A Hazy Shade of Winter

31 01 2012

‘… seasons change with the scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry
Won’t you stop and remember me
At any convenient time
Funny how my memory slips while looking over manuscripts
Of unpublished rhyme
Drinking my vodka and lime

I look around, leaves are brown now, And the sky is a hazy shade of winter…’

Simon & Garfunkel

‘Bookends’ (1968) Side 2, Track 4

Saturday 28/1:

The sky was a hazy shade of cobalt blue with a wintry sun illuminating the natural sporting amphitheatre that is Cheltenham Racecourse, the jewel in jump racing’s crown, spread out in the lee of the Cotswold Hills.

There was plenty of time to admire the view, edging our way along, caught up in the race-day traffic, as we headed towards a Prestbury Village rendezvous, at the Royal Oak Inn, with old friends who had driven across from Rugby.  

It was clearly a case of bad planning on my part. I had neglected to check the racing calendar. Saturday was Cheltenham Festival Trials day – a prelude to the main event in March. I won’t make the same mistake again!

Prestbury, on the outskirts of Cheltenham Spa, mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, is reputedly one of the most haunted villages in Britain. The Royal Oak, an attractive 16th century Cotswold stone inn, and the nearest pub to the racecourse, was buzzing with punters.

A few horse racing legends have passed through its doors over the years, but none more renowned than Fred Archer (1857-’86), born in the village and described by the National Horse Racing Museum as ‘the best all-round jockey of all-time’.

Another equally notable sporting link is with former Gloucestershire and Worcestershire cricketer Tom Graveney. The elegant England batsman was landlord at the Royal Oak for many years.

Coincidentally, on Friday, octogenarian Graveney had been present at the Memorial Service, held at Worcester Cathedral, for his former teammate Basil D’Oliveira. He described the South Africa born all-rounder as, ‘a wonderful cricketer and a wonderful bloke…my best pal as well.’   

The Royal Oak features in ‘The CAMRA Good Beer Guide’, ‘The CAMRA Good Food Guide’, ‘The CAMRA Good Cider Guide’, ‘The Good Pub Guide’ and ‘The AA Pub Guide’.        

I thoroughly enjoyed the haggis, ‘Great chieftain of the pudding race,’ a blackboard special, presumably left over from Wednesday’s ‘Burns’ Night’ celebration, (with chips, of course), followed by homemade coffee cheesecake with hazelnut cream. A couple of pints of Timothy Taylor Landlord provided the perfect accompaniment.

Good food, good drink, good company and a congenial atmosphere.      

Sunday 29/1   

The Sky was a hazy shade of grey and a sharp frost greeted early morning fishermen along Tewkesbury’s ‘Back of Avon’. The square Norman tower, of the Abbey Church, loomed large out of the misty morn, over its ancient huddled market town, while the Old Mill, mirrored in monochrome waters, reflected on a historic past.  

It weren’t haaarf co’d tho’!

And further Arctic weather conditions are forecast for the month ahead …  

 

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2 responses

2 02 2012
The Royal Oak (Technically Part IV) « lancestravels

[…] was reading a post on Phil Aldridge’s blog entitled A Hazy Shade Of Winter regarding his day out at Cheltenham Racecourse and his […]

2 02 2012
lanceleuven

I hope you don’t mind but this inspired a post from me and I’ve linked to it!

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