Colour photograph of a white caravan from outside the wooden orchard gates, framed by trees, with a red brick tiled cottage behind it. If you look very carefully, you can see a Westie immediately behind the gate.


Holton Lee

Visit 32: 31 July - 1 August 2010

Colour photograph of a carriage with East Holton Driving Centre on the side.

We return to Holton Lee for the annual fun day at the stables in memory of their founder, Margaret Newell. As in previous years, Genie and I will be helping to run the raffle, along with Julie. Sadly, Genie's major party piece, Guess the Weight of the Westie, can only be performed once in each venue for obvious reasons, although the previous weekend we ran this at the local community centre to raise awareness of Dog AID, Genie's training organisation.

Fortunately my van is back on the road again, as Julie's car came very close to dying on the way back from our previous visit to Holton Lee. The roads are horribly crowded with holiday traffic, and it takes us nearly four hours just to get to Winchester where we stop to see our friend Silvia. Fortunately, by the time we set off again the roads are clear, and the drive through the New Forest revives us further. Before we get to Holton Lee, though, we stop again, this time for supper with Wally and Denise and a chance to discuss the plans for the morning.

When we finally arrive at the caravan, it is already dusk. As we will only be staying for one night, it is easy to unpack, though, and we have a peaceful evening. Since Wally has cooked us supper and we will have lunch at the stables tomorrow, we don't need the fridge on so opt to do without mains power and read quietly before turning in for an early night.

Colour photograph of a black and white horse peering over the stable door.

Despite this we oversleep, so it is closer to ten than nine when we arrive at the stables. Julie and I have planned that, as in previous years, Genie and I will move round the stable yard taking raffle tickets to visitors who prefer to sit down in the sun, while Julie stays at the table with the prizes selling tickets to people who want to come and see them first. However, just as we open Genie is very sick, and so I return to the caravan with her so she can have a sleep. She has been lame since before our previous visit, and the new tablets she has been prescribed don't appear to suit her. Fortunately, after an hour she brightens up and we return to the yard, where people greet us who remember us from previous years.

There are fewer visitors than usual - the first Sunday in August has fallen earlier than in previous years, and the roads close by are stationary with holiday traffic. But there is still a good crowd, and as always there is no sign of rain. The horses look great - Maggie has been stabled inside the yard and has her head over the door, enjoying herself, while the others look on at a distance. There is a cake stall, book stall and tombola as well as the raffle and a 'guess the number of sweets in the tin' game, and as always a delicious barbecue. Although the event raises funds for the stables' running costs, all refreshments are free so people who can't afford a donation are not excluded.

It is lovely to see so many disabled people, their carers and support workers enjoying themselves, and to realise anew just how important the stables are in their lives. The whole project depends on the work of a team of volunteers who are all elderly and/or disabled themselves, and they really do a wonderful job. It is no fun to come up to Holton Lee in all weathers to feed and groom the horses, however rewarding other aspects of the work must be. We are sad when the day is over and it is time to return to London, and hope to return before the end of the month.

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