Towerlands Equestrian Centre in Braintree, Essex, has been sold.
Racehorse owner Bill Gredley has bought the centre from Chris Hunnable, event rider and son of the late Tom Hunnable, who founded it 25 years ago.
“It was a very difficult decision to sell; it’s disappointing and upsetting — I’ve been involved for such a long time,” says Chris. “I’d like to say what a struggle it is for families to try to run centres like this.”
Towerlands has a 200x100ft indoor arena with seating for 1,200 spectators, a smaller indoor arena, an outdoor sand school, stabling for 40 horses and a saddlery shop. It also has a nine-hole golf course, indoor lawn bowling arenas, squash courts and a sports hall. There are three licensed bars and two restaurants.
New owner Bill Gredley describes his family as “generally immersed in horses”. Gredley owns several studs in Newmarket, as well as show jumpers and ponies. His children show jump – Tim Gredley was a member of this year’s under-18 European gold medal-winning team and also took individual silver.
Gredley has big plans for the centre, which hosts year-round affiliated and unaffiliated show jumping and dressage, indoor eventer trials, carriage driving and trailblazer show jumping.
“We want to bring Towerlands to life, and we do have plans for refurbishment,” he says.
“This is no criticism of Chris, he’s had it a long time and has struggled to make it work – it’s very difficult for this type of centre, which faces problems from local authorities, government, rates and so on.
“We’re going to improve the VIP section, put in a sizeable outdoor all-weather arena and generally bring the standards up – for example make the restaurant somewhere someone would really like to go for the evening. It will be called Unex Towerlands [Unex is Gredley’s technology company] and we’ll cater for most of the horse world.”
The staff will stay in place, including manager Mike Florence.
Chris Hunnable, too, will remain involved on a consultancy basis, and says: “I think the sport is lucky to have Bill Gredley. I feel glad that he will continue to run it in the same way, invest in it and take it back to being one of the UK’s top centres – as my father had always intended.”
All shows in the centre’s fixture list will go ahead as scheduled.