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Monday, September 07, 2009  •  10:48 BST

WE'VE MADE IT

We’ve made it! A great event; happy competitors, visitors and trade exhibitors – what more can we ask for? The weather was glorious yesterday and the few grandstand seats we had left soon sold. Sunday has never been my favourite day – after the buzz of the cross country when everyone is so fine-tuned and rehearsed and cross country control runs with military precision, Sunday seems to run slowly. Our Sunday Stewards, many ex Kings Troop, have everything in hand though.
Ollie Townend, having won the Land Rover Trophy, I am sure will be lining up his 4 star horses for Kentucky in the Spring to have a crack at the Rolex Grandslam. We couldn’t have wished for a more perfect ending. At the press conference he said he was still recovering from winning Badminton, but I am sure he will get over it! – Well done Ollie – I tipped you to be our winner earlier in the week, so all boxes ticked. Polly Stockton was ‘over the moon’ with her second place, but having achieved this accolade three times now, I think she more than deserves to be on the winner’s podium soon.
The highlight of the day for many was the Post Show Reception in the Land Rover Hospitality Chalet. Smiling faces all round and the popping of champagne corks. Thank you Land Rover for a WONDERFUL event!
Back to reality. I returned to the Secretary’s office to sadly see all the regular ‘girls’ saying goodbye to the ‘blond brigade’, – Rebecca, Helen, Susi, Sarah and Rachel . The blond brigade come back every year to make up the numbers at ‘front of house’. They are certainly not ‘blond’ in any way other than their looks – Rebecca and Helen could be identical twins and as I said a fond farewell to one of them I wondered which one it was – if you are reading this thank you all so much for your help and hope you will all be with us next year.
Inspector ‘Wilf’ Pickles came to say Goodbye – it was his first year at Burghley and I suspect he was a little wary of what he might be letting himself in for at the beginning of the week, but the girls have worked their charm on him and he is now a fully fledged Burghley member, he had a LITTLE drink with us (of water I am told) before leaving and I think is hopeful he will be back again next year – I do hope so.
William Hurrell, our amazing Operations Director/Radio Controller throughout the Event, then announced the words over the PA “The Showground will be shutting in 10 minutes time” and it was all over for another year.
I had made plans for the evening, but ended up falling asleep in front of the TV – the Antiques Roadshow, (no offence meant). I woke up with a cat on my lap – well at least someone’s pleased to see me home, but not sure where the other one is!
Business as usual this morning – a site tour of the caravan park at 7.30 am to discuss plans for a new lay-out next year. Returned to the stables, where it is mayhem - transporters fetching our Land Rovers, Stable Managers leaving, Chief MO auditing all our medical kit before it is locked up for the year – all very sad – everyone has done a great job. Guiseppe, our TD, has just called in to say ‘goodbye’ to everyone – we sent him on his way with little time to get to Heathrow, but he is Italian so I am sure he will make it!
I have just had a message to ring our press officer urgently, wonder what this is about, but what might have worried me at the beginning of the week now goes completely over my head - fairly relaxed by now. Just worrying about the many people I have not mentioned in the week of this blog who all help to make Burghley the great event it is, but there is always next year – 2nd – 5th September and I hope to see you all then!

Sunday, September 06, 2009  •  11:26 BST

Cross Country Day

Again, I started yesterday at the caravan site, but everyone seemed very happy. The caravan site steward wanted to plan a meeting for Monday morning to discuss next year's event before the pitch markers are removed. He suggested 5.30am; we agreed on 7am!
I had a quick drive round the cross-country course and found a leaking irrigation valve, which I phoned the clerk of the course about at 6.45am. The traffic was starting to come in soon after, and I knew it was going to be a good day when I got a call from the chief car park steward to say that the vehicles were nose to tail getting in.

The weather was glorious - perfect for horses - and we had a great competition. Mark Phillips' course achieved everything it set out to do, and the riders were happy this morning. It was certainly a true four-star test and five horses were clear inside the time, despite a general feeling that the time would be easy to get.

After the cross-country there was a lot of work to be done in the main arena, turning it from part of the track into the show jumping. Fleets and decorations had to be brought down from the course to decorate it, including a beautiful witch in a hut. Richard Jeffrey, who is building the show jumping course for the first time at Burghley, had to have it all up ready for inspection by the ground jury by 8am this morning,so there was a lot to be done in a short space of time.
Ring two had to be cleared, rolled and narrowed ready for Ponies (UK), who run classes in there all day today.
We also briefed the Sunday stewards in the main arena.
I was a bit concerned this morning to be told first thing by Yogi Breisner that the A1 was closed north of Stamford, so I went to the police caravan to see if they were aware... They soon were! Thankfully the road opened shortly afterwards.
Last day today - my tip, Oliver Townend, is in the lead. Will he still be there in a few hours' time?

Friday, September 04, 2009  •  18:13 BST

DAY TWO

Well, for once the caravan site wasn’t my first port of call this morning – they were all happy campers. It’s been gusty, but the sun shone, the ground had dried up from the bit of rain we had the night before, and people came flocking in.

I saw the first rider of the day, Daisy Dick, do her dressage test on Spring Along. Normally I get to see far fewer horses than anyone else at Burghley, but I also managed to see Zara Phillips’ test on Glenbuck as I was doing a radio interview at the time down there.

I didn’t get to see Ferdi Eilberg’s dressage masterclass, but I did see them warm up, which was lovely. And I did have to apologise to him because the security in the stable area was so good that they wouldn’t let his lorry in!

We held a breakfast this morning for the trade exhibitors, which I managed to pop into for five minutes before going down to Ring Two to brief the Burghley Dubarry Young Event Horse Final judges. I see Pippa Funnell finished first and second in the five-year-old class – no change there then!
I did a Look North interview and some internal filming for Land Rover, and I’ve just driven round the cross-country course checking that the fast food outlets are in the right place in relation to the emergency access routes and the camera positions. I talked to the mounted police, two from the Met and two from Merseyside, who bring the retired horses back from the cross-country course. Their horses are called Little Dave, Temple, Ecclestone and Frank B – and Ian Scott, who coordinates the mounted stewards, is riding Genie – so look out for them tomorrow.
Talking of the police, I also had a meeting with the Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire, Julie Spence, who was just checking on everything. She’s a great supporter of Burghley.

The dressage has finished and Oliver Townend is in the lead on Carousel Quest, which is great because he’s also leading the HSBC FEI Classics™. I keep being asked who will win, and I say either Oliver or William Fox-Pitt – if William won it would be his sixth win and third in a row, which would be a record.

Tonight is always a rush because we have to turn around both the main arena and Ring Two for tomorrow. The main arena becomes part of the cross-country track and Ring Two becomes the start and finish, so both have to be harrowed and rolled, the water facilities and ice machine go in Ring Two and the judges’ boxes are moved down there.
Our fence judges’ packs are being finalised with details of times and starters etc.

I’ll have my final check of the cross-country at about 6am tomorrow – fingers crossed for a great day’s competition.

Friday, September 04, 2009  •  12:01 BST

WE'RE OFF!

It rained last night, and my heart sunk — not another wet Land Rover Burghley. But since then it’s been sunny and windy, the ground is drying out well and the forecast is not too bad for the weekend. I arrived onsite at 6.30am this morning and soon found myself down in the caravan park once again, putting some tracking down because of the rain, but it certainly hasn’t stopped the public coming in today and we’ve got a good crowd. The tradestands look full and people are heaving around armfuls of shopping bags.
There are always teething problems on first morning of the event — it takes until the first coffee break mid-morning before you can relax. Two minutes before the dressage started the power went down in the main arena so there was no commentary — but our brilliant electricians managed to get it going with 30sec to go before Sharon Hunt rode our guinea pig test on her Olympic horse Tankers Town!
It’s windy and Simon Lawrence’s hat blew off at the beginning of his test, but he continued unperturbed — you can tell he’s a hunting man (he is a master of the Heythrop).
I had lunch with HSBC, who are one of our sponsors, and it was great to be told by someone who had never been involved with an equestrian event in any way that they would never miss Burghley again and what a terrific occasion it was. It definitely makes all the hard work worthwhile.
The Pony Club branches are jumping away in Ring Two and look very happy — the Burghley Dubarry Young Event Horse final is in there tomorrow.
It’s the cocktail party followed by the Event Riders’ Association dinner tonight. I always have late nights and early mornings during the event, so I stay with the officials in the George in Stamford instead of going home every night. Last night I went to the competitors’ barbecue along with former judge Jean Mitchell, one of our shadow judges Vanda and our assistant technical delegate Alec Lochore. The riders all seemed in good form — the riders’ meeting had passed without incident — and buzzing with excitement.
Francis Whittington and Karin Donckers are our rider repos this weekend, and I’m sure they will both do a good job.
It’s great that we are properly underway now, but it all passes in a flash from now on. Before we know it Sunday night will be here and the planning will start for another year!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009  •  18:07 BST

READY FOR THE TROT-UP

We had a damp, cold start to the day, which commenced with a visit to the Golf Club. There were a few teething problems which we could have done without — loos and showers again — but everyone is working hard to sort the problem, including the plumbers who had a wake up call at 6am, so it’s going to be a long day for them as there is still much to do before the start of the event tomorrow. Yesterday I half-thought I could be converted to stay in the caravan site sometime — the sun was out, picnic tables laid, and dogs stretched out fast asleep. I changed my mind this morning when I saw everyone bleary-eyed in their pyjamas and Wellingtons tramping towards the showers.
I then drove round some of the hack route to check the signage — we keep talking about things on paper which, when put into practice, can look quite different. I met a couple of competitors en route and was able to talk to the stable managers about the unlocking of the various gates along the route —they seemed suitably impressed.
We have just completed the competitors’ briefing, which is held in the stables canteen. It went well, but the PA system went down — I must get this checked out for later in the week.
I had an opportunity to talk to Annette Grundy, our catering manager. We couldn’t do without her and I never seem to have the time to thank her adequately — it’s always the same with those that do a good job and just get on with it. I seek solace in the old adage quoted by the former Badminton director Frank Weldon: “Those that mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind”. How helpful this advice has proved to be over the years!
But Annette did say that she was happy — for the first time in 10 years she has managed to get a double socket in the main arena tent to brew tea for the officials after the trot-up!
We’ve been finalising the arrangements for some celebrity visitors over the weekend. Katie Price is coming on Sunday, Sir Ranulph Fiennes is here on Friday as a Land Rover ambassador, and BBC Countryfile presenter Matt Baker will be here with Chris Biggins to support the Mark Davies Injured Riders Fund.
I’m just off to do a radio interview and my immediate problem is that I do not have a vehicle to get to the press centre. Merv, our vehicle coordinator, has taken my loaned Range Rover for a valet and fuel refill as I stupidly told him I would not want it for a while. I will have to hitch a lift with Michael Gibson, our chief veterinary coordinator, who wants to go to the top showground anyway to check the main arena before the horse inspection this afternoon.
Michael practises nearby and is highly respected in the equestrian world. He is a great supporter of Burghley Horse Trials, visiting regularly throughout the year.
I have just arrived back from the trot-up strip in the main ring, which is now sanded and ready for the inspection. Goresbridge Horse Sales are sponsoring the “best turned out rider” this afternoon and their boards are all in place.
Jacqui Mason our chief scorer has just produced the times for the trot-up, which Guiseppe della Chiesa, our technical delegate, is about to check, so we are ready for the off and — not wishing to speak too soon — the sun is out!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009  •  19:15 BST

Under Starter's Orders

Everything is in full swing here now. We still have 87 horses left in the competition. The French arrived over the weekend, but now the others are trickling in. All the flags have been put up and it has a real international feel — we have 10 nations represented.
Bert Flatters has just called in bearing “gifts for the girls”. Bert coordinates our farriers, and his involvement with Burghley goes back a long way — he used to look after the horses belonging to Hilly Grose, who was the wife of Burghley’s first director, Brigadier James Grose, and also my pony when I was in the Burghley branch of the Pony Club — that was a few years ago! He is one of life’s extra special people.
My present equines are enjoying a long summer break, but will be coming up soon after Burghley in readiness for the point-to-point season, which is something I always look forward to, but must put to one side right now. And everyone is asking where Buster is. Buster is my Labrador, who normally goes everywhere with me. He is one of those “happy to be with anyone that feeds me” characters, so sadly before the event starts, when I can’t keep an eye on him, he goes to stay with friends for his summer holiday.
I’ve been up to the caravan site again, where the estate gamekeeper was talking to Bob Lamb our steward, letting us know he had some pheasants out and to be sure to make sure everyone knows to keep their dogs on leads. He is always so cheerful so helpful and supportive of the event and we don’t want to upset him.
All our main officials are arriving. David Lee from Ireland, who is president of the ground jury, turned up this morning and couldn’t believe the lovely weather we are having — it’s been terrible in Ireland. We also have a full Scottish contingent: Fiona Muirhead our FEI steward, and Alec Lochore, having just organised a very wet Blair Castle horse trials.
A group of us went to the George in Stamford last night — the course designer, the technical delegate, the clerk of the course, Alec Lochore, Tim Henson and Stephen Casey.
Tim is organiser of Gatcombe and comes to Burghley as our site steward He joins up with Chris Barnett, Michael Woodhouse, Stephen Casey, Alan Scott and David Plume. They are a force to be reckoned with — I wouldn’t do it for love nor money — but they tell me it’s their annual holiday. It’s good to be surrounded by people who never say “no”, “why?” or “can’t”. As Tim says we are here to help everyone come what may. No one could ask for better than that.
Alan, whose “day job” is being clerk of works for the Burghley estate, has just found our signage for the Ring 2 lorry park — it had gone missing so I’m quite relieved. It was in the back of a stable — I wonder what else is in the back of a stable.
All our road signs are now up. We have nearly 1000 signs that are erected internally and externally and Philip Ling, who is the agent at Burghley and who looks after our traffic arrangements, will be off shortly to check them all out — I hope we will see him again!
All our electric generators are now in. Thankfully the weather has remained dry as we have 25 of them and they are heavy bits of kit to locate if the ground is wet — 25 megawatts of power, they tell me. Enough to power a small town.
Must fly now. I nearly decided to take up the kind offer that everyone made at the hotel last night to take a turn at writing this blog for me. It might have been interesting for the readers, but knowing the characters involved I think I would have been certain to regret it!

Monday, August 31, 2009  •  17:02 BST

The Director's Blog

Monday 31 August

Bill gives us the thumbs up

We had a full house for the fence judges’ briefing yesterday, and all ran to plan. Quite impressively one of them announced she would be leaving pronto as she was judging at Winkburn later in the day. Full marks: Burghley briefing, judging at Winkburn and then the real McCoy next week — that’s enthusiasm!
Our judges come mainly from local hunts and we run several informal group training evenings throughout the year, so there is now a real feeling of cameraderie.
Edith Wesley, who coordinates the Red Cross, joined us with some of her key players so they could have a recce of the cross-country course and emergency access routes. I sent her off with William Cross, our chief cross-country steward and Burghley committee member. He asked if they needed a vehicle and he looked shocked when he was told they would go round in the ambulance. He said he had never had a ride in an ambulance and asked if they had a drip ready — at this stage I left them to it!
The medical arrangements at Burghley are co-ordinated by my brother, and they held their annual training day yesterday. This commenced in the members’ enclosure with formal lectures before going out on to the course. They take this very seriously. I wandered over at midday to pick up the remains of their sandwiches to take to the stable managers (waste not want not) and one of our caterers, who had arrived early to set up, told me: “It looks like several of them are having a siesta.”
I realised that he had mistaken several life-sized mannequins lying prostrate on the floor, simulating various trauma scenarios, for recumbent medics…
Down at the stables I greeted Harry, our caravan steward. We still have 90 entries left in and are short of caravans for the grooms, so Harry was seeing if he could source some more. The stable managers were appreciative of their lunch, but hardly had time to eat it; so much to do, measuring out practice arenas, apportioning shavings to stables, laying out the competitors’ car park and then putting up the signs for the exercise route.
Bill Henson, the previous director of Burghley, for whom I worked for many years before becoming director myself, came over today for our annual health check. I “persuaded” him last week to measure out the main dressage arena. When he was director, he always used to mark out ALL the dressage arenas, so I told him it would be no hardship. He responded that I should be doing it — I never could get one over him!
He’s forgotten more about Burghley than anyone else will ever know so we were all pleased to welcome him for a drink after the briefing, particularly when he gave us the all clear AND had been on site at 9am marking out the arena.
Lindsey, the ever-ebullient member of my office team, had little knowledge of equestrianism before she joined us and I don’t think will ever be a convert, but her enthusiasm is infectious. She is very involved in looking after our many sponsors and also coordinates much of our marketing activity with our press officer, Bridget Jennings. She has just sent me an email reminding me that I was to ask Burghley Estate to cut the grass in the Pedigree Fun Dog Agility Ring.
I wonder what “normal” people are doing over Bank Holiday weekend and then quickly decide that there is no such thing as “normal”.
I must also remember to thank Pedigree for all the “goodies” they had sent us for our competitor packs; Cesar dog food, Dolmio sauces, Uncle Ben’s rice and much more. When Guiseppe della Chiesa, our technical delegate from Italy, last visited, I think he wondered what we were doing with all the dog food stacked up in the corner.
As I prepare to leave for home CTM, our traffic management contractors, are measuring out the car parks. They too are being pulled from pillar to post and are looking after the traffic arrangements for the Leeds Festival this weekend. My nephew Tim and his girlfriend are there tonight, so no doubt I will hear all after Burghley has calmed down — life does go on and I tell myself that in a week’s time it will all be over. So much can happen in the meantime, though.

Thursday, August 27, 2009  •  19:10 BST

The lull before the storm

Two days on and now one day rolls into another. I made a quick dash down to the European dressage and show jumping championships at Windsor yesterday for a UK Sport evening. Unfortunately I had to re-route half way there as there was a “gas leak” in the vicinity of the M25 at Windsor — a two-hour trip took more than three and a half hours. Poor Windsor, but equally it could be something similar affecting Burghley next week. Let’s hope not!
It’s always dangerous to think everything’s going to plan, but today everything does seem surprisingly calm — no doubt the lull before the storm. Even the BT openreach engineers seem upbeat. The press broadband lines are in place and arrangements for the 40 or so other temporary lines are progressing well.
Communications are vital during the event and always a concern on a temporary show site. Thankfully, communication between officials is mainly by radio — for Saturday alone we have more than 200 radios, which run on 14 frequencies.

Mr Fix-it
An essential part of Burghley is our very own “Mr Fix-it”, who wishes to remain anonymous. A real trouble-shooter, there is nothing he cannot turn his hand to — the bigger the problem the better.
As well has providing our results software, overseeing the transfer of computer equipment from the permanent offices to the temporary site, he has just come into the office with a beaming smile on his face saying that he has purchased a submersible pump to pump out the water from all our underground ducts. I listened with apparent interest as to how it worked, but am really not too fussed!
The roof for the East Grandstand was craned into place earlier today — not practising what I preach, I manoeuvred around the internal road closures that we put into place while this was happening to see Danny from Henson Franklin in the main arena. He was placing all the sponsor boards and I needed to ensure they were all in the right place for the television cameras.
Mike Cran from Rolex is calling into the office tomorrow and I would like to be able to show him where his banners are going to be placed. Rolex are longstanding supporters of Burghley and indeed many other equestrian events. The Rolex Grand Slam has proved an amazing boost for the sport, particularly after Pippa Funnell won it in 2003.
No doubt Ollie Townend, having won Badminton this year, will be giving Burghley his all. If he takes home the Land Rover Trophy and our £50,000 first prize he will be in with a real chance to achieve a Grand Slam win at Kentucky in the spring. Ollie is presently lying at the top of the HSBC FEI Classics rankings and, with only two more competitions to run, the series is another reason to take Burghley very seriously.
The main arena has just been aerovated and feels very springy underfoot. Peter from the forestry department is busy strimming the grass around the trot-up strip, so I can forget this area for the time being. It has reminded me though that I must get the trot-up strip in our second ring mown for the Burghley Dubarry Young Event Horse Finals.

Time to shop? I wish!
Several of the tradestands are setting up now and earlier today I stopped at the Avoca Stand to admire Terry’s dog; a bull terrier x Jack Russell. Avoca have been with us since the very first Burghley 49 years ago.
Our trade exhibitors are such an important element of Burghley and I really do hope they have a good year — it’s been difficult for many of them and a successful week at Burghley would not go amiss.
Philip Herbert and his team are busy attending to the irrigation equipment on the cross-country, the gallop stretch and the dressage arenas. At the same time the finishing touches to the cross-country have to be put in place. Nick from Hanging Gardens has been over to discuss what flowers and plants are required on the fences, and the Christmas trees to go around the course and trade area are due to arrive shortly.
Just the mention of Christmas presently fills me with dread. To think some people are organised enough to do their Christmas shopping at Burghley — certainly not me!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009  •  16:09 BST

The vital first post

WE’VE now had our local press day, which a success all round and well attended. Fortunately the weather was fine — I am not superstitious, but over a number of years I think I recognise a correlation between the weather on press day and what it’s going to be like over the four days of the event! If it rains on press day (as it did last year), we could be in for a wet week.
On the course tour I was in the lead vehicle driven by our course designer Mark Phillips, with Anthony Bradbury, marketing director of our sponsors Land Rover UK, and our president, Miranda Rock. As we drove around the course it was becoming overcast and Mark asked if it would make me feel happier if he “quickened the pace”. The press were following in 12 Range Rovers so we weighed up the possible consequences and decided to maintain a more sedate speed. The first — and only — spot of rain arrived just as we finished, so fingers crossed that this is a good omen!

All systems go
On Saturday I dropped in to the office, hoping everyone had taken some time off to recharge their batteries before the week of the event. Needless to say, the admin team were almost fully functional and beavering away.
The temporary stables in the fields outside the office had been unloaded and were lying on the ground, and when I arrived this morning all 100 of them were up — obviously the contractors had also been working hard over the weekend.
All the social arrangements are now being finalised. Julie, my secretary, turns into a social secretary par extraordinaire at this time of year — quite a task to sort who is sitting next to who when we are still awaiting several responses. We seem to have been sending out passes since early May, but still find there are some to do. With Bank Holiday next Monday, everything must be finalised by the middle of this week.
Our president Miranda Rock is calling in for coffee today, for a chat and general update of what’s happening when and where. We seem to have arranged more arena presentations and displays than ever this year and it will require careful co-ordination.
Our television producer has just phoned from the airport –—he is off to Poland and his flight has been delayed so he thought he would just have a quick “catch up” — no such thing as a “quick” catch up when it comes to television issues. His attention to detail knows no bounds — he was even on the phone on Saturday evening at 10.30pm discussing some last-minute queries regarding televised sponsor boards on the cross-country track.

Water torture
THERE is always something relatively minor that seems to take up an un-necessary amount of time. For several years it has been the allocation of the crowd barriers. We order more than 400 and they are all apportioned to a specific place. It is one of those niggling things and I have pored over the schedule of where they are all to go for hours — a complete waste of time as the site team make up their own mind anyway, but it’s one of those rituals that takes place every year.
Jacqueline, who looks after the accounts, tradestands, box office and much more besides, moved up yesterday to the temporary offices we have on the showground. At close of play she called into the permanent offices and notified me that all was going to plan… namely our site manager went home with the keys for the temporary office and had to return all the way from Nottingham, nearly 40 miles away.
In the event this was just as well, because in the meantime our tentage contractor had driven a metal stay into the mains water pipe. If no one had been around, there would have been no question of us needing to irrigate the main arena this year! The entire site team were on the case: Philip Herbert, our clerk of the course, Michael and Chris our site stewards and, most importantly, our plumbers.
But of course by the Sunday night of the event this will all seem very trivial…

Wednesday, August 19, 2009  •  16:10 BST

Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials director Elizabeth Inman will be blogging in the lead-up to and over the 2009 event

IT’S been a hectic year. Torrential rain over the week of the 2008 event left us with plenty to do last winter repairing the damage to the ground, and there seems to have been little let up since then. Now the park is resembling its old self and nearly looks ready to welcome our 140,000 or so guests over the four days of Burghley — which is only three weeks away.

The administration team in the office has also been busy. Before Christmas all the loose ends from the 2008 event were tidied up and the year-end accounts produced, then a short break over Christmas before work began in earnest in the new year. I cannot believe how quickly eight months has passed and now there are not enough hours in the day.
A fortnight ago I asked the gamekeeper to move the deer out of the main showground area to allow our contractors to move in, and this always registers with everyone that the event is imminent.

The vital first post.

MICHAEL Woodhouse, our longstanding site steward, has been coming over fairly regularly for the last couple of months to mark out the site. Old habits die hard — he always starts with what I call the admin line: the secretaries and box office, working down to the press and hospitality areas. After several years I now know how he works out where the first post should be knocked in — this is vital. He has a homemade contraption that lines up with the second spire of Burghley House, three strides in from the roadside, and hey presto we’ve started — as simple as that until you come to do it yourself!

Last week the estate roped off and signed our alternative pedestrian route. We do this every year to encourage visitors to the park to skirt round what is fast resembling a building site. I always call into the park first thing on my way to the office, usually at around 7am. Today, even at this time it was really busy, with three huge articulated lorries of grandstand equipment parked up waiting for the forklifts to arrive and offload everything. I did not stay too long as I got the distinct impression from the experts that I was “in the way” — not surprising as Michael was positioning one of the press cabins that had just arrived and which was swinging precariously from a crane. They had more than enough to do without talking to me and as I drove out of the Park a load of loos and showers were just pulling in.

Caravans, jumping plans and passes.

BACK at the office there is definitely a sense of urgency. It happens every year, however hard you try to get ahead there is always so much that cannot be done until the last few weeks. That’s a fact of life when running major events, but we all keep smiling!

Anne is busy multitasking as usual, sending out passes to the competitors, answering the phone, sorting Red Cross requirements and, when I last saw her, trying to get a plan of the jumping course to send to our television producer. Katherine, who has drawn the short straw as she is in the office next door to me and therefore at my beck and call, is likewise juggling everything. From the odd snippets I can hear I think her main tasks today seem to be finalising insurance details for 30 or so Land Rovers that are due to arrive shortly.

I have a site meeting at the Golf Club later today to discuss the relocation of one of the caravan blocks. This followed severe damage to the ground after last year’s event and we have now had to find a new space for over 150 caravans because the damaged ground has not yet recovered. I think the caravanners will love where we have put them, but we have to finalise the arrangements for water, showers and loos. The plumbers have assured me it will work, but we’ll feel better for a site meeting with Bob Lamb, our caravan steward.

Like everyone else we’ve had a fair bit of rain lately, which has done wonders for the areas which we had to re-turf or re-seed last year. But today the sun is out and it’s hard to remember just how bad it was last year.

Click here for this years blog.