A look inside Daisy Honeybunn’s Twineham home
PUBLISHED: 14:36 15 August 2019 | UPDATED: 14:36 15 August 2019
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Daisy Honeybunn’s Twineham home looks out over Hickstead, the jumping showground her father created almost 60 years ago
When it came to leaving legacies Hickstead founder Douglas Bunn didn't do anything by halves. Not only did the self-made greengrocer's son split the directorship of the All England Jumping Course he founded in 1960 between six of his nine children, he also ensured all his children had a place to live and a table crafted from Hickstead oak in their homes.
From her own Hickstead oak kitchen table in Twineham Daisy Honeybunn finds it surreal that it is a decade, almost to the day, that Douglas left them. "Dad died three days before the Hickstead Derby," she says. "Only dad would time it so well - when everyone was looking towards Hickstead. He knew we would have this incredible family around us."
She still feels the presence of her father, particularly as the cottage, which he extended 20 years ago and which she moved into in 2016, looks out over the showground and the family home Hickstead Place. "The showground feels like his memorial," she says. "Everywhere you go is a reminder of him. I don't have to be obsessed over a clock or one painting."
Her home still has plenty of reminders though, from lamps made of the champagne bottles her family used to toast her father's memory on his passing to some of his beloved artworks. "Dad was an avid collector of art - his style was 50 paintings on the wall," she says. "Bringing some of it here has breathed a new lease of life into it." Her sitting room also has his old chair and a reupholstered desk and sofa which once belonged to her godfather. "It's like a mnemonic," says Daisy. "I love breathing new life into old things."
Others of Daisy's passions are clear to see, from the magnetic photographs which adorn a metal wall above her kitchen sink, to the dachshund memorabilia her friends buy for her - ranging from doormats to paintings. Her beloved dachshund Sukha - whose name means peace and happiness - noses around the house and garden, occasionally playing with black and white cat Caruso who is more like a sibling than a rival.
Daisy, who adopted her father's original surname when she was 18, studied for a masters in English literature and Russian at Edinburgh University before retraining as a photographer. She set up her own agency focusing on event photography, but now her main focus is on new projects - specifically her singing and Daisy Dines With, her show for the Horse and Country TV channel.
Daisy Dines With allows riders to showcase a different side of their personalities. The series began with an intimate dinner with double gold Olympian Nick Skelton, and has since featured international showjumper Nina Barbour, three-time Olympic medallist Pippa Funnell, and impressionist Rory Bremner. There are plans to do a Hickstead special next year to mark the showground's 60th anniversary. "They are all friends," says Daisy, 36. "People relax when they don't feel like they're being interviewed - they're just cooking and showing me around - and then we have a little dinner party with a couple of guests. We go in and do it all in one day."
It's easy to see why people might open up to Daisy - she's an entertaining fast-talking raconteur. Perhaps the joy she is finding in life today is down to her recent battles with her health. It's certainly behind her decision to build up her singing career. After having tumours taken from her throat there was a chance she might not be able to sing again. "I was very poorly, I was nearly a goner six or seven years ago" she reveals. Her health problems began with an almost constant headache. It took 15 years before she was diagnosed with mastocytosis, or mast cell degranulation. A big contributor to the autoimmune disease is stress and anxiety - something which the cottage in Twineham is doing a lot to dispel.
"Part of the healing process was learning not to get stressed," she says. "I was incredibly lucky - one of the side effects is suicide headaches, which can lead a lot of people to self-medicate. They can lose their houses because they can't work, relationships can break down. I was lucky to have the best care - and my friends and family were extraordinary. Something like that gives you a second chance - it's a great leveller." When she signed the forms to approve the operation to remove the throat tumours she made a pact with herself that if she could sing after the operation she would. "My family says my voice is better than it was before," she says. "Before I had always sung at friends' weddings and that sort of thing, but I would always get nervous - and when you're singing classical it means you seize up. Now I don't get nervous, so I can put a lot of stagecraft in." She has since sung in front of an audience of 12,000 people in Liverpool and is working on an album to take to record labels. "I don't want a career in Covent Garden but I would like to do rep stuff and concerts. I do sing jazz, but it is mainly classical and opera."
Her love of opera came from her father and a trip to Russia as a teenager. "When I was 16 I went to Russia and discovered their opera heritage," she says. "I lived in St Petersburg, five minutes from the Mariinsky Theatre. Because I was a student tickets which would have cost $400 I could get for six quid."
She believes in the healing power of music and culture - working with charities to help young people express themselves through art. She sees listening to instrumental music as almost a meditative experience. Like showjumping she sees that classical music can be perceived as elitist - largely because of the costs involved in getting together an orchestra, but as with Hickstead she would like to give people a platform to participate.
Hickstead came about through her barrister father's recognition that England needed a showground similar to the professional venues on the continent to help the country's riders compete at an international level. The showground, whose managing directors are now Daisy's brother and sister Edward and Lizzie, was strategically positioned to be near Gatwick and the A23 to London. The first All England Jumping Competition featured mainly her father's friends - who he had to drag away from watching the marriage of Princess Margaret and Lord Snowden on television.
The showground has undergone some major changes in recent years, from improving the grandstand to putting in all weather arenas to ensure the best horses still jump there. "When Dad started Hickstead they were still using hunting horses who had big thick legs and were used to jumping out of the mud," says Daisy. "Now the horses are much more fragile - they can be worth £2m to their owners, so they can only jump on perfect surfaces." She believes the new event training complex, which also has water jumps, could secure the future of showjumping at Hickstead for another 20 years.
She speaks to Sussex Life as the showground enters its busiest time, with the Derby taking place in June, and the Longines Royal International Horse Show attracting an estimated 40,000 people between 23 to 28 July 2019. Daisy's house becomes fuller and fuller as showtime gets closer. She has a restored barn on her property, which doubles as a party room, and the adjoining Whitaker Suite which has space for ten guests. "During the shows it's always a fight between friends who want to come at different times," says Daisy. "Hickstead becomes like a village - we have 200 to 300 shops and 10,000 people on site every day." What makes Hickstead so different is the fact running it is a year-round affair. "Here we are maintaining the place 365 days a year - the grass always needs cutting!"
The family bring their own individual skills around the table, whether it is Edward's obsession with the turf, Chloe's perspective as an international showjumper, John, who is also managing director of Bunn Leisure, with his love of polo, or Daisy's experience in marketing and promotion. "I worked full time in the office for a while and learned very quickly if you have a disagreement in the day that night it is forgotten," says Daisy. "Chloe always says at least we love each other enough to fight. We do have a solid shared vision for the place."
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