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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog begun in 2012 about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.

I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps.

Around 2018 I tried a new way of writing my family's and my own UK travel adventures. Britain is a brilliant place for a staycation, mini-break and day trips. It's also a fantastic place to explore so I've begun to write up reports of places that are easy to reach by public transport. And when they are not that easy to reach I'll offer some tips on how to get there.

See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

This racehorse life from Newmarket to Qatar

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. We do this in a bid to be less polluting and tackle climate change while at the same time keeping a global outlook. At the National Stud in Newmarket you can coo over this season's foals but also get a sense of the international pull of horseracing. Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

Foals at the National Stud. All racehorses are said to have their birthday on 1 January, so
February to March is the ideal time for a brood mare to foal.
To celebrate my mum's birthday the whole family decamped to Newmarket for a tour of the National Stud. Thoroughbred racehorses - thanks to a mix of the fleet Arab and sturdier English breeds - are some of the most expensive, fastest horses in the world. It's quite a passion: racing fans in the UK can enjoy an all-year round racing calendar thanks to the traditional summer Flat season (eg, the Derby run at Ascot) and a winter of National Hunt racing over fences (big jumps and ditches like the Grand National, or more flimsy hurdles). Now there are all weather tracks even frost doesn't stop race meetings.
A very pampered Dick Turpin ignores my family.

Although racing is popular in the USA (remember Man of War?), Australia (for the Melbourne Cup) and France (eg, Longchamp - half of all European race meetings are held in France) it is the Arab communities that seem to love horse racing with a passion. And so they go to Newmarket: a town built on the horse economy and very much bolstered by the money various Arab owners have poured into the sport of kings, such as Sheikh Fahad from Qatar. Judging by the Polish delis  - Eagle Polish Deli and the Polonia Club - and restaurants there are also plenty of east Europeans also involved in the racing industry. Racing isn't quite as stuffy as it first seems.

The statue outside the Jockey Club is of a world famous stallion Thoroughbred (TB, called Hyperion.
The Jockey Club has the best location in town, and as the Jockey Club Estates owns all the gallops (see photo right showing you which gallops are open). There are innumerable racing yards which means that up to 5,000 horses are stabled here. No place in the world is so centred on racing.

I'm told that in the mornings - when the strings of racehorses go out for exercise - the sight is quite magnificent. It's sobering to think that this Suffolk town has had separate horse and vehicle traffic lanes for years. If only the same could be done for cyclists in other towns.

Horses are wonderful and clever, except when it comes to traffic, seeming to be more terrified of a random crisp packet than being struck by a vehicle. So those designated racehorse lanes are essential.

Gregorian is a gorgeous iron grey 16.1hh stallion standing at the National Stud (2015). His blood lines include the amazing Northern Dancer, and Mill Reef.
Spring is the time the foals are born, and a lovely place to learn about bloodlines and admire the new babies is the National Stud. You can book a trip here. It's serious stuff - for a stallion to cover your mare expect to pay £4,000+. If the stallion is proven and producing colts and fillies (half sisters and brothers) winning at two or three years you might be able to sell your yearling for £70,000. However much I oohed and ahhed over the foals I was also aware that racing is good for your maths and geography. It's quite good for talking about sexual reproduction too, very earthy!

Having a go in race riding position at the racehorse stimulator at the National Horseracing Museum - it's hard on the legs. You have to keep your back flat and your heels down.
While in Newmarket we did a whirlwind tour of the National Horseracing Museum. It's a manageable collection of art, trophies, stuffed TBs, triumphs and documentary - due to go to a new Newmarket home in 2016 when it will be opened as the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art. The new five acre site will include stables and paddocks, allowing visitors to meet real racehorses.

Newmarket is  approximately a 20 minute train ride from Cambridge. Definitely spend as much time as you can there, maybe even see the racing or watch the horse sales at Tattersalls (in July & October). Newmarket has so much history - it was gambling-fan Charles II's bolthole - but it also gives you endless opportunities to enjoy watching the most beautiful, and possibly most expensive, horses in the world. How strange to be in the 21st century and still in a town where the horse is king.

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