Shadow Of The Wall

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Diary - 6


Expedition Diary at a glance 6

2 November: Day 22

Stops raining before day break. Pack up soaked tent. Loss of daylight hour since last Sunday means must start packing up earlier to have enough time to reach destination.

Jimmy, Knockupworth Farmer, escorts me across his land Ėhalf a mile of extremely wet and boggy terrain, beyond Carlisle underpass. Yesterday evening underpass lights seemed like Wembley Stadium on match night.

Ground severely waterlogged. From Grinsdale inquisitive cattle hinder progress; unfortunately have left walking stick at Knockupworth, so no protection across open farmland. At next smallholding temporary electric fence across gateway forces backtrack.

At Kirkandrews must unload all gear at two kissing gates 200 metres apart. Ground has precarious, foot-deep bog surrounding stone slabs. Hadrianís Wall Trail officer, Colin, helped plan this section, assists when I call, getting mud bath for trouble! Last 200 metres to Kirkandrews (Beaumont Hall) takes almost two hours due to new kissing gate erected by Hadrianís Wall national trail organisers outside hall. Eventually ponies gain access to hall, minus packs, through private gardens. Now must ferry gear by hand and wheelbarrow to hall!

National Trail warden arrives at Beaumont Hall. He hopes that I am not following National Trail path, contentious issue. Begin to erect electric fence to prevent ponies escaping but darkness overcomes situation, so must rely on partly erected fence and tethering chains to contain ponies tonight. Pitch tent in dark. Stand guard at hall gate to prevent ponies escaping during committee meeting to discuss bonfire night party. Rains heavily, intermittently, all night.

3 November: Day 23

Rain ceases at daybreak. At 7.00 a.m. ponies gallop wildly in wide clockwise circle around prepared bonfire, creating huge indentations in grass. They seem happy.

Knockupworth farmer arrives with stick and first aid kit, left yesterday. On way by 11.00 with Alan, cameraman.

From Beaumont negotiate barbed wire gate along grassy, open Military Way and ford stream onto laneway towards Burgh-by-Sands. Spend over two hours talking with and filming children at Burgh-by-Sands Primary School, many of whom want to stroke ponies at lunchtime.

Route to Dykesfield is along extremely muddy laneways. Avoid waterlogged fields. Now follow top of sea defence dyke to Drumbrough. Cold night.

4 November: Day 24

Film interview with three Fell Pony Society breeders Alison, Tom and Walter at Drumbrough. Now late for visit to Solway Primary School, Bowness, so take short cut along coast road. Anyway, cannot access Bowness via planned track near Brackenrigg as no wooden board placed across cattle grid.

Film enthusiastic children at primary school. They measure Thornís skin temperature with data logger.

Arrive at North Plain (RSPB Reserve) at 4.15 p.m. after five kilometre trek along coastal, Bowness estuary, road. Must remove packs; cattle grid bars access. Norman, Reserves Manager, helps transport gear to barn in four-wheel drive, as other option across field with ponies is too boggy.

Very cold night. Resist offer to sleep in RSPB caravan as larger air space will be colder and cannot get electric fan heater to work. No water except one cupful in kettle and another in flask. Unable to locate caravan supply stop cock in dark. Sleeping bag wanting, as ideally suitable for early-middle autumn, with comfort rating at +2 degrees.

5 November: Day 25

Temperature at 3.00 a.m. is about -5 degrees Celsius on River Solway Peninsula. Chill factor is increased by thick, drenching fog. Dew is frozen to tent until 9.30 a.m.

On sunny afternoon - rest day - film ponies grazing wetland. Cameraman brings me water and chocolate bars. Solar charger is at 100 per cent capacity for emergencies.

Ponies unbothered by distant fireworks in isolated, most westerly, expedition location this evening. We have now travelled coast to coast, following, as far as possible, the Roman Military Way! No media interest.

Re-erect tent under lean-too shelter. Set off towards village after dark with empty bottle in search of drinking water. Local mother, whose children I have met, offers lift and water. Temperature drops severely again tonight, estimated -7, off of scale of data logger. Tawny owls call intermittently.

6 November: Day 26

Difficult to sleep; too cold. Tent door zip breaks. Tent is frozen again, despite being under lean-to. Cameraman films interview with Norman, RSPB Coastal Reserves Manager, at tidal marsh. There may be grazing role for Fell ponies here in future. Roamer and Thorn love seaweed Ė serrated wrack!

Again pack tent still soaking wet. Depart about 12.00, after tacking up on road. Head back to Drumbrough. Farmerís son accompanies me across his fields at Port Carlisle, where we enter long laneway to Glasson. Reach Drumbrough Grange early to avoid untacking in dark.

Pitch tent under lean-to barn. Thick fog causes temperature to plummet to estimated -8 degrees. Tent is frozen with tiny icicles again. Violently sick during cold night after contracting stomach virus.

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