We drove home to Scotland overnight, stopping only to refuel the Discovery, the ponies and ourselves, and to swap drivers when the adrenalin wore off and the lack of food and sleep caught up. The torrential rain in which we left London abated only when we got north of Manchester. How fortunate were we that it had held off until I reached Smithfield rather than putting a damp squib on my last day.
We pulled up our track in bright moonlight at 2.30 a.m. Micky and Magic bounced out of the trailer as though they'd been in it for 5 minutes, and then galloped around the field kicking their heels in the air. Sadly I cannot claim to have done the same.
To be back among the hills of home without having to worry where we're going to sleep or what the ponies will eat is a relief, but in every other way, coming home is more difficult than any other part of my ride from Skye to Smithfield.
Buck and Humbug, my giant Alaskan malamutes, are pleased to have me home to take them running along the River Annan at the start of the day; Yeti, my ginormous tabby Maine Coon, is delighted to be able to lie spreadeagled across my desk again; and the rest of my gang of Fell ponies come charging enthusiastically over to see me when I approach their field. But there are so many responsibilities to resume, so many things clamouring for my attention, and all of a sudden life becomes so complicated again. I realise that no matter how tough it has been at times, what a luxury it has been to be away with my ponies.
Perhaps as well that there has been little time for contemplation. After cleaning out the fridge and chucking out the grapes and cheese which had been malingering there since I left 8 weeks previously, I had less than 48 hours to get Elsa sorted out for college before we had to drive south again down M6 to deliver her to De Montfort University at Leicester. Jake returned to Bath University the next day. You may scoff that I can say this having been away all summer, but after 19 years of life being dominated by kids, if not being with them then worrying about their care, it comes as a shock to the system to find myself childless. Which also means there are no extra hands to help stack all the hay made while I was away, or to catch up on the endless jobs.
Nearly two weeks on and I have just about managed to find my desk amongst the piles of paper, to do all the washing, properly dry out my tent and sort out my tack.
After 24 hours restoring their waistlines, Micky and Magic stood at the gate looking lost, totally unable to understand why we weren't on the move again. I promised them before we got home that they could rest now for the next few months, but both they and I are itching to ride again.
Tonight I could not help but laugh at Micky, who never misses a trick. When we were riding through the Highlands, Elsa said she was glad she had parents who knew about fencing and gates because otherwise we would have been scuppered when confronted with padlocked gates on drove roads and other tracks which we had every right to be riding along. Although he appeared to be innocently dozing, Micky clearly took note while Elsa and I lifted the gates off their hinges, and is now busy teaching Magic the same trick. No matter that there was still more grass than anywhere else he has been for the past two months, having decided tonight that he had done enough mowing in the stack yard,he'd lifted the gate off its hinges and taken Magic and himself off to the hayfield (which the gates are still off after bringing in the haylage last night) where I found them happily grazing.