Whoa! Worms rein in roy­als’ top horse event

Daily Mail - - Life - Daily Mail Re­porter

The Na­tional Trust has scrapped a pres­ti­gious horse tri­als event in which the roy­als have com­peted for decades amid con­cerns for earth­worms.

The Bel­ton horse Tri­als is look­ing for a new home af­ter the Trust said horse hooves and the cars of spec­ta­tors and par­tic­i­pants are com­pact­ing the soil in the grounds of one of its stately homes.

This risks the ground be­com­ing wa­ter­logged – which can have an im­pact on the worms liv­ing in it. They play a vi­tal role in aer­at­ing the soil and en­cour­ag­ing plant growth.

The Na­tional Trust said the ‘size and scale’ of the tri­als at Bel­ton hall near Gran­tham, Lin­colnshire, is ‘now at odds’ with con­ser­va­tion of a Grade I listed site.

The in­ter­na­tional event is a key fix­ture on the three-day event­ing sport­ing cal­en­dar and was to cel­e­brate its 40th an­niver­sary next year. Princess Anne, Cap­tain Mark Phillips and Zara Tin­dall have all com­peted at the event. Many mem­bers of the Royal Fam­ily have been pho­tographed there. Ian Cooper, gen­eral man­ager at Bel­ton house, said: ‘Un­for­tu­nately, it has come to a point where we can’t carry on.’ he said horse hooves and large ve­hi­cles had caused sig­nif­i­cant soil com­paction across parts of the park­land.

While he recog­nised the sig­nif­i­cance of the event, he said: ‘Our over­rid­ing pri­or­ity is pro­tect­ing what we have.’

Stu­art Bun­tine, of Bede events which or­gan­ises the tri­als, said the news came as a com­plete shock. ‘It’s a mam­moth spec­ta­tor event and at­tracts thou­sands of peo­ple to Lin­colnshire ev­ery year,’ he said. ‘It is also crit­i­cal for the sport.’ Built in the 1680s, Bel­ton house was given to the Na­tional Trust in 1983. The park cov­ers 1,300 acres. One for­mer large-scale eques­trian event or­gan­iser de­scribed the de­ci­sion to halt the trails at the hall as ‘mind bog­gling’. She asked: ‘Just who are they pre­serv­ing the coun­try­side for if it is not those peo­ple who en­joy events such as this? Where else can peo­ple go and rub shoul­ders with mem­bers of the Royal Fam­ily hav­ing a nor­mal day out?’ A for­mer Na­tional Trust mem­ber, who lives lo­cally, said: ‘The tri­als were here be­fore the Trust got Bel­ton so it is go­ing to be a hard pill to swal­low for some peo­ple.’ The Trust said: ‘The growth in size and scale of this an­nual event is hav­ing a cu­mu­la­tive im­pact on the con­ser­va­tion of the his­toric park­land, in­clud­ing dam­age to earth­works and buried ar­chae­ol­ogy, soil com­paction, and detri­men­tal ef­fects to trees and their roots.’

Hoofed out: Bel­ton Hall will no longer host rid­ers such as Zara Tin­dall, seen (above) at the 2017 tri­als

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