Gillingham visitors set for look at rare British ponies
VISITORS to Park Farm, Gillingham, have a unique opportunity to meet some of the rarest British and Irish breeds, including one of the most endangered of all the native ponies, the Kerry Bog Ponies.
Farmers Sheila and Ron Clarke have three herds of rare breed cattle - Irish Moiled, British White and Red Poll - as well as a flock of Wiltshire Horn sheep.
But the Kerry Bog ponies have a special place in their hearts - and they are among the skilled and dedicated breeders who are helping to save these affectionate, intelligent and beautiful little ponies from the west of Ireland.
Laddie, Sheila's stallion, has recently been busy taking Santa around the town and to meet visitors at Orchard Park Garden Centre but earlier in the year he met some VIPs at the farm.
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"We were asked by our mayor, Steve Joyce, if we could show some other mayors around the garden centre and then the farm as part of a Civic Day to show Gillingham off," says Sheila.
"After a bit of head scratching we decided to load all the dignitaries on our big bale trailer. This worked fairly well and we didn't actually lose any on route,!
"Laddie, our stallion, got quite excited, and he only calmed down when we explained that we were expecting 40 MAYORS not mares!"
The Kerry Bogs were the stars again when Ron and Sheila took them to Your Horse Live show at the Kenilworth showground, where Mayflower was petted by dozens of pony-mad children.
Back at the farm, Sheila and Ron welcome Cubs and Brownies and their leaders to Park Farm for pond dipping excursions, and the ponies are always interested to meet visitors of all ages.
Support from local people helps the Clarkes to save these rare breed animals.
"Thank you for helping us to keep traditional British breeds increasing," says Sheila.