Embracing the outdoors for rural therapy

Ellie Lister who is work experience at Ponderosa Rural Theraputic Centre.
Ellie Lister who is work experience at Ponderosa Rural Theraputic Centre.
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George the Soay ram, Michael the Reindeer stag and Bradley the Boa Constrictor are all part of something really special in somewhere you’d probably least expect.

They call the Ponderosa Rural Therapeutic Centre, in Heckmondwike, their home.

But they also have an extra special role to play by helping people who struggle with stress, anxiety and those with learning difficulties.

Adam Cheney, who manages the site, said: “The rural therapeutic centre came about through Howard and Maureen Cook who own the land and are still very much involved today.

“Howard is a builder and Maureen has always had a passion for animals.

“They also have a passion for helping people, particularly those who struggle with learning difficulties, or are mentally or physically disabled; or those coming to terms with stress and anxiety issues.

“We have around 50 people who come every day picked up by minibuses with their carers.

“We have a craft room and they build furniture or they look after the gardens or tend to the animals.”

A recent major addition to Ponderosa was the appointment of farm manager Elliot Barr from Ossett.

He is relishing his new career and feels the same way as Howard and Maureen when they started.

Mr Barr said: “We want to give those who come here every opportunity to enjoy a better social life and experience.

“We’re about helping everybody from severely disabled to anxiety sufferers.

“It’s about working closely with them, their carers and trained members of staff.”

The farm started as a hobby for Maureen Cook in 1992 with several rare breeds, including llamas and emus.

Her husband Howard was awarded the MBE for the vision that he and his wife had shown over the years.

Their sons Steven and Adam are also involved.

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