I called Lisa Collingwood-Philipson on 01434 685266 the other day to chat about the pony trekking centre up at Sinderhope that she’s run since about ’99. It’s no wonder the enterprise is such a success, since she’s so down-to-earth friendly! It was just after a brief flurry of the white stuff, but it had all melted away back to green within a few moments.
But I began by asking about the weather: are there constraints on lessons or pony trekking? Lisa mentioned that flooding on the road can cause problems, and certainly if it’s sleety and slippery on the fellsides the trekking is curtailed for safety. But while fair weather riders might be put off by a bit of rain, the experienced ones come out in most weather conditions.
I’d guess it’s been about ten years anyway that the centre has had the big indoor arena, which makes it convenient to hold all-weather riding lessons. Lisa reports that the lessons are now a bigger part of the enterprise than the hacking (which is a horsey way of describing the scene pictured above). But the pony trekking is still a major feature of local life in these fellsides, as we often meet a group out for a ride.
Lisa says that the road traffic around Sinderhope and Sparty Lea is particularly gracious, because when they go out it’s almost all local. Everyone slows down, waves courteously, and passes the well-disciplined group with great care. But the hacking is carried out on a variety of carefully planned routes, over the moorland along the Black Way (the old lead miners’ wagon route) or on day-trips for experienced riders all the way to Hexhamshire, so travel on roadways is minimised anyway.
Pony trekking up at Sinderhope has been a family business since at least the early ’70s, when Lisa’s aunt Margaret started it off. Robert Philipson took over the work in ’78, and after Lisa finished her college training in ’98 she gradually took over, as her dad gracefully retired.
Booking for lessons or trekking is best accomplished through the business’s facebook page, but the formal website is also a good way to learn more about the centre. Lisa notes that the centre caters for all abilities, from beginners to experienced riders, and even on hacks the group can be split into the timid and the brave. She has two young women working at the centre, one of whom is on an apprenticeship, but both are studying for their horse riding instructor certificates. On weekends and school holidays, there’s another group of keen horse riders who come along to help take care of the ponies (there are some 27 Dales ponies and cobs at the centre, which specialises in native breeds who are stable and sure-footed on the high fells and moorlands).
The centre’s facebook page is filled with cheerful praise and commendations from folks who’ve enjoyed their experience at Sinderhope. I asked Lisa what the driver does while their younger charges are off riding, or having lessons. It turns out that the centre supplies a constant stream of custom to Allendale Tea Rooms or the Forge Studios, as parents wait for their offspring to finish their session. The trekking centre can supply safety equipment (hats and boots, for example) and can accommodate groups of 8 learners for the pony riding lessons, and up to 10 individuals at any one time on the hacking sessions.
So, a local institution for getting on for half a century, the Sinderhope Pony Trekking Centre is a real, and beloved, feature in the East Allen valley!