Thursday 9th July, Apperley to Cleeve Hill, 11 miles
Leaving the flood plain today at the start of our Cotswolds adventure, and a stark reminder of just how vulnerable these villages are.
Somewhere along the line, Tommy tops up his ration of soil.
There are three main roads to cross as well as a level crossing. One has traffic lights which makes it easier, another is not too busy and the third is the dreaded M5. Once again, I manage to purloin a cyclist and persuade him to come back over the bridge with us to try and steady a very nervous Tommy who swings around narrowly avoiding knocking the poor man to the ground.
As we approach the village of Woolastone, the figure of William Reddaway in his familiar red livery, and his famous horse, Strider come into view as they make their way towards us. William made an epic ride covering 1,600 miles a couple of years ago, visiting 30 Cathedrals, whilst raising funds for the RDA in the process (See ridearoundengland). It is an awesome moment as the two long distance horses meet each other for the first time. William has been a massive help to me in the planning of my own pilgrimage and his advice and encouragement along the way have been invaluable to my morale.
We ride back to Cleeve Hill together, a long climb into the hills.
There is a paddock ready for Tommy where Strider lives and even a fly rug that has been loaned for the duration of our stay. I am staying with William and his wife, Christine, in the middle of an elegant part of Cheltenham. Arriving at this point feels like a milestone in our journey.