Sunday, 12th July, Cleeve Hill to North Cerney, 21 miles
Dodging the golf balls, curious sheep and eagle-eyed wardens, William and Strider escort us over Cleeve Common,
With its spectacular views,
and out into the quiet country lanes beyond, before waving us on our way and turning around to head back home.
I am suddenly overcome with mixed emotions as we part and have a job holding back the tears. It has been a difficult couple of days wrestling with my conscience and William has gone above and beyond the call of duty to help us. Besides, I shall miss sharing my story with someone who truly understands what it takes to undertake a journey of this nature, the grit and determination as well as his words of wisdom born out of his own experience. He says he has been helpful to me as a way of repaying all the kindness he has received on his travels. I guess my turn will come.
Today, I have decided to walk and lead Tommy all the way to ease the pressure on his back. It is a pleasant enough walk but it soon gets hot and away from the top of the hills there is very little cooling breeze.
When we reach Withington Woods, we are both eaten alive with biting horse flies so that by the time we approach our destination, nearly 8 hours since setting off, and 21 miles later, we are hot, weary and blooded by bite marks, Tommy still having enough energy to make a bit of a fuss about going past a field of llamas even though he can’t really see them, he can surely smell them.
Sue walks out to greet us just as we enter the drive. I ask her later how she knew we were coming at that precise moment. She tells me she just knew.
William has very kindly delivered our bags beforehand and once Tommy is safely installed in a stable, Sue shows me to my room which has a magnificent antique four-poster bed. After a much-needed soak in the bath to ease my aching feet and sore bum (something I rarely had when I was riding!), Sue and I spend a cosy evening together watching Countryfile whilst enjoying a delicious plate of cold salmon and salads on a tray on our laps which her caterer daughter has provided, the leftovers from a function the previous evening.