Recent News from the Yard

Following my flurry of blogs recently, I ran out of steam last week.  The weather was too beautiful to be indoors so I spent a lot of time in the garden which has not seen so much tidying up from me for a long time.

The downside to that is that my propensity for hay fever reappeared and in the current crisis every sniffle, sneeze and cough immediately becomes a symptom of the dreaded virus.  I had to give myself a good talking to, viz. you haven’t got a temperature, your cough is only occasional, you wake up every morning (importantly) feeling quite well, get a grip…  A hay fever tablet did the trick to reassure me, but does anyone else feel like that or is it just me?

As well as all that, my dear old dog, Tess, is fading away gracefully, eating only when she feels like it and tottering about on increasingly shaky pins.  I shall keep her comfortable for as long as I can and accept the inevitable when it happens.

Enough of me and my woes.  I must tell you that Lesley, needing some time out from tending to ponies, fell over the trolley containing cones and gashed her leg, resulting in a visit to A & E where she was patched up in super quick time (miracle!) and sent home to rest.  Fortunately, her husband Colin came to the rescue to help with the ponies and now Lesley is feeling much better and was even able to drive Jim last weekend, with help again from Colin as her leg is still sore.  In the meantime, she has got her sewing machine out and is busy making cloth masks and scrub bags for the NHS.  You can’t keep a good woman down!

It occurred to me that the Pony Photo Quiz which I gave you to work out last week was not entirely fair on those who don’t know the yard’s ponies very well but maybe you were able to pick out Jim.  The answers are given below.  Give yourself a pat on the back if you got any of them right.

Pony photos Quiz
Questions and answers

Question Answer
No. 1 Whose foot is this and where is it positioned?Jim, near fore
No. 2 Who knows this nose?Tom
No. 3 Eye, eye! Who is this?Jim
No. 4 Whose little, orange ears are these?Archie (or Winmark Archangel if you want to be formal)
No. 5 Whose nostril is this?Archie
No. 6 Does anyone remember where this is placed?On the trailer
No. 7 Who is this, busy eating?Tom
No. 8 Fore or Hind? And who does it belong to?Hind, Archie
No. 9 And finally, whose beautiful bottom is this?Reuben

If you want to try some mental gymnastics then have a go at this one: 

I will give you the answers in a day or two.

More “tails” and quizzes to follow shortly.

In the interests of keeping us all occupied our friends at the RDA have a variety of training opportunities which I’ve made available via a pdf file (Acrobat Reader required). I hope you find them of interest:

Bye for now.


Pony Photos Quiz

Hello Cherry Parkers and Friends

As you might guess, I have spent the past few days in the garden, planting up a new bed and wishing that we could have some rain.  Well, hey presto, it arrived today and very welcome it has been too.  It also meant that I could come indoors for a while and write another blog to keep you entertained which I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for with bated breath!

I promised you a quiz and Lesley has come up trumps with a corker, thank you Lesley.  So I hope you can remember everything about the ponies back at the yard.  The answers will be in my next blog in about a week’s time.  No prizes but you’ll all get a gold star for your efforts in due course.

I hope you are all well and that life is uneventful in the best possible way.

Stay safe.


RDA Group of the Year –
Carriage Driving Awards 2019

Cherry Park attendees on arrival at The Carriage Driving Awards 2019
Carriage Driving for the Disabled Group of the Year

Winning the award of Carriage Driving for the Disabled Group of the Year was an overwhelming and thrilling experience for Cherry Park Driving Group.  As a small group we have faced many challenges over the past five years, being reduced to one pony and a handful of dedicated volunteers, and having to move our venue on two occasions.  Despite that, 2019 proved to be very successful both in terms of “keeping our show on the road” and winning the Championship at the RDA National Championships in July with our star disabled driver.  To have our efforts acknowledged by those responsible for the Carriage Driving Awards was satisfying, morale-boosting and motivating, not to mention humbling in the face of our equally deserving peers. 

Lesley, Gemma, and Hilary with Joanna Hartland of Hartland Carriages, Sponsors of Carriage Driving for The Disabled Group of The Year

All those connected to Cherry Park have been proud and delighted for us and we hope that the profile raised will be beneficial for the future of the Group.

The ceremony at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens gave us the chance to mingle with the best in the carriage driving world.  Apart from the award giving, my favourite part of the evening was watching the rolling slide show of the many and varied aspects of carriage driving.

At present, our award and certificate are under the care of me as Chairman of the Group but will be displayed at our Annual General Meeting and thereafter in a prominent place every week at our venue.  For me they are a reminder of a splendid evening and the culmination of an amazing year.

(written before the Corona virus crisis).

News from the Yard 13th April 2020

I hope you have had a pleasant Easter weekend.  It seems ironic, doesn’t it, after all those weeks of interminable rain and cold when we were slipping around in the mud and didn’t want to venture from the hearth, that a heatwave should appear at the precise time when we are not allowed to go out and enjoy it to the full!  I hope those of you who can have at least been able to enjoy a walk in the sunshine.

A few days ago, Lesley reported that she had given Jim her undivided attention that day.  She says “He had a good brush and got rid of loads of hair which he enjoyed very much.  Next, it was on with the harness, with a look of surprise from Jim!  He was put to and driven for about 15 minutes in the field.  The last time he was in harness was at Christmas time when he transported Father Christmas.  He was as good as gold and hadn’t forgotten a thing”

Jim was obviously feeling the effects of the heat in the remains of his winter woollies.  As you will see, over the weekend he has been given a makeover, courtesy of Gemma, and what a very professional job she has made of it. 

I’m very envious as my hair is getting shaggier by the minute. Mind you, I imagine he’s feeling the cold this morning following a 10° drop in temperature! He looks in amazing shape. Thank you, Lesley, for looking after him so well.

Look out for my next blog which will include a photographic quiz! 

Stay safe and well.

A Message from Jim and
Easter Greetings

The following message was read out at the Christmas Lunch last December.  As many of you weren’t there I thought you might like to read and hopefully enjoy it now.  Please note that newer members and others who are not mentioned are just as valued.  It’s just that he wasn’t aware of you at the time!

A Message from Jim

Jim’s Special Rosette

As relayed by Hilary… yes, I was out in his field poo-picking on a rare occasion and he asked if I would take a letter.  Well, I couldn’t refuse…he’d got me over a wheelbarrow and it was full of poo.

So here it is…

Dear Fans,

I know I’m a really special pony and I don’t really need you to tell me that, although you all do all the time, but it is nice to be given special recognition and a rosette just to confirm it.  But Hilary was telling me that no-one really shines on their own.  We all need to be polished and put to the test to bring out that inner diamond and it got me thinking that with her help I should make some acknowledgments of my own.

So first up there’s my personal servant, Lesley. She looks after me every day, rain or shine, feeds me, waters me, mucks out and keeps me fit. I do have some other handmaidens though. There’s Sally W, who comes and helps out most days and Sally ND who comes on a regular day and keeps my field nice and tidy.

Then I have a personal trainer, Gemma…she who must be obeyed. I grow an extra inch when she turns up. She puts the polish into my step and makes sure I’m in tip-top training when it’s competition time.

And then there are those who regularly come on Wednesdays for driving sessions. That’s Sybella, Valerie, Vivien, June, Jackie, Jean, Christine, and Clive as well as the two Sallys. They variously brush me, harness me up, escort me to the field when I’m working, make tea for everyone and clean me and my harness when I’ve finished. They also give me lots of cuddles and a treat when I’m turned out.

Tony is our Treasurer and handyman, Hilary tells me. He is in charge of finances and makes sure that the money is available for my many requirements as well as the security and wellbeing of the group. And he’s very handy with a spanner amongst other things. He brings lots of lovely biscuits for everyone to eat although they never give me one.

John doesn’t come to the sessions very much but Hilary tells me he looks after the IT and makes sure that my profile is high on the website.

And then there are our disabled drivers, Sandra and Bridget, who help me to shine in competition, as well as Barbara, Les, Lucy, Pauline and Tina. Thank you all of you for treating me kindly and remembering my soft mouth. In return I hope I give you a lovely experience when you drive.

It hasn’t escaped my notice that there’s a new kid on the block recently. He’s what you’d call pale and interesting and his name is Harry. A bit fidgety for my liking but apparently he’s a willing learner and he might take some pressure off me next year. As long as I still get plenty of cuddles, I’m OK with that. He seems to have disappeared again so who knows what will happen, eh?

I’ve just spotted a wisp of hay that I missed earlier so I’ll let Hilary tell you the rest. Oh yes, she’s the one who walks round with a clipboard, ticking things off and looking important and harassed at the same time.


Christmas 2019

Thank you, Jim, for evoking happy memories of all we did together last year and will do again in the future.  Of course, circumstances have moved on since those words were written but there is much to look forward to.

Spring Lambs

I wish you all a very Happy Easter at this unique (hopefully never to be repeated) time. Remember that Easter is all about resurrection and renewal.  May you all stay safe and enjoy it as well as you can.

A Virtual Annual General Meeting

Our Annual General Meeting should have taken place today, 8th April, but due to the circumstances we have had to postpone it until some uncertain date in the future.  Instead I have decided to hold a virtual AGM and I hope you will all feel inclined to join me.  Obviously, I am not able to discuss all aspects of the Meeting on this site but I hope the following will keep you in the picture.

Present:               All attendees in spirit.

Apologies:          None accepted!

Committee:        Please note that your Committee remains as elected in 2019 until such time as we are able to hold our AGM proper.  We are continuing to work on your behalf in the best way that we can.

Chairman’s Report

Anita Rani presenting the prizes at Hartpury 2019

I think we can all agree that 2019 was an exceptional year for Cherry Park.  We thought it couldn’t get any better than one of our drivers, Sandra, qualifying and coming a very close runner up in the Novice Whip at the RDA National Championships in 2018.  But she qualified again and was upgraded to Intermediate Class at the Championships in 2019.  With a scratch team of four volunteers accompanying her, Sandra excelled herself, won the Class and to our great delight took the Championship as well.  Honours go not only to Sandra but to Gemma our RDA Coach and most especially our VIP (very important pony) Jim.  The occasion was all the more special for being the 50th Anniversary of RDA and the event was attended not only by HRH the Princess Royal as President of RDA but also the BBC’s Countryfile with Anita Rani presenting the rosettes and trophy.

In September, Cherry Park returned to Sands Farm Indoor Championship Qualifiers where Sandra, this time driving single reins with Gemma backstepping, qualified for the Championship in the Open Class.

The RDA South East Region Conference held in October proved another red letter day for Cherry Park.  Sandra was invited to give a short talk on her achievements which was well-received, Jim (VIP) was presented with a special rosette in acknowledgement of his role, and your Chairman, to her great surprise, was awarded the Tora Bray Trophy for her efforts in keeping the Group going through difficult times.  Honoured and thrilled as I was to receive this accolade, I would like to say that it would not be possible without the efforts of all our committee and volunteers so a big thank you to you all.

However, we weren’t finished yet.  Our short-list nomination for the Carriage Driving Awards in the category Driving for the Disabled Group of the Year 2019 saw us invited to an Awards Ceremony hosted by Carriage Driving Magazine at the Botanical Gardens in Birmingham on 1st November.  Dressed up to the nines and having partaken of a splendid meal, we waited with bated breath for the results.  To our great delight and with some disbelief, we were pronounced the winner!  In my acceptance speech (not quite the Oscars but it felt like it!) I stressed the importance of our volunteers without whom we would not be able to function.

Our year was rounded off by our Christmas Lunch which was well attended and enjoyed by everyone. 

The rest of the Agenda will have to wait until we are able to have our actual AGM but I hope that the above will remind you of our wonderful year.  It goes without saying that we value all our drivers and hope to be able to give them good experiences of driving again when this dreadful episode is over.

Who knew, when we were celebrating successes and looking forward to further achievements, that it would all be put on hold and 2020 would be wiped from the map?  If nothing else, it gives us pause for thought to ponder how we might expand our activities in the future.  All things are possible given the will!

“Tails” From Cherry Park

Well, this is going rather well!  I have had a good response to my invitation to send in stories and photos of your pets so I hope you enjoy this week’s offerings.



Barbara’s dog, Taj, was about a year old when she was abandoned on a motorway in Ireland.  It took two days to catch her as she was so fast!  She was then shipped across to England and sent to Birmingham where no home was found for her.  Eventually, she arrived in Brighton where Barbara and Tony met her and all their fortunes changed.  Taj is a real working dog who will pick up anything Barbara drops and brings the shopping in from the car.  What a star!



Jo HB has two dogs.  One of them, Herryt, is a very rare Dutch breed – a Stabyhoun.  There are only about 200 in the UK and about 6000 worldwide, the fifth rarest breed in the world!  Jo does tracking and agility with him in the normal world and is working towards her Scentwork UK tests with him. Let’s hope they don’t forget everything before we get back to normality!


Jo also has a 19 year old Parsons Jack Russell called Radar who used to do lots of tricks and was used for advertising dog food on the TV and YouTube – he’s now retired! He looks very sprightly for his age.

Nothing to do with pets but if you watch The Repair Shop on BBC1 on Wednesdays you might have seen Jo featuring on it.  If you can access BBC iPlayer check it out, otherwise I will ask Jo to relate the story of her “repair” for another blog.

Trixie and Tess

These are my two girls.


Trixie was a rescue at 8 months from The Ark at Stubbington.  A Manchester Terrier/Jack Russell cross, she is Trouble with a capital T although she has calmed down with age (now 11).  Her favourite occupation is shouting at the world from an upstairs bedroom window where she can see all dogs approaching down the road.  It is also her squirrel watching post.  Fortunately for her, she is very pretty and can melt hearts when she feels like it.


Tess is a lurcher/collie, born on a farm and passed on three times before catching up with us in 2011 where she found her forever home.  She has had her moments in the past, leading Trixie astray too many times but now at 16 she is winding down and has become a dignified old lady.  

Finally, a Catch up from the Yard

Lesley has been at the yard for 25 years and these daffodils have always been there.  She had a naughty piebald cob, fat George, who used to bite the heads off the daffodils and spit them out!  He was a one off, she says.  Her farrier at the time always said that George “knew too much to have only come this way the once”!

J im

Jim is in fine fettle, having a good rummage in this photo after removal of his overnight rug.

And Reuben is looking really well at the grand old age of 29.  A credit to you, Lesley.

Next week would have been our AGM and I would have been giving my Chairman’s Report on the year 2019.  So maybe you will get to read it anyway on my blog!

Keep your news coming and stay safe.