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A Fakenham riverside walk and fun at the races

In his weekly Wensum feature, Jim Harding discusses the arrival of summer and horse racing…

This may be anything but fresh news now but I can't resist including you in my experiences of a recent riverside walk just on the cusp of May. I stood on the three brick arches bridge overlooking the Wensum and was clearly serenaded by my first hearing of a cuckoo.

Further up the river, I spotted a pair of mallards in charge of their lively brood of tiny ducklings which I carefully counted as numbering 13. Lucky for some. Overhead, to complete the three sights and sounds, I was delighted to see a couple of swallows, again my first of the season. Hardly so surprising with our weather having been so miserably cold and wet over prior weeks.

Jim Harding's Fakenham Riverside Walk
Jim Harding's Fakenham Riverside Walk

Nothing too remarkable, but enough to help lift that particular day which is always stirred when I wander our riverside paths into town, whenever I see or hear something which catches my imagination. When put together that special day I reckoned had to mark the arrival of summer. I hope not too premature a speculation with May not the most reliable of summery months.

We're due to head west for the Welsh coast come early June and regardless of the weather will be enchanted with our seaside cottage and the friendliness of the small town of Borth. We swim most days and can even take in a movie at the newly restored cinema, converted from an old chapel by my friend Peter Fleming.

This even had an upstairs dining room for a time but that proved to be a step too far and has now been converted into what I refer to as a mini-cinema. Borth is a bit off the tourist map, a few miles north of Aberystwyth, but is all we could ask for when it comes to our need for a quiet week or so away from it all.

There are dolphins dipping across the bay, cormorants spreading their wings out on one or other of the two rocky breakwaters and various sea birds dive bombing to feed on shoals of fish. A short walk along the beach at low tide reveals the remains of a forest which used to cover what is now sea. The tree stumps have endured for decades and delight us as we explore the patterns they have created.

Following a difficult start to this year's racing schedule with so many meetings abandoned because of the wet weather, it was a pleasure to walk out to our track last Tuesday and enjoy a six-race card in good going and, dare I say it, warm temperatures.

The big feature was the Norfolk National, a tough steeplechase over three and a half miles and 22 fences. It was also pleasing to me that Newmarket trainer Lucy Wadham produced the eventual winner, Trincomalee, ridden by apprentice jockey Dylan Whelan, a seven-pound claimer. He was chased home by this season's champion jockey Harry Cobden riding favourite Planned Paradise, so on that basis alone deserved to be delighted by his own performance.

There remains just one more fixture before the track takes a break until October. Jarrold Ladies Day is on Sunday, June 2, a chance for all to dress up to the nines and maybe win one or other of the best-dressed prizes on offer. I shall be in Wales for this bonanza so unable to join in the fun. But I'll be back on track come the start of the 2024-25 season.

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