29 August 1997

Friendship, food &fun for everybody

Up and down the country the Pony Club has been holding its summer camps. Jeanne Hutton shared in the fun enjoyed by the Wyle Valley branch at

its camp held on the

outskirts of Frome

WICKED! Brilliant! Ace! Members of the Wyle Valley branch of the Pony Club are unanimous in their glowing appraisals of this years camp.

Julia Down, the groups District Commissioner, has been attending camps for 20 years. "I got involved when my daughter joined the Pony Club at the age of nine. I went along as a parent helper and later I completed an instructors course." Six years ago Julia took on the role of DC.

Wyle Valley holds its annual camp at the home of the Yeoman family – Southfield House, on the outskirts of Frome in Somerset. Over a period of two weeks around 150 youngsters, with ages ranging from four to 18 years, are catered for.

"The first week belongs to the eight to 12-year-olds. The second week we run our senior camp, and also designate an area where we set up mini camp for the four to eight year olds," Julia explains.

Theres certainly something for everyone, with a wide range of social, as well as varied equestrian activities on offer.

"Camp is a lovely summer pastime for the children – much better than sitting in front of a television. This is the highlight of the year for my two," says Julie Osborne, smiling at daughters Kate and Nicola.

Just arriving at her first senior camp is 12-year-old Kate Moore. "I am very happy to be here," she says. "Three weeks ago I had a bad fall and pulled all the ligaments in my leg. Ive been on crutches ever since. I tried extra hard with my exercises at physio because I wanted to get fit for camp! I was really happy when the physio lady said I could come."

Emphasis at summer camp is firmly on friendship, fun… and food. Most of the children, having been asked what they most like about camp, tag comments like "…and the food is fantastic!" on the end of their list of favourites. (Discos and show-jumping are also highly rated.)

Lorraine Shepherd, whose daughter Kimberly holds the 1997 Best Seven Year Old title, remembers the food when she was at camp. "It was great, and nothing was too much trouble when it came to fussy eaters!" she recalls. In charge of catering is grandmother Sylvia Pepler. She has been providing the food for an amazing 33 years.

Final prize giving takes place in brilliant sunshine. Awards for things like "Determination", "Having a Go" and "Most Cheerful Child" rate alongside those for the winners of the dressage, show jumping and cross country competitions. And theres an extra rosette this year – one for "Coping well with just one and a half legs".

No prizes for guessing the winner of that.

Pony Club camp is for having fun, brushing up your skills, making friends and just enjoying ponies… At Southfield House the eight to 12 year olds are in residence for the first week and the senior and mini camps take place the following week.