THE first big fixture on the district’s sporting calendar fell victim to torrential rain.

Hundreds of racegoers were expected to attend the Tynedale Point-to-Point, at Downhills near Corbridge, on Sunday.

But the historic event, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2018, was called off early on Sunday morning, much to the disappointment of Ben and Ailsa Speke, who have organised the fixture for the past seven years.

“I am really sorry for everyone,” said Ben. “We were expecting competitors and spectators from far and wide, and the fact that we had to call it off on the day itself, at such short notice, is the last thing we ever wanted to do.

“At 10,30pm on Saturday, it was a fine night, but at 7am on Sunday morning it was a very different story, and the decision was made for us.”

Ben said the course itself was raceable, but the decision was made in the interests of the welfare of competitors and spectators.

He added: “It really came down to health and safety. The course itself was rideable because the old turf has a lot of grass on it.

“But we had to look at whether ambulances could get access to where they needed to, and there were one or two doubtful areas, while the car park field was completely sodden.

“We know some people travelled long distances, and are frustrated that we had to make the decision on the day, but we did all we could to make it happen.”

The Spekes have a proud record of organising the event with great success since 2013, with the support of an army of dedicated volunteers.

While the event has been postponed in the past, it is the first time under Ben and Ailsa’s stewardship that the point-to-point has not gone ahead.

The couple have considered re-arranging it, but finding a suitable date has not proved to be straightforward.

“This coming weekend is technically a free one in the racing calendar,” said Ben.

““But the ground is now so wet and the forecast is horrendous.

“This event involved 100 people, with everyone from fence attendants to doctors all playing a vital role.

“Unfortunately, every time we book tents and medics, and everything else, it costs money and we don’t have unlimited funds. It has been frustrating for everyone.”