Wednesday, 10th June, Rushop Hall to Blackwell, 15.78 miles
It comes as a bit of a shock to both of us to have to start to cope with traffic once more. At this time of year the usually quiet country lanes are heaving with huge tractors either ferrying silage back to the farm for processing or pulling trailors loaded with muck to spread onto the hay fields that have just been cut. The air is ripe with its animal perfume. Most of these huge tractors are driven by young men who seem to want to drive them like racing machines. I am sometimes forced to ride Tommy into the middle of the road because its the only way I can make them slow down or even stop.
Then there are the coaches. We narrowly miss being flattened by one flying down the road behind us near the quarry at Wormhill because we had just stepped off the road onto the track leading across a field. The same is true when we had just got through a gate onto a track after coming up the very narrow lane between Peter Dale and Monks Dale just before a car comes screaming down the lane towards us honking his horn for everyone to get out of his way. There would have been nowhere for us to go. We wouldn’t have stood a chance.
Coming down a very pretty bridle path towards the village of Wheston, I wonder whether to go down the Limstone Way which is a quicker route and would bring us out at our destination, at the Waterloo Hotel, next to the A6. I decide to stick to the longer Pennine Bridleway route which takes us past the huge quarry and down into the deep gorge that runs through Wye Dale and Chee Dale, a 250 foot high limestone wall, running along the Wye valley, carved by the meltwater from Ice Age glaciers. I lead Tommy down the steep slope into the gorge and across a narrow, rickety bridge over the river at the bottom, wondering if it will hold the weight of half a ton of horse. It does. Meet some Oriental student tourists who view Tommy and I with interest, probably never seen anything like it. It’s a steep climb out but Tommy gets the job done.
He is especially pleased to meet his new sleep-over companions at the Waterloo, a pregnant coloured mare and two look-alike youngsters, plus a couple of miniature Shetlands who take a keen interest in Tommy.
The proprietors, Corky and Trish, are keen on Gypsy horses and have just returned from Appleby Fair. I am rather pleased that we are next to the fast moving traffic going along this busy road as I’m hoping it will begin to acclimatise Tommy to what we need to deal with from now on when we have to cross these roads. He seems chilled enough and after a glorious sunrise, (see main picture above) we set off the following morning, running the gauntlet across the busy road back to Blackwell to link back once more onto the PB, and the last link in the PB chain for us.