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Royal Ascot: A Punter’s Guide

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Royal Ascot takes place over 5 days in mid-June every year and is a highlight of the racing calendar. While it is a social event, it is also the most valuable race meeting in Britain and many of the world’s finest racehorses, owners and jockeys gather to compete for more than £6.5 million in prize money. Horses which are now household names, such as Black Caviar, Yeats and Frankel, have been winners at past Royal Ascot meetings.

The most famous patron of Royal Ascot is Her Majesty The Queen and as a racehorse owner herself, this is an event she patently enjoys. The Queen always attends Royal Ascot and hasn’t missed a single Royal Procession during her reign. The Queen has also triumphed at the event when in 2013 her horse, Estimate, won the Gold Cup.

Fashion      

The fashion at Royal Ascot always makes a statement and you regularly see it featured in the media, particularly on Ladies Day. During 2016 Vogue ran a live timeline featuring the dress of the Royal party and race-goers.

Hats and fascinators are a big part of the event for ladies and often themed outfits make an appearance. Notable ones this year centred on the Referendum debate.

There is a strict dress-code depending on which enclosure you want to attend, however. The Royal Enclosure calls for formal daywear for ladies and either black or grey morning dress for gentlemen. Unfortunately, if you aren’t suitably attired, you won’t gain access. It is less strict in the Windsor Enclosure where, while no dress code is prescribed, attendees are still encouraged to wear smart clothes.

Food and Drink

Royal Ascot is at heart a social event and therefore food and drink play a big part in everyone’s enjoyment. When you think that more than 300,000 people attend the event over the five days it is perhaps unsurprising than 51,000 bottles of champagne and 160,000 glasses of Pimms are drunk.

Fine dining and private hospitality boxes are available at the event and the racecourse prides itself on the quality of the food and service on offer. You can choose from a wide range of Michelin-Starred and à la carte menus, the latter designed by an in-house award-winning team. With 5,000 kilos of salmon, 2,400 kilos of beef sirloin and 2,900 lobsters being consumed every year, you get an inkling of the scale involved.

The Racing

Racing is held every day during the 5 days of the event and there is a different highlight daily. Tuesday is opening day and the Queen Anne Stakes is run, named after Ascot racecourse’s founder who established the course in 1711. Thursday is Gold Cup Day and the finale on the Saturday is the Group One Diamond Jubilee Stakes. The most successful jockey to date in this race is Lester Piggott and Vincent O’Brien is its most successful trainer. It offers a prize of £600,000 for the winning owner.

Getting to Royal Ascot

Ascot is based in the heart of the Berkshire countryside and is accessible by road on the M3, M4, M40, and M25 depending on which direction you are coming from and there is extensive parking available at the event. If you think you will be enjoying a glass or two of Pimms the safer option is to book a limo or to travel by train direct to Ascot station, which is about 50 minutes from central London. If you want to arrive in style, then why not charter a helicopter. You won’t be alone as around 400 helicopters arrive at the event every year.

Royal Ascot is definitely worth booking into your diary as it is a highlight of the social calendar. Whether you want to attend for the racing or just to have a great day out, you won’t be disappointed.

Two World-Class Swimming Events Come to London

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After the success of the Olympics in London in 2012 there has been a renewed interest in sport and fortunately, we now have facilities available which can host world-class events more than ever.

The London Aquatic Centre on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was central to many dramatic sporting moments played out during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The centre was designed by architect Zaha Hadid and its stunning wave design provided the backdrop to many world records during 2012, including the dramatic swim of British Paralympian Ellie Simmonds into the history books, when she won two golds and set a World Record in the 400m freestyle.

Now anyone can enjoy swimming at the London Aquatic Centre, but with a seating capacity of 2,500, during May 2016 it’s been home to two world-class events, the LEN European Aquatics Championships and the European Masters Championships.

What Are the LEN Aquatics Championships?

These championships are run by LEN, the governing body for aquatics in Europe. Held in the spring every alternate year, they include four water based disciplines: swimming, diving, synchronized swimming and open water swimming, although the open water events are not held In Olympic years. The Masters championship is held for all entrants who are 25 years or older.

At the Press Conference at the start of the event, President Barelli of LEN highlighted that Europe is the strongest continent in aquatics and that the athletes have achieved great results in recent years, outnumbering all other continents in terms of titles and the number of overall medals earned. It, therefore, bodes well that the championships will be exciting events in all the disciplines.

In fact, Great Britain has already done well as one highlight was Tom Daley winning 3 medals, among them gold on the final day of diving. Daley who is still only 21 was ecstatic to win his third European 10m Platform title and the 1,700-strong crowd cheered him on to victory. His score of 570.40 was enough to claim gold, and he said it was the perfect boost ahead of the Rio Olympics later this year.

Ross Murdoch, amongst a whole host of other British medal winners, also did well as he claimed gold in the Men’s 200m Breaststroke. It remains to be seen what the final medal tally will be for the British team.

Getting London Swimming                                                  

As the championships are being held in the heart of London it was fitting that prior to the event the LEN European Aquatics Championships launched a project to get the capital swimming: Swim London 2016 – London Learns to Swim.

Surprisingly more than 21 percent of adults in England have never learned to swim, and this venture gave those in the communities closest to the London Aquatic Centre, in Hackney, Newham, Greenwich, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest, the chance to take swimming lessons. Its aim was to invite at least 225 non-swimmers to get involved, with a 12-week group swimming course where all the participants were encouraged to support each other.   A special highlight was that all those involved would then train for a special team relay which is being held at the Championships.

How Do I Find Out More About The LEN Aquatics Championships?

The event has a live tracker and is also being live streamed so you can catch up on all the events over on www.euroaquatics2016.london/. There are also still tickets available for some of the events, perfect if you want to experience the atmosphere live. The nearest underground station is Stratford with St. Pancras and King’s Cross the closest available mainline rail stations. You can also cycle, drive or if you want to arrive in style you could always travel by one of our bespoke charters.

The greater the level of support events such as these receive, in terms of visitor numbers, and with the superb facilities based at the Olympic Park, it is hoped that the UK will host more world-class events in the years to come. If that is also reflected in more people getting out and enjoying sport then it can only be a win-win situation.

London in May: The Chelsea Flower Show

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Towards the end of May, you would be hard pressed to open any newspaper or watch the news without seeing the latest updates from The Chelsea Flower Show. During this annual event, the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea are transformed into an oasis of colour and fragrance as flowers and plants from around the world are brought together in one place.

Billed as the world’s greatest flower show the event runs from the 24th to the 28th of May this year and is organised by the Royal Horticultural Society. It features various plant themed displays and cutting-edge design from world-renowned horticulturists. In 2015, the show was visited by over 165,000 people and it is expected that this year the numbers may even top that.

The first day of the show is always Press Day and various celebrities such as Rosamund Pike, Demi Moore and Mary Berry were seen enjoying the displays. If you are intending to drop by, what highlights can you expect to see this year?

The Queen’s 90th Birthday Floral Arch       

HM the Queen is patron of The Royal Horticultural Society and as Her Majesty celebrates her 90th birthday it is only fitting that a stunning floral arch has been designed to mark the occasion. The Queen accompanied by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who were enjoying their first visit to the event, were given a tour of the show on the first day and admired the arch and the photographic exhibits which accompany it.

Health, Happiness and Horticulture

We are all aware that our happiness levels lift when we are in nature and the theme of the show this year highlights the wellbeing benefits of bringing plants to urban areas. BBC presenter Ann-Marie Powell has designed an exhibit dedicated to this subject and in the process, she provides visitors with tips they can try at home in their own green spaces.

It’s also being highlighted how important nature is for our health and Chris Beardshaw has designed a Show Garden which will be taken as a whole to the centre of Great Ormond Street Hospital after the event where it will be a place for parents to spend some quiet time.

Working in the garden can also be a great form of exercise with all the weeding, digging and mowing involved. ‘Healthy Garden, Healthy Gardeners’, an exhibit by Coventry University, demonstrates how our muscles are put under immense pressure as we work in the garden and what we can do to lessen the potential for any strains or injuries.

A Musical Evening

If you are a fan of music just as much as of the great outdoors, then you will appreciate the twilight event which features a glass of champagne as you listen to the celebrated Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra.

The Great Pavilion

The centrepiece of the Great Pavilion this year is a 60-foot carriage from Belmond British Pullman. Surrounding it in the 6,000sq foot space is a fully planted-up station. There are also beautiful and thought provoking exhibits from more than 100 specialist plant breeders, nurseries and societies. One highlight is the ‘Discovery Zone’ which highlights the importance of plant science.

The Chelsea Flower Show is a great escape into nature whether you are a keen gardener or not and there is an abundance of things to see and do and plenty of places to shop. The event is relatively easy to get to with the closest tube station at Sloane Square, the nearest rail station at London Victoria and public parking allocated in Battersea Park, which can even be pre-booked with your tickets. If you want to arrive in style you could check out one of the bespoke charters which land close by at The London Heliport in Battersea.

There are very few tickets available, however, so if you want to get your hands on them you will have to act fast. Alternatively, you can enjoy the highlights of this year’s event on television and then make sure you plan ahead early for next year when you will be able to truly enjoy a bloom filled London in May.

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