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the old racecourse - fencing

On 30 Oct 2017 at 11:43am James Oliver wrote:
Sad to see this morning that my new fence has been vandalised at the lower end of Front Hill. Thought I'd write this post in the hope that my message reaches whoever did this.
I understand the animosity that exists between some of the local community/walkers and a few of the Lewes Racecourse residents, and realise that this has been created over a long period of time before my family and I moved here at the end of 2015. As per my post on the Lewes Old Racecourse Bridlepaths thread (Thu 13 Jul 5:27pm) my family and I are not here to make enemies. We're not racehorse trainers and are only trying to set up a family and kid friendly Livery Yard with associated equestrian facilities. This involves putting up some fences and creating areas of land that are easier to manage and safer to use. We're not wealthy DFL's and are working really hard to find the money required to create a viable business that respects the history of the Old Racecourse and preserves equestrian activity in Lewes.
I've not tried to block the informal and unregistered access across Front Hill.
The fencing thats been used along the hedge rows is easy to climb through if someone is desperate to not use the informal access (although clearly I'd prefer this not to happen).
I've used the same style of 'livestock' fencing found all across Sussex.
I'm in the process of trying to find a way to reunite both halves of Lewes Racecourse and improve public access, possibly with the help of the SDNP.
In light of all the above, PLEASE please don't vandalise our fence. We're not bad people and hope that relations between Lewes Racecourse and the Lewes Community will improve, hopefully in line with an safer and better maintained racecourse site.
If anyone wants to talk to me directly about what I'm doing and why then please feel free to contact me directly on 07958 438813 or via james@findandbuild.co.uk
On 30 Oct 2017 at 11:45am Gordon Ramslye wrote:
F*************** B****** etFingcetera.
On 30 Oct 2017 at 11:51am James Oliver wrote:
Should probably highlight that I'm nothing to do with the new fencing or bridleway relocation closer to the racecourse buildings!
On 30 Oct 2017 at 11:56am @Gordon wrote:
It's a sensible post - not another restaurant one - get your glasses on. The poster is James, not Jamie.
On 30 Oct 2017 at 3:09pm James wrote:
Hiya James -
Sorry to hear about your fence. I'm often walking my dog around the racecourse / Landport Bottom area, although I'm not aware of the name Front Hill? Where exactly is the lower end of front Hill? And when you say you're looking to reunite both halves of the Lewes Racecourse to improve public access where exactly are you planning on doing this? I've only lived in Lewes for 3 years, and I'm often unsure of where public access is when walking up there?
On 30 Oct 2017 at 5:56pm James Oliver wrote:
Hi James,
Front Hill is the lower end of the east side of the racecourse (horseshoe shaped) that ends behind the Houndean Estate/prison. Check it out on Google Maps. My fencing starts about 200m up the racecourse from the track which leads from Spital Rd. Nice walk if you're out and about. Theres a decent footpath just the other side of the hedge on our boundary.
Interestingly the fence wire has been cut from my side, so someone walking along the racecourse instead of the footpath. We know this as the cuts are in places where its almost impossible to push through the hedge from the footpath because its so thick. This also fits with a report from a rider that there was someone walking across the racecourse in that area early this morning.
If you're new to the area you probably don't know that theres some longstanding animosity between some of the Lewes Racecourse residents and the local community. Most of this bitterness comes from run ins between walkers and riders, and trespassing generally (both riders and walkers I believe). Being new to the area myself I'm looking at the whole picture with a fresh set of eyes. I can see how local residents who have walked around the area for years unhindered can be annoyed by the appearance of new fencing or angry landlords telling them to 'get off my land'. That said I can also see the frustration and concern that trespassers cause when they appear without any warning, often with dogs, in front of a racehorse. Theres been numerous cases of the latter. A cyclist whipped past a horse last year who threw the rider. Result, broken pelvis and some significant time off work... This was actually on the bridleway come to think of it so bad example but you get the point.
Its a tough one to resolve. I'm not a trainer and am keen to build bridges with the local community and the equestrian users at the racecourse. The two halves of the racecourse have been privately owned since the site was closed down in 1964. I own one half and I'm talking to SDNP, National Trust and others about funding the purchase of the other. The ownership could be shared, ideally between me, possibly one or two other likeminded private owners and a public body... or possibly just me and a public body... The plan would be to introduce formal crossing points, improve grazing and training facilities, and more. In short get the racecourse looking like it used to when it was actively used. The latter and its ongoing maintenance would be paid for by having a festival once a year, opening parts of the course for other events, some rent from my livery yard and from the trainers. This is all a pretty brief description and theres a lot to consider which I'm researching. I've got a meeting this week with the SDNP and am waiting to hear from the Nat Trust.
In the meantime I'd appreciate any support I can get. Please try and spread the word that I'm not trying to stop people enjoying this important bit of Lewes history, only to use it safely while we set up a new business (not training related) which will allow us to preserve and hopefully improve Lewes Racecourse.
Thanks for your interest.
On 30 Oct 2017 at 7:06pm Annette Curtin-Twitcher wrote:
Thanks for that James - very informative.
On 30 Oct 2017 at 8:54pm Reasonable wrote:
It's that Ffitch-Hayes guy who's the really obnoxious one isn't it? Glad to hear someone apparently fairly reasonable has a plan for the area.
On 30 Oct 2017 at 9:28pm Hot Lips wrote:
Is the grave of a racehorse still there? I remember the old derelict stands....happy days
On 31 Oct 2017 at 6:45pm Fenced wrote:
If you get the travel log lewes newsletter email you'll be encouraged to spy on your own fences.
On 31 Oct 2017 at 7:34pm James Oliver wrote:
yes the race horse grave is still there although not sure its the actual site the horse was buried...
just had a look at the Travel Log Newsletter which i think might be written by Chris Smith? Chris has emailed me about this fencing incident and seems supportive. i'm going to reply to him shortly. none of the routes mentioned in his letter relate to fencing that has gone up on my land which has either had planning consent or is being applied for retrospectively. the fencing thats been vandalised should be considered by most as completely uncontentious since it follows an existing hedge line which we're trying to restore and which will grow 'through' the new fence. an example of this can be seen further to the north alongside 'The All Through' gallop. its not fencing that cuts cross any official or unofficial paths and as mentioned will help us restore the hedges which have been damaged and broken down over the years by wind and the elements, and probably unrestricted trespassing. the latter isn't a battle i expect to win outright, hence using three strands of wire which is far easier to climb through than mesh. catering for the more determined trespasser! can't say fairer than that!
thanks for your comments and please continue to circulate this dialogue.
On 7 Nov 2017 at 2:31pm jamesoliver1970 wrote:
Update for anyone thats interested. Had a really good meeting with a representative from The South Downs Trust (recently formed), one of their Trustees and someone who helped set the Trust up. All were enthusiastic about me forming a 'not for profit' company which could buy the other half of the racecourse and reunite it with the other half. A festival, better access, better facilities, were all discussed, amongst other improvements and fund raising ideas. Its going to be a long road and hard work to sort out (SDT rep reckons 3 years) but I'm inclined to have a go at it. Obviously lots of potential for plans to derail. Will probably set up a FB page to keep everyone informed.
In the meantime, please ask people not to vandalise my fences! Fingers crossed...
On 9 Nov 2017 at 3:19am NightOwl wrote:
Hey James,
Is any of this going to ruin the historic site that has been preserved for so long. It would be a big shame to lose site of the decades of history that once brought many people into the historic town of Lewes. I was under the impression that the course was out of bounds for public use for this reason. Having lots of people walking over the land might ruin it. Are the people who live on the racecourse happy with what you are planning?
On 30 Nov 2017 at 11:24am james wrote:
Hi Night Owl,
Excuse the slow response I didn't receive a notification saying you'd posted. The idea of reuniting the two halves of the course shouldn't ruin the course at all. The plan would be to enhance the course and carry out more regular maintenance i.e. repairs to hedge rows, reinstatement of racing rails fences where they used to be (to highlight its historic use and create a safer environment), managing gorse and scrub growth which can quickly get out of control, etc.
Most parts of the course would remain 'non public' most of the time, so there wouldn't be people just wandering around where they like. The access points to connect the inner and outer footpaths would be at carefully considered places with clear signage underlining the importance of keeping dogs on leads and giving horses right of way. The latter should I hope mean that people won't just cross wherever they like. At the moment there are numerous 'illegal' crossing points that are used. Its impossible to try and control these. Better to work with the people using them and create something that works for both walkers and horse riders.
Whilst the racecourse won't be accessible for 'lots of people' to walk all over it all year round, to host a festival each year, celebrating the sites history and what it did for the Lewes economy over the years would be a great way of raising funds to pay for its ongoing maintenance and improvement. I have an old photo of the site in my kitchen highlighting how beautifully kept it all was. Thats my target! Equally other one off events could be catered for.
So in summary the site would still mainly be used by trainers and by me (as grazing land) most of the time. Crossing points can be introduced that shouldn't interfere with these activities but which will be a massive improvement for many walkers (and residents at Lewes Racecourse who don't own the land). The annual events would be carefully planned so that the land isn't damaged beyond repair and these events will pay for the sites maintenance and preservation.
Predictably there are of course some who won't welcome this, which is fair enough. I think when the trainers realise that what I'm proposing will help curtail the trespassing issues they face and, most importantly, give them rights to train on the land (or graze it) if they're resident at one the stable yards at Lewes Racecourse, they might soften their views.
Couple of other points worth noting:
The racecourse measures just over 5km. Only two stretches of 1.3km approx are used for galloping horses.
The two halves of the racecourse are owned separately by two private individuals only, who aren't trainers and who struggle to stay on top of its maintenance.
Keep an eye on the Facebook page (Lewes Racecourse) thats now been set up to try and gauge support, and please spread the word!

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