How lucky are we? The sport we love to follow takes part in such iconic British venues. I reflected and appreciated this while driving to Blenheim through the beautiful British countryside on lovely autumn mornings to arrive at a magnificent venue — especially when there is so much unrest in the world at the moment.
Not for eventing the grey, functional and crowded stadiums that all look pretty much the same. No, we get to arrive at the most wonderful parklands of great British houses: Burghley, Badminton, Blair Castle, Burgham, Belton, Bramham and Blenheim (not sure why so many begin with B) plus Houghton Hall, Gatcombe, Osberton, Weston Park, and Floors Castle are just some of the bigger parks that host eventing. And they all have a unique feel and atmosphere, in part thanks to the organisation but also thanks to the time of the year they happen coupled with their location. Badminton is the vivid green of spring, new leaves on trees, cow parsley and blustery skies to Burghley’s end-of-summer mood, soft colours and the memorable back drop of the house, golden at the end of the day as the sunsets.
And so here we are at Blenheim free to wander – even if we are following a cross-country course – through the most amazing park and landscape carefully crafted, planted and built over the centuries so that we can now admire the great trees, plantations and water features.
But oh how often at every event do we hear people complaining about the cost? Yes, on face value. the entry fee does seem expensive but you only have to stop and think for a moment where that cost has come from – it is not a random figure.
Often, for the the owners of these stately homes, eventing is part of a greater plan to bring in money to offset huge maintenance costs. Organisers, on their part, face the huge task of having to attract large numbers of people in order to make the event viable and the costs involved must make them weep, especially these days, when everyone wants everything just like they have at home – flushing loos, instant wi-fi, hot food, cold food, bars, ice in drinks and lots of shopping — even though they are in the middle of what is essentially a large field.
Getting people to events then depends on them being prepared to pay entry fees and thankfully many of them do. Because the consequences of people not paying are huge. Not only will the sport as we know it struggle – arena eventing, anyone? – but all these historic houses will have to find other ways to help them pay their bills, the size of which don’t even bear thinking about.
It is only by paying entry fees that we can continue to enjoy not only eventing, in the manner that we are used to, but also help preserve the houses and parks of the British Isles for now and future generations. Ultimately, that is priceless.
Images copyright of, and courtesy of, Carole Mortimer