PUBLISHED: 17:57 07 April 2011 | UPDATED: 21:31 20 February 2013
Nigel Bunter of Barbury Castle Estate revived the Wiltshire County Show in 2010 after a break of more than 40 years, and is busy growing it again this year, in conjunction with the Barbury International Horse Trials
As with all successful businessmen I know, Nigel Bunter is definite about what he wants. And if theres one thing he wants you to know, its that the St Jamess Place Barbury International Horse Trials, now combined with the Wiltshire County Show, is one of Wiltshires must-see events this summer.
Nigel worked for Ford for 20 years, including some time in Detroit. He and his wife, Penny, originally came to Wiltshire in the late 70s (to Warminster), and then returned again in 1990 when Nigel set up a mobile phone business. As Swindon was a logical location for the business, they settled near Marlborough before buying the Barbury Estate in 2003.
Tell us more about how you arrived here?
My family were originally from the Westcountry, and we both love this countryside. Penny is an accomplished dressage rider and joint master of the drag hounds, and Wiltshire offers just about the best riding country there is.
Then there is the racing. I owned a couple of horses with Alan King (the trainer at Barbury before we bought the estate), and we have now expanded the racehorse side. I am so lucky to be able to watch them every day on the gallops.
How big an equestrian event has the Barbury International become?
The first horse trials took place at Barbury in 2005 and we were fortunate enough to be one of the few events to be awarded top international status from year one. I think it helped having such a highly experienced management team, including our course designer Captain Mark Phillips, and also that the Estate had a proven track record as an equine event venue, most notably hosting the Marlborough Cup timber race (in the late 1990s) and Point to Points (from the mid 1980s).
I think it is true to say it is now the top summer international event, taking a key position in the sports calendar between Badminton in May, Gatcombe in August and Burghley in September. And Im really proud that we have been asked to host the final run for the British Eventing team prior to the Olympics.
We set out to run a top event that the riders would appreciate and that the public would want to see. We have the best viewing in the country and a stunning setting, so I wanted to invite the public to the estate to see great horses and riders and the beauty of the Marlborough Downs.
What else goes on, apart from the horses?
Fully aware that eventings appeal is in the main part a horsey one, we had been searching for some time for an additional attraction to widen the family appeal. So, when the Chairman of the NFU in Wiltshire invited us to revive the Wiltshire County Show last year, we jumped at the chance. It makes sense to combine with the Horse Trials to keep costs down after all we already have car parking, stewards, tentage and all the facilities to run an event, so all we needed was to beef up the numbers.
Not having been run for over 40 years, we didnt know what to expect, so we were really pleased with last years trial Show. In terms of crowds, it doubled our attendance from previous years and we had over 10,000 visitors over the week which showed the potential. If we could achieve that in our first year, we knew we were on to a winner. This year we have set out tomake the Show bigger and better. There are many more attractions, displays and shops so that we have had to expand to two days to fit it all in.
We do want the Wiltshire County Show to be an agricultural show first and foremost demonstrating the importance to the county of farming and food. But we also want to continue to show how proud the county is to have the Army based here. So, with that in mind, this years official event charity is ABF The Soldiers Charity, and we will be working with them to raise as much money as possible over the weekend. A packed 2011 programme will once again include the fantastic Army displays, the Light Cavalry Band and the Princess of Wales Parachute Team.
New for this years spectators will be a Flyball competition with 48 teams from around the country fighting it out for Barbury honours; over 100 shops and stands; and Taste of the West will bring over 30 local food exhibitors to show the best produce the region has to offer.
We have a Second World War Spitfire coming as part of a Battle of Britain exhibition, and a wonderful display of pre-war Riley cars. Also on show will be pedigree beef, sheep shearing and sheepdogs, birds of prey, a gundog display and the ever-popular Hunt scurry. And all sorts of events for everyone to participate in as well. My favourite new attraction will be the helicopter flights around the estate, which should be spectacular.
What impact do you think the current economic climate will have?
We are very fortunate that our title sponsor, St Jamess Place Wealth Management, are now in their fourth year with us, and we also have a very loyal group of associate sponsors, many of them local, who back us (see following pages).
The economic climate may work in our favour as more people are holidaying in Britain, and I believe by holding our prices, we are great value for money for a full days entertainment. Dont forget, a ticket buys you entrance to both the International Horse Trials and the County Show (15 per adult, children under-12 free, car parking free).
What are your future ambitions?
I believe the combination of top-quality eventing and a traditional county show in July (fingers crossed for the weather) will give something for everyone.
For 2012, all eyes will be on the London Olympics and Barbury will be a unique opportunity to see the worlds best horses and riders competing before Greenwich not to be missed.
We want to grow as a traditional farming show so we intend to bring in more showing classes and expand to include more livestock cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry and more rural crafts. This is a challenge but you should already see more of this in this years show.
We are only in year two, but already the show is getting bigger and better, and already we are selling out of shop space, so I can only see the show expanding. When you look at the size of some of the other county shows, then you can see the potential. Its a busy time here on the estate, but great fun.
The St Jamess Place Barbury International Horse Trials
Wiltshire County Show
Box Office opens on 4 April. Advance sale bookings 12 (15 on gate).