Valley Farm Equestrian Leisure is a unique equestrian centre, located in Wickham Market, Suffolk, United Kingdom. We have 82 acres of beautiful meadows and woodland, forming a haven for wildlife in an Environmentally Sensitive Area.
It is a beautiful place to visit, whether you chose to stay with us in the holiday lodge or stay on our campsite, explore our trails on foot or on horseback, relax with delicious refreshment in the cafe or join us for riding or horse-care lessons.
At the riding school a diverse range of equestrian sports and disciplines are taught, including carriage driving, natural horsemanship, sidesaddle, vaulting, horseball, western riding, polo, polocrosse, dressage, show jumping, working hunter, le trec, horse agility, working equitation and stable management. There is also specialist tack and vehicles available, and specially trained horses to enable the disabled to enjoy riding and carriage driving.
Valley Farm in situated just off the A12 to the North of Wickham Market, and is bordered by the River Deben. Previously home to dairy cattle, our marshes form part of the Deben Valley ESA, and offer a particularly beautiful backdrop, and peaceful surroundings. The Farm is owned and managed by Sarah Robertson. Sarah moved to Valley Farm in 1976 when she first married. Sarah had always had an interest in all things equestrian, and having trained in South Africa at the famous Blue Hills yard, she was very keen to pursue an equestrian career. She soon acquired ponies for herself and her children, and began teaching carriage driving, vaulting and riding. The business originally traded as Valley Farm Riding and Driving Centre, but as it diversified to include more activities the name was changed to Valley Farm Equestrian Leisure.
Valley Farm Equestrian Leisure is licensed as a riding school with East Suffolk Council. ref: Mrs S.E. Robertson 18/00108/AWRIDD and has a licence to carry on activities involving animals ref: 19/00029/AW18LI
Multi Award Winner
Over the years Sarah and Valley Farm have won many awards for land use and diversity including: Best Alternative Land Enterprise, Business woman of the year, Investors in People, Anglia Business Award, Jim Keetch Farm Attraction of the year, Suffolk Farm award - Best Livestock.
Owing to the number of children we cater for at the centre we thought it would be reassuring for parents if we were registered with Ofsted. We were first approved in 2008. Our Ofsted registration no is VC374742. Another advantage of this is that it allows parents to use childcare vouchers for activity days, children's summer camps and weekend stable management and riding lessons.
In 1988 from 11th to 15th August, three children from Valley Farm's team, including Sarah's daughter, competed in the World Vaulting Championships in Ebrichsdorf, Austria. Following their success, and a developing interest in the sport Sarah hosted a number of International and National vaulting competitions at Valley Farm.
After finding out about the sport of horseball at a vaulting competition held in Paris in 1989, Valley Farm had the horseball rule book translated into English, and started training teams to play this new and exciting sport. Britain's 1st national horse ball tournament was hosted by Valley Farm on 1st September 1991, with teams taking part from North London, Nottingham, Suffolk and Norfolk.
In 1990 Britain’s first breeding Camargue Horses were imported to Valley Farm from France. Camargue Horses are a rare breed of ancient horse from the Rhone Delta in the South of France. It was thought that these small horses would feel at home on the Deben Marshes, and that their temperaments would be suitable for all the activities at the riding school. Especially Western Riding and Carriage Driving.
The very first Camargue horse to be born in the UK was called Fabriqué en Angleterre. He was born at Valley Farm on February 13th 1993 out of Cantarello and by Coquin des Clauzals.
The stud produces a small number of pure bred Camargue and some cross bred foals, largely to supply the riding school, but some are occasionally available for sale.
British Camargue Horse Society
The British Camargue Horse Society was established by Valley Farm in 1990 in order to promote the breeding of Camargue Horses, and to maintain a studbook of British Bred Camargue Horses and to act as a passport issuing authority.
The Camargue in the South of France is Europe's Wild West, and so our Camargue horses were ideally suited to western riding. They are intelligent and agile, and easily able to perform all the movements necessary for western competition. Throughout the 1990's riders from Valley Farm competed throughout the UK at Western Horseman's Association shows. Valley Farm hosted annual summer and winter shows, and qualified several horses for the championships.
Carriage Driving and Weddings
Sarah is qualified in private driving, but has also had a lifelong interest in agricultural horses. She has driven singles, pairs, unicorns, teams, and has taught a huge number of people and horses to drive. Driving horses from Valley Farm have been used for weddings and film work.
Valley Farm held their first Summer Pony Camp in 1986. Valley Farm now hosts holidays for around 32 children every week during the Summer Holidays. Children come from all over Europe, and from as far as Japan and the United States. A number of schools also attend these activity camps in the weeks preceding the Summer Holidays. This provides a valuable opportunity to educate hundreds of young equine enthusiasts in a huge range of horsey sports.
For over 25 years, under the leadership of the late David Foster, Valley Farm was home to the Junior Cavalry who put on displays of drill riding and skills at arms at venues around the county. You can see them in action here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9o619uc4WA&feature=youtu.be We continue to teach drill riding and skills at arms during our children's activity days.
Many of those who started at Valley Farm have gone on to great things. For instance Penny Bourne who became a WHA western Judge, Lee Rutter who was part of the Bronze Medal winning team at the FEI European Reining Championships in 2009. Merlyn Forrer, international vaulter, and Amanda Ling, British Vaulting Champion. As a student with us, Sophie Campion was national finalist of BHS Young instructor and ABRS national runner up. She also went on the be editor of the national side saddle magazine 2011-2015. Several of our customers are now running their own successful yards. (if you would like to be mentioned here, let us know!)
Valley Farm has always had close associations with the Pony Club. Both of Sarah's children were members of the Easton Harriers Pony Club. Valley Farm itself is now a registered Pony Club Centre. This means that even children who do not own their own ponies can join in with all the Pony Club activities, and earn internationally recognised qualifications and achievement badges.
The Camargue Café opened in the 1996 and has at times been let to other people and at times been run by Valley Farm staff. We love cooking, but horses is where our interests really lie. In 2011 we were awarded a Grant by the East of England Development Agency to refurbish the café and we are now very lucky to have Charlotte running it. She has an excellent reputation for producing delicious meals and cakes and attracts visitors from far and wide who come to enjoy the food and idyllic surroundings.
Outdoor Arenas and Indoor Schools
In 2012 we received lottery funding from Sport England Inspired Facilities Fund which allowed us to build 3 new, outdoor, surfaced arenas, and upgrade the surfaces in our indoor schools.
In 2017 our adult riders chose to affiliate themselves to British Riding Clubs. Valley Farm riding Club based at the centre encourages over 18's to get together for equestrian themed social and riding activities.
In 2017 we were lucky to secure grant funding from the New Anglia Business Growth Programme Small Grant Scheme part funded by European Regional Development Fund to purchase an Enlightened Equitation Equisimulator. This is an invaluable asset for fast tracking improvement in rider balance and timing as well as being great fun! We also have a racehorse simulator which proves popular on our children's activity days.
Sarah has always been a keen sidesaddle rider, and is keen to pass her knowledge onto others. As a result we have a number of horses trained for side saddle. It is possible for people to have a go, just as a one off, or you can train for your side saddle exams with us. We hold side saddle exams at the centre.
Sarah has always been passionate about all animals, and over the years has collected a variety of animals requiring homes for various reasons. Everything from stick insects to stray cats, ducks and geese to llamas and camels. All these animals quickly became part of the family, and have been adored by the public. Some notable ones included: Baa Baa the sheep who enjoyed carriage driving like a horse, and used to come into the house like a dog and Teddy the Boxer dog, who became a world wide celebrity after IKEA started selling posters of him wearing goggles, riding in the Bugatti Sports car.
Valley Farm Dog Agility Club meets here regularly and is run by Nigel Rudd. Please contact us for details if you are interested in agility lessons for your dog. The agility course is only available for use during supervised lessons, but well behaved dogs on leads are welcome to visit the centre, and enjoy the farm walks, and meeting the animals just as much as their owners.
Sarah has been a freelance writer for a number of magazines. She wrote a column for several years for Farmers Guide magazine all about the antics at Valley Farm. She has also written a book, which is available to purchase from the equestrian centre, and several local book shops.
Campsite and Holiday Lodge
As more people got to know about Valley Farm, it became necessary to provide accommodation for those who wanted to stay for longer, and those who lived too far away for a day visit, so in 2010 the Campsite was opened.
The countryside trails around the farm, through the wood and along the river banks were originally put in place so that horse riders could enjoy off road riding. We have now opened these for visitors so that those who do not wish to ride horses can enjoy the beautiful walks round our marshes. Well behaved dogs on leads are welcome, and we think they enjoy the walks just as much as their owners, and enjoy meeting all the animals as much as the children do!
Our Pony Club helped to support the Great British Elm Experiment by planting Elmo the elm in 2010. The tree has been skillfully propagated to be resistant to the Dutch Elm Disease that wiped out so many spectacular large elm trees from the farm during the 1970's. Find out more at https://www.conservationfoundation.co.uk/elms/gbee
Tree planting and conservation.
Valley Farm is situated in an Environmentally Sensitive Area. We do our best to maintain and manage the ancient meadows in a way that promotes and encourages habitats for wildlife. We have more than one breeding pair of barn owls making use of the barn owl nest boxes we have provided. We have also installed bat boxes and bird boxes for smaller birds. Since 2009 we have planted several miles of new hedge and a number of specimen trees. During the winter of 2015/16 we planted a new woodland comprising around 1600 trees.
Suffolk Carbon Charter
In 2013 we were awarded the Suffolk Carbon Charter Silver Award in recognition of the carbon reduction measures we have implemented.
British Horse Society
Valley Farm is highly commended by the British Horse Society and is an approved Livery Yard and Riding Centre. The BHS exam system is one of the most widely respected worldwide. Our Staff and students are qualified with BHS exams, or are training towards them, and are happy to assist clients to train for BHS progressive awards and assessments if required. In 2018 following the sale of Newton Hall Equitation Centre, Rossie Theobald, who is a highly respected BHS level 5 coach joined our team and is able to share her extensive knowledge with us and with clients. We hold BHS assessment days at Valley Farm.
Animal welfare is so important to us that we have dedicated a whole page on our website, rather than just a few lines here.
Investors in People
In 2005 we became accredited by Investors in People. We aim to maintain the highest standards in all areas of the business. We work hard to ensure continuous improvement, not only for our customers, but also for animal welfare and for our staff. Staff recieve continuous training for their own self development and for the benefit of the clients and horses. We think Valley Farm is a great place to work, a lovely place to be a horse, and all round a fantastic place to visit and improve your horsemanship.
All the photos on our website are taken at Valley Farm or feature Valley Farm's horses. Lots more images showing many of the exciting things we have been up to at Valley Farm over the years can be found in our facebook photo album. Anyone can see the pictures and videos - you do not need to sign up to facebook to view them.