I am always intrigued by a new equestrian centre opening up so when Mendip Plains advertised on Facebook that it was open I was very keen to pop along and have a look at all the facilities on offer.
Mendip Plains is the brain child of the Green family and is located on top of the Mendip Hills in the village of Ston Easton. The centre is being run by Hannah Green who describes the family as a farming family who hunt and have been involved in the local equestrian scene. Mendip Plains is located on an arable and dairy farm which is around 1300 acres. Getting Mendip Plains off the ground has not been an easy process and all in all it has taken five years to get planning permission for the 50 x 90 outdoor arena, showjumping field and the cross country course.
The cross country has been built from scratch and was designed by Eric Winter and constructed by the Willis Brothers. It has a wide range of fences from 80cm – 1m with island water complex, sunken road, mounds and ditches. I particularly like that all the skinny fences are flagged and the corners have flags lying on top for riders to use if they wish. It makes cross country schooling a far better experience having flags especially on a greener horse who you are teaching to understand cross country and learning to go between the flags. Hannah said when in the initial development she wanted to hire the best to do the cross country ‘as it has to be done properly’.
Building a cross country from scratch is not a cheap endeavour and estimates are that it has cost in the region of £50,000. In a stroke of luck Mendip Plains was able to buy a large proportion of its fences from the defunct Longleat Three Day Event which only ran for one year at a massive loss. It took two days to pick up all the fences using tractors and trailers going backwards and forwards to the Longleat estate. The cross country build started in August 2013 with the groundworks for the mounds, sunken road and water complex being put in. Many of the plans with the cross country were hampered by the incredibly wet winter so it seemed to take a long time to get all the basics in place before it all suddenly took shape. The arena itself was started in April 2014.
The cross country is on mature farmland and had great grass cover. I was advised that because of the type of soil it can keep good going even in the summer. The long term plan is to extend the cross country over a further field if needed and to set up a baby schooling field for those riders on baby horses or who want to build their confidence.
Plans for the future are to start slowly with unaffiliated with the hope to build up to affiliated competition. There is planning permission for a second arena but at the moment they are looking to get started with competitions and get the show on the road before looking at putting the next stage in. As well as running competitions they are looking to hire out the facilities for clinics, Pony Club and Riding Club. There are two sets of showjumps and a showjumping course located on a flat grass arena which is ideal for eventers who want to practice a course on grass.
In the initial stages Hannah inquired about holding BE at this location and was told that there were too many in the area! The village of Ston Easton is no stranger to top class horse trials and I remember watching Blyth Tait on Ready Teddy many years ago though this was at a different location to the newly opened Mendip Plains.
Mendip Plains has acquired a large double decker bus to act as a judges box and PA and will be painted up in the future from its current bus company livery. Hannah fully expects there to be teething issues as there is with any new venture but is enthusiastic to keep improving things and offer an amazing experience for riders. As Hannah says ‘ It has got to do what people want and I hope people will come and give feedback so we can keep improving.’
Mendip Plains is now open and well worth a trip!