Two Ponies Go Back to Their Roots

 

 

Brandy House Farm

for one centre holidays



Testimonials

Dear Medina and Karen, at last a very belated but absolutely HUGE THANK YOU for the wonderful trip across Wales, It all feels like a long time ago now.............But I do want to say thank you. It was a really fabulous holiday , made perfect by the planning, attention to detail and excellent leadership that you both brought to it. I felt safe and cared for as well as challenged and respected. Thank you both hugely. It was wonderful to re-live it all with the photos. I like the ones with one black ear in them best and I loved remembering Karen peering back with a grin and a camera to get the shots of the back of the ride.....what a wonderful time. Did I say thank you? Ah well, I expect you guessed that is what I wanted to say. Bless you both and here's to the next time.

lots of love Viv (and thank you)

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Ride Across Wales
(or Two Ponies Go Back to their Roots)
 
by Sue Eeley

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In early October 2010, the Ryder Cup was held in Wales and sponsored, apparently, by the Wales Tourist Board.  A spectacular own goal, you’d think, demonstrating that Wales has monsoon conditions two days out of three.  This was the weekend we travelled to Knighton to begin our ride across Wales.  Our companions, who were going to do all the work, were two Welsh Cob x TBs (Welbreds perhaps?).  Visibility as we travelled was almost non-existent – potentially a problem far worse than rain, as to miss the views would be galling in the extreme and might compromise our navigational skills.

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We arrived at Brandy House to a wonderful welcome. The horses were turned out and spent the next few hours anxiously looking for dragons (or perhaps it was the just the unfamiliar white, woolly creatures that unsettled them).  We, meanwhile, were consuming tea and homemade cake in a very comfortable farmhouse.  After a delicious supper, we talked through the route with Medina, our hostess and co-owner of Your Horse Adventures.  Our sleep was only slightly disturbed by dreams of bogs, locked gates, being washed away whilst fording a river or getting lost!

The next morning confounded the long range weather forecast by dawning without a cloud in the sky.  The valley was wreathed in mist below us as we set out.  The scenery was both stunning and varied, giving us a taster of what was to come ranging from gentle lanes, via forestry, to open hill. Fording the river proved to be easy, the horses taking the opportunity of a well earned drink.  We arrived at our overnight stay by mid afternoon and were met by our hosts who couldn’t have done more to ensure both our and the horses’ comfort.

The second day was the longest, but again varied and well planned, so didn’t seem in any way arduous.    Old drovers’ roads took us to some forestry, then a steep descent through farmland was rewarded by a paddle and drink in a stream for the horses.  A short stretch of B road had no traffic on – a novelty if you live in Oxfordshire!  We had to cross a busy A road, but a pre-arranged permissive path meant we didn’t have to ride along it.  The pretty Marshes Pool provided a scenic backdrop for our lunch stop. We then had the boggy bit to contend with.  I must admit this had worried me a little, as I hate bogs.  Medina had explained their preferred route, avoiding the way-marked path which was apparently extremely deep.  Despite the very wet conditions, we got to the other side with only one pony looking rather muddy!  (The other found a way across with only his ankles getting wet).  The final stretch included a pretty ride alongside a stream before entering the Hafren Forest for the last hour’s ride to our overnight stay.  The horses could hardly believe their luck – a large field, with plentiful lush grass, but they had certainly earned every blade.   We were equally fortunate.  Award winning eco-friendly accommodation, based on a pretty, traditional farm, with two superbly equipped lodges was our home for the night.  If you want to learn about solar heating or photo-voltaics, this is the place for you.  I had an unexpected offer the next morning – “Would you like to see my boiler?”  I did and it was, I have to admit, fascinating!

R0012655_web.jpgOne spectacular sight early on the third day was a large flock of sheep coming down an open hill moving as one, guided solely by dogs instructed by their owner who was riding a pretty Welsh cob mare and whistling occasionally.  This didn’t bear any resemblance to us moving stock on our farm, which is altogether much noisier and considerably less efficient!  Having closed the field gate behind them, he waited to talk us.  We mutually admired each other’s cobs (he knew the breeding of mine in more detail than I did), and I explained that the following week I was going to the Builth cob sales to look for a younger model as a future replacement.  “Well now, I just happen to have a dun colt foal that would really suit you”.  We could have been in Ireland!  (Sadly I couldn’t go to the sales on the day he was selling – it could have been the ultimate holiday souvenir.)
 

That day it did rain, but only for ten minutes.  Ironically it did so as we got to the viewpoint dedicated to Wynford Vaughn Thomas, with far-reaching views and where you could allegedly see Cadr Idris and Snowdon.  We saw a rainbow!

Riding through superb scenery of rolling hills and valleys, with mountains in the distance brought us to the farm where we were to stay for the night.  A small navigational error took us through a field of Welsh black cattle – the bull was luckily docile, as he was probably rather more familiar with the steeply sloping local terrirory than we were.  Again the horses’ field met with their approval, while we given a choice of various bedrooms in the large, comfortable farmhouse.  We couldn’t really concentrate, as we had just spotted, and were totally focussed on, a bath!  Showers are just not quite the same after a long day in the saddle.   Our hostess was a lovely lady who kept us highly entertained throughout our stay. 

On the fourth day we left Glyndwr’s Way – a long distance footpath named after the early fifteenth century Welsh hero Owain Glyndwr who won significant battles close to the route, fighting for Welsh independence and who held the first Welsh Parliament in Machynlleth.  Since Knighton we had been roughly following this, but as it is mainly a footpath we could only use it at intervals, so kept leaving and rejoining it.

The fourth day was my favourite.   It provided some of the most picturesque countryside of the whole journey.  In the morning, riding along a ridge above a valley with a waterfall on the far side, we had clear views looking back to where we had been on the previous day.  After climbing initially through farmland, then open moorland, we entered a forest.   The first glimpse through the trees of the sea brought back memories of childhood holidays, where the first person to see it was given sixpence (yes, 2 1/2 p!).    Within the forest we descended on pretty tracks, crossing streams, into the well named Artists’ Valley (a reference, I believe, to the quality of the light, as well as the setting).  We then started a steep ascent - seriously steep.  Having climbed directly upwards, we finally reached the pass through the mountains.  Wow!  We were looking down on mid Wales, with an unimpaired view of most of Cardigan Bay, with the northern coast of Pembrokeshire in the distance. There were also spectacular views behind us to the mountains of north Wales. We then descended almost to sea level, to our final night’s stay in Talybont.R0012591_web.jpg

On the last day we took a gentle rural route to the seaside at Borth.  The horses caught their first glimpse of monkeys in the zoo, but by now were totally unfazed by anything unusual.  We then rode along the miles of beach, alternating paddling in the sea with cantering along jumping the groynes (another childhood dream!) and, of course, we had a gallop.  The sun shone, the sea was blue and the pretty town of Aberdovey could be seen across the estuary.  What a fitting end to our expedition.    We were met by Karen, Medina’s business partner, with a very welcome bottle of champagne to celebrate our achievement. We then drove back to Brandy House – a journey, I was relieved to discover, that took quite a while.  It would have been quite upsetting had it only taken twenty minutes! 

R0012765_web.jpgThe directions provided were both written (almost idiot proof, which we put to the test), and backed up by large scale OS maps.  We supplemented these with the Landranger maps, as I like to see the wider picture, but these weren’t really necessary.  Our route had been well thought out: permissive paths and local knowledge made life easier than a ‘DIY’ version religiously following rights of way.  The scenery was absolutely spectacular, taking in the rolling farmland, open moorland,  woodlands and forests of Mid Wales. Along with the expected buzzards and red kites, we saw ravens on the open hill and dippers in the valleys. The terrain and the route were varied and sufficiently challenging to be very satisfying in retrospect!  

It is not an inexpensive holiday. We took advantage of the luggage courier, as being October we needed rugs and hard feed for the horses.  As it turned out to be dry, we could have carried the clothing we actually wore, but we did have kit to cover all every possible weather eventuality in the luggage ferry, as well as spares of saddle cloths etc if everything got soaked.  Obviously in a larger party the cost of this and the horse transport back to base would be split between everyone, so would be cheaper per person.  It compared well with going abroad on a riding holiday and, of course, you have the advantage of your own horse.  You certainly get to know them well, and appreciate them, on outings such as these.  

To return to the weather.  Perhaps the Wales Tourist Board should sponsor Your Horse Adventures, as we have proved conclusively that it only rains for ten minutes in a whole week in Wales.
 

In the Press

In the bleak Midwinter PDF

Riding the great Outdoors PDF

Savvy Times 2011 PDF

The Performance Trail Horse

Two ponies go back to their roots 


 

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