Funding crisis could force West Norfolk Riding for the Disabled to close, charity warns

A financial crisis could force the West Norfolk Riding for the Disabled Association to close, the charity warns.

Nearly 100 people with physical disabilities and learning difficulties attend The Magpie Centre at Wallington Hall, near Downham Market, each week and it relies on donations, grants and volunteers to keep going.

The centre needs to raise at least �20,000 in the coming weeks if it is to survive winter and desperately needs more volunteers to come forward.

Trustee Stina Burger said there had been a high turnover of staff and volunteers in the last few months, adding to existing financial pressures.

'It costs about �90,000 a year to run and this usually comes through trustees continually applying for grants,' she said. 'We have had staffing problems three or four months ago and since then all our energies have been focused on running the centre.

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'We have also fallen behind on our fund-raising and closed for a month in the summer to give the horses a rest. The donations from riders and driver only provides about 20pc of our running costs.

'If we are able to raise �20,000, it will get us through the next three to four months and hopefully give us some breathing space while we recruit more trustees.

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'Vets' bills are very expensive and with winter coming up and the horse's food to pay for, we are in a sorry position.'

Funding from Freebridge Community Housing will allow the centre to hold an open day next month to promote its work and hopefully attract new faces.

'We want to show everyone the good work we do and to stress to all our friends and supporters that we need more trustees and voluntary helpers.

'People don't realise how desperately short of money we are.'

The centre, at Runcton Holme, opened in 1978 and gives disabled adults and children the chance to learn ride or drive carriages.

Princess Anne, president of Riding for the Disabled (RDA), met volunteers, staff and families during a visit in 2010 and Mrs Berger said the RDA had been extremely supportive.

The open day will be held at the centre

For more information, call 01553 810202.

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