Monday 9 August 2010

Into Norfolk

By the time I got out to the ponies on Sunday morning, Micky and Jake had decided they were inseparable soul mates, which they could well be, given that they look virtually identical, bar 4" difference in height. Having danced about on his hind legs while I was tacking up, I can't exactly say I was feeling confident when I got on Micky, but my fears proved ill founded, and it was a real treat to have Mouse and Jake riding with us through to Tottenhill, due south of Setchey, which my research before I set off told me was where the drovers went. Why, I'm not too sure. Perhaps there was a bridge across the river then, or a fair.

Mouse had to turn back to prepare for her next guests, leaving Micky, Magic and I to carry on alone again through Wormegay. Mouse had suggested a route she had previously driven which crossed directly over the A47, but I had previously marked up a route east along part of the Nar Valley Way, through a forest which my map told me used to be a rabbit warren. Whole flotillas (if that's the plural) of dragonflies flew lazily around us as we rode along the sandy rides in glorious sunshine. Very different to the flat fens we had crossed the previous couple of days, we now found ourselves in a much more wooded landscape. In contrast to the heavily canalised rivers and drains we have ridden along and over, the River Nar was beautiful, slow flowing and crystal clear. A text from Jake (as in my son, rather than Mouse's horse) who is in San Fransisco competing at international tetrathlon, telling me he was about to do his swimming competition, made me wish I too was stopping for a dip. Which is what the man I met at the bridge over the river told me he was about to do, and suggested I join him, but I wasn't quite sure if I trusted him, and with my mother's words of warning ringing in my ears, I wished I hadn't admitted quite so quickly to being on my own and that he hadn't made such a point of saying what an isolated spot it was where no-one else ever came.

I needn't have worried: either my jodphpurs put him off,or he was just a genuinely nice man after my own heart inspired to swim in the river, which to me was infinitely more appealing that the lakes (presumably artificial after gravel working) on the road to Pentney.

Having been warned that I really, really was stupid to ride along the A47 for any distance at all, I had found a bridleway on my map which led straight across from the road through from Pentney. The good news was that there was a fingerpost and a gap around the barrier on the far side of the A47, and the first part of the track had been recently cleared. The bad news was that after a few hundred yards, there was no sign of the bridleway which my map said carried straight on, and after a short way, the cleared track under the power lines stopped. So it was back to ploughing our way through trees and scrub, at which we had quite a bit of practice coming through the Borders. Magic who was being pack pony kept looking at me as if to say "I'm telling you that those branches are too low but I'll do anything you ask, provided you take the blame". More than a few times she came out with broken branches stuck across the pack saddle, blinking beningly at me "Told you so". Micky, being a good few inches smaller, without a pack, and with much less manners, just barged through regardless. It was a reminder that not all bridleways in England are necessarly passable, and yet again that you need to keep your wits about you all the time. And your eye on the map so that when you've been forced to deviate off the path you think you should be on, you can still find your way through.

We were headed to East Walton because that's where I'd located a paddock for the ponies and somewhere for me to stay for two nights to try and overcome the awful tiredness which has crept up on me, and to allow my hands and body to recover from my close encounter with the tarmac. I wasn't too sure if this meant I was off the track of the drovers again - not least because no-one can tell me exactly which way they got to Horsham St. Faiths, north of Norwich, other than that they were north of Downham Market, Swaffham and Dereham. Then suddenly there's a roadsign saying Wilson's Drove. Except it was so short and relatively narrow that it seems it was a much more recent drove road used to drive cattle to a local railhead, rather than part of the longer distance droving network from Scotland to Norfolk.

1 comment:

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