After years of dreaming and months of planning, things are finally coming together for my ride this summer following in the foosteps of the summer from Skye to Smithfield in London.
There are maps everywhere. Identifying the main routes taken by the drovers as they herded cattle south from Scotland to market in London via the traditional fattening grounds in Norfolk was only the first step in planning my route. Some are clearly visible and marked as old drove roads on Ordnance Survey maps. Others have been truncated by reservoirs or long since disappeared under tarmac, including whole stretches of the main drove route south from the North Tyne, now subsumed under the A1. My trusty Fell ponies may be good in traffic, but riding down a dual carriageway for miles on end wasn't exactly what I had in mind. So back to the drawing board to find alternative routes. Then it's a matter of finding out which are passable on horseback. Drovers were all too familiar with treacherous bogs, but finding out which I can still get through or how to get round them isn't easy.
After endless phone calls to stalkers, landowners and others who share my passion for exploring historic tracks on horseback, at last my route is coming together, even if I have yet to sort the final leg through from Norfolk to London. Prompted by the imminent arrival of a journalist from the local paper keen to cover my ride, I drew a very long black line on a large map of the UK. It's really interesting to see how it relates to the route Elsa and I rode from John O'Groats to Lands End in 2006. As Elsa said, by the time I've added all the other places in Britain I've ridden or driven with my ponies in the past, I'll be able to see which other parts remain for me to explore. But meanwhile, as departure day on 27th June 2010 draw nigh, back to getting things together for my ride this summer.