Daisy Berkeley wins the British Open at Gatcombe

Daisy Berkeley and Spring Along rode to success at the Festival of British Eventing 2010 at Gatcombe Park

Riding with Miss Daisy

Words by Katie Jarvis

When three-day event rider Daisy Dick married Charles Berkeley, she found an easy way to let the world know her change of name: she put in a storming performance at this year’s Badminton Horse Trials.“People were asking themselves, ‘Who is this Daisy Berkeley?’ I’d turned up as a ‘new’ person, which confused them. It was only when I did well that they cottoned on it was same old, same old!” she laughs.Daisy, whose father was Grand National-winning jockey Dave Dick, moved from her family home in Berkshire to Berkeley last October. Her husband is heir to Berkeley Castle, and the couple have settled in a farmhouse on the estate. “It’s been a very easy community to move into. The fact that I’m from an equestrian background helps enormously because this is such a hunting, farming community. We all speak the same language and everyone’s been incredibly kind helping me settle in.”Daisy will be competing at the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe this month (August 6-8) on Spring Along, the horse on which she won a bronze medal in team eventing at the Beijing Summer Olympics. 

Where do you live and why?

I live in Berkeley about a mile from the castle, which we could probably see from our windows if it weren’t for the trees. Before we married, Charles lived in a farmhouse in Halmore, which would have been perfect for any married couple except for the fact that there was no possibility of stables there. I come with rather a lot of baggage of the four-legged kind! Our new home is a beautiful Georgian dower house on the Berkeley estate – we’re the luckiest couple in the world. There were already eight stables here, but I’ve also put up two new ones, had a yard and a dressage arena built, and I’ve just finished fencing. It’s now a fully-functioning equestrian property. We’ve still got a lot we want to do inside. For one thing, we’d like to open out the fireplaces, which are a little small. It’s a big old house to heat: last winter, we shut ourselves in the kitchen and the little sitting room so we didn’t use too much oil!

How long have you lived in the Cotswolds?

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For eight months – if you can call Berkeley the Cotswolds; I would say it’s the Vale. I’ve lived in Berkshire for most of my life, but I haven’t found it at all hard to settle in here. The horses, however, were rather overexcited and, therefore, somewhat difficult to ride when I moved them. Initially, they thought they’d got to a competition and were wondering when the festivities would start – but, of course, they didn’t. There was a lot of bucking; a lot of bad behaviour; a lot of over-exuberance; but we’ve survived!

What’s your idea of a perfect weekend in the Cotswolds?

My idea of a perfect weekend – if you’re calling down here the Cotswolds – would be spending time in my lovely house, probably doing some gardening. It was a tenant property for a long while before we moved in, so there’s not much in the way of proper garden. In many ways, though, that’s perfect because it means we have an open book. I love to grow my own vegetables; Charles is much more into the flowers. He comes from a family of gardeners – they have the gardens open at Spetchley (Park, the family’s Worcestershire home) as well as the lovely gardens at Berkeley. The pressure is definitely on for us to become good at gardening.

If money were no object, where would you live in the Cotswolds?

I wouldn’t swap for anything. Ours is a wonderful house in a wonderful area – very rural, very friendly, with very unassuming people.

Where are you least likely to live in the Cotswolds?

In a town, and not just because of the horses. The only time I’ve lived away from the countryside was during my three years of university in Oxford, where I read zoology. I like going to London from time to time but, after a while, I need to be released back into the wild!

Where’s the best pub in the area?

I’m not completely clued up around here yet but there are some very good pubs of the old-fashioned nature. I don’t do gastro. Charles once took me to Ted Lord’s pub down at Purton (The Berkeley Arms), which is famous for being unorthodox. Ted died quite recently but the pub is still going. And then there’s the Salutation just outside Berkeley – a real hunting pub.

And the best place to eat?

We try to eat out once a month or so – give the Trouble and Strife the night off cooking. I love the Gumstool in Calcot and the Old Passage at Arlingham. If, sometimes, I’m coming back late from an event, Charles will race off to the Passage to India in Nailsworth and get a huge takeaway, which is always a treat after a competition.

Have you a favourite tearoom?

Berkeley Castle! Where else? They do very good cream teas.

"I've been competing at Gatcombe for about 18 years - it's a very exciting course to ride, with a big adrenaline buzz because of the terrain."

What would you do for a special occasion?

Our wedding was the biggest recent special occasion. A lot of people assumed I’d get married at the castle because it has the infrastructure but I’ve always dreamed of getting married at home in Ashampstead, in little St Clement’s Church where we used to go to Sunday school. It was a lovely, close-knit family affair: not only my marriage, but a farewell to where I come from.

What’s the best thing about the Cotswolds?

I like old-fashioned traditions and values and this is a proper country community: you don’t get too many commuters down in Berkeley.

…and the worst?

Go up the hill and the price of property goes through the roof.

Which shop could you not live without?

William’s Fish Market and Food Hall in Nailsworth. I’ve hardly ever done this but I know it’s there if I’m running out of time and I’ve a dinner party coming up!

What’s the most under-rated thing about the Cotswolds?

There’s a lot more going on here than I thought, especially for children. I’ve got my six and eight-year-old nieces and my brother and sister-in-law coming to stay, and there’s so much to do: Slimbridge, Cattle Country, the castle, the river, the Jenner Museum, the deer park. Charles has taken my little nieces round the castle already, and he’s the best tour guide in the world – he makes the whole thing come alive.

What would be a three-course Cotswold meal?

I do love cooking. If it’s summer, I’d make a cold soup, then get some estate venison out of the freezer – great on the barbecue. We have a lot of fruit trees in the garden, and we intend to put a lot more in, so I’d finish with good old apple pie.

What’s your favourite view in the Cotswolds?

From Berkeley deer park, you can go up on to the ridge and look down to the Severn one way and up to the Cotswolds the other.

What’s your quintessential Cotswolds village and why?

I love riding to Purton, down on the river; it’s so peaceful.

Name three basic elements of the Cotswolds…

Farming; Hunting; Socialising

What’s your favourite Cotswolds building and why?

Berkeley Castle. I love the way it looks like part of the landscape: the stone is so old and weathered, with vegetation growing out of it. I’m not entirely sure how I’d feel being there all by myself at one o’clock in the morning in a power cut – but, then, who wouldn’t feel nervous? In actual fact, it’s a very warm, friendly place.

Starter homes or executive properties?

I’m not someone who jumps on a soapbox and preaches but… Where I grew up, as soon as an old couple died, you’d get the companies buying up their cottage, razing it to the ground, and building a socking great mansion there. You wouldn’t want to lose the lovely rural aspect of a place like Berkeley.

If you lived abroad, what would you take to remind you of the Cotswolds?

The husband!

Which event, or activity, best sums up the Cotswolds?

The Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe. I’ve been competing at Gatcombe for about 18 years – it’s a very exciting course to ride, with a big adrenaline buzz because of the terrain. Fence Three is well known for making your stomach come up into your mouth; it’s a log down a precipice into the woods and you wonder if your horse will turn in time or go straight into a tree. (They always do turn, of course!) Some course-builders err on the side of caution, which I don’t think is necessarily a good or a safer thing to do; it can just make people ride even faster. Gatcombe’s never been guilty of this: it’s always been quite tough, quite technical, quite big. Although you have to put your foot down to win a prize, you treat it with the greatest respect because it’s a proper jumping track and that’s what eventing is all about.

If you were invisible for a day, where would you go and what would you do?

I’d like to be invisible and mooch amongst the deer in the deer park without them seeing me. If I go up there on my horses, they cope with me reasonably well; but, if you’re on your feet, they are timid creatures.

What would you change about the Cotswolds or banish from the area?

Superstores. The little street that takes you to the back entrance of Berkeley Castle was once all shops: now it’s residential. It’s a similar story all over the country.

The Cotswolds – aspic or asphalt?

Berkeley Castle has had to move with the times or it simply wouldn’t have survived. In the future, it’s going to get even harder, and everyone at the estate is looking at the possibility of increasing opening hours and holding more functions there. I know that Charles feels it’s a massive honour to be part of this history – but it’s his job, too, to make it function and to keep it as a going concern. In other words, you have to combine aspic with asphalt.

What attitude best sums up the Cotswolds?

Rural, relaxed, friendly.

With whom would you most like to have a cider?

My dressage judge from Gatcombe Horse Trials for this August. I’ll do the buying if it guarantees me a decent mark!

The Festival of British Eventing takes place at Gatcombe Park, Minchinhampton, from August 6-8. For more information, and to book tickets, ring 0843 208 7455 or log onto www.gatcombe-horse.co.uk

Berkeley Castle is at Berkeley GL13 9BQ, tel: 01453 810332; www.berkeley-castle.com. Berkeley Show takes place on the castle meadow on August 30, www.berkeleyshow.com

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