Yesterday was a long, tough day. The second day since I set off nearly 4 weeks ago that it hasn't rained, which you would think would be something to rejoice about, but the ponies and I aren't used to the heat, or the black bugs which smothered my arms and t-shirt and crawled inside my hat and clothing. We were on road nearly all the way - not that there weren't any bridleways, but we had far enough to travel and if they added too many extra miles, road seemed preferable.
The biggest challenge was crossing the A66. There were three options: a minor road which goes underneath it near Sadberge, which would have left me the wrong side of endless loops of the River Tees; down through Redmarshall, which was directly on the old drove route south from Durham but involved two big roundabout interchanges; or a middle route which appeared on my map to cross direct over A66 and appealed to me because it was bang on the old drove route between Whinny Hill and Coatham Stob. The first half of the dual carriageway wasn't too bad, but Micky, Magic and I stood for ages waiting on an island in the middle of the dual carriageway for a momentary lull in the westbound traffic which continually roared past. When eventually there was a break, Magic trotted gamely across. Micky stopped dead in the middle and I thought our time had come. I also thoguht how very glad I was not to have a herd of cattle with me to try and get across.
Inspired by a sign to "Drovers Way" caravan site, I took a risk that we'd be able to get through along the old drove route past Coatham Stob, but the former track now ends in a brickworks with a locked gate, so we had to backtrack, having added several needless miles to our journey in pursuit of authenticity, which drained ponies' energy and my enhtusiasm.
Actually flagging morale was as much an issue yesterday as crossing the A66, a rare admission, and usually not a problem, but compounded by insufficient sleep, worrying where I was going to stay, and about Micky's back, which is no worse, but not clever. It was a huge relief when Jen at Kirklevington Riding School agreed to put the ponies up and I found a B&B up the road in Yarm. Even more so when she said we were welcome to stay longer to rest the ponies if I wanted. The miles between us means that although they've had a good rest, I've still walked a fair distance to and fro several times a day, but it's been great just to catch my breath before heading on up over the North Yorks Moors tomorrow.
But just when I think things are looking up, I found tonight that having only been reshod on Wednesday, which should have lasted him another 3 weeks, Micky has somehow trodden on one of his front shoes and half wrenched it off. Trying to find a farrier at 6pm on a Saturday night isn't funny, and after spending the afternoon trying to fix next week's accommodation, I've no idea whether we are going to have to stay put for a few days at Boltby where we're headed tomorrow while I sort out yet anothetr farrier. And who thought this was fun? I am reminded of my father who delighted in saying "life isn't supposed to be easy",and I've no doubt whatsoever that the drovers found the same.