Top Billing

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11 June 2024
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Lakeside course: A popular spot for the fans : credit: © Charles Ward
The Billing Off Road Show is a must-visit fixture on the Land Rover calendar. Ahead of this year's show, we look at how it's come so far since its inception over 30 years ago

"Are you going to Billing?” Chances are this is a sentence you’ll hear at least once a year if you’re into Land Rovers. And the answer you’ll get is almost always a resounding “yes”. But something many newcomers to the scene may not know, is how much the Billing Off Road Show – to give it its full name – has changed, evolved and developed in the many years it has been running.

Billing has been associated with a few different Land Rover magazines over the years, swapping and changing throughout its lifetime. Land Rover Monthly is proud and excited to be Media Partner of the Billing Off Road Show, with Editor Martin Domoney and Associate Publisher Steve Miller taking to the hillside on both days at lunchtime for the ever-popular Show and Tell section, and exclusive subscription deals on offer at the LRM stand, so be sure to get your tickets and come pay us a visit and say hello.

In the meantime, enjoy a potted history of how the off-road course started, grew and became a fantastic freestanding annual event that continues to thrive as the biggest and best off-road show in the UK – the Billing Off Road Show.

 

1990: A plan is hatched

Richard Arrowsmith’s skills on machinery were put to good use

Over 32 years ago it was decided to have a Land Rover Show at Billing Aquadrome in Northamptonshire. The venue, however, was lacking an off-road course.

The Arrowsmith family, who farm across the bridge from the Aquadrome, was approached by the show organisers to build a course for them, which Richard Arrowsmith did using his earlier experience as an historic racing driver and engineer and his personal knowledge of the land to guide him. Within just a few months – and in plenty of time for the event – the legendary Riverside Off Road Course had been created and built.

 

1991: Billing is born

The first ever Billing Land Rover Show used the newly-constructed Riverside Course, which was very successfully marshalled by East Northants Land Rover Owners Club. The tight turns and steep climbs through the woods beside the river had visitors lining up to test their skills and their Land Rovers again and again.

 

1992: So good, they came back

International visitors were, and still are, a common sight

​​​​​​In 1992, the Billing Land Rover Show employed the Arrowsmith’s twisting and undulating Riverside Course alongside the static show again, this time marshalled by David Mitchell of Landcraft 4x4, and a group of volunteers. The show and its off-road course became well-publicised in Land Rover and 4x4 magazines, and grew strongly.

 

1995: Lakeside Course Built

Around five years later, Richard Arrowsmith got busy on the machinery once more and built the now-legendary Lakeside Course. Originally a smaller version of it was built for the Land Rover Experience demonstrations and product launches. After 1996, it was expanded as the Riverside Course became busier and busier.

 

1998: Public take on Lakeside

Now fully finished and up-and-running, visitors to the Billing Land Rover Show could drive the new Lakeside off-road track themselves. With a more open layout than the Riverside course and a large variety of obstacles to traverse including multiple wading sections, it proved an instant success with showgoers.

 

1998: Quite the Experience

Like a bit of mud? You’ll find it at Billing

The Arrowsmith’s farm has hosted many a special guest over the years, and in the late 1990s Land Rover Experience used the Riverside course to demonstrate the distinctive Camel Trophy (and later, G4 Challenge) Land Rovers to guests, giving courtesy rides and showing off the vehicles’ capabilities to the public and press. The courses have also been used by manufacturers for vehicle launches, including Land Rover, Volkswagen, Toyota, Bentley and Suzuki.

The off-road courses have played host to numerous press days

Camping out has always been a big draw to the show 

 

2000: Japanese Land Rover Club visit

The off-road course’s visitors weren’t limited to those just from the UK – clubs and groups from all over the world came to test their mettle on the Northamptonshire terrain, including the Land Rover Owners Club Japan.

 

2001: Lara Croft drops in

Tomb Raider makes an appearance

2001 saw popular video game character, Lara Croft, (from the Tomb Raider series of games) immortalised in her first film. The badass lead character drove a V8-powered Defender 110 high-capacity pick-up finished in cool Bonatti Grey and smothered in adventure gear, and that very vehicle was in attendance at the Billing show the same year.

 

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2017: All change

Non-stop action on the Challenge South West track

​​​​​​In 2017, the Billing show moved across the river to its new home on the Arrowsmith’s farm and became what it’s known as today – the Billing Off Road Show. The farm now houses everything on its land – the showground, campsite, demonstration area, car park and, of course, both off-road courses.

Challenge South West lights up the hillside every year with its off-road racers, giving passenger rides to visitors and donating the profits to charity.

 

2018: Setting world records

The sun shone on 2018’s world record attempt

​​​​​​In 2018, the Billing Off Road Show, in conjunction with Land Rover Monthly, set a Guinness World Record for the largest parade of Land Rovers. The record awarded was for a convoy of 640; the vehicles all had to be Land Rovers, they had to travel two miles and not separate by more than nine metres from the one in front. It was a logistical challenge, but a memorable occasion for all visitors and entrants.

640 Land Rovers snake across the open farmland

 

2024: Present Day

Infamous mud run guarantees smiles!

Now 33 years on from the first time Richard Arrowsmith broke ground to create the Riverside course and in its seventh year as an independent event, the Billing Off Road Show is stronger than ever. The first Off Road show in 2017 had 60 trade stands, and this year that number has grown to over 100 trade and autojumble vendors. They’ll be kept very busy by the 10,000 off-road enthusiasts who will descend upon Billing for a weekend of mud and laughs.

 

A family affair

The whole Arrowsmith family gets involved

As a family-run business, the whole of the Arrowsmith family come home for the week and work on the show. Richard is in charge of the practicalities of course building, generators for the beer tent and food, plumbing and wiring of toilets and showers.

The Arrowsmith kids still man the camping gates!

Sarah is in the office taking bookings for traders and clubs and managing publicity. Their children all help out too; Ed is in charge of security, ideas and the camping and day entrances, Julian is also practical, helping Richard whenever he can and Imogen is in charge of social media. All three of the younger Arrowsmiths can be seen throughout the whole weekend working on the gates, the camping areas and the showground.

 

Charity Auction

Annual auction raises cash for good causes

Camping at the event is the best way to take in the amazing atmosphere on the Friday and Saturday evenings, and when the festivities are at their peak and plenty of beer has been consumed, the legendary Billing Charity Auction starts.

With Will Webster, owner of Goodwinch, as auctioneer, tons of fantastic donated items ranging from tyres to winches to trips away to vouchers, recovery equipment and loads more go under the hammer to the highest bidder in the bustling crowd, with all proceeds going to that year’s chosen charity.

In 2023, £8000 was raised for the Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals, and the auction has successfully raised over £25,000 for good causes over the time it has been appearing at the event. The organisers are confident that, combined with the cash raised from the all-day passenger rides that the Challenge South West crew run on Saturday and Sunday, proceeds will continue to increase every year, raising vital funds for some very worthy causes.

This year the auction returns with more amazing lots than ever before, and two very valuable causes – a national Alzheimer’s charity and a local hospice – so please come along, stay until the evening, or camp over and dig deep for some goodies at the auction.

 

How to book

This year’s event is on 28-30 June, and the event is held at Mill Lane, Little Houghton, Northamptonshire NN7 1AL at the Arrowsmiths’ farm.

To get your tickets for 2024, check out the Billing Off Road Show website, and for any enquiries email the team. See you there.
• Thebillingoffroadexperience.co.uk
[email protected]

 

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