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Diary - 5


Expedition Diary at a glance 5

30 October: Day 19

Rains heavily during night at Bleatarn, but this morning’s fine. Pack up soaked tent. Takes over three hours to strike camp and tack and load ponies. Depart about 11 o’clock on fine morning. After 30 minutes Bleatarn farmer catches me up in quad bike – a visitor wants to see the ponies. This is just as well because, at that moment realise that I had left my walking pole at the farm.

Ponies travel swiftly along very minor road to Walby Farm Park, along exact location of Military Way, finally across fields to the park. Owners warmly greet us. After two hours of talking to the public – a busy day at Walby (last day of half term holidays) – it’s time for delicious vegetarian curry, specially prepared by cafeteria cook. I need it! The Park Owner’s children, 4, 7 and 9 years old are extremely interested in all matters equine and they help me feed and unload the ponies. A warm, hard bed tonight – which might ease muscles strain.

31 October: Day 20

Laneway from Walby is overgrown. Alan, cameraman, and I cannot get access to road westwards, even though I spent many hours last December checking out route. Instead, after wasting 45 minutes looking for alternative exit, we head south along the edge of ploughed field to a minor road and hence onto the grass verge of the main road to Brunstock Castle. I wanted to avoid this dangerous road, but, with Alan walking drag, the ponies manage it impeccably.

Across the grounds of Brunstock Park and then into boggy fields parallel to the road, access is again blocked, this time by new piece of fencing. We must backtrack to another gate – wasting time. We are now very late for the visit to Stanwix Primary School. Ponies cross bridge over M6 unbothered by traffic from four directions.

From Tarraby Village a field gate is padlocked. Two workmen, building riding stables nearby, kindly remove and replace the gate. At brook before Tarraby kissing gate ground is too waterlogged to access wider farm gate just 20 metres away. Ponies refuse to traverse this ground. Instead, our new-found helpers dismantle the kissing gate – some tools are needed - as Carlisle Council officers are not to hand to help as prearranged. Police are also absent, even though their assistance has been meticulously planned. Needn’t have worried. With Alan’s help ponies negotiate traffic impeccably. Quickly repack ponies.

Arrive Stanwix Primary School late, at about 2.15, but manage to talk with most of the children. Film children asking questions about the expedition and ponies. They measure Roamer’s skin temperature and are invited to write a story about the ponies, imagining that they are Thorn or Roamer.

At Rickerby Park Alan and assistant cameraman depart. Backtrack to Linstock Castle through Rickerby Park, travelling again over M6, arriving just before nightfall. Ponies graze contentedly. Pitch tent in dark, still minus properly working torch. Rains heavily again tonight.

1 November: Day 21

Alistair, Fell Pony Society Breeder, trims ponies’ feet – has done this many times with his own Fell ponies. Roamer and Thorn are in good shape. Alistair’s help means I’m on time.

At Rickerby Park Memorial Bridge film interview with Andrew, representative of Cumbria Commoners’ Association. During interview there is a commotion a few meters away. Youths are using an air rifle. Alan changes camera angle repeatedly. By end of interview three police cars are parked at the bridge.

Heading along River Eden’s south shore, face a severe descent of about 25 steps with protruding u-nails, a precarious, dangerous situation for ponies. There’s no way around. Unhook ponies and lead them down separately. To avoid another obstacle –‘Engine Lonning’ –detour through gate to Knockupworth Farm. Carefully negotiate waterlogged fields with expert assistance of farmer, Jimmy.

Tent pegs will not penetrate hard ground. More rain tonight. Farmer invites me to supper. Meat’s on menu – forgot to mention I was vegetarian. Eat some anyway – very hungry and losing weight. If you don’t taste it’s not too bad in emergency situation.

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