Southwell sits in the heart of England and is one of only five racecourses in the UK to have an all-weather track and is the only one with a fibresand surface. It hosts both flat and national hunt and runs left-handed in a flat mile-and-a-quarter oval which has a run from the home turn of three furlongs and a spur to provide a straight five furlongs.
Located in the town of Southwell, famed for its Minster, and on the edge of Sherwood Forest, it was known as a stop that was a favourite of kings as they travelled up and down The Fosse Way. It was here that the well-known Bramley cooking apple was first seeded by Mary Ann Brailsford in 1809.
Racing has been an integral part of the town since 1850 with the first grandstand opening in 1886. Today it hosts a number of popular meetings, none more so than the annual Ladies Day meeting in August each year – worth the admission money alone to see the hats on display!
Our last visit – August 2016
It’s criminal that prior to August 2016 we had never visited South-well as I would pronounce it, or Suthel as the locals do. The CMF and her family all hail from Newark just down the road and on many an occasion we drove through the town centre, ignoring the lure of the track. We had to put that right and as part of our annual bonding exercise, we had brought the kids up to stay with their Northern relatives (yep, we know the pain involved in getting them back into Southern habits such as using cutlrey when they return), we decided to come to a meeting. In August. On Ladies Day. The busiest day in the Southwell racing calendar. What could possibly go wrong.
As soon as we pulled up in the car park the Fuller girls were moaning about looking out of place. We didn’t have a pink limo, we weren’t wearing 12 inch heels, we hadn’t sprayed ourselves orange and we weren’t wearing dresses that showed off our bad tattoos and infected piercings. Not that we had tans, tattoos and piercings anyway!
The place was heaving with every square inch of grass outside the main stand taken by smartly-dressed girls downing bottles of cheap rose through straws. Weaving our way through the handbags we found a good spot in the stands, one race down. My Northern relations had only been racing before (Market Rasen – October 2015) but decided to go with a jockey strategy. The 2.30 didn’t produce any big winners, but the 3pm yielded a winner on the Twiston-Davies ridden Ballykan at 7/2 although the Littlest Fuller got a 3rd with Presenting Arms, because of the square patch on his silks.
Bold Prince Rupert at 20/1 gave our funds a boost in the 4:05pm, followed up with another 20/1 3rd place Royal Benifet giving us a healthy return to the afternoon, which meant treat time for the girls. I gave them some money to invest in sweets and sent them off. They came back pale with shock at some of the antics on the lawns where some groups of girls had started handstand competitions. I headed off to verify the facts but was soon pulled back by CMF as we had a final race to conquor. Following the pattern we went with Miss Benefitz which was the 11/8 favourite but saw little returns.
As always, we headed off before the last race. There was a scene of devestation around the back of the stand with shoes, hats and empty bottles of Prosecco strewn all over the place. We’d be back but perhaps when there’s a little less off the track drama.
What’s the track like?: Southwell is one of only five racecourses in the UK to have an all-weather track as well as hosting jumps on grass.
Admission: For standard fixture meetings the prices are £12 for Granstand Enclosure and £16 for Premier Enclosure. For the Festival fixtures (including Ladies Day in August and Beer Festival Weekend in December) it is £14 for the Grandstand and £20 for the Premier Enclosure. There are pre-bookable special deals which include food, beer and racecard vouchers as well as admission for £24 booked in advance.
Food and Drink: There’s a number of bars and eateries around the racecourse, including a decent fish and chip shop and The Pantry that serves homecooked food. The Minster Bar and the Sherwood Bar are very popular on racedays. Seasons Restaurant, located on the first floor, overlooking the racecourse track and paddock, is open for all racedays and packages start from just £45.00
Address: Southwell Racecourse, Rolleston, Near Newark, Nottinghamshire NG25 0TS
Directions: From the A1 take the junction for Newark town centre then onto the A46 ring road. Then take the A617 towards Mansfield, passing over the Trent and into Kelham. Take the A612 signposted Southwell and then take a left as you enter Easthorpe onto Racecourse Road. The track is about a mile down this road. There’s plenty of free parking next to the entrance. Next to the main entrance is Rolleston station, which is on the Newark Castle to Nottingham line and may be your best bet if you fancy a beer.
Hotels near-by: There’s no hotel near to the track with the nearest ones being in Southwell including The Saracens Head Hotel at the top of Church Street, whilst The Admiral Rodney just down the road also offers some rooms. In Newark, there is a Premier Inn on the roundabout where the A46 and A1.