In August, Niamh visits Park Palace Ponies, a wonderful charity Simple Life has been supporting for many years, as they hosted their second riding school at Aintree racecourse.
It is not often that one comes across people who truly inspire and impress on every level possible…driven, determined, committed, kind, thoughtful, incredibly hard working, selfless, fun and always smiling! That is the magic behind Park Palace Ponies and Bridget Griffin specifically. She has a vision, a passion and a belief in what Park Palace Ponies offer and can achieve, and she gives her all to this endeavour. Surrounded by a team of like-minded people, volunteers and family, their focus is to provide inner-city children in Liverpool with the opportunity to learn to ride, and communities to enjoy the physical and mental benefits of animal care. The benefits of interacting with animals is well researched and documented. Contact and engagement is shown to lower anxieties, increase mental stimulation, relieve stress, lower blood pressure, provide comfort, relaxation and generally boost mood!
The theory sounds brilliant but can it really be this good? Oh yes, to see this not for profit organisation in action, you cannot help but be hugely impressed and want to be involved and support their vision and fantastic work. Each time I visit I get a genuinely warm welcome, and I see happy children, and indeed parents. Their home at Dingle, Toxteth, is a revived old cinema house turned indoor riding school, and stables full of happy ponies. It is a hive of activity. Local people pop in throughout the day with treats for the ponies, or simply to say hello, school children enjoy class riding lessons and others book courses or parties. All are welcomed with a cheery hello and leave with huge smiles. And the ponies do their bit! They charm, engage, and are often seen taking a stroll down the street and around the community, visiting people at their homes – and yes in some cases cheekily helping themselves to hospitality and home comforts! This really is a special place and group of people – a place to revive the spirit and faith in humanity – a gem.
This summer saw the second Park Palace Pop Up Riding School at Aintree, Liverpool’s famous racecourse. Again, the ever energetic and tireless Bridget was there, with a squad of enthusiastic volunteers, led by Toni, all doing what PPP do best, helping, supporting, nurturing and guiding. A tour of the famous course and its history, alongside pony care and riding, were enjoyed by groups of youngsters over the 6 week summer holiday! Heading for the final week, attention will move to the progress and development of Walkers Wood, and the addition of new ponies to the family. The wonderful Bridget will also head back to full time teaching and Head of Year – where does she get her energy? I believe from the very clear positive impact that the ponies have on everyone who is lucky enough to visit!
We at Simple Life, have long been friends with the group, sponsoring a pony Moses, and our friendship has grown stronger over time. We are thrilled to be in a position to support the development of the project, with the addition of an outdoor riding school at Walkers Wood, and the stables therein being named after our colleague and friend, Ron Dawson. Ron was passionate about Liverpool and supporting people, and the provision of spaces and activities for the local community. It is true to say that people like Ron and the Park Palace Ponies team do not come around often, and it is also true to say their impact is immeasurable. They deserve our support, thanks and immense gratitude, though they are modest in the extreme!
Have a look at their Facebook page, and I am sure you will agree they are an inspiration. – Niamh