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Northampton Racecourse, A Hidden Gem.

The Northampton Racecourse covers more than 118 acres and is a beautiful place to be. I have lived within a mile of the Northampton Racecourse my entire life and have always found it to be a friendly and welcoming place.

The park is surrounded by the Mounts, Kingsley and Semilong estates. Due to the historical links of the Racecourse to Northampton’s history, it remains one of the town’s famous landmarks. As implied by its name, the Racecourse once staged regular horse racing meetings, however, these ceased in 1904 due to a high number of accidents, which included fatalities, caused by the sharpness of the track.

From 1990, during mid-August the Racecourse held the locally popular Northampton Balloon Festival. The festival drew tens of thousands of people for just under two decades (until 2008) 

Facilities

  • Sports pitches/courts
  • Changing rooms
  • Playgrounds and play areas
  • Cycle Recycle Project
  • The Umbrella Fair Cafe at The Pavilion
  • Booking pitches, courts and equipment (This is now managed by Northampton leisure Trust)
  • The Racecourse is also home to the Northampton Show, The Northampton Carnival and Northampton Park Run.

The park is surrounded by the Mounts, Kingsley and Semilong estates. Due to the historical links of the Racecourse to Northampton’s history, it remains one of the town’s famous landmarks. As implied by its name, the Racecourse once staged regular horse racing meetings, however, these ceased in 1904 due to a high number of accidents, which included fatalities, caused by the sharpness of the track.

Balloon & Umbrella Fairs

From 1990 to 2008 during mid-August the Racecourse held the locally popular Northampton Balloon Festival. The festival drew tens of thousands of people for just under two decades.

The Umbrella Fair based at the Pavilion building have an annual event boasting over 10 stages, arts and family events with over 20.000 visitors every August.

The Racecourse remains one of the most popular places in Northampton for amateur football, cricket, rugby union, Tennis, Parkrun, Fitness and bowls. Over twenty Sunday League football teams use the park as their venue each weekend from early autumn to late spring. The changing rooms were redesigned to meet F.A. standards.

In 2007 £1 million was spent on new changing room facilities adjacent to the Colwyn Road end behind the Pavilion. Prior to that, the Pavilion was used by players as changing rooms but a series of leaks and a lack of hot water meant that by 2005, plans for the new facilities were warranted.

Bad luck continued to hamper the building’s use as in 2010, Legionella bacteria were found resulting in the changing rooms being closed three times in five years. The most recent of these occasions occurred in May 2012.

By 2010 The Racecourse welcomed another development which saw the council spend £85,000 on an adventure park space including a zip wire, climbing frame complex and five-person buddy swing.

It is estimated that thousands of members of public use the park each week, The Racecourse sits next to the University of Northampton, Avenue Campus and is used regularly by students.

The Umbrella Fair Cafe and The Cycle Restore are located in the Listed Pavilion Building. Car parking is situated adjacent to the building and public toilets are inside. There are playgrounds, a basketball court and a bowling green situated nearby.

Often blamed for its proximity to the town centre by authorities, the Racecourse has attracted a reputation as an area with high crime levels.

In 2006, the park regularly made front page news locally for its high levels of day and night-time robberies and assaults, leading to the Northampton Chronicle & Echo newspaper setting up The Friends of Northampton Racecourse (FONR). The partnership looked at reclaiming the Racecourse from the criminals, with its campaign eventually gaining respect from a national broadsheet The Guardian. The group continues to support the park’s heritage and image.

In 2017 the FONR have been more active, adding daffodils to 10 areas around the park and holding regular litter picks.

The Friends are currently not a charity, but a smaller local group with a constitution & a management committee. They hold regular meetings which allow them to take issues from the Park and the general public, and find solutions through working with the council and other groups, including the university.

The Friends of Northampton Racecourse work with the Borough and County Councils on different initiatives around the Racecourse. Engaging with local Councillors, the Police and officers from the Borough Council helps them to work together to create a better and safer environment for The Racecourse.

The Umbrella Fair is Northampton’s arts & music community festival held every August on the Racecourse. They aim to be carbon neutral only using power generated from recycled chip fat, solar energy and people/pedal power on their bicycle generator.

  • They try to represent all parts of their community and welcome all kinds of performances.
  • Each year the festival develops and changes to meet the needs and ideas of its participants.
  • Every person involved from the stewards to the co-ordinators to the performers are volunteers.
  • Throughout the year the Pavilion plays host to a diverse range of activities and events that reflect their values.
  • They offer live music from punk, reggae, motown and folk, as well as regular DJ sets. There is something for everyone.
  • Over Summer and Winter they have a range of activities inside the Pavilion or on our lawn – family fun days, fairs and creative workshops.

Drop in on a Wednesday to Sunday to enjoy the cafe and artspace for some time out and to look at the current gallery exhibition.

The Umbrella Fair Organisation is about two things: Community and Environment. These things are linked, by looking after and respecting one, you look after and respect the other.

Everyone is welcome, just turn up and get involved….

The tasty cafe menu is available

  • Saturday 10am – 5pm
  • Sundays 11am – 4 pm
  • The Cafe is open for Cakes, Snacks and Drinks
  • Wednesday 10.30am – 1.30pm
  • Thursday 10.30am – 1.30pm
  • Friday 10.30am – 1.30pm

The Umbrella Fair Cycle Recycle project

  • Children’s bikes range from £15 to £35
  • Adults bikes from £35 to £60.
  • They also repair bikes!
  • To donate bikes, volunteer or customers:
  • Wednesdays, Thursday, Friday & Saturdays
  • 12.00am – 6.00pm

Recent reviews of the racecourse

“A beautiful place for many reasons. Especially fond of the Pavilion where the cafe is usually open for a nice meeting place with friends, a great music venue some evenings and a friendly place where I can take my dog for a walk and a drink for him too. The Umbrella Fair Organisation has utilised this building perfectly" Karen Hughes

“Lovely open space with loads of history. Some of it a bit macabre. The Umbrella Cafe is based here at the Pavilion and is well worth a visit. Great community involvement in community projects. They hold the Umbrella Fair here every August and it’s an all inclusive festival with free entrance and loads of great original music.” Kenneth J Nash

What are your thoughts on Northampton Racecourse? Likes & dislikes...
Please do let me know in the comments below.

Jo Morris
Hi I'm Jo, I'm a Home Educating mum of 4 kids aged between 2 and 18, and also a Foster Carer. I have a busy life full of Autism, ADHD, LGBTQ+ campaigning and also my husband!! If I ever get any spare time I enjoy saving money, learning about Nutrition and Alternative Therapies.
http://adultingwithautism.com/
  • Northampton is very fortunate to have many green spaces, love the race course, for its size, its trees and its social hubness of a land mark.

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