Cockington without the horses would be like jam without the cream

Couple with pony and horse at stables

Kirk and Hannan at the stables - Credit: Submitted

Cockington has always had a special place in my heart. A place where me and my future wife spent many a happy hour and got married.

A place where I loved to play cricket as the locals and crowds in their hundreds crowded around the boundary.

Where the lakes and watermill and the natural beauty of a famous thatched cottage village captured the hearts of thousands and thousands of people every year with a blacksmith and horse drawn carriages.

The Torbay Cost and Countryside Trust has done its best to manage and, together with TDA, promote the village and its general offer over the years. But it hasn't been easy -  and now there is a real threat to the picture postcard horse drawn carriage business currently run by Kirk and Hannah Petrakis.

Horses Annie and Cowboy share the task of pulling the carriage. And there is Patrick the miniature Shetland pony who has brought worldwide fame to them and their business.

It is a business they say is under threat in a row over grazing pastures for the winter. The couple claim the field is not  fit for their horses. There seems to be an impasse with the Trust and that may spell the end for the business.

John Ransom is a regular visitor to Cockington and the horses. He wrote to me saying: "Cockington is a real jewel in Torbay’s crown and its long association with wonderful numerous countryside walks, its craft centre with quirky outlets and not forgetting the well supported horse carriage rides for the general public which adds the appropriate sparkle to “Cockington Weddings”. 

Most Read

"The Passmores operated the carriage business successfully for many years but ceased trading a few years ago following the death of Rick Passmore. 

"Some six years ago Kirk and Hannah took on the tenancy of the stables at Cockington Court. Kirk and Hannah are genuine animal lovers."It appears that Kirk and Hannah are facing the real possibility of having to sell their horses in September and terminate their business – this cannot be allowed."Kirk told me: ""We are up and running at the moment. We have got nowhere with the grazing issue. The fields are not good enough. From an animal welfare perspective we would not put our horses there again wit the bracken and brambles. They are the worst fields in Cockington."Council leader Steve Darling and his deputy Darren Cowell have tried to come to some agreement with the Trust but they are digging their heels in a bit.

"It has been a difficult relationship. We want to sort it out. You are just banging you head against a brick wall."

He added: "People want to start a peaceful protest. They are really supportive. They do not understand what is going on. It is part of the heritage. The horses bring a lot of people to Cockington. Then we had Patrick come along. He has been in national and international newspapers and brings so many people here."

The situation could be sorted one way or the other in 10 days time when an independent land agent is due to assess the land.

Kirk and Hannah have set up a Community Interest Company around Patrick and he will be visiting schools and offering special mental wellbeing sessions including being there for grieving people who have lost loved ones.

Kirk says: "Patrick will continue to do this and if the worst comes to the worst will stay with us. There is a real risk to the carriage business. We will have to find a new home for Annie and Cowboy which will be heart-breaking because you get to attached to horses."

TDA want to see a thriving  carriage business with an official saying: "We want to have a commercial relationship and see a focus on a carriage company that will be a viable business."

 Neither the trust or trustees have  been available for comment but I get that there two sides to any story.

Quite frankly, I don't care who is to blame if that is the right word to use. All I know is that Cockington is in danger of losing another part of its magic. Its charm. That cannot be allowed to happen.

Cockington without the horses would be like jam without the cream.