Away in a manger pictures always feature animals, but I'm quite sure Mary and Joseph had more sense than to choose a stable which didn't have a cockerel roosting on one of the rafters. The good news was that thankfully I didn't lay my sleeping bag directly in the line of fire underneath it. The bad news was that said cockerel started crowing at 4.15 a.m. but ignored all my suggestions that he might like to go and crow somewhere else, or rise and shine himself, rather than devote himself so religiously to waking me up.
Karen set me off on a lovely path through The King's Forest, just a shame the next section was closed for timber extraction, that it was raining hard, and that having spent the previous evening chatting convivially with Karen in her caravan, I had failed to arrange where I was going to stay tonight. The Icknield Way accommodation list I had includes any number of places for horses to stay around Newmarket, and a lot of time and effort has been invested into devising a safe alternative for horse-riders to the pedestrian only or road sections of the Icknield Way, but I had grave misgivings about taking Micky anywhere near racehorses in training for fear of him getting any ideas about proving who was fastest. I had already decided on a more direct route, albeit mainly on roads, some of it along the Icknield Way, via Gazely and Dalham. With Micky and Magic tethered around a couple of trees and me trying to spread out my maps without them getting too soaked, I telephoned any number of places from the accommodation list further on from Newmarket, but without success. Some had changed hands since the list was produced, others gone out of business, stopped accommodating horses or I could get no reply. In this part of the country it's not as though you can just pitch your tent and set up a corale for your horses wherever you like, and nearly all of the fields are unfenced cereal fields, so I wanted to try and sort something out in advance rather than rely on finding somewhere late in the day, which can so easily mean walking further and further. Yet again I found myself pledging eternal gratitude to Phyl Buxton for having given me several contacts, one of whom agreed to put my ponies in a field at her yard, and insisted I stay at her house.
To find myself staying with someone with virtually the same name as my sister - Julia Woods - and just as nice was more than I could hope for. Julia is currently eventing a lovely Connemara, but in the past has produced and shown Fell ponies, amongst many others. Wish that she lived nearer to sort out my unruly gang, and to keep in closer touch with.