This sorry saga was always going to end in tears - but we need the horses and what about the Proms?

Man and stables

The end for the Cockington business - Credit: Kirk Petrakis

Somehow you could always sense it was going to end in tears –  and it did at the weekend in Cockington. 

Months of uncertainty, behind-the-scenes negotiations, frustration and toing and froing came to an end when carriage horses Annie and Cowboy were ushered into a horse box to leave the village for good. 

Carriage company owners Kirk and Hannah Petrakis had been locked in talks with landlords the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust and TDA over a field for the horses to graze during the winter. 

Kirk and Hannah claimed the field was not fit for purpose. The landlords evidently didn’t agree and the deadlock was broken when time simply ran out and they had to quit their stable home in the village. 

Annie and Cowboy are now grazing on a farm on Dartmoor, their future uncertain. Patrick the pony, who was at the forefront of the Petrakis’s battle,  will still be a familiar face locally as Kirk and Hannah set up a Community Interest Company where he will visit places like care homes and children’s events in more of a wellbeing way. 

The council have said they have done all they can. They said in a statement: “Torbay Council and TDA recognise the heritage and tradition the horses bring to the site. 

“Since May, we have made sustained efforts working with K&H Carriages and Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust to find a solution in this ongoing dispute over winter grazing. 

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“TDA commissioned an independent land agent assessment of the grazing which concluded that, whilst not ideal, the current winter grazing fields are workable. 

“In addition, TDA has carried out searches for alternative grazing sites both in 2018 and again this year. However, a solution has not been found that has been acceptable to the current operators. 

 “As the Council’s appointed operators of Cockington Court, TDA has continually supported K&H Carriages since they based their business at the site. In recognition of the heritage benefits that the horses bring to the site, TDA offered a peppercorn rent at the start of the lease, which was offered for an extended period. In addition, Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust offered a discounted rent on the winter grazing fields. 

 “K&H carriages have been offered business support and advice from TDA Business Advisors; the business advice offer was not accepted.  

“Over recent weeks TDA and Council representatives have met with K&H Carriages with the aim and hope that a solution could be found and have recently proposed a change in the operating requirements to resolve the winter grazing issues. While it has not been possible to reach a solution, we are deeply saddened to see K&H Carriages remove their horses and we continue to recognise the heritage and will continue to work to protect this tradition.” 

Kirk said: “It has all been quite stressful. They have been changing things and we were asked to come back in the summer but that is not do-able financially. 

“The support we have had from people has been amazing and it has been very emotional. It is all very sad at the moment. “ 

Hannah said: “It is really sad and a real shame. We really appreciate the support we have had. A lot of people are really upset. Our main concern at the moment is the safety of the horses.” 

Local councillors, MP Kevin Foster and others have all tried to find a solution here but now it would appear that there is no going back. 

It all comes when good things are happening at Cockington, including a new farm attraction and farm shop at Occombe. 

With the utmost respect, there is no point pointing the finger of blame at anybody.. We just need carriages and horses at Cockington. It is what the place is about and stands for. We need them back asap from somewhere.

And while we are at it what about a return of the Proms? Just throwing it out there......