Miniature Shetland’s Hellesdon walkies

Just Regional
Sep 20, 2017 3 mins read

Heads turn and cameras click when Jim Capes takes Buddy for his daily exercise. Because it’s not every day that you see a miniature Shetland pony on a lead, trotting along the suburban pavements of Hellesdon, including the Norwich ring road.

And the phone cameras are even more in evidence when, on match days, Buddy’s sporting his Norwich City FC scarf – although Jim’s beginning to feel the pony’s token of support might be jinxed. “Whenever he wears it they seem to lose – or get relegated!” he said.

The daily walks can take nearly an hour as people stop Buddy to pass the time of day, and give him a carrot or apple. “It’s always: ‘How are you Buddy?’ or ‘Happy Christmas Buddy’ – never ‘How are you Jim?’ I hear people go past our bungalow and say: ‘That’s where Buddy lives’, never ‘That’s Jim’s house’. “Very few people know me, but they all know Buddy and make a fuss of him,” joked Buddy’s long-suffering owner, who is retired from a job at the former Bayer CropScience, on Sweet Briar Road, and was an officer with the Metropolitan Police in London before that.

Neighbours leave healthy treats on their walls along Buddy’s route from his home in Mountfield Avenue. He’s a regular visitor to Reepham Road, sometimes Cromer Road, and to the Salvation Army charity shop, on Boundary Road, where he has a number of fans, according to Jim.

And patriotic Buddy, who led the former Hellesdon carnival parades, can be seen draped in the Union Flag around Remembrance Day, in November. At just over three feet tall and aged seven, Buddy is now fully grown. He was born at the former Dale Farm travellers’ camp, in Essex, and brought to Norfolk by his then owners.

Jim’s wife Claire and daughter Lorna drove past Buddy one day, tethered on the marshes, and instantly fell in love with him. Claire’s offer to buy Buddy was accepted and he has now been with the Capes family for six years, getting on famously with their three dogs and a cat. Buddy grazes their garden, and that of a neighbour, and on quiet days is able to gallop, on a long tether, around Mountfield Park.

And he does his bit for the Hellesdon community by donating his muck for free to the local allotments. Each evening Buddy’s on the lookout for his daily treat of two ginger biscuits. And woe betide Jim if he tries to skimp on it.

The devastating floods which hit Cumbria in December 2015 led to the temporary closure of the McVities biscuit factory in Carlisle – leading to a national shortage of ginger nuts. Jim tried to ration Buddy with just one biscuit in the evenings.

But the determined pony was having none of it and made it very clear that he was being short-changed. Jim said: “We had to raid my mother-in-law’s supplies in the end, to keep him happy!”


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