THE SOUTH WEST TRIP
Following my first successful journey on horseback to Land's End, it wasn't long before Iwas planning another adventure: a 400 mile loop of the South West, covering six counties. This time I decided to travel with two horses, Taliesin and Oisín, and, of course, with Spirit. The journey, which ended up being just under 300 miles, was both physically and mentally challenging and a lot of hard lessons were learnt.
Read about the adventure in my blog below:
We set off from the field in the pouring rain at about 2.30 in the afternoon. I was riding Taliesin and leading Oisín with the packs. The horses went well in spite of a few spooks at pigs, charging cows and one hairy incident with a tractor that nearly saw Spirit trampled! Taliesin made a few attempts to head for home when we had to back track to a passing place for traffic and Oisín was doing my head in for most of the ride hanging back and trying to eat from the hedges and verges and nearly pulling my arm out of its socket. When not doing that, he was biting Taliesin's bottom or trying to chase Spirit. It was quite frustrating and they all got called a lot of names.
The weather cleared up a bit, although it was still grey and overcast.
As we neared Brentor I chickened out of trying to ask people for somewhere to camp - put off by my previous experiences in the area the year before when overnighting with Taliesin. I'd asked a farmer for a field and he'd gotten the wrong idea entirely, had made some rather inappropriate suggestions, and had caught us up further along the road and absolutely terrified me. And everyone we'd asked after that had been less than helpful. So, with that in mind, I decided to sneak into a patch of woodland where I'd camped the year before, hiding from the yokel farmer. I didn't think anyone would mind the horses grazing a patch of lush grass under some beech trees tucked well away from the road. We'd leave nothing but a few droppings behind us! Besides it looked like cattle were occasionally let into the woodland.
When I untacked the horses I found to my dismay that Oisín was already developing a sore where the girth was rubbing him on one side and Taliesin had some mysterious bumps on his withers and behind the saddle, none of which boded well, but I'd just have to play it by ear. My inner coward was already telling me to give up and go home but I silenced that voice and told myself I'd have to get at least as far as Glastonbury before calling it quits.
I fenced off a bit of grass in the woodland for the horses, went and found some water for them which I carried in an empty mineral lick tub that I found in the hedge. There were loads of midges about which were doing Taliesin's head in!
I awoke to the sound of crashing undergrowth outside the tent at about 2:00am. Thinking that one of the horses had become entangled in the fencing I stuck my head out of the tent and found Taliesin straddling a small bush scratching his legs! I went back to sleep.
At 6 am was woken up by the sound of the horses playing - charging around their tiny enclosure rearing, kicking and squealing.
I packed up and hit the road by about 8.30, skirting the foot of Brentor, with its little windswept church perched on top of a craggy hill to our right and beyond it lay the vast expanse of Dartmoor.
The horses seemed happy, despite Taliesin's obligatory attempt to head towards home when we first set foot on the road.
Oisín was back to his usual ways, snatching anything and everything from the verges - his lips grabbing constantly, in the hope that he'd get something to snack on before he got dragged onward amid a volley of curses.
We struck out across the moor at North Brentor.