Shadow Of The Wall

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Diary - 2


Expedition Diary at a glance 2

17 October: Day 6

In Stanley Plantation, a mass of conifers for about 400 metres, leather harness connecting ponies with quick release buckles rips in half lengthwise when they decide to walk opposite sides of tree. Lose quick release attachment and both walking poles, as unable to retrace steps through thick woodland.

At laneway gate Thorn treads on lead rope. I release rope but he panics as I attempt to lift his left front hoof. Sensing opportunity, he turns suddenly then gallops 100 metres back to last gate with Roamer, harness attached, galloping alongside! Shred rucksac and charge after them. As I reach them Thorn isn’t finished. He turns and gallops another 50 metres to the next, closed, gate. Suddenly he has had enough. The Roman saddle has slipped inevitably, due to Roamer’s tugging pressure. I right the saddle and we are back on track – minus rucksac, which takes some time to locate.

Gale force winds, gradually increasing in intensity, spook ponies on hill near Codlaw Hill Farm. Unable to stand against wind. Eventually manage to reach relative shelter of valley and roadside. Fierce storm, with extremely high winds, lashes down all night. Farm owners decide to stable ponies. Sleep in adjoining stable again. Roamer and Thorn bang against metal stable doors all night – they hate being in a small enclosed space; I get little sleep.

18 October: Day 7

High winds spook ponies over open fields. Lose remaining connecting strap on hill as must separate ponies to avoid accident and to calm them. Passing vehicle recovery man kindly retrieves strap by walking across two fields. Local lady, working nearby, offers me drink and ponies apples, then accompanies us along boggy section of vallum near St Oswald’s Church.

North Tyne River is in spate at Chollerford, so unable to cross river as planned. Warned by local river expert that crossing would be exceedingly dangerous and should not be attempted. Ignore overnight camping spot on river’s western banks. Instead, push on to Greencarts Farm. Camping barn is welcome tonight. Help farmer repair fence in corner of field. Ponies are secure from open quarry.

19 October: Day 8

Rest the ponies. They graze contentedly in long meadow. Roamer’s owner visits. Spend much time organising satellite connection for emails; three hours telephone conversation with technician in India. Repair gear and wash clothes. Cold, dry day and even colder night.

20 October: Day 9

Several farm gates along Military Way locked, despite telephone confirmations, so re-routing is necessary. Accompanied by husband of Roamer’s owner; opening and closing of gates on rough moorland therefore much easier. High Teppermoor is waterlogged, dangerous terrain for horses carrying loads at this time of year. Must cross stream at lowest point. Local farmer helps negotiate route across marsh. Follow Military Way in wonderful open countryside to Sewing Shields. Secure ponies using extra gate. Cold camping night.

21 October: Day 10

Alan, cameraman, accompanies me from Sewing Shields across open hillsides. Swing gate on hill forces detour north of Hadrian’s Wall towards Housesteads Fort. Tricky, rocky ground slows progress. Member of public, walking with dog, accompanies us, helping to avoid bog. Meet Simon, English Nature representative, at south-eastern corner of Housesteads Fort, on line of Military Way, for filmed interview.

Continue along Military Way, past old kiln and benign native cattle, to Bradley Farm. Sleep inside tonight, enabling easier logging of diary and checking of equipment. Ponies graze large field at side of hill. Eat with family at local public house – welcome respite!

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