Tackle England’s oldest horse ‘racecourse’… by bike

Organisers of England’s oldest horse race – which dates back to the reign of Henry VIII and where the runner-up often wins more than the winner – hope the unusual event will be back for 2021, after last year’s race fell victim to the pandemic.

Despite that setback, the Kiplingcotes Derby – held each year in the Yorkshire Wolds on the third Thursday of March since 1519 – still managed to keep the centuries old tradition alive for future years.

Ancient rules for the Derby, drawn up in 1618. mean that if the race fails to run one year, it must never be held again, so just two riders completed the four-mile route in 2020: only the fourth time in 501 years it has been staged without a full field of riders.

Now the hope is that 2021’s race – scheduled for Thursday 18 March – will still be able to go ahead.

Normally, the cross-country race can attract hundreds of spectators, some who even travel from overseas, to watch this sporting curiosity as it winds its way through the Yorkshire Wolds countryside around the village of Market Weighton.

Among the many quirks of this most unusual equestrian event is that that any horse can enter and that no-one knows how many horses and riders will enter the race until the morning of the Derby itself – while the second placed rider also usually receives more prize money than the winner!

But while time will tell if the 2021 race will go ahead as hoped, for a different experience, riders can still hop in a saddle to tackle the race route – by following in the hoof-steps of this strangest of Derby contests on two wheels.

For a cycling ’Derby’, bikers can head from Market Weighton – one of the many attractive villages and market towns in the Yorkshire Wolds – to Pocklington, via the Kiplingcotes ‘racecourse’.

Riding the ‘course’ on any day, apart from when the race is run, of course, makes for a half-day ride, offering a scenic, tranquil and gently sloping route.

And making it even easier to tackle the country’s oldest horse racing course on a cycle, are new bike-friendly buses. Launched in August 2020, East Yorkshire’s X46 service, between York and Hull via Market Weighton, taking in Beverley and Pocklington, feature buses that welcome bikes, and even include bike racks.

The Derby course itself starts at an old stone post on the grass verge in the parish of Etton, not far from the old Kiplingcotes railway station near Market Weighton, before continuing over farm lanes and tracks, and finishing at Londesborough Wold Farm.

For more details about cycling in the area, see http://bit.ly/3oXJEb6

For news and updates on East Yorkshire as a destination, visit www.visiteastyorkshire.co.uk