Sunday, 19 October 2014

Post 42 Back in England.‏

12th Sept. Paid John Parker International for bringing me back across the channel and thanked them. Set off at 8.30am. Lovely warm sunny day, went down to Dymchurch, pulled up by a little cafe. Had a pot of tea and toast and marmalade, the lady who owns the cafe is very friendly, takes photos of the wagon and refuses to take any money off me. A nice welcome back to England. I go on a bit and stop on some grass by the Martello tower. The horse is pleased to be eating grass again, he's been cooped up in a stable for a week. I have a walk on the beach. The horse is happy eating, so l go to the pub and have haddock and chips and a pint and l'm happy too. Later l cross Romney Marsh and stop up a bridleway near the Red Lion at Snargate. It's a lovely old-fashioned pub and the beer is good.
An orchard near Rye, stopped with Steve and Lisa
The next day l do a few miles and pull into an orchard near Rye, where Lisa and Steve are picking apples. It's a beautiful spot and the farmer is not bothered that l'm not going to pick apples. He provides a big container of water for the horses and a big pile of dry applewood to cook with, perfect. It's nice to be stopped with some other wagons again. The following day we go up to Horsemonden in a car for the horsefair, the cobs are all small ones, 13 hands or so, not the 14.2-15.2 wagon horses we need, but nice to see all the same. There is always a bit of a buzz to horse fairs that l like and nice to see old faces.
Cutting out some copper
I stop in the orchard for a week, rest and do tinsmithing with Leo who is 12, while his mum picks apples. He enjoys making things and is well-mannered and it's a pleasure to show him how to do a bit. I get the horse re-shod. Paul Stern the blacksmith is very kind and knowledgeable and does a good job shoeing. The horse is filling out on the grass and Leo enjoys riding him.
Leo soldering his candle holder
After a week l'm ready to go on and two days later I'm back at the scrapyard on Pevensey Levels. It's good to see Mick and Stella again.
Metal Micky and his piebald spanker
Mick takes me out with his new trotter stallion, it's a really nice, kind, willing creature and you can't fault it. It's lovely to be bowling along through the lanes at nearly 30 mph. In the evening Mick takes Stella and me up to Heathfield in his Rolls and we have a curry, a good day. I spend a week at the scrapyard mending my harness and improving the brake handle. Tarateeno fills out on the grass and is looking brand new.
Cuckmere at dusk by Stuart Page
I wander along the coast, Cuckmere, Seaford, Brighton, stop on Hove Green the night by the old pier. A young police officer comes along at 9pm, he's friendly, l explain l've stopped here because it was getting dark and l don't have lights, he thinks it's very sensible to pull over in that case. Local people like seeing the horse tethered on the green. At 2am l'm awakened by the loud, trying to sound important, voice of a policewoman talking to her radio, and telling it there seems to be a horse loose on the green and maybe it belongs to the caravan parked there! I hope she never has to solve a crime. I slip my trousers on and go out. The horse is standing peacefully and l can see clearly by the street lighting that he is still on his tether. I wish good night to the policewoman and go for a walk along the beach. I don't bother going back to sleep.
There are several homeless people sleeping on the park benches, it's a lovely warm night, at least they will not be cold.There is a cafe a few yards away, it opens at 6.30am and l buy a mug of tea. The people on the benches are still sleeping peacefully as l pull out.
By Brighton Pier 1st Oct 2014
I go down to Shoreham and stop on the green there. I know some of the people who live on the houseboats. Ray helps me wire up my new solar panel. In the evening l swim the horse in the sea and then l have dinner with him and Julia, she makes a lovely meal. In the morning l have another swim in the sea, make the best of the really warm weather. I go along to Goring by Sea and stop by the front. The people are friendly,I get given two cans of cider, a bottle of wine and a kind lady brings me fish and chips. It's too much for me so l share it with a couple who are living in a truck, it's broken down. They are pleased as they haven't much money. The weather turns and gets colder. I stop near Chichester, in the morning l nearly slip off the shafts, which are frosty, there is a thin layer of ice on the horse's bucket. I head north over the Downs to Petersfield and up to Bramdean and rest a couple of days.
Bramdean, 8th Oct
After all the traffic going along the coast it feels good to be back in the countryside again and Hampshire is beautiful. I stop by the river Test one night, what a lovely, peaceful stop. The rivers are full of trout.
Early morning beside river test, Hamshire
11th October. I get to Lambourne  at 4.30pm, I stop and rest the horse by the church for half an hour,  it's one of those long tiring days, l give him a drink, buy him a bag of carrots. There are several people standing around so l let them feed him the carrots while l go in the pub opposite. I sit down and drink a pint and rest for a while. I can see the horse through the window, l know he'll just stay there. We carry on up onto Lambourn Downs. From the south it's quite a gentle climb, 6pm, the sun is just setting and l pull onto the Ridge Way. It's beautiful to be here again. I last stopped here 8 years ago. 32 miles but worth it. I shall rest a couple of days.
Trout for dinner
After a couple of days l yoke the horse up again. Yesterday it rained hard all day, l kept the stove going and hibernated, so l'm getting restless. Today it's just drizzling. I go along the Ridge Way a couple of miles, l get to a narrow steep downhill bit, it's very slippery, deep ruts and a bad camber, the hawthorns are scraping the sides and top of the  wagon, it makes a horrible noise, an inexperienced horse that hadn't been correctly trained might find it all too much and bolt at this stage, smashing your home up in the process and perhaps injuring itself and you. I've met people it's happened to, it discourages them. It puts the horse off too. I'm not worried about Tarateeno bolting, but if l slip and lose my footing the wagon will go over me, l'm leading the horse by the head, you couldn't drive the horse down here, the bumps and ruts would throw you off. I'm glad when l get to the bottom. I go over to Goosey and stop there. On the way l pulled some dead hawthorns out of a copse and put them on the cratch at the back of the wagon. Although it has been raining hard and the wood's wet on the outside, it will be lovely and dry inside and will keep the stove going another day.l walk the seven miles, pleased to stretch my legs. When l get to Goosey l spend 10 minutes cutting up the hawthorn, then l get out of my wet gear and soon have the stove roaring away. An easy day. The warmth from the stove makes me drowsy and l fall asleep. I'm woken by Marcus who lives nearby, he's friendly and curious and we chat for a bit, he asks me if l need any firewood for my stove. It's nice when people are considerate. Later he brings a bottle of wine over and his young children who are interested to look at the wagon. They are a pleasure to talk to. They both have ponies and go hunting. I ask them if the hunting is good round here, they both enthusiastically say, yes. I can imagine their excitement and feeling of exhilaration as they gallop across the country, their eyes watering because of the speed, spattered by mud thrown up by the hooves of the horses in front.....
Searching for macaroni
16th October. On the way into Lechlade l pass a rough looking wagon and  stop and see who it is. There are two lads in their 40s. One is sleeping under a tarpaulin, the other one has the wagon. They have just been woken up by the tractor driver who has come to cut the grass in the park where their horses are tethered. They've been stopped there three weeks. I would have great difficulty stopping in a place like that for more than a night. They are friendly but unkempt. They have two small cobs, one of them has mange. I don't go near it.The lads offer me tea but l make my  excuses and go. A bit further down the road l stop and give my hands a good wash as l shook hands with them and l like to be clean and don't want my horse to get mange.
Beside the road
I do some shopping and look in the antique shops. I'm always on the look out for something to draw a little profit on. Sometimes l get lucky, but not today. I carrry on a couple of miles. Darren is stopped beside the road. I haven't seen him for several years. Several wagons half made, he knocks them up on the side of the road out of bits and pieces. He's always making something. His partner turns up with a trolli pulled by a nice cob, she's been out to fetch water. They've got four horses, nothing that l fancy.
I stop and rest a couple of hours and chat, then l'm glad to continue.
Cotswold Village
I stop on the green in a pretty Cotswold village. It's good to be here. I'm a few miles from Stow on the Wold and am in good time for the horse fair. I've done 962 miles since l left the Pyrenees 12 weeks ago. The horse is looking good. It's nearly the end of October, next weekend the clocks will change. I'm getting ready for the winter. I'm heading north, l may buy some gloves.