Wensum: Fakenham offers an ‘I was there’ sporting highlight

AP McCoy

AP McCoy

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As sporting ‘I was there’ moments, it may not rank with me as highly as seeing David Hemery win the 400 metres hurdles gold medal at the Mexico Olympics.

But as someone who’s followed Tony McCoy’s jump racing career over the past 20 years, being part of the big crowd which turned out to witness his final appearance at our racecourse on February 13 was certainly very special.

David Hemery ANL-150220-110251001

David Hemery ANL-150220-110251001

Until he won the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award in 2010 it’s probably fair to say that the name A.P.McCoy was not that well known outside racing circles.

Even now it barely registers with the vast majority. Indeed, when I told a long-term local resident about my memorable day at the races, he had only the vaguest idea of what I was on about and why I was so impressed.

The fact that this legend of the sport has somehow driven himself to the limit to win the jump jockeys championship 19 times in a row – with a 20th now a formality come the end of April – beggars belief.

Now at the age of 40 he has decided that to retire at the top on his own terms is the best way to leave the stage.

Regular Fakenham racegoers have been privileged to train their binoculars on a McCoy ride on numerous occasions over the years.

We are a popular track despite being ‘stuck out’ on the east coast and I know he liked to come here, rarely leaving without a winner or two. As he did this last time.

If I remember rightly, to mark his 3,000th career win, Fakenham gifted him an apple tree. After getting to 4,000 wins, a bench was handed over.

And for this final farewell there were bottles of sloe gin and champagne plus some special glassware made by Langham Glass – plus three rousing cheers, of course.

I was in the winner’s enclosure as clerk of the course, David Hunter, provided the farewell eulogy. And whilst it’s hardly the done thing for correspondents of this paper to indulge in self-congratulation, I must admit that it gave me huge pleasure to see my photo of McCoy beside his winning mount Capard King adorning most of the back page of last Tuesday’s Lynn News.

For once it’s surely no exaggeration to say we’ll not see his like again.

n On returning from a few years teaching in Australia I was delighted to find that the school I was appointed to

here had its own swimming pool.

It made such a difference to every student at the former Fakenham Grammar and continued to prove invaluable when it was combined with the Lancastrian to create Fakenham High.

Last summer, as has been endlessly recorded, the pool was closed, primarily for financial reasons.

Although it had never been open to the public as such, numerous groups held classes there and it was the home of Fakenham Swimming Club.

Now we are in limbo with the nearest facilities being in Dereham and Lynn. For most, that means an end to regular swimming.

The campaign to build a new pool here actually got going more than five years ago thanks to the efforts of community group Fakenham Area Partnership.

This marked time somewhat whilst the pool still functioned but since last year has really got going again.

The most recent meeting between local representatives of the Swimming Pool Action group and the district council along with Neill Allan Associates, who have been appointed to take a serious look at all indoor sports facilities across the region, was by all accounts positive.

But it will take much more than that in the present climate to prioritise this much-needed amenity – even with the prospect of our population increase, come the development of around 900 homes north of Rudham Stile Lane.