A young man with Down’s Syndrome who tends to a small flock of eye-catching birds is building a sense of community spirit on a Skipton estate.
Ashley Marshall, 23, a former pupil at Brooklands Special School, is raising rhea, peacocks, turkeys, geese, ducks and other poultry in hen pens on the Middletown allotments.
Ashley has been taking courses in small animal care and horticulture at Craven College to learn more about how to look after his birds.
His proud parents, Richard and Sue Feather, of Duckett Street, said their son had paid for all the birds himself and had big plans for some of the poultry this summer.
His first show will be Otley, but the youngster is hoping to enter others, including one or two national poultry shows.
“He’s worked so hard for it,” said Sue. “He’s been raising them for just over two years.”
Richard said when Ashley started out, his only request was to have a pen of “different coloured birds that would make people smile”.
His parents, who have helped clean up land in and around the allotments, said that was exactly what Ashley’s birds had done.
“The pens are nice to look at and they get children out of the house,” said Richard.
Pupils at two local primary schools, Greatwood and Skipton Parish, are among the many local children who have come to view Ashley’s hen pens.
Richard said: “The children like to talk about the animals and we educate them on how they’re raised.”
He added that the birds were also popular with other community members and walkers who have come from further afield.
“The community have loved what we’ve done,” said Richard.
Carolyn Leiper, a community development advisor for Yorkshire Housing at the Greatwood and Horse Close Community Centre, said: “Ashley’s hen pens are brilliant. I’m really chuffed with what he’s doing and how hard he’s worked.”
Ashley’s hard work has caught the eye of Dr Jemma Basham, South Skipton project co-ordinator, who is producing a film highlighting the good works of residents living on the Greatwood and Horse Close estate.
Dr Basham said: “Ashley’s hen pens are a wonderful and great community resource, which can be missed by people who are driving through.
“We want to film him because it’s an amazing story and it sends out a positive message about people living on the estate.
“We want to find stories about people who have overcome adversity to achieve something in their lives.
“We believe in communities and see the potential in communities.”