Yesterday K and I took our horses to an area of hills called the Deverills about 60 miles west of here. For us that's quite a long way to drive for an afternoon riding. However it was well worth the trip. We enjoyed high pastures, woodland, lovely fields to canter across, even a cool refreshing ford.
We began by opening a gate and riding up a grassy track onto the sheep tracts. Up here we could see for miles. Far from a main road, it was so very quiet. A little further on we crossed a meadow not yet cut, hooves swishing through the long dry grass. I felt as if we had entered a timeless realm, wonderfully removed from the motor age, even if we'd used truck and trailer to get here. It would have been so easy to jump down, set Brena to graze, and lie in the long grass watching clouds pass.
As is often the case in Britain, the Deverills form a relatively self-contained area to ride. They are large enough to ride a five or six-hour circuit, though we didn't ride quite that long on this occasion. Even so, not only was the terrain varied, some map treading skill was required. There wasn't much in the way of trail signage, and a multiplicity of tracks crossed the high open spaces. Elsewhere there was no clear track. I looked at the map a number of times, and even referred to my compass once. More or less we went the right way, though once or twice finding the trail through a mix of intuition and good fortune than by finding clear waypoints that matched the map.
Dropping down a steep hill through the woods, we skirted the hills, trotting and cantering for a couple of miles along the smooth margin of a recently-cut hay field. Quite unmarked, this is a legal riding trail. Unsurprisingly we saw no other hoof prints, nor bicycle tracks. We did keep up a good speed, though, trying to keep the horse flies at bay. Perhaps it was the cattle and sheep, maybe just the warmth, however there were a lot of biting insects.
Towards the end of an enjoyable circuit we discovered a ford. The two horses, thirsty after three hours out on a hot day, appreciated the clear water. Perhaps once farmers drove their cart horses through here to drink? We used to drive horses into fords and shallow rivers to drink out in Transylvania. The water was knee-deep and, just once, Brena stopped and began to settle. Not wanting to roll, I nudged her on. Maybe next time I'll bring her here on a lunge line? I'd like to take Brena into a river on a hot afternoon to wash her.
I've just mentioned my erstwhile home of almost a decade. Yes, this ride was reminiscent of the rides on which I used to lead guests. It was more genteel, the places more manicured, the agriculture modernised, and yet so much was similar. Hills and woods, sheep, gates, narrow tracks, quaint cottages in the villages, that ford, warmth, flies, relaxed horses pacing their efforts. Perhaps Brena found it a little like her former life in Tuscany too?
This was just the sort of ride that I like, varied and interesting, with just enough difficulty to make me think. It's not a ride where one can just drift along else one would get lost. There is plenty to look at too, near and far. There are many more miles to ride in this area. We'll be back!