Shetland pony Marley was given free rein to munch as much Bamburgh Castle grass as he wanted as a special birthday treat.
The pocket-sized pony is a regular visitor to the castle when it is open, where he is a firm favourite among visitors.
To make sure Marley didn’t have a long face on his birthday, castle marketing manager Karen Larkin didn’t bridle in inviting Marley to hoof it along to celebrate his special day at Bamburgh Castle, grazing the lawns.
Karen said: “When I found out it was Marley’s birthday and he was actually allowed out but not allowed to mix with the public I thought it would be lovely for him to come to one of his most favourite places with his ‘brother’ for a little trip out.
“Sometimes you have to put yourself into someone else’s shoes (although I don’t have four legs!) and think of them. Marley has been so used to travelling and visiting places it’s good for him to slowly ease back into things. Lisa is an amazing lady and there is nothing more these ponies could wish for. They bring so much love, joy and happiness to so many people of all ages. It was lovely to be able to return some love and kindness to Marley on his special day. I just hope he had a great time horsing around!”
Marley’s owner Lisa Walker of mini pony hire said: “Normally Marley would be at the castle over the Bank Holiday weekend and his birthday meeting all the children and visitors, but because of the coronavirus situation we couldn’t do that.
“Marley loves coming here and they have such nice grass as well, so we asked if we could come today as a bit of a birthday treat for Marley because he’s missing being out and about because of the situation at the moment as we can’t social distance from the public.
“It’s been a real birthday treat for him to have free run of beautiful Bamburgh Castle.”
No party is complete without a guest and Marley was allowed to bring his older brother, therapy pony Smurf who is 30.
Said Lisa: “When Marley was invited to come to the castle for his birthday he was allowed to bring a guest so Smurf could come along too. He is having a lovely day pottering around and having some grass.
“Smurf is very, very special – he is eyeless – he had to have both his eyes removed because of tumours. He doesn’t do any physical work but he goes to schools for special needs children, care homes and hospitals. He travels in the lift because he’s so little. He goes into people’s bedrooms just to brighten their day. He loves going around and meeting new people.”
Marley the pony will return to meet visitors at Bamburgh Castle as soon as the attraction re-opens and it is safe for him to return.