Over the stable door: Return to childhood scene in Ilkley

Country Week columnist Jo Foster. Picture by Tony Johnson.
Country Week columnist Jo Foster. Picture by Tony Johnson.
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Yorkshire Air Ambulance is set to benefit from the Nidderdale Harness Racing taking place at Pateley Bridge tomorrow. Held at Bewerley Park, the races have raised over £4,000 for the charity since they returned to Nidderdale in some form in 2013 after a 75-year absence.

Its return is down to Nidderdale Agricultural Society committee members Joe and Trevor Stoney in conjunction with Eden Valley Harness Racing Association and the first of 10 races will start at 2pm. Admission is £10 including race card.

Yorkshire Air Ambulance own two helicopters and require £12,000 a day to maintain the valuable service. They fly seven days a week from dawn till dusk, weather permitting, carrying patients to major trauma centres such as the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and Leeds General Infirmary. Since starting in October 2000, some 7,000 people have been flown to hospital. Proceeds from tomorrow’s event will go to the service. Please contact 07811 590436 for further details of the day.

Last Sunday I returned to my youth by taking my young Irish hunter to the local show at Ilkley & District Riding Club to gain some ring experience. Arriving at the entry hut I was delighted to be greeted by the same faces I’d competed against 30 years earlier. It’s still very much a family show and I received such a warm welcome.

The Freegard family, Carol Dawson and many others give their time up to help run the club which was first founded in 1973. Back then some well-known Yorkshire names including Everall, Boddy and Elsworth stood on the committee. Shows are held every third Sunday of the month and there are classes galore, from toddlers through to us older riders.

Ilkley was the first show I attended and will always hold special memories. I was 11, my new Caldene jodhpurs - a Christmas present - were far too long (‘You will grow into them’ she said - it took three years) and the borrowed riding boots too wide. We unloaded my pony from the cattle trailer and I mounted ready for the first of 100 different classes I’d entered, so determined was I to return home with a rosette.

By the end of the day both the pony and I were exhausted. My jodhpurs were so big the gusset had dropped to somewhere around my knees, but I was in heaven clutching four rosettes. I went to load the pony who refused to go back into the dark rattly cow trailer. An hour later and, the last ones there, the pony was still having none of it. There was nothing for it but to ride home. My feet were covered in blisters and my muscles ached after nine hours in the saddle but even the tedious hack back couldn’t dampen my delirium after such an exciting day.