So how can I sum up Bramham in four words? Let’s try “wildly exceeded my expectations”! I’m not sure what those expectations were exactly, but what I found was easy access and egress, helpful stewards and media centre, knowledgeable and appreciative crowd, acres of grass land which meant there was space to absorb the crowd all combined with two exciting cross country courses and a host of star riders and horses.
But to start at the beginning, I nearly let the rain forecast put me off and not go. Luckily I saw the weather forecast late on Friday night (OK, early Saturday morning) and realised that an improving Bramham was better than a soggy Gloucestershire and reverted to plan A. This was lucky because I’d asked West Wilts late for permission to video there but they had refused on the grounds that they’d arranged for someone else.
On paper it is a good drive to Bramham from Gloucester; more or less Motorway or dual carriageway all the way. There is a stinker 50 mph section of roadworks North of Nottingham on the M1 currently and there was a lot of surface water and spray. But I achieved my objective of getting there in time to avoid any queues and allowing time for a Costa Cappuccino at Tibshelf.
Thankfully the signs took me to the North Lodge Entriance and from there the Stewards very efficiently directed me towards the Officials car park from where I was able to make my way to the media centre to sign in and pick up my pass.
I videoed a couple of rounds of CIC show jumping and then headed off to the CCI cross country course. Now while I was in the media centre Winnie had suggested I might like a lift to the cross country course. I said the walk will do me good. All I will say is it is a long walk round to the cross country start at Bramham!
Just as I arrived at Fence 2, Paul Tapner appeared to have a spectacular tumble from Prince Mayo. I heard the bang as they hit the roll top and turned round to see them both sliding along the ground after the fence. Assuming both were OK that would have made a great bit of video if only to see what actually happened.
It was raining early on so I kept the camera in a bag until the time I need to use it and as it wasn’t too windy managed to keep the lens dry. The course was, as you’d expect, big and challenging and ran across lovely park land which the overnight rain had made excellent going. After the cows and the ice cream cones at three things got really serious at the corner complex 4 followed a couple of fences later by tests of accuracy and nerve with the Equi-Trek Round House and Leap.
After the Round House the CCI course heads out in the country and a mixture of flat galloping sections and undulations. At the far end of the course a new section of track had been developed in the woodland which gave the chance for some corner brushes on the turn before heading through the Suregrow Keyhole and dropping down to the Kidney Ponds which is the first water on the course.
The course then makes its way back towards the trade stands with the Woodhead Seeds Hollow being described by Ian Stark as the toughest question on the course. There is a section of course where horses heading for home pass those heading out on the final loop around the Front Park.
This loop featured the Generator Power Brush Fence which caught a few people out with the big ditch in front of the brush, It also features the second water on the course with the Bond Dickinson Pond and once through the water it’s four more jumping efforts and home.
I had a nice moment when Nicola Wilson explained to me as she hacked home that she had had to pull up Bulana after fence 3 because the mare had simply been too strong and that “you can’t carry on like that”.
For the CCI I was really strict with myself; all the fences in order and no mixing it up. So the video shows you the morning as it unfolded and there isn’t any commentary that is out of order. The same can’t be said about the Under 25 video as with only about 20 competitors I wasn’t going to make it all the way round the course again (it had taken me about 4 hours to get round the course the first time).
My plan with the U25 was to see the first few around the corners at 4 and then head to the second water in time for Bert Bolton and Purple Sands. Bert’s mum, Fizz, had been one of the earliest supporters of my Harveywetdog Facebook page so it was important to me to capture them at one of the feature fences. Bert rode the water complex very confidently and it was a shame to hear later that a little knock had prevented them from completing day 3. Next time!
After the U25, I allowed myself ten minutes for a little lunch and then I was off again around the CIC course which was thankfully considerably shorter. The sun shone and it just makes the videos so much sharper. The crowd seemed thinner in the afternoon or perhaps people were sitting and watching in the sunshine rather than walking the course.
I wasn’t quite so disciplined in the afternoon with my fence order as I videoed the final four fences first to avoid the long back from the final fence at the end of the day. I also videoed Pippa Funnell and Louise Harwood before I videoed Traitors Ford who is the horse who appears at the start of the video.
I was in the car and off the course as soon as Watermill Vision had passed and the exit and getting onto the A1 was unbelievably easy. As I headed south I soon ran into the banks of rain sweeping across the country which made me glad that I had decided to spend the day at Bramham.
There are a total of five videos in my Bramham playlist; the popular Under 25 CCI cross country video, the full CCI course and the full CIC course, and two CIC show jumping videos featuring Ruth Edge and Jamie Atkinson.