Larkhill Racecourse hoping for a good turnout at museum public consultations

Posted on the Larkhill Racecourse Facebook page:

I know that for many months now, rumours have abounded about a Museum and Heritage Centre that is possibly to be built at Larkhill Racecourse. I have no concrete news for you but am writing to you to ask for some help over the matter.

I must stress that at this stage nothing is 100% definite. In fact as far as I know they do not yet have the finance in place to go ahead with this – and they are asking for an eye-watering amount of money. Never mind what will, I am sure, be a very complicated Planning initiative – so although they are going public with 2021 as an opening, that is not really a totally definite date!

 The Racecourse Trustees and Col Peter Wright (ex Clerk of the Course) have been working with both the Trustees of the Museum and the planners and architects to ensure that the Racecourse and Cross Country and what we do here, is as little affected by the plans as possible – and that any incorporation envisaged would allow us the facilities that we need to run what are very complicated days, with very specific requirements, in the best and safest way possible.

There are, no doubt, some huge advantages to this coming about. Firstly, electricity – they would bring in a normal supply and we could stop worrying about whether or not our generator would last – that would be great. They are planning a Road in from the Packway – I am more than fully aware of how much that would benefit us with heavily loaded horseboxes currently having to brave the most diabolical conditions (I drive a lorry myself so I know just how it feels to get it over the potholes). There would be water and sewerage installed and a lot of our volunteers who sit in pretty Spartan conditions currently could possibly be housed in far more comfortable surroundings.

They are however, planning some “Public Consultations” in early March in our local area – and it strikes me that the more ‘Larkhill Racecourse’ people we can get to these meetings the better it would be to ensure that those who’ need to know’, do know how much this racecourse and all that it does means to those of us who use it year after year.

Below is the timetable for these Public Consultations.

8th March 14:30-21:30 Sharp Hall The Packway, Larkhill Public Exhibition

9th March 14:00-20:30 Durrington Village Hall High Street, Durrington Public exhibition 

10th March 15:00-21:30 Figheldean Village Hall Pollen Lane, Figheldean Public exhibition

11th March 15:00–21:30 Shrewton Methodist Church High Street, Shrewton Public exhibition 

Don’t be put off by the very long hours advertised – it is designed as a “pop in” situation! However I believe that there will be facilities available to leave comments and thoughts and THAT is what we need you to do. Please take a good look at the displays and comment on what you observe and if possible engage with the people who are promoting this. Making sure that you put on the form that your interest is equestrian – p2p, eventing, hunter trialling, pony club – whatever. 

This is important!

We need them to be aware of how many people in the area use and value our facilities.

  I am trying to get a reasonable ‘spread’ of people at each consultation session – they are hours long, so it would give anyone a reasonable amount of time to attend. if, say, a Equitation person (or two or three – or hopefully more!!) were to make themselves known each time, then that would be a significant number over the four meetings. It would help us to ensure that they realise that we are very serious about our facilities and what they mean to the local (and not so local) communities, the pointing/racing world, the eventing world, the pony club, the riding clubs etc., etc. An incredible number of people (around 25,000 per annum) and horses come through our gates each year and return and return and return.

We are keen to ensure that there is a sensible way forward in this matter. However we will not compromise our needs and requirements. After 70 years (next year), our facilities, whilst not the smartest I admit, do the job for us admirably and we have no intention of letting our standards slip. To this end there is a need to make certain that the RAML/HERITAGE centre know how strong the feeling is about Larkhill’s equestrian facilities. How important it is to a very large number of people. 

I would be very grateful if you could let me know which meeting you could attend. This will help (I hope) to ensure that we have a good number at each session.

This is a rather serious CALL TO ARMS – we need help, I look forward to hearing from you.
With best wishes,
Suzie Vickery

Clerk of the Course

Larkhill Racecourse

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No room at the Inn


The thing was, upon relocation of the birth of the baby Jesus..I bet there was LOADS of room in the stable. Mostly because, apart from the ye-olde-Ikea-manger and the odd wise man dotted around, the place wasn’t cluttered up with ‘toys’ that resembled something you’d see on the construction site of a skyscraper…

Honestly, when I was a lad…I’m sure I had a cot thing, a toy car and some fruit on a string (or something like that). Now though, my children appear to need about 57 different things to sit on to help them NOT relax. If they aren’t NOT relaxing in a rocker chair then then they can be moved to a high chair for dinner where they can NOT relax and make the same sort of eardrum-perforating noises as before. Then..why not move them to yet another chair type device that can they can then wriggle uncomfortably…

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Finger food

The boys were just about five and half months old when we introduced them to finger food in the form of toast smeared in banana and it went down a storm – mainly because banana is their absolutely, favourite food ever. Thumper proceeded to remove all the banana from the toast solider first and then eat the bread – showing a great deal of concentration and determination to have the best banana first before filling up on toast. Toast remains a firm favourite on their agenda and is often served with breakfast.

Shortly after this they started being given slices of apple and carrot sticks during snack at their various tums to one sessions, these were great for their newly nimble fingers. Although slices of banana were more of a challenge as they slipped from their fingers far too easily – but when safely shepherded from bowl to mouth remained a firm favourite and now at ten and half months handling banana is much easier especially when presented as sticks instead of round slices.

At home we started to progress onto the cooked finger foods from the Annabel Karmel books, such as home make fish fingers and fried eggy matzos for supper, as well as different varieties of the all important toast. Cheese on toast became popular whether it was melted on cheddar or a soft cheese spread onto the soldiers.

Most recently we’ve progressed onto mini sandwiches at nursery, which we tried at home for the first time last time on Saturday as it was mum’s day off and Dad was taking the boys to the races again and as there are few options to heat food in a field, finger food it was. The sandwiches, carrot sticks and slices of cucumber were all greatly enjoyed, but we will be spending weeks finding the remains of those sandwiches which were last seen up sleeves, in the buggy seats, in their hair, in the cosy-toes, allover their bibs and faces, and scattered in the field.

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We’re not sure how it happened

After saying she would never host Christmas for the whole family, somehow my wife ended up entertaining my family together with her mother and brother. A real in at the deep end Christmas experience. Her reticence was a result of spending Christmases with my family and experience, basically over indulgence in food, and in gift giving on multiple occasions. The very thought of providing 2 full meals for upto 20 people was enough to scare her, as the Turkey course is usually accompanied by at least 11 vegetable dishes, the pudding course composed of at least five different pudding options, and the supper course would count as a main meal in itself on any other day with hams, quiches, salads and of course followed by more puddings.

Compounded by the fact that was just the food, and that entertainment and a clean decorated house would be needed as well. Needless to say some of the housework has been put aside in the interests of time and sanity since the twins arrived. All of this sounded like a burden too far, but then there was the prospect of taking the twins to one or other of the grandparents for their first Christmas and that didn’t appeal either. So everyone was drafted, the burden of work allocated out between us all and the twins allowed to enjoy their first Christmas at home surrounded by their family.

Somehow the Tardis like dinning room managed to accommodate everyone around the dining table without the need for any makeshift tables or other dining solutions. Dinner was served with the full complement of courses and dishes, crackers were pulled, silly hats donned, cracker jokes shared, twins bewildered and great fun had.


Why couldn’t the skeleton go to the Christmas party?
He had no body to go with.


Grandad, pull the cracker

Best of all Gizmo (Twin1) and Thumper (Twin2) got to have a fine time with mum and Grandma playing with the best present of all, wrapping paper. However they did find it all a bit exhausting.


ok, a pre-Christmas photo, but Thumper in the same costume was much the same on Christmas day after all the high jinks

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It must be teeth this time

We had been thinking from four and a half months onward that teeth were about to make an appearance, surely the boys wouldn’t be producing that much dribble, go red in the cheeks and waking screaming in the night if its not teeth would they? A dose of teething powder, some Calpol or Ibuprofen in various combinations, together with rocking gently in the nursing chair in the dark singing Twinkle, Twinkle little star & baa baa black sheep would get through the nights. Often tag teaming between parents so we could at get an hour or two sleep each

Well apparently they do, time and again we thought teeth were about to appear, only for the screaming to pause for a while and the dribble lessen. Still it gives us a chance to pop over to Boots and restock on teething powders each time.

Then finally, after nine and half months the first tooth broke through and to our surprise it was owned by twin2, who had up to this point always been three weeks behind his brother. The score at ten and half months is 2-0 to twin2. The trouble is now, Twin1 is yet to get any teeth, and if the screams of twin2 where anything to go by we are going to need ear defenders as Twin1 is loud and persistent.

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Quick Learner

Quick Learner

Okay I get it, I ask you for a Christmas present and you give me one. It’s ok, I’ve got it. Give it to me! It has wrapping paper – I WANT the wrapping paper!!!

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Christmas is coming

Christmas is coming

Exeter is a provincial backwater most of the time, so the idea of the Coca-Cola lorry coming to town sounded fantastic. As it was it was all rather disappointing, you’ve probably seen the advert with the lorry covered in lights, well, in reality what you get is a red lorry with Coca-Cola written on it and a string of lights around the edges. Then you are presented with the opportunity to queue to have your photo taken at either the back or the front of the lorry, and there was a separate third queue for a thimble sized sample tin of coke. We wouldn’t have bothered, but my brother-in-law had made the journey up from Cornwall specially, so we felt we had to endure the hour of queuing on a dark and chilly/damp evening for a photo next to an icon of corporate opportunism. Joyeux noel

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My little pumpkins

It’s not often we feel compelled to dress the boys identically – we’ve been handed down so much clothing that we’ve only bought a couple items of clothing so far (10 months in), but Wellworths (A former Woolworths store) had these great Halloween costumes and we just couldn’t resist. It went down very well with Grandma as well, even if the hats lasted minutes at the most.


We blame Annabel Karmel’s Facebook page, as it had serious cute looking children, many in more professional looking pumpkin outfits and that sat at the back of our minds.

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On the road again

Its all been a little bit hectic over the last few months, but this blog was overdue some new postings. Especially as I met a real world reader at a first birthday party at the weekend.

So returning to the activities of last summer…

My wife and I had come to the arrangement that as I was working Monday to Friday and she was caring for the boys 24×7, that she would get a few hours off, one day each weekend. This of course presented me, the unprepared father with a challenge, what do I do with two under six month old babies for most of the daylight hours in on a summer’s days – without always falling back on dropping over to my parents place.  So we decided we  would explore some of the tourist attractions the South West has to offer. Well, when I say we, it was my decision based on what I wanted to do for the day – the boys had little say, and to be honest, little interest in the events.

Over the course of the summer they came to the local Point-To-Point horseraces, four separate zoos (five if you count not being born yet), two working farms, an agricultural show, a sheep based tourist attraction  a couple of open gardens, a castle, country walks, a military vehicle museum, Armed Forces Day and several national trust houses. (For some of these my wife came along for the trip as well)

For a lone father of twins venturing out without the mother, these were my findings:

1. When going to a Point-To-Point which essentially is amateur horseracing which takes place in a field, there are limited facilities so planning ahead is essential. Fortunately my wife had prepared everything I needed and delivered to me a fully packed changing bag as I loaded the boys into the car, so all I needed to do at the appropriate times was upend the pre-measured milk powder into the pre-sterilized milk bottles, add pre-boiled hot water from the flask, mix, check the temperature of the milk and feed the babies.

The other logistical difficulty was changing the babies nappies, whilst keeping them out of the driving rain and wind, however the large boot of the V70 came into its own and nappies were changed with the minimum of fuss. I was however feeding the babies when I first arrived, so I missed the first two races, and feeding them again before I went home and therefore missed the last race as well.

2. There is a skill to be developed in getting through doors. I thought we had done well in picking a double buggy that would fit through a standard sized door, what I didn’t take into account was that there would be stuff in my hands and more stuff piled on the buggy, whilst the doors in many cases would also be spring loaded. This developed into a dance of push the door as far as you can, then grab and hold it open, try to maneuver the buggy one handed into the space and repeat, inching forward a few centimeters at a time until you think you are through and clear – usually only to find the door still has you in range on the backward swing for a painful tap on a knuckle or leg joint. The double doors are the worst as you have to try and push them in different directions, whilst also moving the buggy forward and not leaving everything behind.

3. Many places don’t have separate baby changing facilities, so you have to use the disabled toilets and not wanting to leave one baby outside in the buggy whilst changing the other, means the buggy comes to, and that doesn’t leave much space in most. So acrobatic skills and spinning around on one leg, balanced on your toes becomes the norm in a smaller disabled toilet.

You get used to trying to balance wet wipes, nappy sacks, creams, new nappies, clothing changes in places where they won’t fall in the toilet bowl, on the dirty floor or in the sink whilst you are disrobing the wriggling octopus on a fold out changing mat positioned in the buggy and they are also out of reach of the said octopus.

One always feels compelled to fill in the visitors comments form, and suggest a baby changing area with a safe changing table with a restraining strap, changing mat and enough other worktop space to put the other essentials.

4. One baby will always be awake. Twins seem to have some kind of trigger, Meerkat like that one must always be on guard. Twin1 falls a sleep, Twin2 springs awake, and vice versa. This of course is fine most of the time, but usually means that one is tired and will protest loudly when you have to do something they don’t want like changing or feeding them.

The day when they could hold their own bottles was a joyous one for me, as up until then it had been a process of arranging the buggy to face me in the visitor centre’s cafe whilst trying to leave space for people to get past, whilst also limiting the ogling opportunities from everyone else in the cafe. That was followed then by holding the bottles in just the right position for the boys to drink the milk, a position that was always slightly uncomfortable for me after 20 minutes or so. It would usually be followed by trying to persuade twin2 that he did want a actually drink a little of the milk and not just hold the bottle in his mouth.

5. Every elderly lady and many young children will want to stop the buggy and stare at the twins, and most people will then start asking a series of stupid and often insensitive questions about the twins.

Are they twins? – you mean the two small people of near matching size, weight and appearance in the buggy I am pushing – no complete strangers, never met before today, no idea how they got there.

Are they identical? You mean apart from the different appearance, size, weight, body frame etc? – No

What’s the age gap between them? one minute – getting dull now

Are there twins in the family? By which you mean are they natural or the result of some fertility alchemy – none of your business

How do you tell them apart? Well we find it really difficult, so we had them labelled (obviously we didn’t). We find this a really odd question as to us the two boys look very different, one has a full head of hair and the other just a Mohican for a start – you’d think that was enough of a clue for most people.

Double-Trouble. Compared to what? these are our first children – its all normal to us.

Coo, aren’t they lovely.. – Yes, thank you, but this is the 15th time someone has stopped us and said that since we left we house and we are now an hour late. Just move on please…

We find best tactics are, NEVER make eye contact and speed – if the buggy is travelling at least 1.5x walking pace they will find it difficult to impose themselves between you and your intended direction of travel.

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Should we call the doctors?

It had to happen, what with my wife taking every opportunity to get out of the house with the twins, which meant socialism with every twins club, toddler group, baby signing, baby massage, baby swimming group within a 30 minute drive (i.e most of mid, north and east Devon) – a few weeks ago they succumbed to illness.

To start with we thought it must be teething, the twins were coming up to six months and producing industrial quantities of drool. The washing machine has been non stop since they were born, initially with endless quantities of muslin soaked in regurgitated milk formula and now with dribble bibs that certainly live up to their name. The fact that Calpol and teething granules seemed to cause the pain to subside reinforced the idea.


After twin 1 spending most of the day sleeping and generally looking very fed up after a few days of using Calpol, and following a couple of high temperatures we decided it being a Sunday evening and out of hours for the GP, to call NHS Direct, who then suggested that we call Devon doctors, who in turn recommended a watching brief, recording feeds, nappies, sleep, temperatures and general behaviour and times, and a visit to the GP in the morning.

Following a visit to the doctor and leaving with a urine sample collecting contraption which had to be returned with a suitable sample the next morning, we discovered that twin 1 had picked up an infection. So started a course of medicine,  waking in the night and general grumpiness from the parents of the twins induced by complete lack of sleep.

Of course not to be out done Twin 2 joined the fun 3 days later and picked up the same thing, but naturally working to a slightly different schedule to Twin 1 – just to ensure no parent had any chance of sleep for a couple weeks. Towards the end of the first week of Twin 1’s illness my wife spotted ulcers in his mouth, and checking twin 2 they were there as well – well that certainly explains the screams that accompanied trying to feed them formula from a bottle. It looks like Hand, Foot & Mouth then – no treatment for that, just takes about a week to pass.

By this stage the twins were still taking all their solids, but were starting to worry us with the amount of formula they were taking, we were having to fix it in with the food, cup feed or spoon feed the milk – even with that both boys were taking a reduced amount. Were they getting enough milk to remain hydrated.

As my wife was staying with her family in Cornwall, this time it was Cornwall Doctors we called (it being another Sunday) and arranged an appointment at the out of hours surgery in Bodmin hospital at 12:40 that day – no mind the roast dinner that was being cooked for us would be waiting when we got back. A 30 minute drive and we were there, following a 5 minute check over and mentioning the highest temperature, it turned out that single reading had breached a threshold where we were now referred to the Treliske hospital for a check over on the pediatric ward. Another 30 minute drive in the wrong direction, and a few wrong turns at Treliske and we found the ward, were greeted by the nurse who had been expecting us and she gave Twin 2 the check over to assess the urgency of the condition.

Five hours later at around 7pm, Twin 2 was finally seen by a house doctor, after a couple observation visits by the nurse and being told from around 4pm that we were next on the list. We picked the wrong day, as the hospital restaurant at this end of the hospital was closed and most vending machines were depleted, but we did track down a couple of sorry looking sandwiches for a belated lunch – we had to leave one person with the twins, so these forays were like foraging trips. The house doctor basically confirmed what we thought that there wasn’t anything wrong with Twin 2 really, and the treatments we were giving with Calpol and baby Nurofen were the most appropriate. However he couldn’t sign us off, we had to be seen by the senior registrar, but we were next on the list after handover. He was able however to provide us with some ‘magic spray’ which when applied to Twin 2 meant he was happy to drink from a bottle again until it worn off. Hydration worries prevented at least.

It was 23:30 before the registrar saw us and allowed us to leave, and it was 01:00 before we got back to the in-laws, by that time far too late for me to return home for work (up at 6am the next morning) which was a 90 minute drive away. So we settled the boys in, tried to avoid waking the family and tucked into cold roast dinner.

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