Eight wonders of 2016
Have you been to see us yet in our stunning new equestrian centre? And if not, why not? Come and see what everyone is talking about!
Our regular riders are enjoying state of the art facilities and ranch-style comfort and new clients are here every week to savour a taste of ‘Apres Horse’. We are also attracting lots of non-riding visitors who are calling in to take a look.
It’s now a few weeks since the visitors’ centre was opened and we are happily settled in. Our bistro is buzzing at weekends as our riders enjoy tasty food and drinks after an invigorating trek on the Chase, and there is a lovely cosy feel now that the log burner is blazing on chilly autumn days.
As you all know, I have been planning this for such a long time and it is everything I hoped it would be.
Sometimes equestrian centres can feel a little bit cold and offhand, but our treks now feel like friends going out for a ride on my horses and coming back to my place for a coffee.
And from a health and safety aspect, we are now in a much better place. The check-in area is well designed and efficient, riders can gather without feeling they are getting in the way and we have lovely bathroom and hand-washing facilities.
The horses are close and in full view but there is no danger of people accidentally straying among them.
Now we are busy planning lots of new activities. Our function room is already booked for an FPOS first-responder training course and is available for meetings, conferences and children’s birthday parties.
The indoor arena is open three days a week for lessons and children’s pony club. Quite a lot of clients are combining lessons with treks. And I’m thinking of organising a ‘pony club’ for adults too. That could be a lot of fun with a tasty supper in the lodge afterwards!
Another of my ideas is to trek very early on summer mornings. We can ride out over the Chase to spot the wildlife in the quiet and beauty of the dawn and then return for a well-earned breakfast.
Or how about an evening barbecue ride? That could be great for people who work full time. They could come straight to us and enjoy a ride before a lovely meal.
We have so much to look forward to as we head towards 2017. Come and enjoy it with us.
A Taste of Après-Horse at Cannock Chase Trekking Centre
When I gave up modelling for a career with horses, I dreamed of establishing an equestrian centre that would bring visitors flocking to my beloved Cannock Chase, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Since establishing Cannock Chase Trekking Centre, we receive around 17,000 visitors per year, all enjoying the beauty of the Staffordshire countryside on horseback.
Now, 21 years later, I have taken my dream to the next level with the opening of a unique architect-designed cedar lodge offering a touch of ‘après horse’ for all visitors to the Centre.
The lodge, which includes a ranch-style bistro and coffee shop with seating for 70 and meeting / conference room facilities, is part of the first phase of a major redevelopment of the horse trekking centre.
It was always my vision to make horse riding accessible and enjoyable for all and to provide a unique experience, and now that ambition is coming true and it’s very exciting. This has been years in planning and I can hardly believe that I am there!
The visitor centre is absolutely stunning. I always had a clear picture of what I wanted it to look like, but the real thing exceeds that vision. As far as I know there is nowhere like it in the country. Maybe I’m biased but it really has the wow factor and this has been confirmed by the feedback from the many visitors already enjoying it.
It has a beautiful coffee shop area with floor-to-ceiling glass offering panoramic views out to the Chase. The lovely outdoor seating area mirrors those views and our visitors are able to see the horses coming and going on the treks. We have installed a log burner so it is all cosy on cold winter days.
I have incorporated into the design a conference area and that is already attracting a lot of interest from organisations looking to use it for sales conferences and corporate team building events. We are also looking to offer a unique twist on fitness with exercise classes on horseback.
The ability to offer a variety of coffees sourced locally and provide a tasty and interesting menu means that visitors have a really pleasant experience. And, of course, all our riders have been really looking forward to ending their treks with a hot coffee and a piece of delicious home-made cake!
A huge indoor arena has also been built to facilitate – for the first time since the trekking centre was established in 1995 – riding lessons for all ages and abilities and a BHS registered instructor is already at work and proving very popular.
Phase two of the development will include an American-style barn with stabling for 46 horses complete with laundry facilities.
Of course, the core of the trekking centre will always be our rides across Cannock Chase, but this development means that we can offer a whole new experience to our visitors and enjoy a shared passion for horses.
Becoming a reality
The whole construction project has become reality now! We’re coming ever nearer to the time when we will actually be riding in the indoor arena or sipping coffee and eating cake in the visitors’ centre. The pace of construction really stepped up after week seven when we started to see the shape of the windows and doorways.
It was a milestone week when areas of the exterior block work were finished up to roof level and the builders moved inside. It wasn’t long before the roof trusses were delivered, soon followed by the steel and in the weeks that followed work was progressing nicely and the visitors’ centre grew and grew.
The last of the trusses have now been fitted and hopefully in the next week work will start on the roof itself.
The next exciting stage of the construction project will be when the windows go in and the external cedar wood panelling is fitted.
My interior designer friend has been to visit. Her vision for the building is the same as mine and we had a good look at things, like how the reception area will be designed and working out what is going to be in the kitchen.
I’m not going to tell you much about the interior yet – I will save that for later blogs – but I will say that I have chosen the log burner. I hope you are all going to be looking forward to the variety of food and drink on offer whatever the weather, hot chocolate in front of the fire after a cold winter trek on the Chase, or in the summer enjoy cooling off on our terrace
Meanwhile, over at the arena, work has been progressing rapidly! The gable end panelling has been completed and the side panels have gone on and are being painted to match the rest of the building. I am happy that I decided to go with a covered arena rather than an indoor, we have beautiful views and it is a shame to block it all out! Just imagine having a schooling session with views of Cannock Chase.
Things keep getting more exciting by the day, I am really looking forward to the next stages of the project!
What a surprise I had when I returned home from a few days away to discover we now had the complete framework of an indoor arena, the first building that will be complete for our new equestrian centre! I just can’t believe how quickly it went up – there was nothing there when I left.
Progress on the whole site has followed the same theme; the contractors are making steady and excellent progress with every day that passes. I am sure all you riders notice a difference every time you visit. Here’s how the new equestrian centre project has moved on during weeks four, five & six:
The blockwork started on the visitors’ centre and quickly grew up to floor level. The sub base was laid and we could now clearly see how the layout will look when the building is complete. It also gave us a good impression of the surrounding outside area, which visitors will be able to enjoy too. The septic tank was also installed and the team started laying the drainage around the visitors’ centre.
This was the week when the magic happened! The crane arrived to lift the arena’s steel supports into place.
We were told it would fly up once the work started, and the builders were right about that! From start to finish the whole process took just three days and there it was, perfectly timed for my return home. It’s all ready for the cladding and the roof to go on in two weeks’ time.
There was more progress too on the visitors’ centre, with the concrete cast for the floor. And outside the car park area started to take shape with the ground levelled off.
No big dramas this week, just nice steady progress.
The crew finished all the drainage around the visitors’ centre and then continued with the block work so that the walls are continuing to grow. Then it was on to painting the steel framework in the arena, so the primer and a couple of protective coats went on.
We can’t wait to see what changes weeks seven and eight will bring.
I keep saying how delighted I am with the way our lovely horses take everything in their stride, but they have really been exceptional lately. They were not worried in the slightest by the sight of the crane swinging the steel beams into place for the arena. Some of them were, in fact, setting off for a ride while the work was at its busiest, and were totally chilled out about the whole thing. And later we caught sight of a group of them peeping over the fence to have a look at it. Perhaps they were imagining themselves cantering around in there. They are just amazing – I’m so proud of them.
We’re two more weeks into our new build now and progress so far has been amazing with all the ground works pretty much completed. We can barely take our eyes off it because we can see changes every day.
Week two saw the massive excavations extended and the foundations completely dug out for the visitors’ centre, giving us the chance to see its lay-out for the first time.
The indoor arena – where our old mounting up paddock used to be – was dug out, the area levelled and the stone sub-base for the arena floor laid and rolled.
Week three brought another big step forward as the first of the concrete lorries came trundling down the drive.
The holes that will take the steel frame of the arena were dug out and the holding down bolts were cast in readiness for the structural steelwork to be lifted into place.
Now we can clearly see the floor plan and picture how big it will be when it is finished. I’ve been pacing it out on an imaginary horse! And the girls and I can already visualise ourselves riding in there.
The visitors’ centre lay-out is now quite clear – you can probably all see it as you drive down to the car park – with the concrete foundations all finished. Now it’s all ready now for the brickwork to start and that will happen this week.
That will be great to see because then it will really be taking shape and I think the rate of progress will speed up as the walls go up. The next big moment to look forward to is the arrival of the steel.
It does feel as if we are living in the middle of a building site but it’s all going to be worth it in the end.
From the trekking centre’s point of view, everything seems to be going great. Riding out from the field behind the car park hasn’t caused any problems and the horses are taking everything in their stride.
Having heavy machinery rumbling round their home doesn’t worry them at all. And although we’re a little short of room on the yard on busy days, they are more than happy to share stable space and double up with their pals.
It’s happening at last – our fabulous new trekking centre is underway and I can’t believe the progress we’ve made in just a few days.
After all the planning and dreaming – and all the delays and red tape – the contractors have arrived and we have finally begun work on our long-awaited development project.
It has been a long time coming and it seems quite surreal that we are actually breaking ground. Scary – but very exciting too!
We have a hard working crew of contractors on site and the transformation every day is quite amazing. I really can’t take my eyes away from it.
After just a couple of days the contractors’ compound was up, the area for the new stables dug out and the footprint of the visitors’ centre established. All you riders will see huge changes every time you visit.
I had hoped that we would have started the work last summer, but a few little snags and hitches developed along the way that needed sorting out. But that’s all dealt with now and so finally the dream is taking shape.
I began thinking about all this more than six years ago. It was then that I started considering that at some stage I would like to take the trekking centre into a new era.
That dream became a necessity when I decided that our facilities were becoming tired. It was a case of scaling down the operation – or going all-out for a development that would enable us to offer our clients the very best.
And we will also be providing top-class facilities for the staff and for our horses too. They work hard and deserve to be spoiled a little.
The new indoor arena will be the first to be finished and should be ready for use in April. The visitors’ centre, which will incorporate a cafe, shop, lecture area, showers and toilets, should hopefully be complete by late June or early July. The completion of both of those will enable us to offer our clients so many options with activities and I will keep you updated with all our ideas along the way. I think you will all enjoy the plans I am making!
Of course, all this construction work will cause some disruption to our operations but we have devised a plan to keep us up and running without affecting our riders’ enjoyment.
The office where you all check in for rides has moved onto the car park. So visitors will park there as normal, then check in as usual, but we will mount up and ride out from the rear field. We may, in fact, put a corral in there, but it might not prove necessary, so we will wait and see.
Starting a major construction project in the winter may seem like odd timing, but it is ideal for us. This is our quiet time of the year when our rides are much smaller, so disruption will be kept to a minimum. When our busy period starts again, the build will be well advanced.
And by the summer, all our new fun can start. Enjoy coffee and cake after a trek, join us for an evening barbeque ride, or get up early and come with us to spot wildlife on the Chase before a delicious breakfast!
Then there will be workshops, lectures, Western riding, maybe even Pony Club games for adults!
It’s all so exciting and I know all you are going to love our new-look centre.
After all the days, months and years of dreaming and planning, we are about to start work on our wonderful new trekking centre.
All we need is a confirmed date from our builders and the first bricks can be laid. I can hardly believe it and I am so excited.
For the last few years we have had lots of dreams for the centre. After 20 years here I felt that we were either going to have to downscale or really up our game.
The facilities are getting a little tired now and after much thought we decided to go for it! We are putting into action a plan for a whole new equestrian complex.
We obtained planning permission and now, this month, ground can finally be broken.
The new centre will comprise a visitors’ centre containing a contemporary coffee shop, a training and conference area, toilets, showers and a shop. A brand new indoor arena will complete the first phase.
The second phase will include 46 new stables with wash areas, laundry rooms, tack rooms and foaling boxes.
The visitors’ centre will be built of cedar wood and glass with a lovely viewing area. We see it as a relaxing place to come and we envisage all sorts of activities going on there.
We will be able to host hen parties, birthday parties, well being days, corporate days and a retreat centre with a holistic theme.
Food and drink will be healthy – but we’re planning a few naughties as well, especially as my mum is a cake designer. You can be sure there will be some delicious treats on offer.
We’re also planning kit hire and merchandising and we’re looking forward to organising some pony club evenings.
There will also be a medical room and myself and the staff are undertaking our training to become a first responder horse unit. We felt we needed to be self contained following the closure of the A and E Unit in Stafford.
The development will give us the chance to offer all sorts of fun activities, including breakfast rides and evening barbeque rides.
I’ve never intended to provide formal lessons because there are a lot of excellent riding schools in the county.
But we have a lot of clients who would like to push themselves a little further with the horses they love and trust, especially our younger riders. So we have some exciting plans for unconventional activities that we hope lots of clients will enjoy.
This is such an exciting time in the history of our centre. The future is looking really bright – come along with us for the ride!
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