Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Custom Pack Rigging

Dino and I would like to say an enormous special thanks to Custom Pack Rigging, whose saddle was donated to the Long Riders' Guild for trial purposes and we were able to use.

Custom Pack Rigging are a Canadian company that specialises in all aspects of packhorse equipment and has - thankfully - designed a saddle that is fully adjustable and can therefore be made to fit any horse, pony (okay, not one as small as Dazzy), donkey, mule
and, as I have heard, even camels and cattle. Of course I also changed the width for Dino as he first lost weight and then put it on again with all the good grass we found on the way. We were really happy to use it as it made packing so easy. I always knew exactly where things were in the boxes, which are 100% waterproof, couldn't rub Dino's sides and were very durable even when they did get banged around. Again they were one of those things we would not have liked to go without and which made our whole journey that bit easier. They were especially good for me travelling alone without any help to pack up horses and keep organised.

Many thanks and thanks to the Long Riders' Guild for allowing us to do the first part of the trial!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Home Sweet Home

Sorry for not writing sooner. I hope nobody has been worried that we might have gone missing in action.

Alas, we are home again - and have been for a little while. It's not easy to write when you are mentally still lost somewhere along the countless lanes we saw, while physically in something like your normal life again. Work is getting back to normal, though with its normal summer low and the ponies are having a well earned break, so there isn't much to do. I've taken to studying Welsh - which I had decided while still on the way - to fill the remaining time. Another language is at least a little challenge now that I can't spend all day walking.

So what happened with our trip?

Well, on the day we spent with the Hereford cows, Artax must have rolled in thistles or nettles or something similar and got a rash and lots of strange round spots on the left side of his neck. They did not seem to itch or hurt, so we continued. Then, the next morning, he had a very swollen nose. Again it did not seem to bother him and he ate and drank normally, so I put some anti-inflammatory cream on it and was happy to see it quite a bit better within a few hours, though it took several days to go down to almost normal again. We went on for two more days to the place with the friendly donkey who offered to wash the dishes and had a day off there, then did the short trip of just 14 miles over to Elizabeth's; that's the place with the outdoor shower from the beginning of our trip.
There we were really well received again and had already planned to stay for at least a couple of days to give us all some rest, have a nice time socialising, ride out on the common and go to the pace races on Saturday.

The next day Artax decided to get yet another thing - his left eye was swollen. Not much, it was only around the eye, the eye was the normal colour, nothing was inflamed and, again, it did not seem to bother him. I finally spoke to a vet, who was very reassuring. He said not to worry, to put some tea on the eye and just watch things. Apparently lots of horses were having allergic reactions to flies. Whether the tea helped or not, his eye was good the next day - only to swell up again in the evening, but again it was fine in the morning and then stayed like that.

So... in this situation... with just about six days to go to get home... I wondered whether we should do it or be really responsible and give it a miss. Elizabeth had just bought a new horse box and was quite eager to try it... and so it happened that we decided to drive the ponies home... very responsible...

Anyway, who knows what was actually wrong with Artax, but it cannot have been anything serious. Maybe he just felt his nineteen years a little bit.
Now the ponies have had a few weeks of rest and seem happy - though maybe a bit bored with the monotony of always being on the same field instead of walking all day. The same for Maggie, who doubtless is enjoying the comfort of her bed and often enough the settee, but misses the exercise and constant activity every day. We are compensating by going cycling, jogging and walking (must keep fit myself!) and normally take Dazzy on the cycling trips, too.

And what do we learn from all this?

Well, the trip was AMAZING, I enjoyed very nearly every single moment of it and hope to bore my grandchildren with the stories one day. As you will have seen from our stories, long rides are a very simple activity. When you are well prepared, have well trained animals and a little portion of luck to go with it, nothing dramatic or especially exciting happens. That's the wonderful thing about it - the simplicity. You just wake up in the morning and have exactly two jobs for the day: take care of the team and walk. It's physically demanding, but mentally relaxing.
Be well prepared, have a very good or, if you can't find a good one, no travel partner at all, be friendly, polite, open-minded and always in a good mood and you will receive the same in return from close to everybody. The people I have met on the way have been amazing! The hospitality has by far exceeded any hopes I may have dared to have before leaving - fields, meals, showers, baths, washed clothes, animal food... We were taken amazing care of!

An enormous THANK YOU to everybody who helped us on the way or just simply stopped for a friendly chat along the way.

Thank you for the hundreds of pounds in donations that were given to me on the way and through the Just Giving Website. Of course the website is still open for more donations :o)

The pages are:

www.justgiving.com/ridearoundbritain for Compassion in World Farming
www.justgiving.com/ridearoundbritainforwalesairambulance and
www.justgiving.com/ridearoundbritainforhorseandponytrust

And thank you again to our sponsors for their invaluable supplies!
The ponies did brilliantly in their Easyboots, which lasted the entire trip and will still be given a bit of use before they are finally laid to rest. This was the first time I used gaiters, something I had been worried about before setting off. I had thought they would be sure to rub, but they were perfect! I can only stress how much better, safer, healthier - and of course cheaper - it is to not have metal nailed to your horses' hooves and really hope that more and more people at last make the change. Again, why do we spend loads of money on shoes with the latest technology soles for ourselves while we still keep our horses in an ancient invention that has few properties that we would expect of our own footwear?

Maggie would hardly have managed the journey without her RuffWear dog boots. She did not need them full-time like the ponies, but every few days for the first five weeks until her pads were sufficiently hardened off. Of course they are also good for dogs that do not get so much exercise, but have hurt a paw or have to go out on salted roads in the winter. Yes, they really do stay on the paws well! Maggie was also kindly given a backpack that was fantastic for her to carry her own doggie essentials around during the day. She accepted that perfectly and was happy to take a bit of weight. Then there was of course also the collapsible food bowl that lasted the whole trip and came back still looking like new - great quality!

The Satmap GPS was clearly the thing that made the difference on this trip, and made following the route a pleasure that required hardly any thought or attention. With a GPS you simply know exactly where you are at any moment and can therefore easily find the correct turnings without checking the landscape or counting junctions you pass and it simply doesn't let you get lost! It is completely stress-free navigation. I had spare batteries with me to last around 10 days at any time, that is five sets. Though I never used more than three of them as we almost always found places where I was able to charge the gadgets. The 1:200,000 map pages I had in Dino's luggage for emergencies were not needed a single time. Instead of dozens of OS maps, we just got away with one small unit that spent the trip glued to my side as my constant reference point. As a little extra, it was of course nice to know exactly how far we had been in a day.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Annandale Observer

Craven Herald

Well, they didn't quite get the miles right and Artax is with an "a" and not an "e", but I like the picture. We were at about 800 miles when I met them and still went on from there.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Day 68, 12th July and Day 69, 13th July

We knew where we were going again, so there was no reason to rush in the morning despite the 22 miles ahead of us. From Craven Arms we went in a quite straight line southwards going through some little villages and through lots of pretty and slightly hilly countryside.

About two hours from out destination, we were met by our host for the night together with a couple of friends. Barrie did the kind taxi service by car, Coral came along to have a ride on Artax and Andy – that´s the one who you might have noticed riding in a photo from about week three – came along for the walk and a bit of ride himself. It was really nice to walk in company again after about seven weeks without! I still clearly prefer no company to bad company, but to walk along and be able to have a conversation on the way is really nice.
We were to stay at Andy´s place for two days to give the ponies a little bit of rest again and I was looking forward to a bit of time off and socialising again. We kept the ponies in the “garden” where there was plenty of long grass for them and they could be very close by. I slept in a beautiful luxury “gentleman´s” wagon... well, just look at the pics, no need for explanations. It´s for sale if somebody is interested. Andy makes the most beautiful wagons; all kinds of them from this little wagon to big bowtops, small traps and even shepherd´s huts and the latest project for a client – hold on! - is a toilet on wheels! Let me know if you are intested in any of his work.
We had a great evening sitting around the fire together with some of Andy´s friends. Amazingly it was the perfect barbecue for me with there being five veggies out of the seven people present. Such a nice surprise to get veggie burgers instead of an empty stomach :o)

The next day was just relaxing. I slept in a while longer in my nice cosy luxury bed and hung around reading, chatting, on the computer and meeting Andy´s friends. It was nice and really interesting. I´ve met and learnt so much about travellers on the way and have so much respect for their lifestyle. It´s such a pity that society in general seems to have got it so totally wrong and misunderstands these people just because they decide to not fulfil what is deemed “normal”.

Day 67, 11th July

It was a lovely sunny morning and I allowed myself to sleep an hour longer than usual. We had done about two thirds of the way over to Craven Arms, so it was going to be a short day and there was no need to set off too early.

The night in the lorry was very comfortable. I invited Maggie up onto the bed, but she clearly preferred a more important position and went into the passenger seat which is the side of the car she normally lies on when I leave her alone in my car.
I found the farrier there in the morning and wondered whether I might be able to borrow one of his tools to trim Dazzy´s hooves. I only had the rasp and knife on me, so having a little extra would have made my life a whole lot easier. In the end the farrier came and did his hooves for me... luckily they sustained no damage, but the job was terrible! I was quite shocked that he didn´t even look round to check his work or he may have seen the bad shape he left them in and the toes were still too long! Wow, so much for professional training!

I decided to not correct them there and then, so we set off in the late morning and had a nice walk down to Craven Arms. There were a lot more horse places and less crops, though we did come past some very sadistic people´s strawberry fields where they were cruel enough to grow acres and acres of strawberries, but didn´t have a stand where they might have sold me some of them. Torture, true torture!
When we arrived, Jo was very busy with the sheep and had to go out again almost immediately, but we could go on the same field that we had spent the night on before and make ourselves comfortable in the meantime. We even had guests in the form of all their Friesian cows – about forty of them – who were most interested in their new field companions. I took the ponies to the bottom of the field where there was water and a gate that I would be able to tie them to safely while taking care of them. And, while doing so, all the cows stood around us in a half circle having a good look. Some were braver than others, as usual, but most kept a quite respectful distance. What is it about people being afraid of cows?

Dazzy decided to venture out between the cows to get some grass while the others had to hang around to have their saddles off, but soon decided to return to his big protectors when about half of the cows took off after him.

We had a lovely evening once again and I could have a real clean in the bath and slept well, though quite late.

Day 66, 10th July

That was interesting. Wales was alright in that respect and the north and Scotland were really good, but everything in between is clearly “You've got your hands full”-country. It doesn't even seem necessary to say anything like “hello” before or after; people just stop their cars, stop anything they are doing, look and say the dreaded words “You've got your hands full, haven't you?” “Well, actually, no. My lot are very well behaved and easier to coordinate together than lots of other horses alone.” I have been dreaming of actually saying that, but it still remains wishful thinking and I just smile and say “Just a bit” instead. What was interesting today, though, was the fact that when the gentleman said it, I actually had both hands completely empty (apart from my cycle gloves that are on full-time) and swinging along to my walk while Artax's reins were lying round the back of my neck - no worries, not in a circle around the whole neck :o) – and we were all totally relaxed and controlled. Hmmm, what must we look like?

We set off at ten o'clock and on a different route than we had used for the way north. Before we had gone a longer way up the Welsh/English border and then turned off towards the Peak District in Melverly. It was alright, but I hadn't liked the amount of traffic on the roads and it hadn't been possible to completely avoid large roads, which we normally manage. Also, there was a place I was quite eager to miss as it was quite wild for a rather long time and the field the ponies had been on was on a very steep hill. I had put the tent up on a little piece of the neighbour's lawn, the only flat place in the area and had had to lift all the luggage over the barbed wire fence and get the boys ready on the steep hill... noooooo. And, they had actually all had a bit of a stomach problem for a good part of the next day... So, we went directly south-west from Sambrook, which took us a few miles south of Shrewsbury instead of north and west of it.
It was a little frustrating all day to find that we were in absolute crops country and there were only very few fields, no sheep, no cattle and hardly any horses. The horses we did see were usually on the only field the people had. I had already decided that we would go straight on to the next place in Craven Arms, where we knew we would be very welcome again, even if it meant walking until midnight, but luckily it turned out to be unnecessary.

We came past a horse place, asked and were allowed to stay. The ponies got a lovely little field, the gear went in a stable, I got the living part of the horse lorry to stay in with Maggie and was able to use the shower. The people actually had to go out very shortly after our arrival, but were so nice and trusting that they left me on my own in and around their house to use the shower in their absence. Really kind of them and the clean-up was very much appreciated after a few days without the benefit of hot running water. Thank you!

Day 65, 9th July

It was a usual get up again, the horses had obviously spent a good night with their new Hereford friends, their tummies were very full and they had all had a good go at the cows' mineral/vitamin lick for good measure.

We got ready, I plugged the laptop in to charge in the meantime and then went to say goodbye. There was a change overnight, though I had heard nothing of it. The evening before there had been just one bull in one of the stables; In the morning at just after six o'clock, there were suddenly seven new ones and the car was still parked in the yard with the trailer. And I thought I was an early riser!

It turned out, however, that the police had called in at one in the morning because said seven bulls had got out of their field and were in somebody's garden. While the owners rushed to collect them, the police had kindly taken control of the situation and put their “Do not cross this line” tape around the scene. I imagine the bulls can read as they stayed behind it. So why is it that some people are called “stupid cow” if they are actually clever enough to read and follow police instructions? Hmmmm, don't know.
We went a slightly different way than before to Sambrook where we planned to stay the night on a field belonging to the local pub. At first we came to a quite big ford that you would not want to go through in a car, but it was nice to let the ponies have a drink and cool their legs for a while. After that we went along our old route, which made Artax speed up a lot, only to leave it for a while again, get some shopping in the Coop in a town we came through and then to join the old route again for the last miles. The ponies of course recognised it all; and I must give them all more credit as it is becoming more and more evident that each one of them recognises the roads we have already been on and Maggie was the quickest to turn into the carpark of the pub in Sambrook.

They enjoyed their old field again that had just been growing since our last visit almost eight weeks before and they filled their tummies as full as they possibly could. Dazzy actually looks almost like a normal fat Shetland pony in the mornings (besides the few ribs shimmering through the fur on his big tummy. But by the evening he has normally returned to his normal self after not eating much during the day.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Easyboots after about 1300 miles

Thought you might want to see what boots can look like after between 1050 and 1300 miles of mostly road. All but four of the boots were already worn for a while before leaving home and had done a good 200 miles in order for me to see whether the gaiters would be suitable and not cause the ponies trouble. Just two of Artax's boots and two of Dino's were new right at the beginning of the trip.
Dazzy's are doing very well at the front, just the back boots are suffering quite a lot as he doesn't always pick his feet up properly - thus the missing toes on the back boots.
Artax's are wearing very well. He has done the most miles in his front gloves. The epics seem to be suffering a little because they are a tiny bit long for him and you can't just shorten the rubber at the back on Epics like you can on classic Easyboots, but he's doing well.
Dino's fit perfectly all round, not a single boot has ever fallen off on the trip no matter how the ground was. Not sure what he does with his back left hoof to make the biggest hole.

Friday, 8 July 2011

And just a couple of pics some friendly hikers took of us on the way and kindly emailed to me :o)

Day 64, 8th July

Rain rain rain, at least when I woke up and looked out of the window. Then again when I got the horses, then even more as I went into the house to get my things out and spent some time having a little breakfast hoping for it to stop... then we left in a little bit of rain, but soon realised that it was nothing serious any more and I took off my rain trousers and just kept the cape at the ready to go on and off as needed.
(a little tunnel for us to go through on the Manifold Track)

On the whole it was a good day with little showers lasting anything between a few seconds and five minutes, but never anything really wetting.

We went throught he centre of Stone again, which the ponies of course didn't mind and managed to stop off at a little shop to get a couple of things we needed. Maggie got a denta stick, which will hopefully do her teeth some good and make her breath a little fresher and the ponies could enjoy some grass next to the shop.
We made it to our destination again at just three o'clock. Or rather, we would have gone on to get a few more miles under our hooves, but the man who looked after the place was outside and took it for granted that we would stay, telling us straight away how to get to the field, so we changed our minds. Or, I should say, I changed my mind. The ponies and Maggie also took it extremely much for granted that we would stay.
This time we got to share the field with the Hereford cows and calves instead f just having them next to us, which gave the cattle a bit of amusement. They, especially one cow and calf seemed to find us exceedingly interesting and they all spent a long time with us and very near us while I took the tack off the ponies. Dazzy seemed a little worried about so many of them finding him very interesting and decided to stay close to his big friends, but Dino had no trouble telling them they should maybe keep a tiny bit more distance.
Thanks to a good Internet connection and a full battery, I could luckily spent the rest of the afternoon writing reports and updating the blog that had suffered for a while. Sorry about that, but there just wasn't a good connection.
Now the photos have been out of order, or rather, in the right order, but not always corresponding to the stories for a while, but unfortunately there hasn't been much to photograph for a few days due to bad weather or lack of nice views.

Day 63, 7th July

Another not so long day – I would have slept in an hour longer, but unfortunately woke up at my normal six o'clock and got up at just before seven to check on the ponies.

For the first time since one bad experience on my last long ride, I had left 10 of the 12 boots on the ponies' hooves over night and was of course constantly slightly nervous about it. The paddock they had spent the night in was very small, though it had loads of grass, so I had felt safe that they would have no reason to make any sudden movements, let alone be able to race around and the boots would be fine... and they were! Lovely! That saved quite a lot of time in the morning.
I got fresh croissants for breakfast – lovely! - and then got the ponies ready in a couple of slight rain showers before setting off at half past nine in the morning. Sandie, who I had stayed with, came with us for the first coupleof miles and kindly took some photos along the way. We went back the same way we had come and spent the first half of the way at Artax's fast walk with both ponies doing a slow trott because they were all so motivated and knew where we were headed.
At just three o'clock, we made it to our destination where we were made very welcome again, the gear could luckily go in the dry stable and Maggie and I got a place in the house – yippie! The ponies went on the same field as the last time, but this time spent it with two little Shetlands. I'm not sure they were so happy about it, but they seemed to have fun at the beginning running around the field at high speed, though mine lasted a lot longer than the little ones who didn't do 20 miles a day and had slightly bigger tummies.

Day 62, 6th July

(A view of beautiful Manchester)

A little bit of rain, sweet rain in the morning kept us comfortably inside having a long and tasty breakfast between packing the luggage and getting the horses ready. I am sure they were very happy about their extra time on the field with the sheep eating grass and regularly enjoying the sheep's vitamin/mineral bucket. I must check the ingredients of horse licks compared to cattle and sheep licks, but wouldn't mind betting they are close to identical, but at an amazing price difference.

Does anybody here know more?
We set off in the late morning, but I was not bothered by the time as we only planned to go a shortish distance down to Waterhouses and that by a slightly shorter route than on the way up north. First we went along a little road in the Dales, then had a few km of slightly busier road, but finally spent the rest of the day on the Manifold trail path and hardly saw another car for the rest of the afternoon.
In Waterhouses, I did actually try the local livery stable instead of where we had stayed last time. I was sure to have to camp where we were last time, but was hopeful I would at least be able to put the gear in a dry place for the night, but they unfortunately didn't have any field free for us. But we were made welcome when we went back to the same place and I was able to put our stuff in the garage and the lovely neighbour, who came over to say hello, took great care of Maggie and myself, invited us in and we had a lovely evening and night inside out of the rain, got strawberries and cream (heavenly!) and a lovely breakfast. And before that, for dinner, I couldn't stop myself from going to the local chippy with veggie chips that I had been looking forward to going to for a couple of weeks – yum again!

Days 60 and 61, 4th July and 5th July

Of all the things I've lost it's my mind I miss the most!

Oh dear, so there is me up bright and early to get ready for another nice double day; the boxes are packed, I get out the scale – wow, only 15.5 kg, great! Don't know how I did it, but great! It took some sorting back and forth to have both boxes exactly the same – strange, as they always had the same stuff in each side, so weighing them was only a formality most days – but 15.5kg was still a great thing.

Then I looked around, and what should be next to me? Yes! The tent! Still standing! Grrrrr! So we got back to the usual 17kg after all. Do other people do things like that?

We set off at 9.30 on a beautiful day again, took a short cut up the hill, then spent a while on the official Pennine Bridleway, took another shorter route and avoided going straight past the house we had stayed at last time and finally got onto the High Peak trail, an old railway line that has been converted into a cycle/bridle/walking path. Here the ponies decided to raise the speed and spent the last coule of miles annoyingly trying to go faster than a normal walking speed. What disappointment when I took them past the field they had been on last time to go down and ask whether and where we could stay at the farm.
Several things must have come together – the horses were motivated because it was the way home, I can now deal with most gates quickly and without the need to get off, we knew the way and what to expect... - in any case, everything seemed and actually was quicker this time round.

The field we had been on last time was not usable this time as there were four caravans on it, but the ponies could stay with the sheep right by the farm and I put my tent up on a little bit of beautifully flat lawn where it would have been perfect for cooking without any danger of the stove falling over inside the tent... if I had indeed had to cook.
Christine and Brian were so nice and invited me in to dinner and breakfast and a shower and, when we ended up deciding to stay another day, to all the other meals of the day. It turned out that she was veggie like me, so I got some lovely veggie food as well.

They had made hay that week and the bales were ready to be stacked the day we stayed there, so it was nice to be at least a bit of use – but much less than I would have liked with the bales weighing about 25-30kg each (wow!). Thankfully there were so many able people around that they managed fine with an invalid when it came to the second and third trailers full.

And what did the weather do? Yes, nothing! The rain that was the reason they had got the hay in in a hurry and had been my excuse for taking the day off actually hardly came and then not until quite late in the evening... why anybody ever trusts the weather forecast, I really don't know!

Day 59, 3rd July

A six o'clock get up again to a beautiful sunny day in the Peak District near Uppermill and Diggle. I packed up the luggage and was then able to go over to the house for a shower followed by a first class breakfast of several eggs scrambled, wholemeal bread, tomato and mushroom. Definitely a healthy way to start the day for somebody who would spend it actively. We set off at about ten o'clock planning to do yet another double day and get to Hayfield. The journey started off going along specially made paths along the edges of towns and then led up into the hills and around reservoirs with several views of Manchester. Time flew and we got on very well, passing the place we had spent the night on the way northwards at only about two in the afternoon. After that, we took some shortcuts to avoid places where the bridleway would mean a much longer route and got down to Hayfield at about six o'clock. The ponies clearly recognised the route where they knew it and had been very disappointed about not calling in at the same stable as on the way up and were equally unhappy about us taking another road in Hayfield, though it did ultimately take us to the same field, but from the other side.


They were happy to be back, I found a more or less flat spot for the tent, the owner of the field's little pony was happy to have Dino back as a neighbour as they had taken a great liking to each other the last time they had met and I was invited in for a tasty dinner of baked potatoe with butter, grated cheese and beams – yum!

Day 58, 2nd July

Dazzy was very cute once again in the morning: He must have had an itch on the inside of his back left leg, so what do you think a normal horse would do? Almost fall over while bending round to scratch it? Leave it? Find something to rub it on? Well, not Dazzy; Dazzy comfortable laid down while surrounded by three people, dealt with the itch with his teeth and then got up again – very sweet.
We set off at about half past eight, our record for an early start (!) as we planned to skip the next place where we had stopped off on the way up northwards and instead to one further on. Also, we had to call in at Longfield Equestrian Centre again to collect some post I had had sent there a few days before. They really did great postal service again and the girl from the office came straight out to the carpark waving my package when I arrive – very handy, thank you! We went on along the bridleway then, just missing out a part of it before Summit (a part of Littleborough) where the official path would take you up an extremely steep hill, along the top and down an extremely steep hill – all with several gates, of course – just to avoid about a mile of nice road with a path and green on one side. That was the most maddening thing about the Pennine Bridleway: the number of times you end up doing three sides of squares when there is a nice little road along the fourth side or two sides of triangles when you could get by with one. Though we were doing a lot better on the way back as we by then knew where we were going and could more easily plan around the official route.


I was quite surprised at just how quickly the day went by and we arrived at our hosts' house at about six o'clock, happy to be at our place of rest and with the ponies happy to get some good grass on a field they knew and loved. We had a nice quiet evening and went to bed early in order to be fit for another double day in the morning.

Day 57, 1st July

We set off on yet another beautiful sunny day and a little later than I usually like to as we apparently knew where we would be going and it wasn't going to be so very far. Our journey started on roads, first through Haworth, then through Oxenhope.

We went past a chippy in Haworth and I couldn't help asking what sort of fat they made their chips in – ugh, beef dripping! How can anybody want to eat them? Or what has animal fat got to do with cooking vegetables? I think I ate some non veggie chips by accident a while ago and they were really not nice at all. I couldn't finish the small portion... and that clearly means there was something not right; I usually finish a very big portion without any trouble. But I felt sick after those doubtful ones. In any case, the lady at the shop said there was a place in Oxenhope where they used vegetable fat, so we did a little detour to go there, found the place, checked the smell, got suspicious and, of course, they also used stupid beef dripping – yuck!
So we continued and were soon on the bridleway again climbing up and down stones, rocks and earth. By the way, anybody with a horse with weak legs and tendons might want to think twice about doing the Pennine Bridleway, it is very hard on the legs – mine, too.

When we got to the place where we had intended to stay, it looked a little strange and I knew the people would have only got back from their holiday that day, if indeed they were there at all, so we decided to continue, taking a slightly shorter route in the process. We were in luck; on the way north, there had been nobody in at the first place where we had wanted to stay, but this time it was full of life and we were made very welcome at once. The ponies got a field, the luggage could go inside a stable and Maggie and I stayed inside the stable that night instead of putting up the tent. Yes, I remember my vow to never ever sleep anywhere outside without the tent around me again, but it was a clean and possibly recently washed out stable, so it seemed harmless and we had a good night in it with the horse rugs on the ground underneath my airbed and Dino's saddle pad for Maggie. Luckily I didn't see the friendly spider next to the bed till the morning when I had already packed up most of the stuff.

Day 56, 30th June

Day off

Not having had a day off since a day into Scotland, we decided it was time and Carole was so kind as to offer us to stay longer if we wanted. I was a little undecided in the morning as the forecast was still good for the week and weekend, but not so good as of the new week and I really wanted to get through the Pennines before the rain set in, which would surely hit the hills hardest, probably especially the ones I planned to cross. But the miles since the last break decided me and we made up our minds to stay.

I got a shower in the morning and then all of my clothes were even washed. The jeans remain ridiculously loose now, or rather more so than before, but I feel more comfortable and Artax and I have less to carry around, so that is a definite plus.
I spent the morning being lazy and then Carole was so kind as to take me to the shops so I could stock up on my food. It was nice to be inside a real shop again – nothing against corner shops, they are very handy and there should be more of them, but the variety in Sainsbury's is clearly an advantage. Carole, in the meantime, waited outside the shop with Maggie, who spent the whole time flat out asleep once she had got over missing me. Apparently they could have collected a lot of money for charity in the time they spent there as people found her so gorgeous.
A nice thing in the day: The ponies showed that they obviously do care about me – when we left in the car, they all came to the fence looking very nervous and were still waiting by the gate with relieved expressions when I got back to them an hour later... nice to know that they must care a little more for me than for grass at times.

I spent the majority of the day reading and just relaxing while Maggie could also rest her paws when she wasn't caught up playing catch with Beth, the playful resident Labrador.