Thousands flock to St Albans’ Oaklands College summer fayre

Playing horseball at the Oaklands College Summer Fayre

Playing horseball at the Oaklands College Summer Fayre - Credit: Archant

AN UNUSUAL take on rugby was in evidence in St Albans at the weekend, where four legs were definitely of more use than two and opposing teams indulged in plenty of horseplay.

As more than 7,000 visitors flocked to Oaklands College for its annual Summer Fayre on Sunday, riders took to the field to show their myriad skills in a game of horseball – a combination of polo, rugby and basketball.

The North London Horseball Club trains at the college’s Smallford campus and, according to its publicity, you have to be brave and trust your horse as, just like playing rugby, it is not a sport for the fainthearted.

The reason for this is that most of the game is spent riding without reins.

As players don’t use polo sticks they need extraordinarily good balance as they have to be able to pluck the ball from the ground while still in the saddle.

The sport itself has been described as the “nearest you can get to [Harry Potter’s] Quidditch without a broomstick”.

Horseball is a fast-paced sport where, before a goal is scored through a hoop-shaped ring at either end of the pitch, members of the two teams playing each other must make a minimum of three consistent passes between them.

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But the ball can be intercepted as it is being passed among the offence team by pulling the ball from the members’ hands, or using a horse’s weight to ride the attacker away from the goal.

There were several former racehorses taking part in exhibition games at Oaklands.

Animals also took centre stage elsewhere at the event. In the middle of a straw bale-ringed arena, birds of prey flew to the various members of the audience who volunteered to turn into a human perch for the likes of Bonnie the American kestrel in the falconry display.

There were also stilt walkers, Zumba demonstrations and daredevil children’s entertainer Rob Kilburn who showed impressed youngsters how he could eat fire.

The annual summer fayre included food stalls from around the world, such as Crumbs ‘N’ All Caribbean Cakes run by Sonia McDonnell and her small team. Sonia, who spent 20 years in the legal profession, was inspired to make Caribbean fare following trips to the family home in Jamaica.

She sells cakes, chutneys and sauces regularly at the St Albans Farmers’ Market in the city centre.

Children of all ages enjoyed riding aboard a small steam engine on an equally small track. North London Society of Model Engineers, founded in 1944, has tracks and various facilities at Colney Heath.

Oaklands’s summer fayre also had a fun fair, inflatables, live music and sheep shearing demonstrations.

Close to £10,000 was raised for charities.

Zoe Hancock, principal of Oaklands, said that many visitors had told her it was the “best event the college had ever put on for the local community. We filled up every space in our fields with cars.”