GRANVILLE’S REMINISCENCES: TIVERTON FOXHOUNDS POINT-TO-POINT

To whet the appetite for the rapidly approaching newpoint-to-point season, I am pleased to add anotherreminiscence from the Devon & Cornwall area to the collection I wrote during the first COVID lockdown .

The original set of reminiscences was designed as aseries solely in lieu of local meetings lost in the midst of website COVID restrictions from March until June 2020, hence a number of hunts were not covered. One of those not covered was the Tiverton Foxhounds, which has now found a regular home at Chipley Park. It was not always so, since the meeting has had several venues over the years.

For those interested in the history of the Tiverton Foxhounds point-to-point, it stretches back well over a century. The early Foxhounds fixtures in the late 19th century were shared together with Sir John Amory’s Staghounds and Sir John Amory’s Harriers

Joint fixtures with the Staghounds continued until the first world war (1914) at such locations as Peadhill ,Tiverton and Holmead. No further fixtures were held after that war until 1921. 

The re-start on 9th April 1921 saw a combined meeting between the Tiverton Hunt and the Tiverton Staghounds at Peadhill.  This combination transferred their point-to-point to Pileywell, near Tiverton, in 1924 and continued at that venue until the last meeting before the second world war on 22ndApril 1939. The Devon Yeomanry joined the combined hunts meeting in 1935 and 1936. Roderick Heathcoat-Amory (Sir Ian’s son) rode his own horse Lightning to win the 1937 Members’ race at Pileywell    

The Tiverton Foxhounds held their first independent fixture on 12th April 1947 (after snow had covered the whole country that winter). Cullompton was the venue and remained so until it closed after the fixture held on 6th April 1957. I don’t have many facts about the course at Cullompton. 

They raced at at Shobrooke from 1958 until 1963. Shobrooke was a very stiff, undulating course with some drop fences and plough thrown in for good measure. It was right-handed with a long hard pull up to the finish .

No meetings were held after 1963 until 22nd April 1972, when Halberton Court became the new venueuntil it was closed in 1982. This is where I come in if you will forgive a few personal anecdotes because I was there on March 7th 1981 in a press capacity (my goodness was it really 40 years ago). I remember the day mostly because I had to be towed off the track in deep mud, very kindly by the point-to-point secretary .

I had to resort to the form book to recall that Robert Chanin rode the Hunt race winner on Trig Point, beating Grant Cann on the favourite Spider Legs.The evergreen gelding Devon Spirit and Keith Pookwon the Adjacent Hunts’, just one of that gallantgelding’s six victories that season at the age of 16.Wiener Chic and Sue Reynard beat Moonstep (Pip Fisher) and Gay Express (Biddy Peck) in the Ladies’,and Lucky Friday, won the Open under his owner/trainer Andrew Congdon from the Torrington Farmers’

I do remember that the going was really heavy that day and True Member with Kevin Bishop in the saddle beat a big field in the Restricted. Some well known local riders figured in the last which was the Adjacent Hunts Maiden (whatever happened to Adjacent Maidens?). Honey Jump relished the deep ground under Martyn Keenor to beat Fabulous Spirit (George Turner) and Sandsprite (Philip Scholfield) in a very slowly run race. 

Not quite the end of the day because there was still time for Grant Cann and Oliver Carter to inform “the press” – me- that Grant was about to announce hisretirement from the saddle (perhaps because he was beaten on the Hunt race jolly) . Fortunately I took their tale that day with a pinch of salt and ignored it. Grant’s eventual retirement was forced upon him four years later when a freak accident ended his excellent career with a total of 217 point-to-point winners behind him.

That turned out to be the last ever meeting at Halberton Court, and the point-to-point was abandoned the next season. In 1983 a new era began at Bishop’s Court, Ottery St Mary, where divisions of the Men’s Open, Ladies’ Open and Adjacent Maiden meant a nine-race card. Winning riders that day included Jimmy Frost on Flying Camel (“more camel than flying”, relates the form book), Polly Curling, Janine Mills, nee Evans, (riding one of my favourite horses of all time Silver Ransome), Stuart Kittow, Peter Hobbs and the aforementioned Grant Cann

The Tiverton said goodbye to Ottery after the 1987 season, moving to Stallenge Thorne near Milvertonfor a Wednesday afternoon  fixture the following year. What a shame these popular, well attended weekday point-to-point meetings do not figure in the modern fixture list. The Tiverton Foxhounds spent 12years at that excellent track on farmland hosted by Ken and Caroline Nicholas. Sadly Ken passed away recently.

I remember Stallenge Thorne as a demanding left handed track with good fences and reasonable viewing. One of the best pointers to win there would have been Earthmover who won the Ladies’ Open under Polly Curling prior to going on to two Cheltenham Foxhunter victories.

Modern day West country point-to-point followerswill be familiar with Chipley Park, near Wellington,and handy for the M5 ,which has hosted the fixture since 2000. Chipley is a right handed course with a steady incline to the finish up a dog leg home straight which favours staying types, and seems to attract big fields. Several Welsh trained and Midland based runners turn up every year and after race schooling seems to attract a cast of thousands. It is a very fair, good viewing course, but the bend at the bottom of the track can get boggy in wet weather. The 2021 meeting was lost to the COVID lockdown. 

The Chipley Park date for the diary this season is Sunday 23rd January 2022, meanwhile we look forward to welcoming back point-to-pointing at Ottery St Mary on Saturday 30th October with the East Devon meeting.

GRANVILLE TAYLOR

Acknowledgments:

Hunter Chasers & Point-to-Pointers, Sale & MacKenzie ,various years

The Point-to-Point Calendar 1937-38, Arthur W Coaten

The Continuing Story of Point-to-Point Racing, Michael Williams

Mr Michael Kutapan – Point to Point History & Research( Jumping For Fun web site)

The Pointer (David Coulton)