ANYONE who grew up within a stone’s throw of Minchinhampton will have heard of the horse trials at Gatcombe Park, it’s a summer fixture - whether you are a follower of British equestrian events or not.

Thousands flock to the Magic Millions Festival of British Eventing which takes place in the heart of the Cotswolds each year to enjoy world class competition and, perhaps equally importantly, a wonderful day out for the whole family.

This year will see a new event director take up the reins after Tim Henson stepped down from his role of over 20 years - Peter Phillips, son of festival chairman Captain Mark Phillips and HRH The Princess Royal.

Peter has been involved with the championships from its early years and is looking forward to his first year at the helm.

“Tim has done a remarkable job over the past two decades and it’s an honour to be carrying on his hard work,” Peter explained. “I grew up at Gatcombe Park and one of my first memories is of the event.”

From a young age Peter, his sister Zara and their friends were called upon to help prepare the stunning grounds for the crowds as part of the Menial Task Division, a group which were often asked to take on some rather unglamorous tasks - banging in posts, moving hay bales and even weeding the ditches.

“From the very first years over the three decades ago, the whole family has been involved in welcoming tens of thousands of people onto the park - the weekend is about people coming together and having a great time.”

And it is not just the family who have worked so hard to create the perfect summer weekend in the heart of the Cotswolds, Peter is quick to add that the event’s success is also largely down to the hundreds of volunteers who make it happen.

“Over 350 people volunteer to make the festival the wonderful occasion that it is today, and we couldn’t possibly do it without those who give their time to judge fences or steward the event,” he said.

“My parents were passionate about creating something special both for the eventing community and those who live in the towns and villages nearby, and I’m proud to continue that tradition.”

What makes the weekend even more special is the opportunity it offers to riders of all ages and experience, because as well as the five prestigious British Championship titles other competitions such as the Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse and BETA Pony Club showjumping will welcome talented competitors.

“All the competitors are treated equally, because we want to ensure that all the riders get to experience the special atmosphere of the festival,” Peter proudly explained.

But it’s wrong to assume that the festival is just for those who enjoy top class equestrian sport, arena attractions include daredevil horsemen performing astounding tricks, a fun dog show, a Shetland pony grand national - to name just a few.

Plus visitors can enjoy culinary delights including anything from street food from around the world or a refined dining experience as well as café style lunches and a well-stocked bar.

When asked how he will know if his first year has been a success, Peter’s answer is simple: “We just want everyone to go away with a smile, saying they’ve had a great time, and they can’t wait to come back again.”

The Magic Millions Festival of British Eventing takes place over the weekend of August 3-5.