Property group bets on top racehorse trainer for new events and wedding venue

A Midlands-based property development and investment company has formed a joint venture with a leading National Hunt racehorse trainer to create a new events and wedding venue in the Cotswolds.

The Wigley Group and top 10 trainer Ben Pauling have established The Naunton Downs Estate to construct and operate the £2m state-of-the-art events and wedding venue at his base near Cheltenham.

The company has planning consent for the 5,000 sq ft barn which will cater for exclusive weddings, family celebrations, corporate and racing events and is planning to start construction in 2023 with completion scheduled for the second half of 2024.

Pauling moved to a new state-of-the-art yard last April after buying the 200-acre site which also includes a golf course and a dining, entertainment and artisan retail venue. The joint venture will also invest around £300,000 in upgrading the existing venue – which is currently also home to the Fitzdares Club – and golfing facilities.

Pauling, who moved his operations to Naunton in Gloucestershire from Bourton Hill Farm last year, said: “We are really excited to move this forward and to have formed the new partnership with The Wigley Group. They are a company we have got to know very well and they are very much embedded in the racing world as well as having a track record of commercially successful developments.

“Purchasing Naunton Downs and creating the new yard was a real game changer for us as a racing business but the site has much more potential.

“We are in a great location in the heart of an area of outstanding natural beauty yet easily accessible from London and close to Cheltenham. The existing dining and entertainment venue and Fitzdares Club are well established as luxury destinations and we believe there is significant potential for a luxury venue in this location that can cater for a wide range of events – personal, business and racing-related.”

The Wigley Group is heavily involved in racing. It has undertaken improvement works at Warwick Racecourse and is currently renovating The Weighing Room complex at Newmarket’s July Course to modernise facilities for all jockeys, as well as refurbishing the Head-on Stand and creating a new first-floor viewing terrace.

Chief executive James Davies said the growing relationship with Ben Pauling Racing and the potential of Naunton Downs made a joint venture the best way forward.

He said: “We have got to know Ben and Sophie really well over the last few years and can see the attributes and potential that Naunton Downs presents and what they are looking to achieve.

“It is a wonderful setting in a superb location which already has an established golf club so the events barn is a natural progression which we believe will appeal to a very wide range of audiences and uses.

“There will be a very strong focus on quality and sustainability with, for example, extensive partnerships with local suppliers and businesses.

“We believe we are very well placed to partner them over the long term hence our investment as partners in the project.”

The Fitzdares Club is a lounge and dining operation hosted and supported by the leading bookmaking firm who are sponsors of Ben Pauling Racing.

Left to right: Mike Vining, James Ellerington, James Davies, Rob Wigley (all Wigley Group) Ben and Sophie Pauling, Claire Lynch (Wigley Group) and Mark Scholfield (Kershaw Partners) – with the Ben Pauling Racing-trained No Questions Asked.

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