Tweseldown is under new management and has been given a “make-over”.
Former four-star eventer Rachael Faulkner took over the lease of the site in January, but due to delays with its owners, the Ministry of Defence, the completion didn’t happen until this month (7 August).
However, the paperwork has now been signed and Rachael is looking forward to developing the venue.
“Tweseldown has huge history,” she told H&H. “The first race meeting was held here in 1866 and it hosted the Olympic [equestrian events] in 1948.”
It has a special place in my heart and has such heritage.”
The racecourse closed in 2012 due to financial pressure, but the horse trials continued.
“Brynley Powell had the lease for 12 years and sold it to me earlier this year,” Rachael said.
“But due to a protected bird species on the land, progress was quite slow”.
With Brynley’s input, the events experienced rejuvenation, but he had to contend with restrictions from Natural England — in 2005, Tweseldown became part of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA). The site then fell under the EU Birds Directive and the supervision of Natural England (news, 30 January 2014).
The leaseholder must align Natural England’s land management requirements with the established British Eventing (BE) and unaffiliated calendar, Pony Club camps and schooling.
“To say it has been frustrating is an understatement,” Mr Powell told H&H at the time. “Experts agree with me that Tweseldown shouldn’t have been a designated SPA in the first place.”
As part of the redevelopment, Mrs Faulkner has installed 18 new fences.
“It’s very exciting, we’ve given it a bit of a revamp,” she said. “It’s a brilliant course and we’re working with Dominic Moore and Adrian Ditcham.”
The venue hosts three BE competitions a year but Mrs Faulkner is hoping to extend the amount of grassroots and unaffiliated competitions held at the site.
“We want people to have a reason to come and at all levels,” she added.
Mrs Faulkner ran the last event at Tweseldown after the unexpected death of Peter Lamont.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my new role as organiser of Tweseldown horse trials,” she said. “I am extremely grateful to have worked with the existing team. It was definitely the secret to the smooth running of the event.”
Adrian Ditcham, BE course designer and its south east regional coordinator, added: “Tweseldown has always been the premier cross-country facility in the south east, so it is very exciting to have Rachael at the helm taking the venue forward.
“She is very focused and determined.
“It is a region where grassroots is very popular, so I understand she is keen to focus on that level of the sport.
“She will be moving her office to the site to create more of a business hub, which is a positive move to ensure there is always someone on the ground there overseeing developments.”
Ref: H&H 20 August