Ponies pull to help historic church

Seventeen churches in four communities in two hours and 45 minutes '“ that and a vital boost for a church building fund was the achievement of a sponsored horse carriage drive.

Hooe Carriage Drive 1 SUS-180416-103732001
Hooe Carriage Drive 1 SUS-180416-103732001

Had an unfortunate coming-together with a Hooe hedgerow not intervened, wheelwright and parish council chairman Dick Carey would have achieve his ambition last year.

Like all good stories, however, this one has a happy ending.

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The hedgerows bordering the country lanes were full of primroses and spring promise as Dick set off on Sunday morning to raise money for St Oswald’s church at Hooe.

Hooe Carriage Drive 2 SUS-180416-104021001

With co-driver Tina Ray beside him on his dog cart, groom (and hand signal-giver) Molly Dowling seated behind and trusty ponies Magic and Mac in harness up front the party set off at 10am. They were seen off by churchwarden Jack Rist and his wife Margaret.

Jack said: “We need something between £8,000 and £11,000 to redecorate St Oswald’s.

“This sponsored carriage drive is a fantastic effort.”

Margaret said: “It is another bit of wonderful village community life.”

Dick is founder of the Indoor Carriage Driving Association. Both Tina and 15 year-old Claverham Community College student Molly had competed the previous weekend in the organisation’s national finals at Keysoe in Bedfordshire.

As they set off along Mill Lane, Hooe, the party had a tight schedule. First photo-stop was at St Mark’s, Little Common. Next came Little Common Methodist Church and St Martha’s Roman Catholic Church.

From St Augustine’s in Cooden Drive faithful Magic and Mac soon had the party at St Paul’s, then Sackville Road Methodist, St Barnabas’, St Mary Magdalene’s Roman Catholic and Beulah Baptist.

Then it was up to Old Town for the parish church of St Peter, on to Christchurch Methodist, Sidley Baptist, All Saints’ and Our Lady of the Rosary.

Magic and Mac then had a long haul out to St Lawrence’s at Catsfield and back via St Mary’s Ninfield where, serendipitously, the party met the Vicar of the twinned Hooe and Ninfield parishes.

The Rev Paul Frostick just had time to thank Dick, Tina and Molly before the dog cart set off on the last leg of its journey to St Oswald’s.

Jack Rist hitched a ride down the narrow lane to the church where the welcome party of parishoners included fellow churchwarden Simon Pattison.

Magic and Mac had never put a hoof wrong. Motorists had, for the most part, been kind and considerate. The participants now wait to see how much sponsorship money comes in response to their efforts.

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