The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

e do things weirdly here,” head girl Jess Crichard ex­plains on my in­tro­duc­tory tour of St Richard’s School. The tiny prep school, lo­cated down a drive just off the A44 near Here­ford – a drive that the taxi driver de­scribes as “queer”, in the orig­i­nal sense of the word – is in­di­vid­ual in the ex­treme. In Year 8, “the Sixth Form”, there are 16 pupils, in Year 3, five. Walk­ing around the sci­ence labs, Jess ex­plains to me that they never fill the desks.

The school is like Malory Tow­ers, but in the mid­dle of the beau­ti­ful North Here­ford­shire coun­try­side. Walk­ing past the laun­dry room I am told that “the last time one of the stu­dents did their own [laun­dry], they turned the whole thing green”.

St Richard’s is a rab­bit war­ren of out­door paths, of link­ing cor­ri­dors and hid­den doors. No sooner do you pass through the new li­brary, with its wall-to-wall books and so­fas, than you’re back in the cor­ri­dor where teach­ers and pupils alike have been putting to­gether a First World War dis­play. How long has it taken to build? “Too long!”

But we are not here to talk about his­tory, or to wal­low in an Enid Bly­ton fan­tasy (it’s tempt­ing: at lunch, the chil­dren clear our plates; when adults en­ter class­rooms, they stand up. It is ter­ri­bly, prop­erly, old-fash­ioned). The school is spe­cial, not just for its olde-worlde charm, but be­cause of its eques­trian fa­cil­i­ties.

Com­ing along the drive to the main build­ing, along­side the rugby pitch, swimming pool and netball courts, you pass ditches and logs for jumping over. On horse­back. The school has its own cross­coun­try course, and I am here to walk it.

Sally Pear­son, ex-point-to-point trainer and mis­tress in charge of rid­ing, is stand­ing by to guide. She has been here 20 years or so. “We’ve

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