Sunday 18th September
We arrived last night at Westmeston, just below Ditchling Beacon in East Sussex, 1372 miles since we set off. Hugely relieved to have arranged a day off today as my back is giving me a lot of bother, as is my left leg, which I'm sure is linked. Numb below the knee, excruciating above. Not ideal for riding, walking, or anything much. If you saw me hobbling around, you might rightly question whether I'm capable of going any further, as do I. Neverttheless, I've spent today, all day, trying to organise accommodation for the week ahead, and get my brain around my route into London - assuming we get that far The best I can do is take one day at a time, and put one foot in front of the other Micky and Magic were grateful of a day off after a fairly strenuous week last week n the South Ups and Downs Way. Tough going in blistering heat, we are hugely relieved it's cooled down a bit.
Tuesday 13th September 2016 - approx 1285 miles since we set off
Hottest day of the year today as we rode from Romsey to Owselbury, just east of Winchester, and boy did we know it. It's tough being a black pony, or having a thermostat set for Scottish climes, in such heat. Just as well we had a comparatively short day of only 16 miles, which allowed us ample time to visit the fantastic War Horse statue as we rode through Romsey this afternoon, take the day at a leisurely pae, and stop for a good break to get saddles off and air the ponies backs mid-afternoon.
After visiting the Osmington white horse near Weymouth last Wednesday, we turned east along the Dorset Ridgeway to Wool, then north past Bovington Camp to Wareham Forest, through Wimborne Minster to the New Forest. Thankfully the native New Forest ponies were much better mannered than the Shetland stallions who attacked us so savagely in North Yorkshire. The "Foresters" lifted their heads briefly then got back to their most important task of eating, leaving us to carry on along our way unhindered.
Thanks to kind invitation of Romsey Show Committee, we were at Romsey Show on Saturday raising funds for Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support. To my relief (and surprise), Micky behaved impeccably. At least until 4 p.m. when it came to shoeing his hind feet, when the normally good to shoe Micky decided he'd had enough standing around and to show us what he wsa really made of. Embarassing or what?
Sunday we visited the grave of Warrior the war horse at Southampton. I think it's a different Warrior to Jack Seeley's, but equally inspirational. Monday the ponies had a well earned day off while I went to St. John's Museum to learn more about the vital role which the Romsey Remount Depot played in the war, and all the horses which were trained there. The plan was then to go north from Romsey to visit the Woolbury white horse, up near Stockbridge. Everyone I spoke to said they'd never heard of it, but then neither do most people know there's a white horse at Strichen, or in Sheffield, so that didn't necessarily mean anything. However, for anyone interested, I can now confirm that the Woolbury white horse is no more. After an hour or two poking around in the undergrowth, all that remains of the original horse is a pile of flints, totally obscured by the undergrowth.
Tuesday 6th September 2016
Mikado, Magic and I are just near Dorchester, in Dorset, having ridden 1200 miles since we set off from the Mormond white horse near Fraserburgh on 18th June. Having committed to be at Uffington to help National Trust re-chalk the white horse on bank holiday Monday, we ran out of time to ride around the Forest of Dean. We were oh so lucky that Ally Knight came to our rescue and trailered us across the Severn Bridge.
Wednesday 24th August 2016
We set off again Sunday morning from Llangynidr, east of Brecon, exactly where we'd left off before a few days much needed rest. Misty, dreich day so we took the safe route over to Trefil and Fochriw rather than risking getting lost on the mountain. Bonus was that we followed an old tramway, along which horses pulled waggons for many years before the coming of the railways. On Monday we visited Sultan the pit pony sculpture at Parc Penallta, north of Caerphilly. A dream come true to ride up his nose, past his ear, down his neck, along his back and down his hind leg. Except in my dreams it was a glorious day rather than so wet none of my cameras would work.
Keen to learn more about the pit ponies to whom Sultan pays homage, and to meet a few of the last surviving, Micky Magic and I rode over to Pontypridd on Tuesday to visit the pit pony sanctuary. Horse heaven.
Tonight we are just west of Newport after a lovely ride along the Rhymney Ridgeway path. At least it was lovely until we met locked barriers and kissing gates at the end and no obvious way out. A whole hour working out how to escape without backtracking for miles and a long circle round to where we were going. Tomorrow we continue east towards Chepstow, being trailered across the Severn Bridge Thursday evening.
Wednesday 17th August 2016
920 miles behind us since we set off from Strichen, up near Fraserburgh. We've got as far as Llanginydr, between Brecon and Abergavenny in south Wales. Judith, my friend who has ridden with me down through the Welsh borders, flew home to Holland on Saturday, and the ponies and I are having a couple of days break to recharge our batteries and allow me time to organise the final leg of my ride from south Wales to Folkestone, via the white horses at Uffington, Wiltshire, Weymouth and Eastbourne, plus numerous other places we're visiting along our way. On Monday 22nd August we're visiting Sultan the pit pony sculpture near Caerphilly, and on bank holiday Monday, 29th August, I shall be helping the National Trust "groom" the Uffington white horse by rechalking its outline.
Sunday 31st July 2016
Since we set off on 18th June 2016 from the white horse on Mormond Hill, above Strichen in Aberdeenshire, I've ridden approximately 746 miles with my Fell ponies. We've zig-zagged our way down through Scotland, Cumbria, across Wensleydale to the Kilburn white horse on the north Yorks moors, and then down through Yorkshire to Sheffield. Last Wednesday I visited the Heeley white horse, the third of Britain's white horses which I've visited with my black ponies on our Horseland Journey. Tonight I'm near Alton, in Staffordshire. I'll only know how far my journey will take me altogether when it's finished, but by my reckoning I'm now roughly half way. Time flies by a lot faster than Micky, Magic and I seem to travel!
There have been endless highs and lows on our journey so far, physically, emotionally and in every other respect. My internal altitude meter means that I am always happiest on the hills. No surprise then that the mountains we have climbed have without doubt been some of the real highlights, particularly when we've been walking in the hoofprints of horses who have walked this way for centuries past, such as up High Street in Cumbria, along old pack pony routes, and over the Capel Mounth in the Cairngorms. But it's been a real joy to have the opportunity to explore many other places too at a pace which allows time to look around, talk with people I meet, drink in the landscape, the history, and all around me.
At long last I've managed to get hold of the farmer who owns Mormond Hill today to confirm I can ride up above the Mormond white horse from the village of Strichen, just south of Fraserburgh. Another farmer in the village has very kindly offered to put our ponies up the night before we set off. At last it seems like it is actually going to happen.