Idyllic setting for major event

World class-riders are once more flocking to Norfolk today for the start of a new equestrian event in the ground's of one of the county's most majestic estates.

World class-riders are once more flocking to Norfolk today for the start of a new equestrian event in the ground's of one of the county's most majestic estates.

Houghton International is the creation of Alec Lochore, the man behind the successful Easco Burnham Market World Cup Horse Trials, which has earned Norfolk a place on the international equestrian map. The Queen's granddaughter, and European and world champion, Zara Phillips competed at Easter, along with a whole host of other famous faces from the eventing world.

This time the Marquess of Cholmondeley has opened up the grounds of his beautiful 18th century home for a four-day event over the bank holiday weekend where families can watch about 400 horses, including 200 international horses, competing on a new cross-country course around Houghton Hall and the stunning deer park, as well as taking part in show-jumping and dressage.

Norfolk rider Piggy French, from Dereham, will be at Houghton along with the world number two in eventing, Britain's William Fox-Pitt. Other international sportsmen and women attending will be four-time British Champion Mary King, Australian Olympic rider Brook Staples, Irish Olympic rider Mark Kyle and Sweden's Dag Albert.

Mr Lochore's long-term vision for Houghton International, which is sponsored by the EDP, is to make it a major social, cultural and sporting event over the next few years, offering four days of world-class equestrian competition and fun for all the family. He said: “It is great for Norfolk that we now have two top class international events. We have many of the world's leading riders here again and it is great we are bringing top quality sport into the region, especially in the build-up to the London Olympics.

“We are really lucky to have access to such a lovely park. It is a beautiful place for people to watch the horses, walk in stunning parkland, have picnics in the sunshine, and enjoy the many other activities that are happening at Houghton International.”

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The Marquess of Cholmondeley said: “I am very excited about this wonderful new international event taking place at Houghton Hall. It is the first time we have hosted anything on this scale and I am sure it will be a very popular event. After the recent rain the park looks magnificent and I am sure all our visitors will enjoy themselves immensely.”

Other activities at Houghton International include falconry displays, terrier racing, the Robinsons Mercedes-Benz driving challenge, the EDP Norfolk Magazine Lifestyle Fair and various trade stands.

Families will also be able to explore parts of Houghton Hall and its gardens today and Sunday, although this is not included in the ticket price for Houghton International.

Some of the event's sponsors are Easco, Connolly's Red Mills, Howes Percival, North Astor Group, Robinson Mercedes-Benz, Smith and Williamson, and Waitrose in Swaffham.

Today and tomorrow is dressage, while cross country is on Saturday and showjumping is on Sunday. Gates open at 9am each day.

Today and tomorrow tickets cost £3 for adults and children are free. On Saturday and Sunday adult tickets cost £6 and child tickets cost £3. There is also a family ticket available for £18 on Saturday and Sunday. Parking is free and dogs on leads are welcome. For more information call 08707 879985 or visit