High Equestrian hopes in the East Yorkshire village of Willerby
PUBLISHED: 17:11 15 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:34 20 February 2013
An East Yorkshire village is unexpectedly a centre for equestrian expertise as Chris Titley discovers Photographs by Neil Holmes
We are animal lovers in this part of the world especially if that animal has a fine pair of fetlocks and is measured in hands. Yorkshire is a big horsey county, said Debbie Leak, with a lot of good riders. And she should know.
She runs the Willerby Hill Competition Yard & Equestrian Centre, where riders from across the country take part in British Dressage contests or attend clinics. It is one of the more distinctive businesses in the thriving village of Willerby, six miles to the west of Hull.
Originally a farm, the business took off when a cowshed was converted into an indoor equestrian school. The switch from cattle to horses has proved an enduring hit and competitions have been staged there for the last 12 years.
We run them through the week and also at the weekend, said Debbie. We run a lot of British Dressage training camps for under-21s. We can have up to 42 children here.
Debbie was 14 when her interest in equestrianism really took hold, but her children started much younger and have been through BYRDS the British Young Rider Dressage Scheme. My daughters have been riding ever since theyve been able to walk. They completed BYRDS and have both competed for England. And Natasha, 17, and Olivia, 15, are still keen riders.
Natashas just got a new horse and she wants to try to get on the teams again. To achieve a place takes dedication, Debbie said. Its a lot of hard work. Natasha will ride six days a week and shell spend an hour on each of the horses. And she trains once a week.
Willerby Hill has just opened its caf full time so people can enjoy a drink or meal while they watch the competitions and clinics. Most residents would agree that this is one of Willerbys great attractions it has the best of both worlds. The village, though lively and well-served for shops, has an off-the-beaten track quality.
It is also home to the family-run Willerby Manor Hotel, with its large conference rooms and landscaped gardens. It hosts events from literary lunches Pauline Prescott and Joe Longthorne were a memorable double bill last year to weddings and major charity fund raisers.
It is at the hotel where tireless East Yorkshire charity campaigner Jean Van Der Ende stages fund raising spectaculars for the Yorkshire Scan Appeal.
The appeal aims to buy a hi-tech cancer-spotting scanner for Hull Royal Infirmary.
In February Willerby Manor hosted the appeals Valentines Ball and the next big bash is imminent. The Ladies Summer Luncheon takes place at the hotel on July 1st and the 25 ticket also covers entry to a fashion show by Browns of Beverley.
Getting there: Willerby is off the A164 west of Hull. Regular bus services connect the village to the city.
Where to park: Theres a car park just off Beverley Road close to the Square.
What to do: Have a bite to eat at the caf bar or one of Willerbys pubs. Or take part in the quiz nights at Springhead Park Golf Club or join in the party nights at Willerby Manor Hotel.