Hard work looks like paying off at Knightwick

  • Posted: Monday, 16th April 2018
  • Author: Carl Evans
  • Photo: Carl Evans

Attempts to open Britain’s newest point-to-point course have foundered three times this season, but there could be a double header the weekend after next.

A fixture at Monmouth Showground was foiled twice by wet weather, while Edgcote's planned launch on April 8 was halted in similar manner.

Edgcote in Northamptonshire will make another attempt on Saturday, April 28, and 24 hours later the Clifton-on-Teme Hunt will open its new venue at Knightwick on the A44 Worcester to Leominster road.

Taking on such an undertaking by a small hunt with limited resources has been a challenge, but one which a committed band of volunteers hopes will pay dividends. The hunt's former undulating venue at Upper Sapey scored on some levels, but rarely attracted many runners and did not have watering facilities.

The new site, on a level piece of land above the River Teme, promises to be more appealing to owners and trainers, and has a long bank which should provide good viewing for the public.

Mike Palfrey, whose wife Belinda is secretary to the meeting, and clerk of the course Guy Higgins (above right, in company with senior joint-master and point-to-point committee chairman James Ford), were on the course dressing fences yesterday. Higgins says: "I would like to think this is a track that will appeal to trainers, and which provides more consistent ground than we could achieve at Sapey. I loved the old course, which had good viewing, but it was difficult ground with wet and dry areas, and trainers didn't like the hill.

"This track's soil holds the moisture, which is good, but we have gained an abstraction licence and can use the river [Teme] to water when necessary. We want to keep the middle of the track clear to ensure the viewing will be good, while avoiding stretching the layout [for paddock, bookies, trade stands] too much.

"We will learn a lot from the first meeting, but I think it will be good."

James Ford says: "I am dedicated to creating a community spirit within our rural location, that brings together the farmers, the hunt and all the followers and supporters, at a venue worthy of the hard work which a project like this requires.

"Our new committee has worked tirelessly, and we have received wonderful support, not least from John and Sue Walker who own the land. Like all sports, point-to-pointing is evolving, and we have had to adapt – I believe the new venue is good for the point-to-point community, and it is certainly very important for the longevity of our hunt."

In a congested period within the sport, clashes of fixtures within close proximity are difficult to avoid, but while a meeting at nearby Bitterley is staged 24 hours earlier the two cards offer a variety of races. Bitterley stages a two-and-a-half-mile mixed open, Knightwick's is a mile longer; Bitterley offers a young-horse maiden and a JRL Group Flat race, Knightwick stages an intermediate race and a Jockey Club mares' maiden contest.

Some warm, dry weather is the one ingredient that cannot be organised within committee, but the forecast suggests even that could be turning in favour of the new venues.