ANYONE WHO has travelled along the A64 in the past few months cannot have failed to see something different happening in the fields to the western side of Askham Bryan College.
Brush fence jumps and white railings have appeared, for tomorrow marks the start of a new era for the college and the Badsworth & Bramham Moor Hunt Point to Point race meeting that has had as nomadic existence as any in the past dozen years.
Wayne Burnell is clerk of the course and chairman of the Point to Point committee for the hunt. He rode nearly 50 winners in his racing 20-plus year career and completed the Grand National course at Aintree on his second attempt in the Foxhunter Chase.
Since retiring from race riding six years ago, he has become a British Horse Racing Authority (BHRA) steward at Beverley and Wetherby racecourses and is joint master of the hunt.
“I had a lot of fun riding competitively and what I do now for the Point to Point is extremely satisfying, as well as hard work,” said Wayne, who also runs his own livery and stables at Hutton Wandesley.
“It was a big shock when we lost the track we’d made good at Whitcliffe Grange near Ripon, but these things happen and we were grateful to Zetland Estate for the time we had there. We’re now looking forward with the confidence that Askham Bryan College has embraced this and that it will be a permanent course.
“There are seven jumps and races will be run over two-and-a-half circuits that will take the race length to around three miles. There are also two open ditches.”
The Badsworth and Bramham Moor hunts merged around 12 years ago. Before then there were two individual hunt Point to Point meetings held.
“When we first amalgamated we ran at Wetherby but then moved up to Sedgefield thanks to a great supporter of ours, John Wade. It was quite a long way out of our area but it kept the meeting alive. We then moved to Whitcliffe Grange where both our meeting and West of Yore Point to Point took place and now we’re here. This is great for me as I’m only five minutes away but more importantly it looks a great track already and the view for spectators is excellent as the land above the course is on a light ridge.”
Liz Philip is executive principal of Askham Bryan College and has both personal and professional reasons to be happy with the new course.
“It was when the Badsworth & Bramham Moor lost their course at Ripon that I thought this was too good an opportunity to miss for the college as well as quite important for the hunt to make sure it kept going.
“I’m a Doncaster girl and have ridden with the Badsworth since I was a child. I rode Point to Point for two seasons winning the Farmer’s Cup race at Wetherby on Jubilee Star.
“What we decided at the college was that we would put down a permanent course designed for the hunts, the rural community and anyone else to come and have a good day out; but it goes much wider than that as far as the college is concerned. We run a degree in event management and this is an ideal way for students to get first-hand experience of being involved.
“The Point to Point meeting coming here has already created a real buzz. I’d never dreamed of running a Point to Point meeting and it’s wonderful that we have managed it.
“We want the course to be available 365 days a year and we’re hoping to put some schooling fences alongside the bigger steeplechase fences. I’ve spoken with Jill Greaves from the BHRA and she wants to run some jockey training here for both amateurs and professionals.”
Earlier this week news also came through that the Racing Foundation was to assist with the new course. Liz believes this further accentuates their move.
“I’m absolutely delighted that the Racing Foundation has generously agreed to help fund this initiative. It’s a wonderful endorsement of our work here at Askham Bryan College, both in terms of the Point to Point and in educating young people for careers in the equine industry.”
Start of a new chapter
Former Point to Point jockey Lynne Mumby, originally from Thimbleby, is assisting with the development of the course.
She sees this year’s meeting as very much only the beginning of what they all hope will become one of the leading courses in the UK.
“Its potential is fantastic. The grass was already in for the cattle and sheep that were grazing here and they are now grazing in the middle of the course, which is why we have put a stock fence in.
“Moving forward we will now put in different leys for what we need and work on the course to make it even more amazing. These are exciting times. We hope you all come.”