After Scotland l head back along the Solway Firth in Cumbria. I like it there, l find the people kind and hospitable and l like their sense of humour. I enjoy stopping beside the sea, sometimes l lie awake at night listening to the roar of the surf, the wind screaming round the wagon, searching for ways to tear the roof off, other times, when there is no wind l lie there listening to the sound of the waves just gently caressing the shore. I collect driftwood, watch the seabirds, ride the horse in the sea, he tries to make sense of it. Although it's only February there are some lovely warm sunny days and a feel of spring in the air. I rest and relax.
Tarateeno in the Solway Firth.
A week or so and l'm restless, l head east over Caldbeck to the Pennines. At Melmerby l head along the Eden Valley, there is more sleet and flurries of snow. Stirred by a childhood memory l walk along catching large snowflakes on my tongue, a pleasant tingling sensation and l'm glad to be alive. The Eden valley is lovely, l quickly pass through Appleby, Soulby and Kirkby Stephen and up past Mallerstang. The hills have snow on them. I manage to buy a good bale of hay and spend the night at Garsdale head, it pours with rain all night, the becks and river flood, near Hawes the water is up over the road, up to the axles, Tarateenos feathers get nice and clean.
Only 300 miles to London.
I'm moving fast, one day l stop at 2pm a couple of miles east of York. I rest until mid-night, it's almost a full moon.l yoke the horse up and travel through the night. At 1.30am l go through the centre of York, there's not many people about, hardly a soul, a couple of tipsy students unsteady on their feet, by 2.30am l'm through the city, l trudge along beside the horse, by 4am the temperature has dropped a lot and l'm starting to feel cold and tired, l reach my stop at the Pocklington Canal at 5am, glad to get there. I unyoke the horse, tether him, give him a feed and a drink, then light the stove and make a strong coffee. As l climb onto the bed the birds start to sing, l drink half the coffee, then fall fast asleep, content to have got here. At 9am l wake, feed the horse, move his tether to some better grass, then go back to bed again and sleep until 3pm. I enjoyed that adventure.
25th February. Mallerstang, stopped for water.
I'm out of the hills, it's flat as a pancake, easy for the horse, l like the change and enjoy going through Goole and down beside the river Trent. I'm back in Lincolnshire.
Frosty dawn, 6.30 am, March 9th, near Lincoln.
I've been doing a lot of walking, the souls of my feet are starting to get sore, constant travel for 3 weeks, 285 miles. By the 10th of March l'm back near Newark stopped with Sylvia. It's good to see her and the horse and l are glad to have a rest. Sylvia's bought a small donkey and is busy breaking it in, it needs gelding. Sylvia is restoring an old donkey cart, she has had the cart a long time and last painted it more than 30 years ago. She shows me old photos of her using it with another donkey. Sylvia told me that in 1953 when she was 13, she ran away from home with the donkey and cart, but she was ill-prepared and returned home later the next morning. Sylvia also showed me a photo of a wagon she bought in 1962 for £45.
We take her cob out and go to the shops. It's a good, forward going cob, about 13 hands, ideal for pulling a light vehicle. Sylvia likes a cob with a bit of go in it, but tells me she's got the donkey to use in her dotage. I suspect that she will soon get bored plodding along at 2 miles an hour and swap the cuddy for a nice trotter.
Sid the donkey.
One day we go and see Harry, l buy some wagon wheels, axles and leaf springs off him. I'm pleased with the deal, he is too. I'll use them for my new wagon. Sylvia paints the fore-carriage l made in Scotland with wood preserver. The fore-carriage is made of ash, a tough resilient wood, ideal for the job, but prone to woodworm and rot, so it's best to treat it before painting.
Another day Sylvia asks me to help her move her chain harrows. They are quite heavy and l'm impressed by her strength and the seemingly effortless way she lifts them, although she's lightly built. She yokes Benny up and harrows a 2 acre field. Benny walks quite fast and it's quite a long walk up and down doing 6 foot strips. [To plough one acre with a single furrow plough is about 16 miles, a days work, if the land is not too heavy]. It's about a 6 mile walk to harrow her field. The harrows spread out the dung, pull up the moss and help keep the land in good condition. It's a great way to get a horse fit and a green horse used to pulling. The harrows make a pleasing jingling.
On Sundays Sylvia meets up with some lads who drive horses, two of them are also retired, they have good horses and enjoy chopping and changing them for new ones, it's good to see them, l admire their vitality and zest for life, getting out there and doing it, often they go 20 miles or more.
Its the 23rd of March l've been here for 10 days, had a good rest, mended my harness, got the horse re-shod and lots of other jobs done, now l'm ready to continue. Spring is on its way, l've had a really lovely winter travelling , [done 900 miles since November]. I'm going down south for a bit.