Chaddesley Corbett Racecourse can rightly lay claim to being one of the premier point-to-point racecourses in the UK, and we’ve certainly seen some memorable AGA ladies open races at this picturesque West Midlands venue. With that in mind I thought it would be interesting to take a look behind the scenes, so I went to meet up with course builder Jim Squires a couple of weeks ago on the same day that a trailer load of fresh cut birch had just been delivered. This is what I found …
I had chosen an ideal day to visit as Chaddesley was bathed in late autumn sunshine and there was lush green grass everywhere, although all of the fences had been removed and Jim said that if I hadn’t been before then I wouldn’t know there was a course there, and he was right!
Standing in the home straight and looking back up the hill was a strange experience without seeing the usual large crowd and packed betting ring, and pretty much all I could see was sheep!
There has already been one ‘work party’ at the course in recent weeks, armed with paint pots, hammers and nails, and another one is planned very soon. Their hard work was evident everywhere I looked, and first to catch my eye was the fresh white paint on the paddock gate, which was gleaming in the sunshine! I must admit that I have turned up on a race day and maybe not given too much thought to what goes on beforehand, however, now I have an insight into the incredible amount of work that goes on behind the scenes, I won’t do it again.
Wandering around the paddock with only sheep for company was unusual, although it didn’t seem to bother the sheep who just carried on grazing! You may think I have something of an obsession with mud but I can assure you that this is not the case, it just provides a really good contrast when comparing how the course looks at the moment with how it looks on a race day.
The lorry park was an oasis of calm today, with a healthy covering of grass in evidence, although it was a different story back in December 2012. As you can see from the photo below, the tractor drivers were working overtime on this particular day, but rest assured it is not always like this.
The hardy folk at Chaddesley can cope with anything mother nature throws their way, and they certainly proved it on this occasion! Out of interest, if there is anyone reading this who hasn’t been to a point-to-point race meeting before, it’s definitely worth noting that the helpers are all volunteers and they do this for love!
I’d made my way back to where Jim was hard at work fence building and he explained that it took around two days to replace the birch and repair each fence, with two fences done every year, meaning every fence is on a four year cycle. There are also ad hoc repairs needed, such as the one in the photograph above, where you can see a crack in the take-off board which is in need of some attention.
I’m very grateful to Jim for allowing me to have a look behind the scenes at Chaddesley, it was a real eye-opener. I’ll be back at the course on the 27th December for the first of five meetings that will take place here during the 2013/14 season, and following that visit I’ll write a blog about what goes on behind the scenes on a race day. I can guarantee that it will be interesting!
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