Cavalry open day cancelled after date clash

THE Queen's ceremonial guards have been forced to cancel their annual Norfolk open day because of a date clash with a long-running agricultural show.

THE Queen's ceremonial guards have been forced to cancel their annual Norfolk open day because of a date clash with a long-running agricultural show.

The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (HCMR) traditionally spends three summer weeks training at Bodney Camp, near Watton, with one day set aside for the public to visit and watch displays of horsemanship.

But this year the date fell on August 1, the same day scheduled for the Wayland Agricultural Show - a key date in Norfolk's farming calendar for more than a century.

The show drew an estimated 12,000 visitors last year - but without having to compete with another large attraction a few miles away. Its organising committee said logistical difficulties made it impossible for the two events to be held on the same day.

The HCMR reluctantly agreed, but operational pressures on their base meant the open day could not be re-scheduled during the regiment's training period.

Military chiefs said they were disappointed that 'circumstances beyond their control' meant the cancellation of the highlight of their Norfolk stay, which last year pulled in 6,500 visitors and raised �4,000 for forces charities.

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Lt Col Crispin Lockhart, the HCMR's commanding officer, said: 'The decision to cancel our open day was not taken lightly. I am always touched by how many people come along to show their support for the men, women and the horses of the Mounted Regiment, and our soldiers love displaying their riding skills to an appreciative audience.

'The open day represented the culmination of a year of hard work in London, and a testing period of regimental training in Norfolk.'

Regimental spokesman Simon Saunders said the loss of charity income for the Household Cavalry Operational Casualties Fund would be particularly keenly felt, as the unit had suffered losses in Afghanistan this year.

'Naturally we are all disappointed, especially as the money raised goes to military charities,' he said.

Adrian Soskin, a committee member for the Wayland Show, said he had several meetings with senior cavalry officers, both in London and in Norfolk, to resolve the date clash after it became apparent in March.

'It was obviously very important to both bodies that the community was served properly,' he said. 'It was a mutual decision, and it was felt that this was the best solution.

'To have these two events within two miles of each other would mean we would have to effectively close down that part of Norfolk. The logistics and expense of moving it did not make any sense. We're all very upset that the open day cannot go ahead, but we hope it will be back next year.'

The Wayland Show raised �7,500 for good causes last year, and Mr Soskin said some of the money raised this year would go to the HCMR's charity. The HCMR still plans to carry out its tradition of exercising horses on Holkham beach during this year's stay, between July 15 and August 8.