Belton International Horse Trials

A leaping horse in front of Belton House

After a valued partnership of 15 years with Bede Events, we can confirm that the International Horse Trials will no longer be hosted at Belton House. The growth in scale of the event is unfortunately now at odds with the conservation management of the Grade 1 listed parkland we care for; preventing risks to the historic earthworks and buried archaeology through compaction and erosion, to the parkland wildlife, and to veteran trees and their root systems.

We recognise the significance of the Horse Trials and their place in Belton’s recent history and have therefore not come to this decision lightly. The core purpose of the National Trust is to protect this historic place for future generations, and we must honour that commitment.

How long has the Horse Trials been held in Belton Park?

The Belton Horse Trials started in the late 1970s as an event hosted and organised by the Brownlow family, the historic family at Belton House. The National Trust was later gifted Belton House by the Brownlow family in 1983. Bede Events has been the main organiser for the event since 2004, and the size and scale of the Belton Horse Trials have grown significantly over this time. 

Why has the decision been made to cancel the Horse Trials at Belton?

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. As a result of this, a decision has been made to no longer host the Horse Trials at Belton House after the March 2019 event.  

Why has the National Trust allowed the Horse Trials to continue over so many years if it’s having a detrimental effect on the parkland? 

We recognise the significance of the Horse Trials and their place in Belton’s recent history and have therefore not come to this decision lightly. The size and scale of the Horse Trials have grown significantly over the last few years, and due to the cumulative impact, this has had on the historic parkland it was now the time to make the decision as to its future at Belton House.

Do Bede Events have a fixed term licence to hold the event at Belton?

Bede Events has a five-year licence agreement to hold the event at Belton.  However, the agreement gives either party the ability to terminate during the fixed term period, subject to certain notice conditions. The National Trust has taken a decision to terminate the agreement due to the cumulative impact the growth of the event has had on the Grade 1 listed parkland. 

What are the impacts on nature conservation and parkland wildlife?

Belton’s historic wood pasture parkland is a UK priority habitat and one of the rarest habitats in Europe. Any large scale events have an adverse impact on the quality of this special interest landscape. 

Horse’s hooves and large, heavy vehicles cause significant soil compaction across areas of the parkland, impacting earthworms and other soil loving creatures. Earthworms play a vital role as ‘aerators’ of soil and recyclers of organic matter, while also providing food for other animals. Without them, soil can become waterlogged and stripped of essential nutrients.

Soil compaction around tree roots, caused by heavy vehicles, also reduces the trees’ resilience and life expectancy. This continued compaction can cause irreversible damage to both young and old trees. Where trees are showing signs of stress, we have to undertake surgery to fell or remove dangerous branches. This, in turn, impacts important invertebrates and fungi that these trees support.

The deer herd form a central part of the historic parkland.  An event of this particular type, including a large amount of temporary infrastructure and non-stock friendly fencing and barriers, has proven to have an impact on the health of the herd.

What are the impacts on archaeology at Belton?

The Grade 1 listed Parkland at Belton encompasses many significant archaeological features including historic ridge and furrow earthworks. The scale of the Horse Trials event is having a cumulative impact on these sensitive areas through compaction and erosion of soil, which is gradually diminishing the form of these earthworks. 

We have also recently discovered buried archaeology from the former gardens at Belton, which overlaps the area used for the Horse Trials marquees and fencing. This event infrastructure will, over time, damage the buried archaeology of these former gardens. 

Why can’t the Horse Trials be held in a different part of the Belton estate?

We have reviewed other areas of Belton Park to see whether the event can be moved to a less sensitive area. However, all parts of the park which could logistically host the event form part of the registered park and have conservation and archaeological interest. Therefore moving the event will only move the above concerns to another area.

Will the Horse Trials be kept in the local Grantham area?

Bede Events Ltd, the organisers of the event, may look for an alternative location to host the Horse Trials in the area.  For further information, please contact Bede Events Ltd on 01949 829061 or info@bedeltd.co.uk 

Does the National Trust’s use of the parkland as additional car parking on busy days also cause compaction as mentioned above? If so, why is this being allowed?

The National Trust does use part of the park for parking on busy days.  However, we take steps to keep this to a minimum and away from high-value conservation interest, such as our veteran trees. The types of vehicles being parked are significantly smaller and lighter than horse boxes and event vehicles, and they remain close to the existing car park, rather than being driven or parked out in the broader parkland. Our ‘in-house’ vehicles have tyres fitted which help to reduce the impact on the parkland.

Will the Grantham Cup 10k trail race continue?

We hope to work with the Grantham Running Club over the coming months to see if we can continue to host the annual 10k trail race at Belton, taking into account the racing calendar of events and the sensitive areas of the parkland. We will be able to confirm the future of this race once these discussions have taken place.