Whatever happened to Folkestone Racecourse?
Nowadays property of Folkestone & Hythe District Council and destined to become part of the sprawling ‘Otterpool Park’ housing development, Folkestone Racecourse still stands in Westenhanger, west of Folkestone town centre, as it has done since 1898. In its heyday, Folkestone was the only official horse racing venue in Kent and staged both Flat and National Hunt fixtures throughout the year.
However, following its ‘temporary’ closure in December, 2012 which, according to previous owners Arena Racing Company (ARC) was to allow redevelopment of ‘outdated’ facilities, Folkestone never opened its gates again. In fact, the previously magnificent site has essentially been left to slowly decay into rack and ruin.
The tumbledown buildings, including the wooden-fronted main stand, are still standing, albeit only just, but the steeplechase fences and running rails. The attractive parade ring and paddock area, behind the main stand, has at least been maintained to some extent, but the racing surface has been reclaimed by grass and tall, ugly weeds, reminiscent of a large, unkempt field than a racecourse.
Racing Post journalist Lee Mottershead once wrote, hauntily, of Folkestone, ‘They once raced horses here.’ They did, indeed, and the brutal demise of a landmark that stood for over a century is heart-breaking and shameful in equal measure.