Carriage tradition 'hanging on by its fingertips'
One of Torbay's best known tourist traditions could be lost forever unless it can find funding.
The Cockington Carriage Company has been charming visitors to the picturesque village for more than 60 years.
But after suffering a fifth bad summer in a row, owner Rick Passmore says he might have to hang up the reins and close the stables of the carriage-ride business.
He said he intended to appeal to Torbay Council for a financial subsidy to help him through the testing times.
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If his fortunes did not improve in time for Easter, Torbay could lose a cherished equine tradition, he said.
"We are a weather-dependant business and the fact is we have suffered due to the bad weather," he added.
"Last year was the wettest in 100 years and it was the fifth bad summer on the trot. Last year I lost four-and-a-half months of business and I need to earn in the summer to get me through the winter.
"I'm hanging on by my fingertips.
"The price of feed has gone up, vets' bills are up. The feed for horses and shoeing the horses have all risen.
"What I am hoping for is help due to the exceptional circumstances — maybe a subsidy from the council."
Mr Passmore bought the business in 1989.
At that time there were six carriage-ride businesses operating, each with four or five horses. Now there is just one.
Mr Passmore said: "In those days we used to get 500,000 visitors. That is now down to 250,000. The carriages are known throughout the country and the world.
"Cockington without the carriage horses would be like cream tea without the Devon cream. I'm the last business left here but some traditions need to be preserved. Once these traditions go they are lost forever."
A spokesman for the Torbay Development Agency (TDA), which operates the specialist craft-based innovation centre, said it hoped Cockington Carriages would continue.
The spokesman said: "To date, no evidence has been provided to suggest that a carriage business at Cockington is not viable without public subsidy or grant.
"Cockington Carriages has recently expanded its operation and now occupies all of the stables, acquiring all three carriage licences.
"For the avoidance of doubt, the TDA wishes to maintain the carriage tradition and will seek a new operator should the current operator decide to stop trading next Easter.
"Without referring to any business specifically, it is inevitable that some businesses will decide to move on.
"It would, however, be inappropriate to treat one tenant more favourably than another without good cause."