How a Cockington Riding School lad went on to win the Grand National
- Credit: Jimmy Frost
Racing legend Jimmy Frost tells Chris Coward about his childhood days in Torquay:
Meeting Jimmy Frost is always a rich experience.
He is famous for his Grand National glory, his stables and horses - a stardom now being carried forward by his daughter Bryony.
But there is much more to Jimmy Frost then just horses.
This is somebody who has now ventured into the world of tourism thanks to a double decker bus and piano.
And it is somebody with vivid - and scary - memories from his childhood days.
Jimmy is proud to promote the bespoke tourist accommodation on his land at Buckfastleigh – that converted double decker bus.
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This was the feature of a TV documentary in 2019. The downstairs has a seating area adorned with a piano, an absolutely unique feature. As with most houses the upstairs is the bedroom.
Jimmy’s wife Nikki looks after the accommodation and he was pleased to report lots of activity for bookings.
Those who do come to stay will be treated to the most stunning views of Dartmoor on awakening every morning. The bus has the most glorious backdrop.
Jimmy has been so encouraged by the response to this that he is busy completing a log cabin on another corner of his land which will also be available through the summer months.
It must have taken a lot of temptation to leave this land as a youngster but Jimmy waxed lyrical about from the age of 12 his regular Friday trips to the Cockington Riding Club with his schoolboy friend Gerald Penfold who grew up in Ashburton. They would catch four buses to get there.
Jimmy reminisces about some great times at the club run by Reg Pitts and his children John, Heather and Sheila.
Jim was riding horses on his family land from the age of four and was always the star pupil at Cockington and particularly enjoyed the adulation from the Danish girls who used to study at the Language School at Torbay in the 1970s and attended the Friday night sessions.
The rest of Jimmy’s weekend completely revolved around the horses.
He has the official record of being the youngest ever rider on the Devon and Cornwall Point to Point circuit, making his first public appearance at 13. Sundays would be for the gymkhanas and competitive pony racing.
As Jimmy and Gerald got a little older, they would attend the Penelope’s under 18 disco in Paignton, along with those same Danish girls of course. This would mean missing the last bus back from Newton Abbot and relying on his father Richard to collect the boys who would walk from Newton Abbot bus station to meet him at the West End garage on the Ashburton Road.
It was around this time that Jimmy befriended local lad, Kevin Coake who grew up on Happaway Road. They would attend the social club at the Barton Village Hall.
Kevin, who now lives in Moretonhampstead, was a little older that the other boys and was the first to purchase a car and make quite a reputation with his possession of a sparkling purple Ford Capri.
The boys would love driving around Barton and Hele listening to the music of the day but Jimmy recalls not feeling particularly welcome after an occasion they drove through a flood and were guilty of soaking the locals on the pavement! A teenage prank that went horribly wrong.
The boys did, however, graduate from the village hall to the Prince of Orange pub on Barton Hill Road and Jimmy recalls having his first halves of lager there but always had to be careful with the early morning stable and riding responsibilities the following day.
Of course, riding became Jimmy’s life. The Cockington Riding School can be very proud that one of its pupils went on to win the Grand National, was successful at the Cheltenham Festival and whose son Haddon is now achieving great success in the USA and whose daughter Bryony has become one of the top riders on the British National Hunt circuit.
No visit to the Frosts is complete without seeing the horses that he is so proud off in the yard.
Regular Newton Abbot racegoers know that Jimmy often wins prizes for the best turned out horses and a walk around his stable quickly tells you why.
The team, which now includes one of Bryony’s favourite horses, Black Corton, are in every way a part of the family.
Jimmy is at heart a man of the country but from his childhood days has always enjoyed his times by the sea and, in particular, those childhood days around Cockington.