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Wensum Column: Jim Harding discusses horse racing in Fakenham

In his weekly column, Fakenham writer Jim Harding discusses weather affecting horse racing in the town…

When I suggested to David Hunter, the Fakenham racecourse chief executive, that it was months since I’d been as warm and dry as I was at the Easter Monday meeting at the track, he was inclined to agree that he had similar feelings.

He also could not remember a more bleak start to the Fakenham season than the one just past with three meetings lost, primarily from waterlogged going.

Jim Harding discusses the Fakenham races
Jim Harding discusses the Fakenham races

When it comes to December, January and February, jumps meetings are more usually abandoned through frost or, occasionally, snow.

This season, many tracks around the whole country have lost fixtures because of excessive rain. It’s known that our track drains well, so by any standards this has all been a bit exceptional.

Anyway, back to the most recent meeting, the holiday weather attracted a massive crowd, many of whom were newcomers to the sport in my view.

A spectator in front of me was getting very excited and jumping up and down when the horse he presumably had backed was leading the field at the winning post after two circuits of the track when there was still another mile to go in the three-mile race.

Perhaps he was trying to kid his family with an April Fool lark, as this did happen to be April 1. Somehow I seriously doubted that.

There are just two National Hunt meetings left for us now until the summer break from racing. These are on Tuesday, May 7, when the card will include the popular Norfolk National, and Ladies Day on Sunday, June 2.

This latter has always been a great success, with everyone making an effort to dress up and a variety of prizes awarded for the best dressed in a number of categories.

The North and West Norfolk Point-to-Point meeting is scheduled for Sunday, April 21. In the absence of racing, plans have progressed to stage the Revel Festival at the track on Saturday, July 27, headlined by popular group The Feeling and supported by The Rick Parfitt Jnr Band, who recently sold out two dates in Milan.

Our parish church is not as welcoming as it usually is with all the work taking place to provide a new main entrance and doorway. The way in at present is via the north door and all the usual services continue to take place.

During Easter week, I was particularly moved by the Good Friday service which marked the crucifixion of Jesus with a combination of readings from the Bible, choral presentations by the choir and, importantly, moments of silence.

This sacred hour was well attended and was a reminder that while Easter can represent all sort of things to all sorts of people, at its heart is something which has been marked around the world for hundreds of years.

I have strong memories of being in southern Spain as a student and witnessing the theatre of Easter being acted out on the streets of the town of Murcia.

I was just passing through for a few days but was transfixed by watching parades in costume, a band playing in accompaniment and many showing their emotions, ranging from tears to joy as the drama familiar to them all unfolded.

As an outsider, it affected me much more than I thought it would and stayed with me off and on as I climbed up a nearby hill to camp out.

It was a significant prompt for us to keep an open mind to what people believe in and also respect traditions and ways of life which differ from our own.

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