Driving Groups in the Mid-West Region

Featuring news from the Royal Forest of Dean Group and The Kennet Valley Group

Carriage Driving reaches 40!
Princess Anne toasts charity’s success as RDA Carriage Driving turns 40.
Unicorn Trust Equestrian Centre hosts memorable day of celebrations
Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) enjoyed a day of celebrations in the company of Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal, marking 40 years of RDA Carriage Driving. The Princess enjoyed driving displays from RDA groups and a demonstration of para driving. Colin Pawson of the British Driving Society took guests on a nostalgic talk through the last 40 years of driving at RDA, while carriages from then and now paraded the arena. Mark Broadbent of Fenix Carriages demonstrated the very latest addition to RDA Driving – a new purpose-built carriage for wheelchair users.
Following the displays, Her Royal Highness presented rosettes and badges to all those involved, then met RDA volunteers, drivers and supporters before cutting a special anniversary cake.
RDA Carriage Driving Chairman, Margaret Brockie, received a special award from The Princess Royal for her dedication to driving and for successfully encouraging the growth of the sport within RDA.
“It was a great day of recognising how far Carriage Driving has come,” said Margaret. “We celebrated those pioneers who could see the potential of driving for people with disabilities, and showed how their vision has been realised in the vibrant and dynamic activity that so many benefit from today.”

RDA Carriage Driving at 40 – a brief history and background to a week of celebrations
Early in 1974, the Sandhurst Group of RDA approached the driving section of the Donkey Breed Society to see if they would co-operate with the group to experiment and try out ideas for teaching adults with disabilities to drive a pony or a donkey. After several sessions it was proved that driving for the disabled could be a success and all those involved were convinced that the scheme must become permanent.

On the 12th June 1975, it was carried by the Council of the Riding for the Disabled Association that the constitution be amended to include driving.

The Council for RDA appointed Phoebe Stewart as the first Chairman of RDA Carriage Driving and she had great support from Nancy Pethick, nominated by the British Driving Society, to develop the discipline and rules within the Association. The first driving group set up under the auspices of RDA was Windsor and Ascot and this group continues to thrive. RDA now has 66 groups providing sessions to 1026 drivers.

The event at the Unicorn Trust Equestrian Centre forms just part of the celebrations going on across the country during this anniversary week. Many groups are holding events to mark the occasion; picnic drives, fun days and parties.



KVDG has had a busy year so far. Not being associated with a school or college, all our drivers are older adults, we can drive for most of the year weather permitting! We had a few days off early this year due to the wet conditions and some of the tracks were too wet to drive but with no snow this winter we weren’t prevented from getting out on the roads like last year. We have had a wonderful summer with great weather for our picnic drive which took us from our base at Maisey Farm, just outside Marlborough, up over the Manton Estate and into Manton village to the home of our benefactors, Mr & Mrs Ken Carter. We had a wonderful drive both ways and enjoyed a great lunch, provided by the group’s volunteers. Our regional and county chairmen joined us for lunch, as well as friends and supporters, before we headed back over the downs. We are very lucky to be allowed by all the local estates to drive their tracks as it opens up the wonderful countryside around us for our disabled drivers to enjoy – as one of our drivers says “if only this were available on the NHS!”
We are hosting the men and women from the Help for Heroes centre at Tidworth again this year and have had two groups visit so far. They have brought good weather with them in the past but their first visit on May 30th was not so summery but everyone enjoyed the experience regardless. We had another good drive out with the second group of visitors on 16th July. The weather hadn’t yet got into its stride but everyone enjoyed their outing regardless. One more visit is scheduled for September.

We have also had 2 visits from Simon Bougourd, our regional carriage driving rep, who had to assess all of our qualified whips (which is why it took 2 visits!) – we’re delighted that everyone got their log books signed! He also did the whip’s assessment for one of our trainees, Caroline Mitchell, and we are thrilled to say that she passed! She will make a great addition to our team of RDAW’s. His final task was to assess 3 of our DW’s for their carriage driving proficiency tests – we are delighted that they have all passed Grades 1 and 2 and have had the driving part of Grade 3 passed too so just need to study for the theory element before, hopefully, going on to take their single rein test. Two of them competed in the regional dressage event and hope to do so again next year with better results!

We are looking forward to the ‘grand opening’ of a newly re-surfaced track near our base on 2nd September. We did try to drive this route when first at Maisey but the surface was too rutted by farm vehicles and off roaders to be safe for carriages. Since then the Marlborough Downs Nature Improvement Area (mdnia.org.uk) have secured funding to repair it and we now have a wonderful drive with stunning views to enjoy while the weather is kind.

The horses are now having a well earned 2 week break and we will start driving again at the end of the month. We’re hoping to be able to drive well into the winter months, so fingers crossed for a mild autumn!

"What have KVDG been up to in 2013?  Well, here goes:

  • The snow in January rather slowed our start to the year as we had several weeks where the ground was too snowy or too slippery to risk going out - as you know we have to go downhill at some point on any of our routes.
  • Once the weather improved we were up and running again - we have 14 DW's, some of whom attend on a regular basis (about 12) and a couple who come on a more sporadic time frame. 
  • As with many groups we always need helpers but have a good core of 20 who can come on a regular basis. We were invited by the parish church in Marlborough to take part in their take on Harvest Festival this year - a Harvest of Volunteers with voluntary groups from the area putting up a display about their work in the church which was manned by the parishioners. Two of our trustees, Leonie Brown and Caroline Mitchell put up the display and several of our group attended the Sunday Harvest service. Sadly I don't think we got any new volunteers (but I've copied this to our trustees so they may well correct me!) but we did get a new DW! 
  • One of our DW's, Dawn Steel, took part in the regional trials at Mark Broadbent's and came 3rd which we were all thrilled about. She hadn't had much time to prepare and practice and then had a change of horse (Drummer instead of Perrine) to cope with as well. We are all very proud of her. 
  • Our major fundraising event of the year was a plant fair which, despite a rather chilly and blustery day, went off extremely well! We were delighted with the turnout and plan to do it all again next April 
  • We were invited to take part in the Bowood Dog Show (which is more like a country show) and sent a turnout with Perrine. An cheeky request got us into the arena early and we were able to give a demonstration which impressed and we've been asked to go next year with two turnouts! 
  • We took part in two sponsored drives organised by the Wiltshire BDS. Hazel Woodbridge, the area Commissioner has been a great supporter and a donation to the group comes from each of these events. The course is over the local estates and is a great drive for all. 
  • Our most exciting visitors this year have been 3 groups from Help for Heroes rehabilitation centre at Tedworth House in Tidworth. It's taken a while but we were thrilled to host them and humbled by their attitude and fortitude. We hope that more of these young men and women will visit us next year. 

Since starting this there have been two confirmed cases of strangles which has stopped us from driving for a couple of weeks but, hopefully, not for much longer. We plan to drive until the weather prevents us!"

By Royal Appointment?

To celebrate her Diamond Jubilee Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth has been visiting various parts of her realm and on Tuesday May 1st the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, Mrs Sarah Troughton hosted a display by all the area boards in the county on the Cathedral Green in Salisbury which was attended by Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh

Kennet Valley Driving Group (KVDG) was thrilled to be invited to be part of the Marlborough Area Board’s (MAB) display. Emails pinged back and forth with instructions and information and plans were made as to who would go, what we should take and how we could get it all there!

 RDA whips Trish Gange, Leonie Brown and James Oliver rose early on the day to take one of our four wheeler carriages down by trailer and set it up before the green was closed to exhibitors. Our Chairman, Jane Matthews, joined them and Group Secretary Maggie Lewis brought 3 volunteers and one of our disabled drivers, Pat Putland, down to join them.

Her Majesty and HRH Prince Philip arrived by train and the later arrivals were able to see the motorcade enter the Cathedral Close before entering themselves to join the rest of the group. The KVDG party also included disabled whips Tracey Holland and Sacha Cooper. We had been told that the MAB pavilion was one of those selected for a Royal visit so excitement was high. On arrival we’d been further informed that HRH Prince Philip would be visiting us! We knew he’d be interested in the carriages and our driving activities!

There was much waiting around and anticipating – “10 minutes” seemed to be a standard reply to the question “How much longer would it be?”! Finally the Royal Party appeared and the Duke headed towards us as the Queen went in the opposite direction. Jane was presented by Lord Landsdowne, who accompanied the Duke, and she introduced Pat and Tracey who were sitting on the carriage, and Sacha who was sitting beside it.

The Duke chatted with them for a few minutes and then it was all over as he moved on to visit the inside of the pavilion. In spite of being told that we were not to take photos, fortunately Helen Kelly of ARK snapped away and sent the accompanying pictures of the moment! We even got a mention on the front page of the local paper!

Arduous fundraising trip in Jordan: Maggie Saunders lives to tell the tale!

Trek to Petra - Sponsored walk In aid of the Forest of Dean Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) carriage Driving Group - 16th to 23rd October 2010

Maggie writes:
"Early in the year I attended the RDA conference for the South West and Wales region.  Pauline Lane told us about ‘Trek to Petra’ which was a 100km walk in Jordan walking from the Dead Sea to Petra.  My friend and Whip (carriage driver) Julie had been on a couple of cycle rides and horse ride in aid of charity and I had decided I would like to do something similar.  This was ideal for me as the funds raised would go to our local group.
My name is Maggie Saunders and I carriage drive for the above group.  We meet on a Wednesday morning at The Rising Sun, Woolaston.  Our aim is to teach carriage driving to adults from The Forest of Dean Area who are physically and mentally challenged.  It is amazing the reaction, learning and enjoyment they get from driving a horse and cart.

The Challenge
Where do I start; first there was the training, for six months I was walking, cycling, doing weights, hill and stair climbs.  The good side was I lost weight and I did feel much better both mentally and physically.  I was encouraged by the amount of sponsorship and good wishes I received, from Woolaston alone I raised over £900 in sponsorship.

The walk
Day 1. We arrived in Amman, Jordan at midnight and were taken by coach to our hotel on the Dead Sea, arriving late we were given our room keys.  I was sharing with Susan and both being very tired after all the travelling went straight to bed. 

Day 2. We started by floating in the Dead Sea, then you covered yourself in mud and went back into the sea to wash it off.  You feel great afterwards.  After the briefing it was back on the coaches to our first walk.  At Wadi Khuderia there was a Bedouin tent and a donkey and foal tied to a tree.  Our first look at Bedouin life.  We walked along the narrow wadi.  There was a stream running along the wadi with the rocks high on either side.  It was beautiful; when we got back to the coach it was 40C in the shade.
We were taken to meet the pickup trucks, we all piled in with our cases and off across the desert to our first Bedouin camp.  There was a long tent with blanket type material on three side and top.  The front was open and there were woven rugs on the ground.  The cooking area was divided by a sheet and lights strung along the front.  We had foam mattresses to sleep on.    We chose our mattress and collected our bags.  Dinner was served and it was off to bed at 8pm.

Day 3. Today was one of the two long days, we had 30km to go.  We walked along small wadis and over ridges keeping the Etom Mountains to our left.   We stopped at an oasis and Bedouin women came with their herds of goats, the goats rushing down the steep tracks to the water.

Day 4. Today was supposed to be easier and it was mostly on the flat. It was supposed to be 20m but we got lost so was a little further. The temperature was 37c and very little shade.  I found this very difficult as I am not good in the sun. We stopped for lunch at an abandoned police station up on a hilltop. Some of the trekkers were having problems with their feet and finding the walking difficult.  The government had built a town here for the Bedouin but being nomadic people refused to live there.

Day 5. This was the real challenge for me.  It was one of the longer days 24km and difficult terrain. ‘Vertigo sufferers will find today challenging at times’, and I did.  We set off a 6am before the sun had risen. I thought we were going to follow the old camel trails, but NO.  We climbed the rock face! Fear of Heights – yes, did I do it - YES.  After the climb of 1023m we then trekked down and up again to reach Mount Quaran, part of the Red Mountain Ridge. We trekked through a beautiful wadi with small trees and shrubs.  We walked into Little Petra and had a view of the old caves and temples.

Day 6. Today was an easy day 13km. We walk from Little Petra to the famous Red Rose City of Petra, built more than 2,000 years ago. The valley is enclosed by sandstone cliffs veined with shades of red, purple and pink, out of which the city’s monuments and temples were hewn.  Here we had a guided tour of Petra. We stayed in a hotel in Petra, and went to the Turkish bath for a much needed sauna, body scrub and massage.

Day 7. Today we took the Toyota 4x4 trucks to Wadi Rum.  We walked along the wadi and saw the graffiti of thousands of years ago.  We returned to Jalab Rum Camp for a traditional Bedouin lunch.   In the evening we had a celebration dinner.

Day 8. After a good night’s sleep we took the coach to Amman for our flight home.

We walked 117km.  Did I enjoy it,?   Yes, but it was a far more difficult challenge than I thought it was going to be.  Would I do it again?  NO, (now I have been home for a few weeks maybe).
Unfortunately I got severe Gastroenteritis and on arriving back in the UK spent 10 days in bed and another month recovering.  I hope to have raised at least £1,600 for our RDA group once I have collected all the sponsorship and gift aid.  Over £44,000 for RDA groups was raised. 
I did this walk in memory of Julie Foulks who died earlier this year.  She gave me the inspiration and the confidence to say ‘Yes I can do this’ and Julie I did do it."

Maggie Saunders

Petra trek

Kennet Valley Driving Group - Wiltshire

The Kennet Valley Driving Group RDA is now based at Maizey Farm, Rockley, near Marlborough (SN8 1RX) in the beautiful Kennet Valley.  We have 10 disabled drivers and 6 RDA whips with 2 in training.  We have 3 carriages - a two-wheeler and 2 four-wheelers which are wheelchair accessible. 

To contact the group, either email or call the group secretary, Maggie Lewis on 0845 241 5396 kennetvalleydrivinggroup@gmail.com

The last 18 months have been very exciting for Kennet Valley Driving Group (KVDG) as we have acquired 2 Comtois horses to pull our carriages.  For those of you not familiar with the breed think Suffolk Punch on shorter legs!!  They come from the Comté region of France where they are used for draught work and are of a very good temperament making them ideal for RDA work.

Just off the lorry!

Our first, who arrived about 18 months ago, was a 7 year old mare called Perrine, known to all as Perri, or to give her her full name, Perrine de Magny.  She was bought after seeing the magnificent pair owned by Jane Wordsworth at the annual sponsored drive by the local branch of the BDS around the fields of the farm that is our base.  Jane was instrumental in the purchase too as she knows a breeder who found Perri for us.

Our most recent acquisition, bought last September, is a rising 5 gelding who we named Prophet though his proper name is Sire de la Violette – a prophet being a seer (try saying Sire with a French accent!).  We hope to have Prophet assessed in the spring so he can start working with our drivers when we restart in April.  Once he is working we hope to be able to have more disabled drivers.

The Thursday group

These two have taken to RDA work like the proverbial ducks to water and relish the challenges of the beautiful, but hilly, countryside we drive in.  Their strength is a great asset as they are trained to draught work from an early age and pulling our purpose built 4 wheelers is a relatively light task for them. 

Our ‘head boy’ is Drummer, a Clydesdale cob cross, who has been with us for 6 years and who is such a good teacher for our trainees but not above a bit of showing off when in the spotlight!  He is calm and reliable and loved by all who meet him.

Drummer and Perrine

Website design by 16 Interactive