Wednesday 13th May, Park End to Newbrough, 9.43 miles
This day has turned out to be the shortest ride so far. I’m not fussed because we have some long rides coming up as we head South and onto the North York Moors. Tommy’s keen to get going, he’s in sparkling form today and so is the weather. His load is also a little lighter and sits very securely on his back as I’ve sent off parcel no. 4 which includes his broken set of reins amongst other inessential items. Charlotte has kindly given us a spare set of hers. I’ve put a new piece of leather on the end of his lead rope and we’re good to go. He’s also looking fit for the road as I gave him a bath yesterday to wash the grime of two days chilling out in the field.
After our first week on the trail, he has fared well and seems to be enjoying our adventure. I was walking past the field coming back from the indoor arena and totally absorbed in looking at my device to see if I had a signal…..a recurring theme, when I heard this little nicker in my left ear. Looking up, there he was above me on the other side of the fence. I suspected this greeting was not so much for my benefit but because he wanted to come in and have some feed in a nice dry stable and, sure enough, by the time I had gone to get his head collar, there he was waiting at the gate.
I wave a fond farewell to Charlotte and her wonderful crew before heading off along the park lane and out onto the road towards Newbrough. A little way up the road, I have to shed a few layers as I’m by now so used to wrapping up in Michelin mode. The landscape is changing in a subtle way. Less wild but still beautiful. The fields are still full of sheep but now also cows too with their adorable calves which tells me the climate is a little more temperate, enough for the cows and their calves to be allowed outside.
Somehow we manage to cross the busy road that runs alongside Hadrians Wall whilst being blissfully unaware that we had done so. The tractor/trailer of the day are the muck wagons. Streams of them wending their way along the country roads. We take a Bridleway through a strand of conifers and across a field that drops down to a farm. Whilst we were walking through the track in the woods, Tommy suddenly puts his head down and sucks at the mud. He has done this once before and I’m not sure why he does this. I assume it may be one of two things. Thirst or a need for minerals. I find it quite alarming and would love to know. Anyway, when we get to the farm which is a B&B, I spy a bucket left out for washing muddy walking boots. I can’t find anyone around so fill the bucket with water to let Tommy have his fill which he appreciates. I’m suddenly aware of someone standing behind us. As I turn to look, a woman is standing quietly with her arms crossed in front of her. Oh dear, I’m thinking she doesn’t look very happy.
It transpires that we have come down her field on a footpath and not a Bridleway. Oh dear, I say, I’m very sorry. Just so that you know, she says, but I’m unlikely to be coming this way again and she knows that. She seems eager to see us off the premises so we make a hasty retreat. When we are well clear, I stop to examine the map again. Yes, there’s no mistake. It clearly shows a Bridleway all the way we had come!
I do have some sympathy for farmers who want to protect their livestock particularly at this critical time in the year, and I’m determined this isn’t going to spoil our day. Following Annie’s very clear instructions, we make it to the red brick tower that was an old lead mine where her horse, a 17 hh eventer, is grazing in the field. A generous net of hay and a bucket of water is waiting for him (again, such thoughtfulness) and I sit and write this blog and scrutinise the maps to plot tomorrow’s route whilst I wait for Annie to finish work and come to collect me. I am sitting on the rubbish bag which is nice and soft, listening to the sound of Tommy, contentedly munching on his hay and when my hands get cold, I go and warm them up on his neck under his luxurious mane. A pigeon eyes me through a gap in the roof of this old cow barn.
Annie arrives to pick me up and on the way back to her house, I remark how beautiful the houses are in this area. She tells me a lot of the stone to build them has been plundered (not her word) from Hadrians Wall. Don’t tell everyone how beautiful it is because we want to keep it a secret she says. (So keep it to yourself). This lovely ex police person, keeps rescued battery hens in her garden. She is like a mother hen herself looking after her nearest and dearest and for one night that includes me. We spend a lovely evening chatting over a glass or two of wine. I feel blessed that we have landed here, especially at such short notice.
In the morning, its an early start for Annie as she is helping her sister and brother in law, both doctors, at their surgery. She’s already made sandwiches for everyone including me before breakfast. On our way to the stable, two roe deer break cover and run across the road right in front of us. Especially for your benefit she says.