Located in the grassy hills on the Cambridgeshire – Suffolk border, Newmarket is the ideal location for horses and horse racing. Not far from the flat land of the Fens, this site has been associated with flat racing since the time of King Charles II.
Before I go any further let me confess I am not a great fan of things equestrian. Despite this Newmarket is an interesting place and one full of contradictions.
Signs of the racing industry are everywhere in the town. Statues, wall plaques, and horseshoes embedded in the pavements give testimony of the racing economy. There is a racing museum, the Jockey Club, and of course to race courses.
The positives of this focus are the entertainment value of the races, and the use of the courses as music venues on non-race days. The town for its size has a wide variety of eateries. There are Thai, Polish, and Turkish restaurants; as well as the ubiquitous Chinese, Indian, and fish and chip shops. There are several independent cafes, as well as a Costa, Starbucks, and Cafe Nero outlets.
For those interested in public art, the equine statuary is really impressive. There are bronze works of the champion – Hyperion, of a horse and trainer on the Cambridge end roundabout, and a new statue of the queen and her pony.
On the negative (at least in some opinions) features include long delays to traffic going through town at horse crossing points, where at times entire stables cross at once during their exercise rounds. There are an inordinate number of betting shops with some franchises having more than one outlet. While this is understandable in a town dedicated to racing, it does limit the variety of shops on the High Street. One inexplicable feature is the large number of taxi rank spaces. There are nearly 10 times the number of taxi spaces on the High Street than there are disabled bays. Add to this that taxis will extend their queues beyond their official ranks (I have counted as many as twenty waiting cabs, even on non-race days). This is an issue for those with mobility issues, as the Council has recently added parking fees for disabled drivers in the shopping precinct car park, leaving only 2 or 3 free spaces on the High Street.
Another attractive feature of the town is the Queen Victoria Jubilee Clock Tower. Here I must give a mixed review. This is a beautiful piece of public architecture. But, there is a down-side here as well. This magnificent tower is located at the edge of a poorly designed round about, which is further complicated by a pedestrian zebra crossing (a non-signaled pedestrian priority cross walk for you non-British readers). This often leads to a stand still of traffic in the intersection while those entering the town centre wait for someone to cross.
As I have noted above, there are contradictions and positives and negatives to Newmarket. For racing enthusiasts, it is a must visit. For lovers of public art, it has loads to offer. For those looking for a day’s shopping, it is limited. Though you can catch a good meal.