General Sir Mike Jackson declares new Marlborough Downs horse-drawn driving route open.
Former Chief of the General Staff, the professional head of the British Army, General Sir Mike Jackson declared open a new horse-drawn driving route across the Marlborough Downs on behalf of the Kennet Valley Carriage Driving Group (KVCDG) Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) on 2nd September 2014.
The recent improvements to 2.2 kilometres of tracks has enabled those with disabilities to drive carriages which have been specifically adapted for wheelchair use. The track improvements have been implemented by the Marlborough Downs NIA Project with additional funding from The Hills Group Limited through the Landfill Communities Fund (LCF), and the Community Foundation for Wiltshire and Swindon through a Public Health and Wellbeing grant. LCF is administered by Community First, the Rural Community Council for Wiltshire.
All Photography: Niels Van Gijn Kennet Valley Carriage Driving Group (KVCDG) Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) and Marlborough Downs NIA Project
Starting out from Rockley Manor, Sacha Cooper, Bryony Fuller and Doug Middlemiss, who suffer with disabilities and are regular members of the KVCDG, were the first to enjoy the new Marlborough Downs route. They were accompanied by RDA carriage drivers; Leonie Brown, Cheryl Cook and Caroline Mitchell. Drummer a 17 year old Clydesdale cob gelding, Perrine an 8 year old Comtois mare and Prophet a 6 year old Comtois gelding were the horses who took the honours and pulled the carriages to mark the opening.
Jilly Carter, one of the farmers within the MDNIA, hosts the Kennet Valley Carriage Driving Group RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association) at Maisey Farm. The group has also invited wounded, injured and sick serving military personnel and veterans on visits as part of the rolling recovery programme at Tedworth House Recovery Centre, run by the renowned charity Help for Heroes.
After declaring the carriage driving route open, General Sir Mike Jackson commented: “Having served the British army for over 45 years, I have witnessed the devastating effect a disability can have both physically and mentally. This driving route provides a remarkable opportunity for anyone with a disability as they can access the Marlborough Downs and experience its stunning surroundings within the peace of a horse-drawn carriage. This can only be hugely beneficial and healthy for the body and mind. This is fantastic initiative by the MDNIA and KVCDG and I am delighted to declare it open”.
Bryony Fuller added: “I simply treasure the time I spend with the driving group. It allows me to get out in the fresh air and experience the breath-taking Marlborough Downs whilst also meeting with likeminded people. It goes without saying that Drummer, Perrine and Prophet also enjoy their driving days as there is always a hearty feed and plenty of carrots waiting for them at the end!”
The Marlborough Downs Nature Improvement Area is a unique farmer-led project. It forms part of a Government initiative launched in 2012 and involves over 40 farms, encompassing an area of over 25,000 acres of Wiltshire farmland. The project’s aims are to create joined-up habitats and develop initiatives that will boost wildlife as well as encouraging community involvement.
For more information visit www.mdnia.org.uk