Some of the best things to see and do in Lambourn
PUBLISHED: 15:14 06 August 2019
Hugh Mothersole HP10 8DU UK
Rolling hills, racehorses and a real sense of community - the village of Lambourn is famous for all three, but there are some hidden treasures too
In the Valley of the Racehorse, the village of Lambourn sits quietly among the gallops, stables and beautiful chalk downs. It has everything its residents could want; from country pubs and convenience stores to a saddlery stocking all you might need if you're a horse enthusiast. The racing industry brings many young people to live and work in the area, many from other countries, making a vibrant, cosmopolitan mix.
The village has a fascinating history, with it first being mentioned at the time of Alfred the Great. Some say he was actually born in the village but one thing is certain, he owned land here, which was left to his wife. However, judging from the many ancient barrows close by, there were people settled in the valley much earlier than Alfred. There have been numerous Roman pottery finds too.
But it's the connection to some of the best racing stables in the UK that the village is best known for, with trainers such as Charlie Mann, Michael Blanshard and Richard Hughes all running yards. Every Easter time people flock to the area for Lambourn Open Day to get an exclusive peek behind the scenes at many of the stable yards and to take part in the camel racing, watch the farrier display and enjoy a drink at the Outside Chance Bar.
Whether you choose to get involved in Lambourn's equestrian side, the many events throughout the year or you just want to spend some quiet time exploring the surroundings, there are plenty of reasons to drop by.
Grub at The George
Popular local The George was taken over by the Daly family in August 2018. In a short period of time they have revamped and rebranded The George to make it their own. Food-wise, there's an extensive menu ranging from light bites to à la carte, plus they have also introduced a pizza menu. "The George Special is the most popular," says manager Conor McCusker.
"We also have plenty of entertainment at the weekends," he continues. "On Friday nights we have a DJ or karaoke to suit the younger ones, while on Sundays it's acoustic music or a two-piece band.
Call 01488 73777 to book a table
Down on the Farm
Just three miles down the road is sheepdrove organic Farm and eco Centre, owned by Peter and Juliet Kindersley. Their ethos is a focus on renewable energy, recycling and an aspiration to one day be carbon neutral.
They hold regular family events at the farm, where everyone can see first-hand how they go about reducing their carbon footprint. Farm open days, bat nights and nature surveying are always popular.
The glorious Ashdown House is said to have been built for love, with its story surrounding the 'Winter Queen' Elizabeth of Bohemia, the older sister of Charles I. William, the first Earl of Craven, built it for her, but she unfortunately died before construction even began. It's said that it was built as a hunting lodge and as a refuge from the plague. Spanning 8,000 square feet, inside the living space boasts an amazing staircase, reception rooms, eight bedrooms, a kitchen and dining room. Plus there are two lodges and three cottages within the hundred acres of land. From the balcony, visitors can marvel at the stunning gardens, woods and pastures beyond. A short distance away are some sarsen stones, as well as Alfred's Castle, an Iron Age Hill Fort.
If the Hat Fits
The summer racing season is a huge part of the local scene, plus it's the time of year where the odd wedding or two has been marked on the calendar. No matter the occasion, if there was ever a perfect location for a millinery business it is Lambourn. Amanda Denton owns a business on the village High Street.
"I grew up around here but then left to go to Cordwainers College to study handbag design and leather goods and then millinery at the London College of Fashion in the 1980s," says Amanda, whose husband, Roger, farms in Upper Lambourn.
Amanda works with Michelle Boyt of Butterfly Hats. They met each other through their sons who both went to school at Stockcross. "We decided that the combination of our skills and experience would give us the opportunity of offering our clients a completely bespoke service. We opened on 4 May last year and have been delighted by the response so far," she says.
For the summer, the ladies will be creating unique designs for weddings, special occasions and, of course, race days. "Clients can either commission a bespoke design or select from our stock of ready-to-wear pieces - all of which are created by hand using traditional millinery techniques," says Amanda.
The shop has trilbies, cocktail hats and traditional larger brimmed hats in a wide range of colours and styles trimmed with abaca, petersham, bows, silk flowers, feathers and veiling. "For a bespoke hat we suggest you come to us with your outfit; we have a changing room in the old bank vault," she says.
The ladies have settled into village life in Lambourn. "We've certainly been made to feel welcome and have enjoyed meeting so many new characters," Amanda says. "It's been our pleasure to support many local charities and organisations during this time, including the Lambourn-based Injured Jockeys Fund at Oaksey House and Women In Racing and Lambourn RDA."
Pop into the shop at 17a High Street. They're open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 10am−2pm, and by appointment at other times
Why I Love Lambourn
Fiona drake works on Lambourn Valley Village news and has lived in the valley for over 40 years
"Lambourn is set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is the second largest centre for horse racing in the UK. Travelling home to Lambourn across the downs is always an uplifting experience; there are wonderful views stretching for miles and encompassing four counties," Fiona says.
"With the open downs, agricultural fields, woods and a river, the Lambourn Valley has an incredible variety of wildlife. I walk my dogs every morning and always see something different. The area is well endowed with footpaths and bridle tracks, so it is a wonderful place for children to grow up in, cycling, riding, making camps, fishing and enjoying all that is around."
My best day out
"Lambourn Carnival week is a lot of fun, with many events culminating in the carnival itself. It is held every August, but if I have to pick just one day it must be Lambourn Open Day," Fiona says.
"Every Good Friday the trainers open their yards in the morning and people come from far and wide for the opportunity to see famous trainers, jockeys and horses who they have probably only seen on television before. If you're into racing it's a magical day, and even if you're not it is interesting and great fun. In the afternoon there are light-hearted events, such as jockeys camel racing, and side stalls and fun for children."
"The George pub in the centre of Lambourn serves a wide range of good pub food and has become a popular meeting place for pensioners, young families and stable lads alike. For a special meal out, The Eastbury Plough, a mile down the road, is a gastro pub with an award-winning chef. In the winter there are log fires and in the summer you can sit outside and enjoy the river across the road. As well as wonderful food they offer around 35 different gins with many mixers. Try Sharish Blue Magic Gin and add some tonic and see what happens; it tastes delicious too!" Fiona says.
Favourite local discovery
"We're not the first generation to think Lambourn is a good place to live. We are surrounded by evidence of our ancestors. Lambourn has one of the earliest Long Barrows in Britain and many Round Barrows. These are Megalithic (3,760 BC) burial cemeteries. Two 'Hoards' have been found in Lambourn, and both are now in the Newbury Museum. One, the Crow Down Hoard, dates back to 1300-1100BC and consists of Irish gold arm bands. The other, the Lambourn Hoard, is of 51 gold coins dating back to 1619-1641. Metal detector enthusiasts frequently find musket balls from the Civil War too."
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