Event organisers take leap of faith with major scheme

A new drainage system has been installed at the Belsay Horse Trials site.
A new drainage system has been installed at the Belsay Horse Trials site.
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Organisers at Belsay Horse Trials have responded to feedback from competitors by making a major investment in a ‘belt-and-braces’ drainage system.

Costing more than £75,000, the project was undertaken during August and September and the show-jumping arena is looking in excellent shape, despite the extremely wet weather of recent weeks.

The vast majority of this total has been met by the organisers. In addition, British Eventing is fully supportive of the investment at Belsay and has given the organisers both a small development grant and a loan to help towards the cost of this system.

Belsay Horse Trials, which first took place in June 2013, has been incredibly well received by competitors and the public, and has attracted excellent support from sponsors and trade stands.

However, heavy and persistent rainfall over two winters and in the run-up to the event in both 2013 and 2014 has affected the Bond Dickinson Show Jumping Arena, producing holding conditions which this year made the going particularly difficult on the first morning when the Novice and Intermediate sections took place.

The organisers contacted the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI), a company which has been responsible for grass surfaces at Hickstead, Dublin Showground, Greenwich Park and Ascot Racecourse among others, and asked it to undertake an assessment and feasibility study.

STRI’s Robert Everett visited Belsay in mid-June and determined that the existing agricultural drainage system was inadequate.

His recommendation was to install a new primary pipe drainage system on top of the existing agricultural drains and supplement this with a secondary slit drainage system, like those used in many sports fields. He also made extensive recommendations for the reinstatement of the turf following the works.

The project has been carried out in two phases. Works were carried out by DG Walton and Son and White Horse Contractors respectively.

Joint organisers Peter and Laura de Wesselow and Edward and Jane Pybus said they are very excited about the results of the project.

They added: “This is a huge investment for us, but we believe that it is absolutely worth it for the long-term success of Belsay Horse Trials.

“We have had such amazing support for this event from sponsors, competitors and the local community and are committed to making it one of the leading sporting, spectating and social events in Northumberland.

“We are particularly grateful to Bond Dickinson for its sponsorship of the show-jumping arena.”