Thursday, 4th June, Hollingworth Lake to Diggle, 14 miles.
How lovely to wake to the rising sun flooding the caravan and the feeling that this is going to be a glorious day. I’m up bright and early as usual, my shadow stretching long and narrow in the morning light as I walk to the washroom, but today my spirits are lifted beyond belief as we set off, for the first time enjoying the warmth in the air this morning.
However, leaving Hollingworth Lake behind us, our route takes us under the busy M62 motorway, a huge cavernous and shadowed space with traffic roaring away high above us. Going under this flyover which is held up by 6 enormous pillars is like entering some ghastly modern cathedral but nevertheless impressive and I would have liked to have got my phone out to take a photo if I didn’t have to use both hands to take a firm hold of Tommy who jiggles along for about a quarter of a mile while I try to convince him that the monsters from above aren’t coming to chase after us.
The rest of the day is a sheer delight. You could describe it as a journey over the moors, tracking between reservoirs along old drovers tracks and quiet country lanes where I always seem to meet postman Pat on his rounds to these remote outposts of civilisation.
We stop for a break above Readycon Dean Reservoir.
The slopes are covered with cotton grass, rough grasses, heather, sedges and wild bilberries. Skylarks fill the air with their song.
At Castleshaw Reservoir, a lady comes running out of a house asking if we are on a long distance ride, and offering food or water. I say, yes please, a bucket of water for my pony please which is willingly supplied. Unusually, he takes a slurp so not a wasted gesture. She asks how old I am which I think gives her hope for her own adventures!
The weather is having a lot to do with the feeling of joy. We are both relaxed and enjoying the ride…….this is what we have been waiting for. That glowing orb in the sky has taken a month to finally show its true, radiant face.
Having to fend off the attentions of a very friendly pig who came running over to say hello to us yesterday, (Tommy and pigs don’t go well together), he has a major attack of nerves on seeing his first llamas and was extremely jittery about going past them in the field. However, this still did not manage to mar what turned out to be a really beautiful day.
Coming into Diggle, our destination, we walk down Boat Lane, so called, I learn later, because of the 3 miles of tunnels that take the canal and trains under the moors we have just crossed which meant the horses that towed the canal boats had to go over the hills to meet them at the other end. I found this explanation board on one of my walks around Diggle which gives you more information, and photographed two trains crossing at the entrance to the train tunnel.
We are staying at Sunfield Stables in Diggle which overlooks the infamous Saddleworth Moor. After 4 days of large barn living for Tommy, ironically, there is not a stable in sight at Sunfield Stables. However, Tommy is happy enough to settle to his favourite pastimes, grazing, rolling and stretching in the paddock with the family of sheep that the owners keep. And I am installed in the B&B for what turns out to be a far from relaxing rest stop here.
We have reached the culmination of our first month on the trail and I am thankful for small mercies. It’s a bit of a minor miracle that we are still on schedule and going strong. I pray that every day, I will find Tommy healthy, willing and able. My own (not so young) body holding up surprisingly well so far despite a couple of bruises. Only a slight patch of reddish brown is all that remains on my big toe nail from where Tommy stood on my foot our very first day, and a small bruise on my knee from grazing through a gate too close to an immovable gate post. I now prefer to get off where it is questionable rather than risk a knee crushing. One knee crush is one too many.