The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
Three day eventing on Exmoor
To escape Election fever and celebrate Dougís birthday, we went to Exford hostel in the heart of Exmoor.† Doug had offered to lead his birthday walk, and started in teacherly fashion by instructing us to hold hands in pairs in the car park. Needless to say, like the rebellious bunch that we are, we refused, and faced with our insubordination, Doug quickly relinquished the leadership role.
We were a bit concerned about the dress code in the village, which reflected the hunting theme in the hostel, and Cressida, recently returned from India, correctly identified Jodphurs. There were also hair nets and riding crops, but without any encouragement we trotted briskly up Dunkery Beacon, some people even breaking into a canter. Andrew rewarded us with sugar lumps, but we realised on the summit that we were not a team pulling together in harness. Dave P revealed that his planned route involved a 14 mile walk for which some of us were incorrectly shod, and others insufficiently fit. Amidst much whinnying and consternation Cressida proposed an alternative walk for which she whipped up some support. She set off towards Webbers Cross as if it were Beachers Brook, pawing the ground if we became sluggish. With her fine example we proceeded apace mainly along bridle paths with views out to sea, trying not to lose height.
Trudi and Doug stopped to admire the attractive buildings of Cloutsham farm, whilst the younger beasts trotted briskly along the road. It transpired that we had misunderstood the proposed route, so we took our preferred route via Stoke Pero Church, the highest church on Exmoor and a stunning vantage point. It was so well appointed that Doug laid his sticks down in the pews and left again without them, only noticing they were missing on the long climb up and over the hill. This was appropriate in view of the message in his birthday card, as our failing energy gave us time to enjoy the views. He was just commenting that it was all downhill from now on, when his birthday wish was granted and he was offered a lift by a Duke of Edinburgh van back to the hostel. He proffered a selection of cakes and wine to accompany Cynthia and Jonathanís excellent meal.
On Sunday, following the best breakfast ever, two teams formed, one heading for the coast, and the other following the River Exe to Winsford village where there was a tea shop where we brought the average age down by a couple of decades. The tourist team turned out to have been entered in the wrong class when they discovered that they had actually begun a cross country event. Two of the older mares fell, but although they did not go lame there were better odds on the other team who set a good time and managed to avoid injury. Most of the entrants were rewarded with a cream tea, apart from Cressida who was dragged back to her stable neighing and doing a passable impression of a grumpy Thelwell pony. Linaments were applied but her mood did not improve until she visited the National Trust tearoom at Dunster Castle on Monday, and was finally placated. Mike was less happy with his pasty so we all hoped he would get his oats on arrival home.
Despite her injury, Carol managed to assist in preparing bucketfuls of food in the evening, in a brisk and efficient fashion.
Monday was spent doing a gentle hack around Dunster and grazing in the Castle gardens, which were verdant and lush and well worth our visit.
We want to go back for a longer time, to justify the length and difficulty of the journey. We did reflect that it would have been quicker done in a hansom cab a century ago. Special thanks to the long suffering drivers.
Thanks to Dave J for leading us on the first two stages of the Saffron Trail covering 24 miles of this 71-mile route from Southend-on-Sea to Saffron Walden. Starting at Southend pier, we followed the coast through Old Leigh to Hadleigh Castle, then heading inland through some beautiful woodlands to Hockley. The second section took us across rolling hills to the River Crouch, which we followed to Battlesbridge, and more open countryside to East Hanningfield.
The next section, to Chelmsford is scheduled for 10th September. Hope it will be as sunny as the first two!†††
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