Wednesday 4 August 2010

Troublesome Trent

Yes you do get a lot of typos with my fumbling fingers on my mini-computer, but if I delayed to correct you'd never get to read anything of a blog, so sorry that's the way it is, but I did mean to type Trent, not tent. My lovely pea-green Coleman Aviator tent is brilliant, if smelling a trifle mouldy from constantly being stuffed away wet, and although it says it's a 3 man, I wouldn't wish to share it with anyone else thanks all the same. There's just enough room for me, my saddle, my pack saddle, my panniers and saddle bags to spread out comfortably.

However the River Trent has caused me real problems. Unlike the rivers we crossed in Scotland, it is not in spate. Far from it, everyone down here is bemoaning the lack of rain (I could easily have brought them some) and the grass is parched dry. But while in a car, or even on a bike, a few extra miles to cross a river is no big deal, on a horse, on a journey of 1,000 miles or so, at walking pace, then finding there are only a couple of places to cross the Trent, which are endless miles apart and don't coincide with where I would like to cross, is a big deal. Crossing at Gainsborough meant a sizeable stretch of dual carriageway and despite the appeal of visiting the Drovers Call pub between Gainsborough and Lincoln, which is apparently the real McCoy as in a one-time drovers inn, from the web it seemed to now attract people who liked karaoke, which isn't my scene, and meant a long, long way on a busy A road with little option to off-road. So we opted instead to carry on down the west side, and cross at Dunham on Trent.

Just before the bridge Micky determinedly went his own way, the other side of a lamp-post to Magic and I, at which point I thought he might tank off and cross the river alone, but thankfully he stopped and waited for me to pick up the rope againef so we crossed the bridge together.The man in the booth said there was no charge for horses, and I find it hard to imagine how 30p/car pays the wages of 2 men in each direction, but mine is not to question why. I was just grateful that they very thoughtfully lifted the barrier as soon as they saw me so Magic was spared the dilemma as to whether she had to jump it, limbo underneath or spin round and head for home again when she saw it waving in the air.

Life is never dull travelling with two ponies, and feeling smug that you've negotiated one obstacle there always seems something else waiting in the wings to pull you up short and remind one (i.e. me) that disaster is never more than a hair's breadth away. 10 minutes after crossing the Trent, ambling happily down a lane, Magic suddenly and for no apparent reason, other than that she wasn't concentrating properly, fell onto her knees with her front hooves between her back legs and her chin flat on the floor, and me precariously balanced on top with my heart thumping so loudly and fast I was competing with Msgic for who would have first heart attack. I got off as quickly as I could,she picked herself up, both of us wondering what had happened and why, and with a large tractor coming up behind and a combine heading towards us from the opposite direction, having checked there was no serious damage there wasn't much option but to rally ourselves, keep calm and carry on. When we found a gap on the verge, I stopped and checked again that she was OK. Aren't I just SO glad I am riding Fell ponies with such hairy legs and whopping big knees that she'd done nothing more than mark the fur on one leg, there's been no swelling or heat whatsoever, and her soundness has never faltered. I was also very grateful for my riding mac strapped across my front saddle D rings which together with my knee rolls and front saddle bags (and of course my perfect poise) helped keep me in place.

At the end of a bridleway, who knows if it was a drove road, we had planned to go along a lane for a bit but the new cycle track along the disused railway seemed a welcome break from farm traffic, so we headed off along there for a mile or so towards Lincoln until the sanitised surface and prescription specification bored us to tears and we decided we were happier on the road checking out windmills, eyeing up all the pretty gardens we passed and enjoying the tiny new acorns and hazel nuts growing on the trees.

I've got the latest OS maps, but even they didn't show that the bridleway which skirts around the south of Lincoln now goes through a major housing development, which is a bit of a tip because I learned later that night that all work has stopped due to the credit crunch because they haven't sold a single house for >18 months.

When we reached South Hykeham, Micky and Magic thought they'd landed in heaven. More grass than they've seen since Redesmouth Mill, lush regrowth since it was cut for hay in June, which Carol worried would give them instant laminitis, but for ponies working so hard was just what the doctor ordered. I too had a luxurious night in a comfy bed in a farmhouse B&B where fresh raspberries and blueberries for breakfast compensated for the stale sandwich I insisted on eating in my martyrdom for tea the previous night. Eat your heart out you drovers with nothing but oatmeal and onions three times a day!

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