Interview: Rachel Brodie, Blenheim Palace's rural manager
PUBLISHED: 15:12 16 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:12 16 September 2019
Where else can you watch world-class horseflesh competing on a World Heritage site? Blenheim's rural manager Rachel Brodie tells us of the excitement leading up to the Horse Trials
When asked about her role as rural manager of the Blenheim Estate, Rachel Brodie says simply: "It's incredible."
She continues: "In essence, taking out the bricks and mortar of the Palace, it's the management of everything that lives and grows here in the landscape at Blenheim, including rural property, forestry, in hand and let farming activities, parkland management, conservation and biodiversity management, renewables and events."
Rachel came to Blenheim in December 2017, having spent eight years working in the Farming and Land Management department of Strutt & Parker, first from the Cirencester office and latterly Oxford.
"Driving past Blenheim every day on the way to work could not fail to get the cogs whirring," she admits. "I was ready for a change after eight years, and was lucky enough to get this job.
"I was attracted by the fact that Blenheim is not an average rural estate - it is so diverse and things move at such a pace here. We are not afraid to challenge the norm and be innovative in our thinking. No day is ever the same.
"We'd like to think that we are not just here to maintain a highly important heritage site, but also to create opportunities, support our local communities, enhance our offering, utilise the resources we have alongside sustainable forward thinking to be leaders in our field. It is a place that oozes excitement and vibrancy which definitely keeps you on your toes."
Rachel grew up between Northamptonshire and Suffolk, daughter of a farming father and a mother who was "mad keen" on horses. Unsure of her path in life, she chose a degree in Land Management at Reading University - the spark to a career that has allowed her to indulge her love of outdoor life alongside managing and enhancing the living environment around us. A talented rider, she evented to Intermediate level - and SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials, which takes place on the estate from September 19-22 this year - is one of her favourite weeks of the Blenheim calendar.
"Our team is hands-on in delivering the horse trials from an estate point of view. We ensure the parkland is delivered at its best whilst assisting the horse trials team to produce what is a world-class horse trials," she says. "It is the most stunning venue for an equestrian event; not only is it a very special place for competitors to ride round on horseback, but also for the owners and spectators. Where else can you watch world-class horseflesh competing on a World Heritage site?"
Work and time constraints have limited Rachel's competitive career in recent years, but she rides out for racehorse trainer Paul Webber in her spare time and owns a retrained racehorse, Kilcrea Mill (William), whom she rides in team chases and hunt races.
"I would have loved to have competed at Blenheim Palace Horse Trials myself, but horse injury and other obstacles meant that I never achieved that goal," she says.
What does she love most about Blenheim?
"For me, it isn't actually the Palace, impressive as it is. It's standing in parkland that was created in the 1760s by Capability Brown, who had the foresight to imagine a setting so grand, befitting of a Palace that they would never fully get to enjoy themselves."
Rachel's favourite spot at Blenheim is in the middle of High Park, to the north-east of the Palace, which has the largest collection of ancient and veteran oak trees in Europe. It was an old hunting forest many years before the Palace was built, and is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
As if there weren't enough demands on her time, Rachel is getting married - to Edward, an investment manager - in October, just after the horse trials.
"He works in London, but his heart is in the hills of Scotland - just like mine," she says.
The SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials attracts the world's best riders and thousands of spectators over the four-day event, and takes place from September 19-22, 2019.
Experience dressage competitions, cross-country and show jumping. In addition to this, there will be a variety of classes, displays, demonstrations, a fun ride and over 200 shops.
The unique shopping experience is one of the many highlights of the event, the layout resembles a bustling high street with items ranging from luxury picnic hampers to country tailors and much more.
Tickets can be booked in advance via blenheimhorse.co.uk.