After a quiet month, since my last sojourn up Helvellyn, I have done nothing. It has rained relentlessly, strong winds and alternating mild and cold.
However, yesterday, I was out!….Friends asked me to ride with them across the English Scottish Border at a place called, Bloody Bush!
Bloody Bush!…So named after a violent skirmish between the English and Scottish Reivers and other ne’r do wells! That was at least 500 years ago, now, there stands a huge Monument, where the incident took place. It was also recognized as the ‘Place of Toll,’…..where travellers paid a duty on any goods they had.
So back to the ride. It had rained all the previous day, right up until I arrived at Newcastleton. Just to show I’m a righteous person, the sun came out, together with a stiff breeze, and fast moving clouds. My two friends had also arrived, suitably booted and spurred we set off on a ten mile route across forest and moor, a wonderful ride, my two dogs, and my friends dogs, made it look like a hunting party!
3111 feet high, it commands a central position in the Lake District, a National Park in the UK.
Centuries ago, the Packhorse Routes criss crossed these mountains, carrying Salt, Lead, Graphite and many other useful products to places far and wide, via the sea ports on the west coast of Britain. One such route crossed this Mountain Summit. When we travelled this route, on a warm sunny day, although by the time we reached it, it was bitterly cold, the first signs of winter flowing South on a North wind. As I turned my collar to the cold, I felt my horse Toby, agree. Time to head down.
I hear it all the time from folks, saying how?….”I can’t afford a horse, it’s so expensive!”
I tend to be of the view, that it’s only as expensive as you want it to be, and what you want. You could just buy a nag, a horse that will do most things, but in other people’s eyes, ain’t worth a shit. It all depends on you. Rescue horses, they’re all out there, just look. Keep your costs low by being self aware, learn how to be your own veterinarian, as far as you can. Don’t waste money on gadgets and trends. But most of all, don’t listen to those who think they know better than you, as there’s plenty out there. Do your own thing, be honest with yourself and the horse.
A late afternoon ride with friends turned into a late home ride in the dark.
We waited until the last rays of the sun sank behind Blencathra, then we dawdled away back to Scales Farm.
A beautiful evening marred by absolutely nothing. Even the rising of the Blood Moon, was extraordinary, it was a calm Red or in the night sky, as I drive home.
Toby did his job tonight despite his night blindness. He strode out from the group, occasionally he stumbled, but he immediately corrected himself. A good horse. Or should I say, a fine horse in new country.
I have often ridden over areas of land, that I thought were free to roam by us none landowning proletariat. Not so it seems, to my everlasting shame, I have been ignorant of English Land Law. While Scotland has a Right to Roam Act, England alas, has not. The saving grace in all this, are the myriad of Bridleways and Footpaths, Permissive Ways and so called Green Lanes. These are historical rights of way, built up over generations, but sadly, are being little used by the Smart phone weilding public.
I fear that in the years to come, landowners will find any excuse to rid ‘their’ land of the footfall, of multiple visitors to the countryside. Horse riders, now afeared, due to heavy vehicular traffic upon the roads, reduce themselves to Arena work and competitive rides, where traffic isn’t an issue. This is to the loss of all horse riders. However, there are a few intrepid persons, intent on claiming back the Bridleway et al, I include myself in this, we must never give up on these highways of the ancient Packhorse and Tinkers Cob.
A beautiful day. Thirty miles across the Cheviot Hills, Northumbria National Park UK. On the 1st August this year we left the tiny Hamlet of Cocklawfoot, which nestles at the foot of the Border Ridge, between Scotland and England.
A short ride to Sourhope, and then upwards into the wild beauty. It’s a little known fact, that these hills have seen much history, from raging battles to thieving and rustling of horses and cattle. The Romans made the first real lasting impression, with Vine Terraces, and Roads.
But we are here to travel to Alwinton, via Mounthooley, Goldscleugh Langleeford, The Dod, Linhope Spout, Alnham and finally Newton Farm just outside the “One Horse Dorp”, that is Alwinton.
Fifteen hours later we arrived, a bit wet, and weary, but happy in the knowledge that I had repeated this ride, that my friend and I, Bobby McCaw first did in 2008.
It was fun then, and it was fun still.
My thanks to Rachel Ardley and her horse Enar, who accompanied me on this venture.