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Beechley, which is a Riding for the Disabled centre, is putting on petting sessions to help raise funds and bring the community together for a fun all-ages event over the school summer holidays.
They’ve already held two sold-out dates with animals from Ark 2 Ewe, and have added a third on Friday August 20.
The sessions include a chance to meet and stroke not just the alpacas but some of their furry friends too.
Previous visits from Ark 2 Ewe have featured goats, sheep, guinea pigs, chinchillas and a baby tortoise.
Beechley trustee Jean Halligan says the petting days have proved incredibly popular, with grandparents, parents and young children all taking part.
“It gives Ark 2 Ewe an opportunity to share their animals with people in the community who wouldn’t normally get up close to an alpaca or some of the other animals,” she says.
“And it’s something that’s appealing to all ages, not just families with children – the first guests for our July 30 session were two adults who just love alpacas and we are on their doorstep so they don’t have to travel to be able to pet them.”
Jean says Beechley’s riding space is perfect to accommodate all the animals in a way that’s completely inclusive.
“We’ve got a huge covered arena and the animals are spread out so everybody has ample opportunity and room to move around and to touch the animals and spend time with them.
“It doesn’t matter what the weather’s like because can centre the animals in the arena so everyone’s under cover and people can still mill around freely. And we’ve got tracking we can put down so wheelchairs, prams and mobility scooters can get on there and reach the animals so it’s totally accessible and nobody has to miss out on the experience.”
Jean says the sessions have already been a big attraction, especially as people look for unusual ways to entertain children in the long summer holidays if they’re not going away due to Covid travel uncertainty.
Like most charities, Beechley Stables has had to rely even more than before on donations and fund-raising during the pandemic. Lockdown meant it wasn’t able to open as usual to offer riding and horse care for children, young adults and adults with disabilities.
Lessons are now back on, but Jean says they are still needing to be creative when it comes to financially supporting their work.
“Our core income is riding so when you can’t do that obviously it has a big impact so we’ve had to look at other means and while Covid is still around we’ve got to continue to do that,” she explains.
“Although we’ve been able to resume riding again, we are still looking at additional ways we can raise funds. We won a Lottery grant in October which really helped us, and we’ve had some funding from the Steve Morgan Foundation and the DCMS.
“Our petting sessions are a great extra way to support what we do and it’s a chance to get the whole community involved.”
The next petting day, which Jean says will probably be the last to take place this summer, will be on Friday August 20, from 1pm to 4pm. There will be five 45-minute sessions, and each one can accommodate around 15 children and adults. They cost £10 per person and children under 5 go free with a paying adult. Bookings will be taken via email, [email protected]
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