Venetia and Mary set off from Bettiscombe along a bridleway past Lower House Farm. We gaily followed a limestone track through fields of Maize believing it to be the bridleway – no waymarks had been seen. On looking at the map with reading glasses on later we went too far north and the track was not straight enough to have been the bridleway. We emerged onto a lane north of Pilsdon, opposite a sign saying Jubilee Trail and a footpath sign pointing north. Believing ourselves to be at the point where the bridleway turns south we turned south on the road and had an altercation with a man at the end of an overgrown lane which gave every appearance of having been an old road.
We turned east at the triangle of Pilsdon and when we reached the church realised we were not where we thought we were so retraced our steps to the Jubilee Trail sign. We took that track which led to some farm building and eventually to a large dairy complex. Mary was convinced we had come too far south and should be heading East so we asked the dairymen the way. They told us to go back to the Jubilee Trail sign and take the first gate on the left. This we did to find a large gate held shut with a loop of string over the triangular latch, the clapping post completely covered in vegetation which, when parted, revealed a small Jubilee Trail bridleway marker. Nowhere for the horse’s head meant difficulty closing the gate which required two pairs of hands, one to hold the gate and the other to ‘fish’ the string which fell too low down on the gate. We nearly left the gate open but it would swing to block the farm track and the men had been quite helpful so we persevered and shut it.
A nice canter across the harvested grass on what we hoped was the line of the bridleway somewhat improved the mood. The bridleway crossed another field then dropped down to a footbridge. This was horrid, the gate onto it was narrow and the step up onto the bridge quite high, the step off put us onto a very narrow path about two feet wide with a high bank on the left and a drop of about four feet to the stream on the right (Mary is not good with heights, especially on a strange horse). Mary got off to do the next gate which was as narrow as the one onto the bridge and with nowhere for the horse to stand while the rider did the catch. Another field of cut grass up over the hill to the road which we crossed into a very overgrown track leading downhill.
A very boggy field gate took us into the cow pastures of Laverstoke Farm and a choice of bridleways going north and east. We took the east one and came out onto the Laverstoke Park drive. Half a mile of road took us to the hamlet of Blackney and south of that we found a bridleway sign pointing east which we assumed was the one we wanted. The road was very narrow here and the postman who had already passed us a couple of times in each direction was not able to pass at that point so we asked him to open the gate for us – it was fortunate that he was willing to help because the large metal fieldgate was only on one hinge, up on a bank and tied with string! Up the hill we went, erroneously as it turned out, found what appeared to be a bridleway gate at the top of the hill into a very steep field full of sheep and then a gate on a track leading to an impassable gate into a wood. We retraced our steps and came to a farm. Followed the farm drive through two new bridleway gates (beside cattle grids) hung in impossible positions for riders to open easily. When we got to the road we saw the farm name – Glitney – this should have been ‘our’ bridleway. Venetia wanted to go back and try again to find the way out of the steep field full of sheep but Mary had lost the will to live at that point so we went round by the more secure route, the road. Back through Blackney and past the Laverstoke entrance, all the way up the hill to the B3162 road which we rode south for about ¾ mile to turn left to North Bowood. We saw the end of the Glitney Farm bridleway which appeared to have been used by horses so we should have been able to find the other end but we hadn’t been able to.
The road through North Bowood took us into a hard surfaced track, an unclassified road, past North Bowood Dairy. This ended at a fieldgate just after a bridleway sign on the right. We took this steep track, fenced with sheep netting and two strands of barbed wire in good condition. Fencing it away from the grass field has resulted in the vegetation being over the horses’ heads and in many places over the riders’ heads – bracken, marestails and brambles made it very difficult to get through. The ground was steep and slippery clay. Eventually we reached Luccombe Lane at the bottom to meet two dog walkers who remarked they had never seen any horses come down that track before!
A stone track wound its way up to the road and we turned left, one road too soon but we continued into Netherbury and went down the steep hill past the church to cross the River Brit and take the bridleway alongside it to Oxbridge. This bridleway was nice until we got to a fenced off part of the field with three very narrow gates on the entrance to and within some sort of nature reserve. We were tired, the gates were less than four feet wide with catches that were not easy with nowhere for horses to stand. The path was so overgrown we were worried about holes. We emerged onto the road, turned left and heard the third pony whinnying us in to Oxbridge Farm and a very welcome night stop.