Under the Westway there is a special hub of activity, a group of people busy looking after 14 horses and keeping alive a way of life that first started there in the 1850s. Sarah Tuvey (pic right) took over the stable in 1994 to create a local riding school and now the Westway Trust, which holds the land in trust, plans to upgrade the facilities and develop the West London Stables as a community riding centre which will teach more than 130 children and young people each week and also provide support for people who are disabled or vulnerable.
Originally the stables housed ponies used by travellers, totters (rag and bone men) and costermongers (fruit sellers) from Portobello. When the Westway was built in 1968, it isolated the stables which still exist in a calm and ordered way, ignoring the surrounding rush and noise of combustion engines and the concrete crescents of motorways built around them.
Yard manager, Daniel Lukasek (pic above) started riding at the West London Stables when he was 10. “My mum bought me a lesson for my birthday and I started volunteering. I liked a pony and bought him and worked here to pay his livery,” says Lukasek. Since then he has worked in other stables, a Norfolk Arabian stud, a racing yard in Wales, and for the Olympic rider Carlos Ribas but has come back to West London Stables to help Tuvey, whose licence to operate as a riding establishment could not be renewed last January while the Westway Trust considers it’s plans, so she doesn’t have an income. “I saw it was in trouble,” says Lukas, “I grew up in this stable, so it made sense to me [to come back and help out].”
It is a frustrating time for Tuvey who is so passionate about the riding school and the community work it has undertaken for many years. As she talks a group of volunteers muck out stables, groom and feed horses in the background. “There’s so much work to be done here to get the licence,” she says. The arena needs to be resurfaced, the Portakabin housing the office needs to be replaced and maintenance work needs to be done on the timeworn stables. There has been a huge outpouring of support for the stables from the local community who see many communal facilities in the area being closed. Tuvey maintains the Westway Trust was trying to evict her from the stables and have been slow to realise the stable are a part of the local community that they should be supporting. “What we are doing is community work,” she says. Now, a CIC, a community interest company which is a not for profit organisation, has been formed to collaborate with Tuvey and partner her in managing the stables.
Stephen Wren, Westway’s director of Sport says: “Back in April we made a commitment to develop a new and improved riding facility on the Westway estate. Since then we have been working on the feasibility of different approaches to operating the centre. What we envision is a community of experts and interested members of the community coming together to provide a much improved riding facility to many more young people. We’ve been working with planners and engineers to estimate the scope of any improvements and we hope to have some proposals soon.”
The Westway Trust is now trying to move the teaching arena to the garages alongside, though Turvey says if they left it where it is, they wouldn’t need to wait for planning permission. “If the intention of the Westway Trust is good, then everything would flow forward easily.” Meanwhile the children who usually arrive in groups for summer riding lessons, some from the charities Full of Life and St Quintin’s, are not able to ride. As Lukasek says: “It’s therapeutic in a way. It does a lot for you if you are growing up in London.” If you would like to donate to help the riding stables during the summer you can do so here … westlondoncommunityridingcentre