A beloved charity in Teddington is under threat, directly and indirectly, from the pandemic. Park Lane Stables has been fighting to remain viable amidst constantly changing lockdown restrictions and has used all of its resources to keep the stables going. However, it now faces another challenge: the landlord has written requesting vacation of the property by 31st May this year.
Natalie O’Rourke and her ponies have become a familiar sight on local streets throughout the various lockdowns. The “Tiny Pony at Your Window” project bought joy to thousands of people as they waved and walked the ponies the length and breadth of the borough. Care homes and hospitals were no exception to delights of this successful scheme.
When permitted, they ran a “Wellies and Wellbeing” program that enabled disabled children and adults to bond with the ponies by grooming and spending time with them. It was a symbiotic success with people benefiting from improved mental health whilst the ponies enjoyed the human contact.
Now in Lockdown 4, far from being deterred, Natalie is taking requests for Ride-bys. These are a means to exercise the ponies as winter fields are too muddy for them to graze. The familiar clip-clop of hooves outside resident’s windows is undoubtedly certain once more to boost morale.
Natalie has started a crowdfunding campaign to try and raise one million pounds to acquire the stables for the community. If successful, it will mean the rent paid now could go towards advancing the valuable day-to-day work done at the stables. Eighty percent of the time has evolved towards becoming a valuable community hub devoted to disabled children and adults and affiliated to least eight charities including Achieving for Children and British Blind Sport. The remaining time is used to take people riding in the iconic green spaces of Bushy Park and Hampton Court.
The crowdfunder is all about “buying a brick or two” to keep this “bubble of happiness” in its unique home in Park Lane. Thanks to overwhelming support from the Teddington Society, the site has just been approved by Richmond Council to become an Asset of Community Value. The ACV gives legal protection to the site and offers the chance for the community to buy the premises within six months. This will go some way to prevent development and keeping the site for the community for 5 years but it’s not a “done deal.” The only way to keep 23 horses and ponies in a forever home and 6 disabled people in employment is for the stables to be owned lock, stock and barrel by the community of Teddington.
Details of how you can donate can be found here:
Photography by Cathy Cooper
Written by Jacqui Kerr.
Jacqui works as a broadcast journalist for Radio Jackie in Tolworth.