Last week, after a visit to my daughter to celebrate a double Mother / Grandmother’s Day together, I made a detour on the way home to see a couple of friends.
In the Cotswolds, I caught up with William Reddaway who made a 7 month journey visiting 30 of the 40 or so Cathedrals around England with his horse, Strider. (see his website here, blog here). He arrived for coffee with a full suitcase of maps which I had asked if he could bring. Needless to say, it would have taken more than a coffee break to go through them all and a couple of football pitches to lay them all out. It did serve to remind me just how complex such a journey might be.
He very kindly answered all my pesky questions, such as where is the best place to cross the River Severn going into Wales as I didn’t fancy leading a horse over the Severn Bridge? The merits of 1:50,000 as opposed to 1:25,000. What was his most essential kit; best bridleways; how to find suitable accommodation for horse and rider; who made his saddlebags; hoof care along the way; feed and insurance? I was a little surprised to learn that although Strider was insured against third-party liability, William hadn’t thought to insure himself. A testament to his selflessness – or eccentricity? We did agree, however, that there is no doubting that to undertake such a journey, one must be ever so slightly potty.
So, a huge thank you to William for his time and patience and generosity in the fund of useful information he was able to give me as well as a few illuminating anecdotes. (I wonder how many times he has been asked whether or not he will write a book?) Obviously, his journey is unique to him just as mine will be to me, but it certainly helped to hear the true, sobering voice of experience. Another sobering thought: nearly 4 months after finishing his journey, Strider arrived home fitter and fatter than when he began his journey but the balls of William’s feet are still bruised from the punishing miles he had to walk and lead Strider whilst his horse recovered from saddle sores.
Then on into the heart of Wales to spend a couple of days with an old and dear friend. Isolated and in the middle of the Welsh hills, this is no ordinary household. Sarah is a supreme instigator of new life and I know no other human being who is so fecund. Not only has she produced 4 beautiful daughters who are now having their own offspring, but she has also been breeding Welsh ponies and Labradoodle dogs for as long as I can remember. The life-size painting I did of her horse years ago as a thank you present for the spaniel called Splodge which she gave me, is the one that I have used as the image for this blog. In between feeding the 8 house-dogs and one visiting labrador in the kitchen, keeping a casual eye on the mating of a bitch in heat in the garden whilst having breakfast and checking on the heavily pregnant mares running with a young stallion in the fields, we started to design a new website, Sacred Spirit Photography. Here Sarah will have a chance to showcase her passion for photography, capturing the soul of animals and people on camera. So that I could demonstrate her extraordinary skill, I asked if she could take a few pictures of my dogs before I left. Here is just one of several superb shots.
Regarding my search for an ‘intrepid steed’, one evening whilst catching up over a few glasses of wine, Sarah and I composed an ‘ad’ which goes something like this:
Can you help me? I am looking for a very special equine companion for a pilgrimage, setting off in the Spring of 2015, on a journey from the far SW corner of England to the far NE corner, linking two holy islands. (see more details in my blog: Pilgrim on Horseback – which you are now looking at!). Ideally, between 14 – 15hh. My mount must be brave and intrepid – like me (?) – with a spirit for adventure! Mannerly, sound in body and mind. Suitable conformation, strength and soundness for our long distance adventure together. I can work on fitness in the months leading up to our departure but correct schooling and experience wanted and obviously safe in traffic (if there is such a thing?). I am not looking for a plod but being a granny, a sensible attitude and willingness to share my journey is a must. A pleasant and comfortable ride. Possibly a native breed or middleweight hunter type. The horse will be fully vetted and assessed as suitable for the job. In fact, the perfect horse. Does anyone know where he/she is?
Back home now and I’ve ordered a copy of ‘Eye on the Hill: Horse Travels in Britain’ by Richard Barnes.