High Peak disabled riding group celebrates opening of new £168,000 arena

A High Peak equestrian group for disabled riders trotted out into its £168,000 new arena last week after three years of fundraising and construction.

Monday, 18th October 2021, 12:28 pm
Updated Monday, 18th October 2021, 12:29 pm

The Helen Atkin Group Buxton Riding for the Disabled (RDA) began a new era on Tuesday, October 12, with the official opening of its new facilities at Buxton Riding School, on Fern Farm.

The 1,500 square metre covered arena will allow riders of all ages and abilities to learn in comfort all year round, and includes toilets, a remote-controlled hoist to help riders on to their horses, and office space.

Group chairman Janine Frost said: “I am absolutely delighted that, after several years of unstinting commitment, belief and sheer hard graft, we are finally able to use these fantastic new facilities.

From left, Helen Atkin Group Buxton RDA founding members Caroline Watmough, Julie Andrew and Pat Atkin, chairman Janine Frost, and Buxton Riding School owner Louise Thompson.

“The arena will enable us to protect our riders in cold, wet and windy conditions – which can be mentally distracting and distressing, and physically painful.”

She added: “We now plan to expand the number of equestrian activities we offer so our riders can extend their skills and compete in regional and national competitions. Our project has huge potential to make a real difference to many people’s lives.”

The Helen Atkin Arena is named after the late daughter of founding group member and long-standing treasurer, Pat Atkin, and the opening ceremony featured tributes to several others integral to the project’s success.

Janine said: “So many people, businesses and organisations have encouraged and supported us along the way, from our initial funding bids to the unexpected, massive challenges posed by the pandemic. We really appreciate the efforts of everyone who has helped.

“I’d like to pay particular tribute to our former chairman, Wendy Howe, who retired earlier this year after spearheading our fundraising campaign and steering the project, and to Sport England for its substantial contribution of £63,000.

She added: “Massive thanks are due to Dave and Louise Thompson, owners of Buxton Riding School. They worked around the clock to prepare the ground and contributed so much more. A big thank you to local residents too, for their understanding and patience despite the noise and disruption.”

“We are also indebted to our dedicated volunteers. Some have been with us a long time and turned out in all kinds of weather to make sessions possible. We couldn’t survive without them, and I’m so pleased they will now be sheltered from whatever the elements have in store.

The arena appeal was launched in 2019 to mark the 50th anniversary of the national RDA, following an offer of £50,000 from the estate of local resident David Hammond.

The rest of the money came from crowdfunding, Sport England, fundraising events and sponsored feats such as a cycle ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

The arena was erected by JM Milner Steel Framed Buildings of Stoke-on-Trent, with assistance from Buxton employers Tarmac and Lomas Distribution.

An extra bonus came from Norman Cheng, of Hong Kong riding helmet manufacturer Strategic Sports, who heard about the group’s work through a mutual friend and donated 50 new hats to keep riders safe.

The group would now like to hear from more disabled riders keen to experience the new facilities, and potential volunteers for a variety of support roles. Contact Janine via 07960 961605 or [email protected]

For more information, see helenatkinrda.org.uk or facebook.com/BuxtonRDA.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together.” – Louise Cooper, editor.