Monday, 16 February 2015

Suzanne's Riding School - A little urban exploration

When I was younger I spent a lot of time at the stables around horses. The place where I learnt the most and spent most of my time as a teenager was a place called Suzanne's riding school.

It was founded in 1939 by Suzanne Marczac and in later years was run by her son Julian. Sadly it's doors closed in 2004 when they sold up. Article from Horse & Hound here. 

Since then most of the buildings have sat empty, developers unable to build on them due to their listed status and local residents protesting against the beautiful land being destroyed. I believe the owners don't even want it any more.

Because of this though, it's all fallen into a very sad state of disrepair. Luckily not vandalised because there are so many residents who still live on or around the farm in the cottages. There is also a ridiculous amount of junk that's just been dumped there, particularly in the senior school yard. Mainly cars and car parts from what I can see. Does the owner have a car business?

I wanted to capture some photos before it totally falls apart. I went a few years ago and there was one wall that still had my horse's name on it, 17 years after I moved her away! Sadly I couldn't access that area this time as it was too dangerous and I didn't want to cause any trouble with anyone who lives round there, but I did succeed in getting a good set which I'd like to share here, so that the many people who I have met online at the Suzanne's Riding School Reunion group can have a look and see how it is now. Hopefully it might spark a bit of enthusiasm to campaign for saving it again.

The last petition I signed was in 2013 to save the historic barn which may have gone so far down the decay route now that it'll just blow over in the next storm. Details here

It would make the most wonderful farm village with a cafe or restaurant, some local craft businesses, maybe a gallery, maybe some animals for local children to come and pet.

In my dreams!

If I won the lottery, I probably would though.

On with the photos.....
At the top of the driveway sits a pub called The Case is Altered. I have had many a drink or lunch in here over the years and we even used to take the ponies into the beer garden occasionally.

Walking down the driveway, the view isn't much different to when I was 13 years old. Also I'm pretty much wearing the same style of clothes as I did back then. A pair of hunter wellies, a hoodie and a colourful rucksack. I believe my hunters back then were green though, and died a death when I trod on a nail which went right through my foot making the boots fill up with blood and totally unusable! Haha! I'm still faithful to them though. nearly 20 years later. Bloody comfy boots for my adventures.

You then arrive at the big old barn, and it's not quite the same you start to realise. Sadly it's quite clearly going to fall down in the next gust of wind.

On the side of the barn is the old feed room. Last time I was here you could get in. I think it's probably for the best that you can't now. Might be a tad dangerous.

This one below is where the farrier used to work on the horses. 

Was this called long stalls? Or back stalls? I can't remember! It was up in senior school where we were all helpers and Winston & Chloe lived.

Winston's name still etched above. 

From here, I strolled up the back of the main arena and took some photos of the view along the way.

A few coloured bits of rubber still remain on the ground. 

The isolation stable below. 

The big arch is still fairly impressive, it just looked better with horses under it, not big red vans. The cloudy overcast day did not help with my mood walking round. I just felt quite sad that what was once such a special place, has become a car junk yard. 

This corner below was the one where Julian used to keep his Andalusian and where Trio lived. It's barely recognisable as the little corner of stables it once was. 

The top yard outside the office all looks just the same really. Remove the cars and it could be open for business again. 

Below is where we used to polish the tack and have a good gossip and keep warm. 

After this, I took one last venture down to Junior school to see what was left. 

The old office and tuck shop above. Remember those toasted cheese sandwiches anyone? They were the best! 
In the office, the phone still sits on the wall. I tried to get my friend Mark to come down at this point but he stood at the top of the yard like a proper grown up keeping an eye on me. The thing is though, when you are a grown up like us just walking quietly with the dog and a nice camera, no-one minds you taking a couple of pictures. 

My horse used to be in quite a few of the stables in these pictures, including this one above which was behind the junior school. It's pretty much disintegrated now. But we always used to smoke in the tyres round the back here because nobody would see us and tell our mums! 

I clearly didn't keep to the public footpath, but as I said, I think that's ok. I didn't put myself at risk and I didn't try to get in anywhere. I mainly just took photos from the outside, and mainly for my memory and the many others who learnt about horses or just a few life skills at Suzannes. Thanks to Mark for also taking a few photos for me and being patient while I told all of my old stories and took a million photos. 

I hope this has been an enjoyable post for some people looking to go down memory lane, and if anyone is thinking of starting any new petitions or knows anything more about the future of Copse Farm, please get in touch with me via the comments below or any form of the social media I've advertised on here. I'd love to help.