Posted 24 January 2014 by Andrew Gardner
One day in December we had one of those foggy mornings when Heathrow airport almost came to a standstill but Gatwick wasn't affected. We were delighted for the sake of anyone arriving for their Sussex cottage holiday but I admit it was quite a surprise to one who's lived in the area all their life because I've always thought Gatwick existed in its own special fog pocket.
Does anyone remember when it was a racecourse, before the airport was built? It was used from 1891 to 1940 and believe it or not, the Grand National was held there in 1916, 1917 and 1918 and the 1917 race was won by Lester Piggott's grandfather, Ernie Piggott. All that remains of the racecourse now is the bandstand, which was moved to Crawley, and the station - but if you've ever wondered why a restaurant in the terminal was named the Racecourse, now you know. And before purists point out that Gatwick racecourse wasn't in Sussex, there was a boundary change in the '70s so if it still existed Sussex could claim it. The name, incidentally, is that of the land's owners from medieval times, the De Gatwick family.
Sussex has several superb racecourses that haven't been turned into airports. Fontwell, Plumpton, Brighton and of course Goodwood are all wonderful facilities that cater for hospitality and events as well as a straightforward day at the races - and we have gorgeous holiday cottages within easy reach of all four. Brighton and Goodwood are flat courses so they're for the summer schedule but Fontwell has a steeplechase course and a hurdles course, with a Cheltenham trial coming up in February. Plumpton, situated in the heart of the South Downs, is one of the smaller National Hunt courses but that doesn't preclude significant events - AP McCoy rode his 3000th winner there back in 2009. So visit Sussex and perhaps you'll witness history in the making!