Aston Le Walls: Storming to success

Aston Le Walls: Storming to success

We sat down with event organiser Nigel Taylor to get a true insight into all things Aston Le Walls

There wouldn’t be many, if any at all, of the country’s top riders that haven’t competed or trained at Aston Le Walls. It would also be true to say that the man behind this tremendous venue is as equally well-known within the sport. He is, of course, Nigel Taylor – a former top-level international rider, owner, List A course designer and event organiser, as well as having served for 16 years on the Board of British Eventing.

“I just love what I do now and I get such a buzz from seeing people training and competing here. Whether it is watching the British teams preparing for the Championships or watching someone come through the  finish having completed their first-ever BE run – the feeling is the same. It’s something I’ll never tire from and it’s what makes life fulfilling for me as it reinforces that you are doing things right,” says Nigel, when talking about the venue that’s been the family home for more than 20 years.

The team at Washbrook Farm, better known as Aston Le Walls, are well-versed in what members require and ensure every competition day runs as smoothly as possible. Suppliers and contractors are all booked the year before each season and the team’s focus on ground and arena maintenance is constant, making Aston Le Walls one of just a handful of eventing venues that can offer competition and training facilities all year round.

Situated between Banbury and Daventry, Aston Le Walls is a leading competition and training facility and is the venue of choice for the team that deliver the World Class Programme, with both Senior and Youth teams utilising the venue. Aston Le Walls was also the venue of choice for the first The Howden Way Young Horse Academy training session when it was launched at the end of last year.

Set within 150 acres of grassland and designed exclusively for equestrianism, it boasts some of the best competition and training facilities in the UK. Multiple all-weather arenas, permanent and portable cross country fences, an all-year water complex, accompanied by more than 100 stables, make it one of the most popular venues on the circuit.


Equestrianism wasn’t always on the cards for Nigel Taylor though. This may be surprising considering the huge number of accolades under his belt.

“I had a farm upbringing,” explains Nigel. “My family weren’t into horses at all, but I do vividly remember my first experience of horses. My mother used to take us to church every Sunday and on the way back home I’d see a local riding school, and I remember thinking how great it looked, so eventually I asked for a pony. My mother and I took a trip to Stow Fair and found a pony called Andy, which she resourcefully managed to somehow bring home in the back of our long wheelbase Land Rover!”

Although the arrival of Andy led Nigel to discover his love for horses, it still wasn’t the first item on his agenda.

“My first love was football,” he explains. “This actually did go together with my love for horses for a while. The team I played for used to pay me with bags of horse feed – they gave me a bag for every goal I scored. That was inspiration for getting a hat-trick if ever I saw one!”

Nigel did various jobs including two years welding dumper trucks at Deanshanger Oxide Works before deciding that welding definitely wasn’t for him. This led him to Devon where he had heard that three-time Olympian Bertie Hill was looking for a helping hand on his farm.

“I worked on the farm with Bertie and helped him with the horses. I rode a couple of point-to points for him and I really loved it. It was this that led me to deciding to work with them as much as possible until I found myself a ‘proper job’. Well, I guess I’m still searching for that ‘proper job’!” says Nigel with a shrug of his shoulders and a laugh.

“I want Aston to be known as a place where people can come and know they’ve got unquestionably good ground and good courses”


Nigel attributes his big break to the Abbots Davies centre: “The centre was just down the road from me,” he explains. “A member of the team asked if I would go and ride the horses in the mornings and do some event riding for them too – it was music to my ears.

“I’d muck the horses out early in the morning and feed them, then ride the horses there before coming home and riding my own. It was a seven-week set-up for a little while and I really enjoyed it.”

Nigel remembers one horse from the start of his career fondly: “One of the horses I rode for the centre was called Taimur,” he says. “He was a lovely horse with a great character, but he absolutely hated water. So, determined to get into Badminton and Burghley, I qualified him at events that didn’t have water – it’s strange to think that you could do that back then as you couldn’t now.

“The big day came and we set off at Badminton and I honestly couldn’t believe it as he jumped straight into the lake and out the other side. As elated as I was, I was then in a mess as I hadn’t bothered walking the course further than that as had figured we’d get eliminated. Thankfully, it was roped off so I just followed the path until I got to the quarry and then didn’t have a clue which way to go. Opting for what I thought looked the easiest, I soon found I had taken the hardest route through and ended up the only competitor to do so.

“Taimur was unbelievable; he finished well and gave me a real boost to confidently go to Burghley. Needless to say, we got to Burghley and he put the brakes on at the water and we got eliminated. Ironically, he went back to Badminton and jumped through the lake again, coming home clear for the second time!”

Nigel Taylor in competition


This didn’t put Nigel off as he is one of the few riders that have completed both Badminton and Burghley 15 times, enjoying numerous placings. He was part of the British team aboard The Frenchman that won Team Bronze at the World Equestrian Games in 1998 and also won Team Bronze at the 1998 World Championships in Rome, where he had previously finished Individual 10th at the European Championships.

Nigel’s riding career went from strength to strength, seeing him compete at the highest levels for Great Britain. He has an impressive competition history, to say the least. These days, however, Nigel spends most of his time out of the saddle working behind the scenes at Aston Le Walls as a coach, event organiser and course designer, as well as a well-respected producer of young horses, which led to him being asked to be a co-selector for the British senior championship teams.


“When we first came here in 1998 it was just 30 acres. There was nothing here at all, so there was a lot of work to do. We gradually developed it over the years and with a lot of reinvestment and hard work it has become the outstanding facility it is today. It certainly wasn’t an overnight operation – we didn’t have the money for that. But we were committed to creating the venue we had visions for.

“I want Aston to be known as a place where people can come and know they’ve got unquestionably good ground and good courses. I’ve got planning for another 125 x 100 show jumping arena, which I’m hoping to build. Alongside this, I’ve also gained planning permission to build the first all-weather cross country course, should we be in a position to.”

Inspired by the work of Frank Weldon and Mark Phillips, Nigel relishes being able to design his own courses at Aston Le Walls.

“The course is constantly changing over the years and in a constant process of development. It’s never a finished job, and we’ll keep adding to it and making it a bigger and better experience for the horses, riders and spectators,” Nigel says.


There have been plenty of challenges along the way, such as when the development of the HS2 high-speed railway took 50 acres from the farm, but Nigel has always found ways to harness opportunities.

“When foot and mouth disease hit the UK, other events weren’t able to take place, so we stood in and completed seven days on the trot for British Eventing. Then, when Chatsworth couldn’t run its event during Covid-19, we took the fixture on, including the 4*, over eight days and have shown we’re able to help British Eventing when we’re needed. We really enjoyed running the Chatsworth Horse Trials; that was a great highlight.” It’s so easy to see why.


  • 90mx100m KBIS all-weather cross country arena including ramps, steps, banks, drops, ditches and water complex
  • 80mx100m all-weather, all-purpose arena.
  • 30mx55m lit indoor arena.
  • 20mx60m all-weather dressage arena
  • 45mx65m fully enclosed all-weather, all-purpose arena
  • 30-acre grass cross country course with three water complexes, ditches, steps and mounds
  • Wash bays at the start and finish areas
  • More than 100 stables with wash facilities


Arena Eventing Championships AE80, AE90, AE100,
AE100 Open.

10-14 MAY
PTN, BE80, BE90, N, ON, I, GOBE80, GOBE100, GOBE90, OI, BE100, BE100 Open, ONu18, 7YO.

21-23 JULY
ON, GOBE100, Olu21, Au25, A, I, OI, N, GOBE90, GOBE80, A89YO.

10-12 AUGUST
BE90, IN, ON, N, I, BE80, BE100, GOBE90, GOBE100, ONu18, OI, BE100 Open, GOBE80.

*Correct at time of going to press

First published in the Spring 2023 issue of British Eventing Life magazine