Ninth September Blog

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Ninth September Blog.

Travelling.

I’ve walked along the byways,
My feet’ve touched many a road,
From tarmac treads to Bourbon Streets,
I carry a heavy load.
Country tracks, I’ve journeyed,
With muddied ruts, hard by,
And grassy knolls by meadows bright,
I pull with nary a sigh.
Beneath the starlit firmament
By yonder flour mill,
I haul the sacks of wheat and grain
Down dale, and up the hill.
And in the logging camp, I go,
To drag the severed trees
Out on to where the lorry waits
For wood, to fill their needs.
And who are they who hire me
To use my power thus?
The puny men, who seek my strength,
I comply, without a fuss.
For only I can wander round
The narrow woods and trails,
Then home to where awaits my needs,
My dinner oats in a pail.

Copyright. Evelyn J. Steward. September 2015.

A picture from the top of Haytor was just posted, it reminded me of a pony trekking holiday I spent on Dartmoor.

I took a bus down to Exeter. The day was sunny and bright, as you would expect in the end of the second week of June. Everyone going on the holiday was picked up and driven to the farmhouse, where we were to stay.

The farmhouse was in a kind of dell, for want of a better term. Mostly younger girls within the group. I was bunked down with a girl of similar age whose boyfriend was bedded somewhere else. Plenty of tall trees surrounded the farmhouse, which seemed quite old. There were chickens and greyish spotted kguinea fowl in the yard. I remember late one evening, a small herd of Dartmoor ponies came racing down the lane, circled around through the yard, past the farmhouse, and out the other side. We were all upstairs getting ready to bed down, so we only saw them from the window. Quite a clatter, hooves hitting the cobbles.

Dartmoor is surprising. The terrain might seem a bit surprising, given that most moors were portrayed as high rolling grassland for miles. There were uswathes of short grass: But there were also deep wooded valleys where pine plantations were growing. One of the treks was through one of these plantations. It was deathly quiet as our mounts walked down into the valley, via the logging trail, where the odd rabbit or squirrel darted across in front of us. A few distant bird calls could be heard also. So serene, so peaceful. A journey back in time, it seemed to me.

One evening, my roommate and I were picked up by her boyfriend. The ‘local’ taverna was our destination. Being Dartmoor, ‘local’ meant several miles away. We had a nice evening, a drink or two and a few simple games, as were then played in country pubs. Time to go back to the farmhouse, but whilst enjoying these pasttimes, a fog had settled over the Moor. Please remember that this was June, usually the warmest month of the year. The fog was so thick, we could literally ‘not see a hand in front of us’. The boyfriend hung out his window, trying to drive straight along the riaf, very carefully, and I hung out mine. It was inch by foggy inch, knowing that a foot away from the car, my side, was a very old stone wall. We could hear sheep on both sides baa-ing in the murk.

It took us a very long time to get back to our billets, but get back we did. Quite an unnerving journey, but another memory to call upon.

This is the shortened version of this trip. Enough to tell you that it rained every single day. We got back to the farm, at the end of each trek, soaking wet. he farmer’s wife hung our clothes up on one of those old-fashioned airers, but all of us had to don still damp outerwear the following morning.

Most mornings usually started out dry, but by the time we were driven to the stables, it had started to rain. Takking up a horse in slightly steaming clothing, hands damp, calming the animal so that you did it correctly, was not easy. After all, if your saddle wasn’t put on properly, and something occurred ( like one day moving out, we were accosted by a Dartmoor stallion. Apparenly one of the mares was in season), you needed to be assured that, should you have to move on quickly, your saddle would not slip, or your reins would allow you to contol your animal.

Sounds as though I knew what I was doing? Well, up to a point, but I was still a real pnewbie at this horse control lark. After this holiday I joined a small stable back home and went riding every weekend. I was not a real horsewoman, even then, but I enjoyed my riding.

Anyway, the Friday was my last day where we were to trek to Widdecome-in-the-Moor. This is the source of the song “Tom Pearce, Tom Pearce, lend me your grey mare.
All along, down along, out along lea.
For I want for to go to Widecombe Fair,
With Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,
Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawke,
Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all,
Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all.

As I told you, it had been raining all week and we all approached from the top of a very steep hill. The earth was solid mud, all the way down. No riding the horses down this slope. Each rider held the head of their animal, cautiously stepping one foot at a time, downhill. There were times I was not sure I could hold my horse back. It took an innordinate amount of strength to hold him. Had he his head, chaos would have reigned. I would have been dragged to the bottom, it was so very slippery. He was quite a large horse, hefty. But finally, we all made it safely to level ground. A small hedge-penned area was our corral and we removed saddles and harness, leaving the horses to rest whist everyone went to check out the village. I think another way home was chosen.

Back to Exeter on the Saturday, and the sun shone all day. Curses!

Seems so long ago now, and it was, of course.

Be careful out in the world today.

Evelyn

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