Magpie Centre Receives £10,000 Grant


The Magpie Centre, home of West Norfolk Riding for the Disabled Association, was recently awarded a £10,0000 grant from the Masonic Charitable Foundation, (MCF) and welcomed a group of Norfolk Freemasons on a fact-finding visit.

Mr Stephen Allen, Head of Norfolk Freemasons; Mr Robin Shaw, Provincial MCF representative and Mr Michael Spalding, Norfolk Freemasons’ Provincial Communications Officer, visited the Centre, at Wallington Hall, South Runcton and met Mrs Bee Ford, West Norfolk RDA Chairwoman, plus several trustees and volunteers.

After tea and cakes, they spoke to Mr Aynsley Calvert and Ms Michelle Alflatt, two of the Magpie Centre’s adult riders, and heard from them the difference that riding had made to their lives.

Mr Allen then presented them with rosettes, awarded by RDA National Office, for their participation in the RDA Dressage Championships, which were held ‘virtually’, owing to the pandemic.

RDA riders are grouped according to their levels of disability, and Ms Alflatt gained 6th place in Grade 1 (for the most disabled riders), while Mr Calvert placed in Grade 7 (Intellectual Disability).

The presentation took place in the Sensory Garden, opened by HRH the Princess Royal in July 2021, and the visitors met WNRDA Trustees Mrs Jan Calvert, whose idea it was, and Mr Andy Beeston, who, with his team of volunteers, undertook the construction work.

The wheelchair-friendly garden forms an excellent venue for the Centre’s Tea With a Pony initiative, whereby older people, those with mobility issues, dementia, or who just like to socialise, can meet for tea and cakes and stroke some of the Centre’s gentle ponies. This programme runs from April to October. To book, call the Magpie Centre Office on 01553 810202.

Trustee Mr Gerry McKenna was also on hand to outline the work of Equine Assisted Learning Therapy (EALT), a non-mounted activity which helps people with mental health issues to develop confidence, self-esteem and communication skills.

Highlight of the day was meeting RDA rider Isaac Everitt, aged 6, riding Ginger.

Isaac’s mother, Ms Jennifer Reeves, explained that Isaac, who is on the autistic spectrum and has Global Developmental Delay, had progressed rapidly since starting to ride in September 2022.

‘I’ve noticed a huge improvement in Isaac’s listening, communication and speaking skills since he started riding at the Centre,’ she said.

At present the Centre has 12 equines, ranging from mounts suitable for tiny children, up to Irish Draft horse Ava, who carries the bigger riders. However, we are on the lookout for more horses, from 15.2 hh to 16.2 hh, for riding and/or carriage driving lessons.

We deliver 72 riding lessons per week, split 50/50 between child and adult riders, plus 19 carriage driving lessons, but there are currently 16 applicants on the waiting list.

Our next major fundraising event is a Quiz and Hog Roast, (with vegetarian option), plus a huge range of salads and desserts, to be held Saturday April 22 at Stowbridge Village Hall, Downham Road, Stowbridge, PE34 3PW. Doors open at 7.00 pm for a 7.30 pm start. Bring Your Own Drinks! Teams of 4 – 8 people are usual, but please feel welcome to come along and make up a team on the night. To book tickets: £12.50 each, call 07715 467866 or email: All proceeds to the Magpie Centre, West Norfolk Riding for the Disabled Association.

Photography credits, Rachel Hurcomb Photography.