Last Sunday, we were invited to Plumpton Racecourse in Lewes to visit their annual ‘Family Day’ event, which is part of Great British Racing’s Under 18’s summer campaign. We’d never been to a horse racing course before, so we were interested to see how family friendly it really was.
Our only previous experience of horse racing was The Grand National on television (and Peaky Blinders!), therefore we were excited to visit a more local racecourse.
Arriving at Plumpton around lunchtime when the gates opened, we made our way to our location for the day – a table at the Paddock Field restaurant! This was a real treat, although we instantly wondered whether we had dressed for the occasion, however as soon as staff introduced themselves we were made to feel very relaxed and welcome.
Before we got to the restaurant, T was given an activity pack. This included a really detailed activity book and colouring pencils. The book itself was surprisingly thorough and gave us lots of information about the different types of horses you’ll likely see, a who’s who at the racecourse, as well as lots of puzzles and things to colour. I was really impressed!
Although Under 18’s are welcome to attend race days, the annual family days make the atmosphere incredibly relaxed. No one batted an eye lid when T became excited at the sight of horses and the menu options for children were very inclusive. The dress code is also relaxed – so there was no need for us to buy a hat!
There are lots of places to eat whilst at Plumpton Racecourse. From a variety of mobile food vendors and a coffee shop, to various bars serving light refreshments and hot meals to eat in or take away. There’s also the option for racegoers to bring a picnic to the on-site picnic area!
During our visit, we were lucky enough to have a meal at the Paddock Restaurant, which overlooks the main pre-race paddock as well as panoramic views of the course and finish line, and has recently been subject to refurbishment. It really is a stunning location.
For £75 per person (£85 on feature race days) you receive a seasonal three-course meal and welcome drink, as well as a table for the day where you’re welcome to come and go as you please – which was music to our ears with a four year old in tow who wanted to get as close to the action as possible.
Each course offers three options to choose from (including a vegetarian option), and for children there’s the ‘Little Persons’ menu which is based on meals from the adults menu. Looking at others who had the same meal as T the only difference was the portion size – which was a welcome sight as I get frustrated when “child-friendly” is translated to ‘something and chips’.
For T’s meal, he had tomato soup and croutons – which tasted rich and full of flavour – for starters, and for mains he had roast chicken. There were also bread rolls and butter available, as well as water for the table. Each plate is prepared beautifully and the portions are perfect.
What I appreciated the most whilst we were dining was the option to take our time between courses. I assume this was due to the fact that everyone in the room was there for the day anyway, however other all-day events we’ve been to in the past have often given the courses in quick succession, resulting in a few hungry tummies before we’ve even left for the day.
This meal, in comparison, meant we savoured and enjoyed each course at our own pace and didn’t become too full too quickly. It also meant we could go watch the races without the worry of our course coming out and going cold!
Now onto the grown ups! Sharon went with the pressed ham hock, cranberry and pea terrine for starters, which came with an apple chutney and pea shoot salad. For mains, English lamb rump with a side of smoked mash potato and vegetable medley, and for dessert both Sharon and T went with the warm Bramley apple and blackberry crumble with spiced custard.
Despite experimenting with new flavours and textures, Sharon adored her meal. It was bright and colourful, and each course complimented the previous one perfectly.
Although I’m primarily a veggie, I decided to treat myself to some fish and went with the smoked salmon, cream cheese and spinach roulade for starters, and a smoked goats cheese and leek mac and cheese – which came with seasonal vegetables – for my mains. For my dessert, I went with a gorgeous raspberry tart which came with raspberry cremes raspberry meringue and fresh raspberries. I may have also tried some of T’s pudding.
After, we were all offered a selection of hot drinks – including T who introduced them to the delicacy that is a Babychino. As if we weren’t full enough, the hot drinks also came with a velvety chocolate truffle!
Our meal truly lasted the whole day and we left feeling very satisfied. It was absolutely delicious, incredibly fresh, and beautifully presented. Staff were so welcoming, and couldn’t have been more accommodating. Not once did we feel out of place.
We were very impressed.
There was lots going on during the family day – thankfully T had his back to the colourful tents so we weren’t reminded every few minutes that we needed to visit the area where the action was! We decided to take a tour in between our starter and main so that we were ready for our next course. Crossing the track – which was in itself quite exciting – we found an array on fun fair rides and carnival games to take part in.
In addition, there was also a rodeo bull, a Falconry display by Sussex Falconry, face painting, and lots more. T even won a prize! These extras though were not included in the entry price, therefore some additional spending was required.
Based on our own experiences of horse racing, it had never appeared to an inclusive sport. A lot of the jockeys were often male and it was rare to see racegoers from multicultural backgrounds. Equally, when looking at other bloggers taking part in the campaign I had not seen many bloggers from the BME community.
However even before we had agreed to attend, our concerns were addressed and I was made aware of several pieces of work they are doing across the country with Great British Racing that’s both diverse and inclusive – including lots of examples of bloggers previously invited, including; The Mummy Sylist.
The British Horseracing Authority (the governing body of the sport) actually recently announced its first ever ‘Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan’ which seeks to put diversity and inclusion at the heart of British Racing. There’s also another campaign currently in motion which has supported 18 year old muslim woman Khadijah Mellah and her incredible journey from a Brixton horseriding club, to Goodwood Racecourse, which is also going to be subject of an ITV documentary later this year!
When we then attended Plumpton racecourse, I was delighted to not only see diverse owners, but also several female jockeys. It shared a wonderful message to younger audience members and made families like mine feel incredibly welcome.
We had a fantastic day at Plumpton Racecourse this weekend, and at their Family Day. Gates opened at 12pm, with the first race starting at 2:15pm. T had a lot of fun picking his favourite horse (based on the jockey’s clothing!) and cheering them on. Plus, the excitable atmosphere was contagious! We also thoroughly enjoyed our meal. Thanks to under 18’s going free (with a paying adult), it makes a day out to the races incredibly affordable – especially if you bring a picnic. I can’t see this being the only time we visit!
There are over 50 racecourses across the UK, with under 18’s going free in most of them. With more than 200 fixtures available, including special events and family days, there are lots of reasons why you should try and visit your local racecourse.
You can find out more about Under 18s racing free, as well as find a family race day near you, by clicking here.