The skies are clear but it’s a chilly November Sunday and I want to make sure everyone will be warm enough when we stop for lunch so I’ve spent the morning cooking a home made chicken and vegetable soup and sorting out some rugs and kills for us all to sit on and picnic.
My friend Richard arrives at my yard bang on time at 11:00am with his mum Linda, her partner Stuart, and Richards children Matthew and Amanda (not forgetting Chilli the dog). Pansy is in the stable having had a handful of proven, and the packsaddle and everything I think are going to need for the day is laid out ready to load.
Twenty minutes later we’re all loaded and ready to go. It’s a 5 minute walk to the start of the bridleway and then another 5 minutes through the woods to Harry Walkers Ground, a 17 acre allotment on higher ground than the fields at home where I run half of the herd through the winter.
As we make our way up the bridleway, Pansy’s mother Hades Hill Lucky Pearl and grandmother Pat with their two foals come to meet us. The old mare Hades Hill Fairmile looks on from the top. I keep the ponies off here all summer and turn them on again the back end and with a bit of luck there’ll be enough grass here for them until well into January.
The bridleway follows an old pack horse route that cuts up the side of the fell and then through a gate at the top where the path joins the forestry track. They’ve been felling trees all around Harry Walkers Ground and it’s the first time I’ve been here since the trees have been felled. Once we’re on the track I hand the halter over to Richards daughter and within 5 minutes Mathew wants to lead her as well. They’d been a bit nervous about even touching Pansy to begin with but already Amanda has taken the lead.
We just catch a glimpse of Windermere before the track winds up through the forest and we’re looking out not a whole new vista. It’s a few years since I’ve been this far up the track and trees have been felled and grown again. I catch a glimpse of the reservoir through the trees and it all comes back to me.
There’s a small clearing at the waters edge where I tie Pansy to a tree while we unload. The kids are laying out the rugs while Richard gets the small charcoal stove going and in only a matter of minutes the soup is piping hot. We have fresh bread, olives and cheese and the much to Stuarts surprise I pull my coffee percolator out of the bag. Linda goes for a lemon and ginger tea and Amanda pulls some water out of the reservoir in a canvas bucket for Pansy who’s been tethered and eating away on the long grass while we’ve had lunch.
We’ve been here an hour already and the nights are drawing in fast now so we decide to head back, Amanda and Mathew both desperate for their next turn with Pansy. It’s always faster going home and we’re back at my yard an hour later. The whole trip has taken about 4 and a half hours. Here’s what Richard had to say about it...