Saturday saw me trailering Brena thirty-five miles to ride in Wiltshire, where the chalk hills stand proud above the westerly plains. There's a good spot to park, and a range of trails to make rides from a couple of hours to a whole day.
It was a hot day. During a three-hour ride I drank the entire content of my water canteen. It was a good idea to order a canteen to hang from my saddle when I ordered the latter. Many of the fields crossed by trails have water troughs as this is grazing country, so there is no difficulty finding water for horses.
There was a breeze which served to make the afternoon more comfortable, however the flies were there, the more so in fields where cattle grazed. One group of cattle stood downwind of a fire where the farmer was burning dung, presumably because this was the only spot free from flies. They looked odd, strangely primitive in the smoky spot, like primeval beasts in some ancient fog.
This area is crossed by a deep ditch and rampart constructed in a period of tribal warfare sometime after the Romans left. Apparently the ancient Britons built it to try and keep the expanding Saxons out. The Wansdyke, as it is called, stretches for dozens of miles. Ultimately it proved to be a failure, as such barriers tend to be, and the Saxons soon grabbed all the land. But the earthwork remains as a relic of turbulent times a millennium and a half ago. Much of its length is now a public trail which, following the crest of a ridge, offers lovely views.
Here K and G are riding after me along the Wansdyke. The line of the fence shows just how deep the ditch still is, despite centuries of natural erosion. Mostly the trail runs along the crest, but drops down for gates. When freshly built, the sides would have been smooth bright white chalk, eye-catching and slippery. What a tremendous piece of work the Wansdyke is, hewn with hand tools from tough chalk, stretching for miles and miles. The natural wild grassland on the sloping sides is strewn with wild flowers.
A little further along our way a bullock stood on top of the Wansdyke, which ran through his pasture. He was happy to watch us from a little way away, but not brave enough to approach closely. With his mixed colouring and woolly coat, he seems to belong to a rare breed.
And then we spotted the llama. The llama spotted us and trotted down to take a look. The horses exhibited mixed reactions. Brena seemed to think that this was a type of pony, and decided that the best thing was to start to eat, presumably to devour all the grass before the dumpy skewbald got there. K's horse went up to touch noses with the llama, which they concluded like a pair of horses, fortunately without squealing (or spitting on the part of the llama). G's horse was afraid and clearly would have preferred to run away as fast as he could. However control was maintained and we left at a brisk walk, with the llama on the far side of a pasture fence.