Some racecourses make better gardens than others. Fontwell Park, a track that I was associated with about 10 years ago, boasts a wonderful array of topiary and in 2002 we planted a yew sculpture of the Queen’s horse Monaveen in order to celebrate her Golden Jubilee. At this time of year the cherry-plumbs will be ripening on the trees in the back straight and large clouds of bright orange Montbretia will be in full bloom; in the Spring the inside of the track is home to a plethora of wild orchids.
Of the Yorkshire tracks, Thirsk is famously pretty and York made a huge impact with an equine sculpture made out of fruit and veg. But it is Redcar that is my favourite. The main entrance, with a cemetery either side of the drive-way, isn’t the most promising in the world - but the allotments that lie adjacent to the finishing straight are a delight.
Among the tomatoes and courgettes you’ll see ramshackle sheds which have been cobbled together out of materials sourced from the racecourse skip – I’ve seen roofs made out of old signage with Ladbrokes and William Hill emblazoned across them and even walls made out of old number-boards baring the names George Duffield and Pat Eddery.
At Goodwood this week they have unveiled a specially designed garden which is being used as a hospitality facility. If you happen to be watching on Saturday, I like Hoof It, who is now running off the same handicap rating that saw him victorious in the Stewards Cup two years ago. At 14/1, he makes each-way appeal.
Meanwhile, in Cartmel this week, judges from the Royal Horticultural Society have been inspecting the village for the national Britain In Bloom contest. Flower borders have been primed, hanging baskets primped and the roads swept. Local children have presented the results of innovative school gardening projects schools and village traders, including the racecourse, have entered into the spirit by planting up their premises.
Last year Cartmel was awarded a silver-gilt award; this year we’re hoping to strike garden-gold!