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Archive for August, 2012

My goodness, I have come away from Uttoxeter with a lot of material.  A lot of the time there was spent talking to current and former officials and staff, and a particularly spritely senior annual member who climbed over a big metal gate that was as tall as he was, to illustrate a historical point to me.  And he climbed it again on the return journey. 

Sam at the racecourse kindly organised a succession of people to come and see me.  They were equally kind to come and see me and be so forthcoming with their stories. 

I’ve been typing up my notes in the ten days since then.  It has taken a lot of time.  And that’s before starting on boxes of archives, primarily press cuttings from between ten and twenty years ago that Sam had collected for me.  It took me a few hours to browse through everything, and the upshot is that I’ve brought half of it home to read at leisure and write up the salient points. 

All this is before starting to join up the different stories and make sure they correspond, and before following up any number of “leads” emerging from the information I’ve got so far.

I was also given a copy of the biography of Sir Stanley Clarke, who changed the fortunes of the course utterly when he took it over in 1988.  I read that book in just two days.  He is the epitome of the self-made man who never forgot his roots.  I didn’t know the book existed until very recently.  I gather it is only available from one local shop; I need to find out which, as I know somebody else who wants a copy.

An evening at Wolverhampton races was fitted in, with a devoted but small crowd; only slightly too many to be able to remember all their names and addresses.

There was time for just one afternoon in the two local studies libraries in Stafford.  Inevitably there’ll be more to see there and in some other archives dotted round the county.  The next visit is already booked in September, when I hope to meet some of my contributors again and some new people.   I have half-chosen the dates for the visit after that.

Staffordshire has a remarkable number of industrial estates tucked away down urban side streets and on the fringes of small towns, yet there is plentiful pleasant countryside, with which I hope to become better acquainted.

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The next book is….

I write this entry from a hotel near Uttoxeter, the course that will be the subject of my next book.

I am going to meet some of the racecourse staff there tomorrow.  I understand they have lined up a few people for me to meet in the next few days who will know much more about the course than I do!  I can haunt the local studies library at Stafford some of the rest of my time in the area.  Ideally the weather will be good enough for me to get to know the town and do a bit of walking.  I could perhaps contrive a visit to Wolverhampton, who race on Monday and Tuesday.

This is a long way from my usual southeastern racing circuit.  Bath was a long way from home, but there were quite a few trainers that had runners there and at my “local” tracks.   The north Midlands is a very different kettle of fish!   Having begun my research, I am aware of numerous 19th century tracks in the Staffordshire area and my knowledge of the local geography has to improve, for they are just place names at the moment.  I’ve only been to Uttoxeter twice before – twenty years ago on Midlands National Day (it was packed) and about five years ago by train, which takes you right up to the course without going into the town.

Meanwhile, let’s hope that the disappointing news about Folkestone and Hereford closing can be overcome – locals in the latter area seem very keen to keep it going.

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