, he’d chosen to take Menace slightly to the inside of the main racing line in order to find any better ground there might be.  The feeling was that he needed better ground and a sharper track.  Meanwhile Clare led Menace back to the racecourse stables, and Noel went to check that he was okay following his close encounter with the winning horse. 


There was a stewards’ enquiry held ...


The Stewards held an enquiry into possible interference on the final bend. Having heard their evidence and viewed recordings of the race they found that the winner, MORTHANALEGEND, ridden by Brendan Powell, had edged left for a stride, causing MENACE, unplaced, ridden by James Banks, to be short of room on the rails. They found that the interference was accidental.

The Stewards held an enquiry into the fall of Rhys Flint, the rider of GENTLE NATURE, shortly after the start. They interviewed the rider. Having heard his evidence and viewed recordings of the incident, the Stewards found that the fall was caused by the gelding bronking and running out, colliding with the Starter’s rostrum. Being satisfied that no other horse or rider was involved the Stewards took no further action.

Race now over, John and Ellie (who were expecting their first child at the end of the month) plus the Twitterati syndicate members retired to the Annual Members, Owners and Trainers bar; Noel joined us a shortly afterwards.  Jonjo O’Neill and an owner (or owners) were in the bar too.  I recall that topics of conversation included EPDS’ other racehorses, Kauto Star’s sad demise, and Annacotty’s stable transfer; I didn’t and cannot comment upon the latter, as I’m not in a position to know the reasons and it’s not fair to speculate.  All I know is that the Keighleys have remained extremely professional throughout. 


We remained in the bar whilst races 4, 5 and part of 6 were in progress. 


The starting gate for the next race was at the far end of the home straight with that, and one full circuit to travel.  Here is the result ...


Race 4 – Selling Hurdle – 2 miles – 7 ran


Jayo Time

Christopher Ward

Dr Richard Newland


Regal One

Jake Hodson

David Bridgwater


Short Takes

Noel Fehily

Donald McCain



Aidan Coleman

Lawney Hill


There were comments on ATR following the race regarding the easy treatment during the finish of the second; however it transpired that the jockey had been told not to hit the horse, so he didn’t! 


The starting gate for the next face was part way down the back straight, with one and two thirds of a circuit to travel.  Here is the result ...


Race 5 – Novices’ Hurdle – 2 miles 4 furlongs – 8 ran


Gioia Di Vita

Will Kennedy

Dr Richard Newland



Daryl Jacob

Ben Case


Royal Battalion

Jamie Moore

Gary Moore


She’s Late

Noel Fehily

Jonjo O’Neill


Having now trained a double on today’s card, and when interviewed by Mick Fitzgerald, Dr Newland said that he liked to support the racecourse as it was his local, despite it not having proved to be their lucky course in the past.  It was also mentioned that the winner of the Selling Hurdle, Jayo Time, had been bought back in for £7,000.


The starting gate for the penultimate race was at the far end of the home straight, with that and one full circuit to travel.  Here is the result ...


Race 6 – Handicap Hurdle – 2 miles – 9 ran



Noel Fehily

David Dennis


Royal Skies

Aidan Coleman

John Ferguson


Moveable Asset

Mr F Tett

Henry Tett


Mighty Leader

J M Davies

Henry Oliver


The winning horse sports the colours of Favourites Racing; David Dennis, another local trainer and ex-jockey, has a large number of their syndicate horses in his yard – he used to be their Racing Manager. 


Having said our farewells we all went our separate ways just prior to the winner and placed horses arriving back in the Parade Ring/Winners’ Enclosure following race number 6.  Having taken a number of photos from the river side of the paddock, I headed around to the Pre-Parade Ring ahead of the final race of the day. 


One of the horses in final race of the day was so slow when walking around the Pre-Parade Ring, that the lass leading her up regularly suggested to those behind them that they overtake; the filly’s name was Crosslanes.  Once legged aboard, her jockey Tom Messenger asked the stable lass what Crosslanes was like to ride – very well-behaved was the response.


Again the starting gate was at the far end of the home straight, with that and one full circuit to travel.  Here is the result ...


Race 7 – Maiden Hurdle – 2 miles – 13 ran



Aidan Coleman

John Ferguson


Newton Geronimo

Nico de Boinville

Ben Pauling



Richie McLernon

Paul Webber



Paul Moloney 

Evan Willams

Aidan Coleman, who has been riding many of the John Ferguson-trained Bloomfields’ horses this summer, said he was instructed to get Ennistown settled in order for the horse to see out a race; the plan obviously worked today and resulted in a win.  Later in the month it was announced that Aidan had been officially appointed as Bloomfields’ stable jockey. 

Following the race, a Stewards’ Enquiry was held relating to my chosen ‘horse of interest’:

Race 7 - 5:20pm THE www.barchester.com MAIDEN HURDLE RACE (CLASS 5)

The Stewards held an enquiry into the running and riding of CROSSLANES (IRE), ridden by Tom Messenger and trained by Chris Bealby, which appeared to be tenderly ridden in the home straight to finish eighth, beaten 36¼ lengths. They interviewed the rider and the trainer’s representative. They also received a report from the Veterinary Officer who reported that the filly had been struck into on her right hind. The rider stated that his instructions were to drop the filly in and get her settled in the early stages and ride her to finish the race. He added that at the end of the back straight he asked CROSSLANES (IRE) to take a closer position and kept her wide on the track to give her a clear run as she is very small. He further added that he nudged her along in the home straight but felt it prudent to keep a good hold of her in order for her to finish the race. The representative confirmed the instructions, adding that CROSSLANES (IRE) had been very keen in her work at home and was being dropped back from 2½ miles to help her finish her race. Having heard their evidence and viewed recordings of the race the Stewards found the rider in breach of Rule (B)59.4 and guilty of failing to take all reasonable and permissible measures to obtain the best possible placing. They suspended Messenger for 10 days as follows: Monday 20, Thursday 23, Friday 24, Sunday 26, Monday 27, Tuesday 28, Wednesday 29, Thursday 30, Friday 31 July and Sunday 2 August 2015.  More

Tom’s ban was later reduced to 8 days on appeal.  More

The final race having been run and the horses unsaddled within the Winners’ Enclosure and led back to the stables, it was time for me to leave.  Expecting a long journey home, I popped to the loo prior to returning across the racecourse to my car; on my way and close to the turnstiles there were a couple of people making a charity collection, so I put a donation in the bucket.     

A queue of exiting vehicles had already formed along the main thoroughfare so, as I was parked adjacent to it and at the rear of row, nor could reverse out due to other cars waiting behind me, I was temporarily stuck where I was!  This being the case, I decided to relax for a while and eat the two remaining cheese rolls I’d brought with me.  I also swapped my contact lenses for glasses in order to improve the sight in my right eye. Whilst sitting in my car I noticed Ben Pauling and his wife walk across the car park; the latter with their young baby in a carrier.  

In fact it took until 18:20 for the traffic tailback to clear sufficiently, after which I was able to join the back of the exiting queue.  It still took around 10 minutes to cross the back straight and reach the main road, where I turned right having squeezed through a gap in a queue of stationary traffic heading up Castle Street.  I negotiated a roundabout and then had to stop briefly for a guy traversing the zebra crossing just prior to the viaduct.  Shortly afterwards I arrived at a set of traffic lights just prior to entering the one-way system; thus I turned left and followed the road around into Dolday and subsequently Deansway, passing the College once more.  I was delayed briefly in a queue of traffic whilst negotiating Cathedral Plaza.  

There were two further traffic light junctions to pass through before the start of the hill leading out of Worcester.  There was a short hold-up on the hill, when vehicles heading uphill encountered a stationary vehicle parked to our side of the road; we had to wait for the traffic to clear in the opposite direction so that we could manoeuvre around it.  There’s a large roundabout at the top of the hill, before entering a dual carriageway and passing beneath a pedestrian bridge crossing. 

Having reached the next roundabout I turned left, to continue along another dual carriageway.  At the following roundabout a right turn took me back across a bridge over the M5 and past Spetchley Park, passing under the wrought iron bridge and over a narrow railway bridge before reaching yet another roundabout.  As I wished to return via the Cotswolds, I turned right to head down the A44 towards Evesham.  Shortly after Pinvin I turned left at a roundabout and followed the road through a multitude of further roundabouts as the route skirted the Avon Valley. 

The A44 joins the A46 to bypass to the east of Evesham; there were currently road-works on this stretch of the journey.  The A44 recommences at the point I turned left to head towards Broadway, again bypassing the town before heading up the steep Cotswolds escarpment, with the Broadway tower situated to the right of the road and visible for miles prior to the climb.  I was concerned to be stuck behind a small lorry as the incline began but, in the event, the driver actually pulled away from me!  The hill sports the unglamorous name of ‘Fish Hill’!   I’ve never actually driven down the hill, and it probably isn’t much fun; I’ve descended Edge Hill on the A422 a number of times and I’m not particularly keen on that!

The A424 to Stow-on-the-Wold bears off to the right shortly before Bourton-on-the-Hill, the latter village with its 30 mph speed limit; the aforementioned lorry turned into a road on the right within the village.  I’d soon reached Moreton-in-Marsh; there’s a caravan park to the left of the road on the approach to the town.  I turned left at the T-junction on the High Street, then right shortly afterwards in order to remain on the A44; the road passes over the Paddington to Hereford railway line.  Many new houses have been built on the eastern outskirts of the town.

It was not long before I encountered the A436 Stow-on-the-Wold road, which is even more familiar territory to me.  The next town was Chipping Norton, with the familiar chimney of the Bliss tweed mill nestling in the valley below.  There were a number of cows in the field to the left of the road as I began the climb up the hill to the High Street.  The road bears left through this thoroughfare, at the end of which is a mini-roundabout.  I always cheat and follow the ‘local traffic only’ London Road short-cut route, rather than the longer Banbury Road one; apart from once that is!     

The Parker Knoll furniture factory used to be situated on the London Road; they are now based in Derbyshire.  The buildings have been replaced by numerous Cotswold stone homes; many of which were currently up for sale.  At the far end of the London Road I turned right at the traffic lit junction to head towards Oxford, briefly.  Upon reaching the outskirts of Enstone I turned left to follow the winding B4030 through Gagingwell and the Bartons to Hopcrofts Holt. 


Having crossed the staggered junction upon the A4260 I headed downhill to the traffic lights on the approach to the causeway across the River Cherwell; I had to wait briefly for them to change to green.  As I drove across I glanced to my right to see Rousham House.  The road then climbs up the hill through Lower Heyford.  Shortly after the road bears left, I took a right turn in order to remain upon the B4030.  The road passes though Caulcott before encountering three sharp bends in the road to reach Middleton Stoney.


Having crossed the traffic lit junction with the B430, I continued along the B4030, headed over the M40 and had soon reached the outskirts of Bicester; it is expanding rapidly with the building of new houses to the south-west of the town.  Having arrived at the T-junction I turned right, then drove straight ahead at the Bicester Shipping Village roundabout, before turning left at the next one; I was now travelling along the A41.  As mentioned on the outward journey, this stretch of road had been resurfaced recently and warning signs suggested a speed of 20mph to avoid skidding on the road surface because of loose chippings.  However, most of the chippings had already been dispersed, so 40 mph was the order of the day... for everyone!


I took the third exit at the following roundabout in order to remain upon the A41.  Having passed under the railway bridge further along and headed into Buckinghamshire, I suddenly realised I’d forgotten to put my seat-belt on!  Whoops, what a numpty!  The only other time I recall forgetting my seat-belt was on a journey to Newbury.  On this occasion I managed to fasten it before I reached the short stretch of dual-carriageway just prior to Kingwood; the road is very straight at this point, being Roman in nature, hence my ability to do so without stopping!   


Anyway, my journey took me through Waddesdon, and on to Aylesbury; I took the northern ring-road route as is my preferred option before joining the A41 once more to reach the commencement of the dual carriageway bypass.  I was suffering from a throbbing bunion for much of the journey home; unusual as I very rarely experience pain with it.  It’s just one, on my left foot.  But I was wearing new moccasins today, for driving, which may account for it. 


I continued along the dual carriageway as far as the Hemel Hempstead junction.  I retraced my route, down the hill to a set of traffic-lights; the lights were on green and I followed a number of vehicles across the junction into Two Waters Road to reach the ‘Magic Roundabout’.  I negotiated three of the mini-roundabouts before heading up the hill along the A414.  At the entrance to the Industrial Estate I turned right to head through Leverstock Green upon the A4147 to St Albans.


I arrived home at 21:02, having revisited the local supermarket petrol station forecourt as I was deliberating whether to attend the Barbury International Horse Trials the following Saturday.  As the evening wore on, I began to feel pretty rough, having succumbed to a headache; I expect it was caused by my cervical spondylosis following many hours spent driving today.  How annoying; I turned in before I’d completed a blog entry, but I did finish and upload it the following day instead. 


It was good value for money today, as my sole outlay was just under £25 in fuel costs to reach Worcester.  And it was my first day’s leave since attending the Aintree Festival!


Click here for Photos – Standard Open NH Flat Race – Menace’s 2nd career start

Click here for Photos – Races 1, 2, 6 & 7




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