Have you ever had a flutter on who might win the Grand National or The Derby? If you have, there’s a very good chance that the horse you fancied might have trained at Middleham.
Middleham’s a small town in Wensleydale of 800 or so inhabitants. You’ll notice its fine castle (Richard III stayed here) even before you get there.
And when you arrive, you’re as likely to see – no, you’re likelier to see – horses rather than pedestrians. The principal industry of this little place, since about 1730, is training horses. There are some 15 training establishments in town, and each of them may have up to 150 horses or more, aiming to be among the next generation of racehorses.
Every day clusters of riders take their charges up onto The Gallops to exercise and train them. We citizens who come to the area to walk and take in the views have to play second fiddle, at least during morning exercises.
Later on, we walked through Coverdale, past Tupgill, upwards through the tiny hamlet of Caldbergh along wild and little-frequented tracks. Then it was sheep who were obliged to share their pastureland with us. They were sure we’d have mangel-wurzels to offer them and hurried towards us. We hadn’t. They were unimpressed.
We left them to it. We had a walk to finish, preferably before lunchtime. And we rather hoped for something more appetising to eat than mangel-wurzels.