Saturday, 9th May, Elsdon to Bellingham, 14.71 miles
It has poured with rain all night dumping an official 16 1/2 mls of water out of the sky. It is still raining when I get Tommy ‘dressed’. We show him off to Helen’s class of young riders before we head off. I had seen the possibility of a short cut across the fields which would shave several miles off our route and I ask Helen if this is a possibility. Is Tommy OK with crossing rivers she had asked. Yes, I said confidently. What neither of us had bargained for was the said river Elsdon was very swollen by the huge amount of rain overnight. It was also pretty fast flowing. Of course I only discover this when I get down to the river. The entry point is unclear because it has been obscured by the high water. I made a guess and went for it. Tommy took a step into the unknown without hesitation and no sooner had he done so than we were both submerged. I lost sight of Tommy’s head as it disappeared under the water. When he emerged and found his feet again, water up to his belly, somehow I am still sitting in the saddle. I guide him to the other side and he hops neatly out of the water onto the other bank. I have to dismount anyway to open the gate to get back onto the path and two rather bedraggled beings squelch their way through the mud and out onto the track to assess the damage.
The saddle bags have taken a dunking but I hoped my packing has improved from our previous drenching experience and saved my belongings from getting too wet. My feet tho’ are soaking wet inside my boots and they remain so for the rest of the day. I ponder on the notion of trench foot. As for Tommy, he is soaking wet and dripping with water all over but he seems completely unbothered by the experience. The only consolation was the fact that it had stopped raining. At least it was fresh river water and not salt water as I dread to think what that would have done to our tack. The water up here is wonderfully soft.
We plod on with our journey and when we get close to Bellingham (pronounced Bellingjam), I call Barbara to get directions to Boat Farm beside the North Tyne river. She walks a little way to meet us which I find touching and we all walk back together. Tommy is turned out into a huge field and is extremely happy. So much so that when I go to fetch him in for the night, he has a little run around playing catch me if you can. I know this is only an occasional little game he plays and gives up after a few minutes. His lovely old stable has its original earthen floor and Nalda very kindly helps me bed him down and makes sure he is comfortable for the night.
Boat Farm is a wonderful B&B and I am looked after so well. After a long soak in the bath which feels like luxury after our exploits of the day, as well as easing my back which has been painful, and dry out the bags and shoes and socks in Barbara’s extensive airing cupboard, I have a bite to eat in the Cheviot in Bellingham where they are playing old Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen songs which makes me feel very nostalgic, before walking back to Boat Farm and collapsing into bed.