Shadow Of The Wall

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Diary - 3


Expedition Diary at a glance 3

22 October: Day 11

Accompanied by cameraman and by Mark, assistant trainer of Roamer from Lincoln. Roman saddle slips on undulating terrain towards Cawfields Farm along Military Way. Descending to farm gate at pass trip and tumble, but recover uninjured. Thorn and Roamer look down contemptuously.

Difficult route. Steep, undulating terrain along line of Hadrian’s Wall. Must navigate safe passage through deep bog and across rock-strewn landscape at steep descent. Force expedition through quagmire reconnoitred a year ago. Camp in orchard at isolated location behind winsill.

Loaned torch breaks, so have just one, unreliable, torch tonight. At about 9.30 p.m. ponies escape from metal-gated enclosure, eat half a bag (5 days food supply) of high fibre feed, then break down wooden hill gate at opposite side of field (must compensate farmer). They gallop about intermittently during night with thoroughbred horse and Shetland pony owned by farmer. Lose boot in bog attempting to find ponies in dark. Eventually manage to dig out boot – just in time. Sleepless night, as cannot see ponies anywhere.

23 October: Day 12

Separate Fells from farmer’s ponies. Late leaving. Ponies unaffected by escapade last night – no feed this morning!

Ground is waterlogged, very boggy, on way to from Cawfields to Great Chesters. Ponies get through safely to Walltown Crags, but difficult going necessitates lowland option along peaceful Military Way. Meet cameraman at Walltown Crags. Discuss expedition with members of public At Roman Army Museum. Lose another, new, walking pole on rough terrain.

Ford stream at Holmhead – two feet deep in middle – just before Thirlwall Castle destination. Stuff boots with newspaper to dry; thankfully, have spare insoles. All pairs of socks are now soaked. Camp within Castle grounds. Secure paddock perimeter with help of farmer. Ponies aren’t escaping tonight.

24 October: Day 13

Lost boot finally discovered at Row Hope Riding Centre. Dog had hidden it during tacking up. The other boot has been sent back to Leicestershire base. Will these boots ever be re-united? I need them for terrain ahead.

Swing gate at railway line forces momentary detour along cycle track this fine, dry, morning; not in mood to remove packs. Climb steeply to golf course, arriving Chapel House Farm early afternoon. Cameraman needs rest. So do I. Film Jamie, farmer, talking about potential value of Fell ponies within the agricultural system and as biodiversity.

25 October: Day 14

On a fine, mild, sunshine day must take off packs at swing gate before crossing River Irthing at Willowford. Planned to ford river to avoid swing-gate, but barbed wire fence would need cutting. Instead, eventually persuade Thorn to venture onto suspension bridge steps. Usher ponies over bridge separately.

Walk along road for half mile as refused access to fields at back of Birdoswald Fort by English Heritage. Thorn rips bridle on gate-post. At High House, farmer and I carry out last minute repairs to hill enclosure in dark to secure ponies.

26 October: Day 15

Film re-enactment with wicker baskets reconstructed from etchings on Trajan’s Column, Rome. Ponies successfully carry stone up steep, narrow causeway from Roman quarry at Coombe Crag to location of wall. Sheep spook ponies, damaging connecting strap again, but manage emergency repair. Luckily, at Quarry Side Campsite receive new connecting harness from Leicestershire saddler. Injured back muscles impede proper sleeping.

27 October: Day 16

Back slightly worsens overnight.

Aggressive landowner prevents access to route from Banks towards Lanercost though prior agreement existed, so follow contingency route to Lanercost Priory. Gate at Burtholme Brook is too narrow for packs. Avoiding riverside campsite at Miller Hill Farm due to difficult weather conditions, push on across waterlogged fields to Howgill Farm. On very cold night sky is exceptionally clear.
Camp inside open-walled barn, which offers some protection from showers.

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