Work is progressing apace on a £140,000 covered equestrian arena being built on behalf of Buxton-based Helen Atkin Group, Riding for the Disabled (RDA).

The 30 metres by 50 metres structure – which will enable disabled riders of all ages and abilities across the High Peak in Derbyshire to ride in most weather conditions – is currently on target to be ready by early 2021.

Groundwork on the arena at Buxton Riding School, Fern Farm, Buxton, which began in April, has continued throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. Main construction work is due to start and is expected to be completed later this year.

A man and woman on a digger
Dave and Louise Thompson, owners of Buxton Riding School – which hosts regular riding sessions operated by Helen Atkin Group, RDA – celebrate the start of groundwork to create a £140,000 covered equestrian arena.

“All our dedicated members, volunteers and supporters are delighted that what was originally an ambitious dream to celebrate national RDA’s 50th anniversary last year is now well on track to becoming a reality,” said Group Chairman Wendy Howe.

“It also gives us great hope for the future, given that all our riding sessions are currently suspended because of Coronavirus, and means that in the long term we will be able to offer many more riding opportunities for riders ranging from primary school to retirement age.”

Members of Helen Atkin Group, RDA – which was founded more than 30 years ago and has offered regular riding sessions for hundreds of High Peak riders ever since – raised the money themselves, with generous help from a variety of organisations and individuals.

Proposals to provide a covered arena were first sparked by the offer of £50,000 from the estate of David Hammond, administered by Brooke-Taylors Solicitors of Buxton. Fundraising started in earnest at the start of 2019 with an online crowdfunding appeal. Not only did Sport England match the £7,070 raised in just three months, it also offered an additional grant of £40,000 to get the campaign off to a flying start.

Since then, subsequent donations and a variety of fund-raising activities – including a sponsored cycle ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats and evening of equine-assisted therapy and Western riding demonstrations – helped the group reach its target.

Added Wendy: “We are also very grateful to Tarmac Ltd- Buxton Lime and Cement’s Charity Committee, which has supplied stone for the arena base and access road, and Buxton-based Lomas Distribution Ltd, which is transporting it to the site, both free of charge.

“Dave and Louise Thompson, owners of Buxton Riding School, have done a fantastic job in completing the groundwork so that the main construction project can begin.

“We also owe a big thank you to local residents for their understanding despite the ongoing noise and disruption – their patience is very much appreciated.”

The arena will be erected by J. M. Milner Steel Framed Buildings Ltd of Stoke-on-Trent. Facilities will include full disabled access and toilet, a fitted kitchen for volunteers donated by Howden Joinery’s Buxton depot, office space and a spectator area. Additional parking will be provided, and the site will be landscaped to blend in with its rural surroundings.

“I’d like to extend a massive and sincere thank you to all the people, businesses and organisations who have helped us achieve our goal with their generous donations and support for our fund-raising efforts,” added Wendy.

“Their contributions will enable us to protect our riders in cold, wet and windy conditions, which can affect them in a variety of ways. Mentally, they can be distracting and distressing, while physically they can be painful, restricting muscle movement,” added Wendy.  

“We also plan to expand the number of equestrian activities we  offer, to encourage our riders to extend their skills and perhaps compete in regional and national RDA competitions, so our project has huge potential to make a real difference to many people’s lives.”

Helen Atkin Group, RDA would now like to hear from more disabled riders keen to take advantage of the new facilities, as well as potential volunteers willing to lend a hand when the new arena opens. Anyone interested is invited to contact Janine Frost, Group Secretary, on 07960 961605 or at


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