Coxswain praised after horse stranded

RICHARD PARR There must be better places for two holidaymakers from Henley-on-Thames to spend the night than a cold island on the north Norfolk coast.

RICHARD PARR

There must be better places for two holidaymakers from Henley-on-Thames to spend the night than a cold island on the north Norfolk coast.

But it was on a starlit night among the shifting tides between Wells and Holkham that they were forced to bed down, stranded, in an extraordinary drama involving a spooked horse.

As reported EDP yesterday, the pony - a 13-hand gelding called Budd - unseated its 14-year-old rider Auberie Chen on Monday evening, bolted a mile along the beach among holidaymakers and ended up on the East Hills island, off Wells, trapped by the incoming tide.

The pony's owner and Auberie's mother, Brigette Chen, and her friend Suzanne Marshall-Bannon were taken to the island by the Wells lifeboat crew at about 7pm and given blankets and waterproof clothing.

They had to stay until 3am the next morning when they were all led to safety through the dark across a coastal channel at low tide by Wells lifeboat coxswain Allen Frary.

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The women, both believed to be in their early-40s, spent the hours on the island resting and talking. Mrs Chen kept the pony walking around on its reins.

Last night Mr Frary was praised for his actions.

“We were led back in the pitch black and it was Allen Frary who saved us,” said Mrs Chen. “He and his crew are outstanding. Allen is a super hero. He was just brilliant and you can't thank the crew enough.

“Mr Frary knew how quick we had to be and in places we were up to our knees in water. He had a torch and did the route and we were in a line behind him but it was obvious that he knew the best and safest route for us to cross.

“I can't believe that our pony or anyone else was not injured. It's just amazing.”

A modest Mr Frary said: “I know that area very well and I was equipped with a radio and a torch and I had the easy part. The real hard work was done by the lads the previous night.”

Mrs Chen, her son and Mrs Marshall-Bannon were on their first day of a week's holiday at Wells with six horses and ponies that they like to ride on Holkham beach where she came as a child. Mrs Chen regularly returns from Henley to Norfolk where her mother still lives.

The drama began at tea-time on Monday after the pony threw its teenage rider and bolted off along Holkham and Wells beaches where holidaymakers were enjoying the afternoon sun. It is believed it bolted after being spooked.

It crossed the channel and became stranded by the tide on the East Hills island.

It was then that Mr Frary and his crewmen decided the best option was to leave it there until the lowest tide in the early hours of yesterday.

At one point a boy in a kayak among the creeks managed to cut the reins from around the pony's legs. Mrs Chen said: “He walked the pony up the creek and the salt marshes and the tide was coming in and it was decided it was too late to bring him back and the only option was to sit it out until low tide.”

She said last night that they had spent their time under a star-filled night sky on the “beautiful” island where there was little but the noise of seagulls.

Wells inshore lifeboat was launched yesterday at about 1.45pm after two fishermen in a boat just off the entrance to Wells harbour became concerned about deteriorating weath-er. They were towed on to Holkham beach by the lifeboat, the Jane Ann III. The coastguard was also involved.

The incident was the fifth launch of the Wells inshore lifeboat in five days. Launches had been made on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and on Monday to deal with a variety of incidents.

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