Oxbridge to Martinstown Winterbourne St Martin, Dorset
I am more than cross, I am livid. Dorset is sitting on the most wonderful network of byways and bridleways and vast numbers of them are totally unfit for purpose and downright dangerous. Venetia and I have spent seven hours in the saddle today as well as having to jump off to heave badly hung gates, whilst tripping around in slurry, then some routes were completely blocked by trees and vegetation.
Having contributed a fortune to the local economy via bed and breakfasts (somewhat more expensive than elsewhere in the country) and diesel and food for humans and horses, to then find all those enticing bridleways completely out of repair, requiring frequent dismounting, was beyond the pale.
Starting off from Oxbridge we immediately encountered a totally overgrown lane and had to abort that bridleway. This sort of thing is not only time consuming, but physically exhausting and adds miles and hours to one’s route. The Mangerton Hill bridleway was not only boggy but every single gate required dismounting and effort; especially as we are not in the first flush of youth, but certainly having to get fitter and stronger!
Between Hammiton and Chilcombe was again boggy underfoot with diabolical gates. At one the mud and slurry was mid-calve deep, leaving me with wet slurry feet for the rest of the day. The relief of finally getting to Long Bredy was great, with wonderful grassy ridgeways, but again spoilt by bad gates. Somebody needs to mount some of the Council officers responsible and get them to open these gates one-handed whilst sitting six feet up in the air. Most of the gate catches had been positioned for pygmies riding Shetlands.
But despite sore backside and aching long-lost muscles we are upbeat and thoroughly enjoying the stunning scenery, the changing architecture and the variety of people we are meeting. Riding for 5-7 hours per day is the hardest work these ponies will ever do, but they are bearing up well so far.