Cheltenham round-up: What you need to know before races including weather, dress code & police warning
Cheltenham Festival, one of the biggest days in the horseracing calendar, is very nearly upon us - here’s what you need to know if you’re travelling up from Bristol.
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With just one day to go until the Cheltenham Festival, the town is braced for a spectacular four days. Tens of thousands of racing fans will descend from Tuesday (March 14) until Saturday, with many of them travelling up from Bristol.
If you’re gearing up to attend, it’s always handy to be prepared - so we’ve rounded up the important bits you need to know including travel information, dress code and the weather forecast.
A weather warning for strong wind was launched on Monday (March 13) for the Cheltenham area, but luckily it should all have died down by Monday evening. According to the Met Office, Tuesday (March 14) is set to be a bright day, with a “good amount of sunshine”.
Some showers are “possible though”, which “could be wintry”- so plan ahead. Forecasters say it will be colder in the town than of late, especially when exposed to the breeze.
How to get to Cheltenham from Bristol - note upcoming train strikes
TRAIN: Most Bristolians choose to travel to the Cheltenham Festival by train, but upcoming strikes will make the journey a bit trickier than normal. Usually, around four trains run between Bristol Temple Meads and Cheltenham Spa an hour and take approximately 40 minutes.
There will be extra trains running for the majority of Festival week however, train strikes planned on Thursday, March 16 and Saturday, March 18 mean there will be no trains running on those days. There is a dedicated races bus service that will take you to the racecourse from Cheltenham Spa railway station.
COACH: Cheltenham Racecourse has linked up with National Express coaches to ensure that all racegoers are able to make it to the Festival on time during the planned rail strikes. Dedicated coach services will depart from over 70 locations across the UK to Cheltenham Racecourse. For more information visit the National Express website.
CAR: It takes around an hour to drive from the centre of Bristol to Cheltenham racecourse up the M5. Car parking passes are no longer on sale online but will be available to purchase on arrival to the car parks by card payment.
The Cheltenham Festival website says those who have not pre-purchased parking will be placed “in the best possible position” but may be situated some distance from the racecourse, so be sure to allow extra time.
A number of road closures in and around Cheltenham are currently in place, which you can check on the Cheltenham Festival website.
The Cheltenham Festival might be on par as a racing event with the likes of Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood, but the atmosphere and dress code is generally more relaxed due to its place in the calendar and agricultural background. There is no Royal Enclosure at the event and the dress code usually calls for flat caps and coats rather than tails and fascinators.
According to The Jockey Club website, attendees should “dress to feel their best” as “racing should be enjoyed by anyone and everyone”. On the matter of dress code, it says: “We’re all unique, and no more so than in our sense of style and comfort.
“For some, wearing a nice sweatshirt, pear of jeans and clean trainers is what makes them feel confident and at-ease. For others, they might prefer to turn heads with a sharp suit or glamorous dress and high heels, particularly for one of our big race meetings.
“But whatever your tastes, the most important thing when choosing your outfit is, of course, comfort and confidence. So wear what feels right for you and will keep you feeling your best from start to finish, whatever the weather.”
There are a few rules, though - The Jockey Club said it advised against wearing “inappropriate or offensive” outfits, as you may be denied entry. Attendees should also refrain from wearing team colours, as allegiance to a favourite club can “sometimes appear antagonistic”.
Last year, Gloucestershire Police pledged to tackle escalating drug use, anti-social behaviour and violence towards women during Cheltenham Festival week. The region’s police and crime commissioner Chris Nelson chaired a meeting at the racecourse with Cheltenham Borough Council and The Jockey Club along with MPs Alex Chalk and Laurence Robertson about what could be done to tackle these serious issues.
Problems raised by residents included anti-social behaviour fuelled by alcohol along with urinating in gardens and parks which caused them “distress”. According to The Racing Post, a restriction of pub and bar opening hours were discussed during the meeting but were not the main focus.
Instead, it is understood that more attention will be aimed at tackling an increase in illegal drugs. Police have identified trains as one particular way drugs are transported into the town during the four-day meeting and have already run operations to combat this issue.
People in the town should expect to see more temporary toilets and a visible police presence in the town centre and along Evesham Road. Black “splashback” paint has also been used on some buildings to deter people from urinating where they shouldn’t.