19th May – 21st May
Day 1 – Arrival
Loading up at 6am we wanted to beat the traffic, with the rain coming down around us in Suffolk we got on the road in excitement to head off for our first adventure.
I have timing markers for the a12 after driving down it daily for the past 9 months, I know when you need to be at colchester by to beat the traffic etc and we were ahead of our timings. Boys traveling really well the plan was to push on until we got to the end of the M4 before we stopped for a rest, getting the majority of the motorway work done and hopefully the major risks of traffic behind us. For a Friday morning the roads were amazing and the drive was traffic free.
Just as we were coming up to the end of the M4 the lorries warning lights came on and I lost all power steering, I didn’t want to pull over to the side of the motorway as the horses were on the back so I nursed her into the first services on the M5 south which were lovely, so friendly and good selection of shops as services go.
I used the AA app to register my breakdown which was swift and easy and allowed me updates on how far the mechanic was away from us, you could even see him approaching on a map, he was to be amazing. From initially logging the breakdown on the app, to him arriving, discovering the problem (a broken tensioner that keeps the belt tight that charges the battery) to locating a new part, going and getting it, fitting it and then having us back up and running it was an hour! Perfect as the horses needed an hours leg rest and it didn’t hold us up too much.
Back on the road we headed south on the M5 under a canopy of blue sky’s and fluffy white clouds. As you head off the motorway towards Barnstaple you start to feel the Devonshire landscape, lots of hills, as we cruised down the steep inclines and plodded up them, watching the miles drop off the sat nav we saw some beautiful checkered green countryside, the fields making a patchwork quilt of greenery laid before us.
Hollamoor Farm is easy to find and just off the main drag. As you arrive you’re dropped into the valley by their very steep drive and then swoop round past their lovely character filled stable yard into the car park.
As we arrived Lady Caroline Wrey greeted us with a huge smile and welcoming us in to have tea and cakes whilst she went through all the riding routes, eateries to visit and general helping us get our bearings. The horses were immediately shown a paddock where they could stretch their legs, have a roll and chill after being on the lorry for 8hours in total.
Once topped up on tea and cake we headed back to the lorry to set up camp.
The farm has its own farm tracks so before bed we took the chance to take the horses for a leg stretch around them, some amazing scenery greeted us with miles of views at some points then dropping into an ancient woodland the next.
Day 2 – Clovelly, Dunkery Beacon and Saunston Sands
After a good nights sleep we decided to leave the ponies behind for the morning, letting them chill a while longer, we headed off to Clovelly with Barley for a walk along the cliff tops and to see the sights of this historic village. Owned by one family it is situated on the steepest hill where motor vehicles are banned, as you wind your way down the characterful pebbled streets you come to the harbour at the bottom which is stunning. Don’t worry if you’re not fit or just don’t fancy it there is a land rover that takes you the back way back up to the top for a fee of £2.50.
Back to the farm by midday we loaded the horses up to go and explore Devon. Dunkery Beacon is the highest point in Exmoor and we found a beautiful round that took us right to the top 1000ft above sea level.
From here you could see Wales and spectacular views across the moor. The route took just under two hours at walking pace and led us not only across moorland but down through meadows, woodland and across a ford at the bottom. All tracks are really clearly marked and as long as your horse is sure footed it is easy to navigate. As we headed down from the beacon we came across our first herd of wild Exmoor ponies, being spring they had foals at foot, but were seemingly unfazed by us as we rode very near to them. This was a truly magical experience, one of which I could have only dreamt of. At one point the head of the heard split Barley away from us, bless her she’s so sensitive to different energies and understood these were not her normal horses, she stayed stock still until I went to get her.
After the moor there’s a steep down hill section which takes you into woods at the bottom, a test of trust for us and our horses but also balance as low branches meant we had to lean back and completely allow the horses to find their own way at points, at the very bottom there was our first ford, Saturn questioned this bit soon had the confidence to go through, I took this opportunity to go through it a few more times which would stand us in good stead for the next couple of days. As we headed up the final stretch I turned around to see the most stunning rainbow behind us, this ride was truly a gift from the universe and one I shall never forget.
To finish the day off as the sun was still shining and the sky’s had cleared we headed to Saunston Sands to have a ride on the beach, this is something I’ve dreamed of the whole of my life, only ever riding on a short stretch of river beach at home I’ve always wanted to head to vast sands.
The horses legs were still tired so we only strolled along but with the sun setting it was still stunning. If you’re bringing your horse, park in the military car park near to the American road and then ride down the America road until you hit the beach, initially the sand is quite soft but as the beach leaves the river and opens to the sea it becomes harder and easier to ride on.
Today was going to be a big ride 5 hours, 11miles and lots of hills. Driving 45mins from the Hollamoor B&B we found ourselves deep in the heart of Exmoor, parking in a sheltered car park we packed a rucksack, tacked up and headed off. Even though the weather was due to be dry it had a wind so we opted for waterproof riding trousers and jackets to stop the wind biting as we rode across the moors.
Following a bridlepath that’s easy to navigate we headed deeper into no-mans land and further away from civilisation. With no one to be seen for miles just the odd herd of Exmoor ponies and sheep it was a truly incredible feeling.
The bridle way took us straight across Brendon common where we followed a track down a very steep incline into the the Doone Valley, this is the most beautiful valley with a river running through it, we headed along here until we found a road where we crossed the smallest bridge and found a bridleway that would take us to a lovely high point for awesome views and a perfect place to stop for a snack. To get onto the track we had to ride through a river which the horses navigated brilliantly, it’s amazing how theirs and our confidence has grown over the past day, going through and over things that we would never have thought of doing before.
Once fuelled up we headed back down, through the river and then through the ford (instead of the bridge) Saturns confidence had grown so much he was happy to lead us through both and also stop to have a drink out of the beautifully clear water.
We then headed into the forest, by this point we were brave enough to attempt gates whilst still on board and we were getting pretty good, the forest track was steep, incline and descent then incline again and the horses had a bit of a puff but it was tremendous fun and again a real test of our partnerships.
We then headed back down a very quiet road and into the Doone valley where you follow the rover for about 3 miles, at points there’s some really rough terrain which the horses did brilliantly with hardly a question they went through fords up and over rocks and tiptoed along very narrow tracks close to the sharp drop into the river, they also went for a paddle in the river as the base was all stone so safe for them to walk in.
Once out of the valley we climbed steadily up across the moor again, to come across two herds of wild ponies, both very chilled and happy for us to ride close to them, the second herd were at a gate and were very interested in us, they seemed to be a bunch of youngsters and Saturn seemed to sense this, I dismounted to do the gate as it was stiff and he grew six inches as if to protect me when the wild ponies started to show more interest, he was very defensive which was interesting to observe and as soon as I was on his back again he settled as if to say you’re safer up there.
The welcoming atmosphere of Hollamoor B&B, with good fields and lovely rooms, along with Lady Carolines knowledge of local rides was brilliant, to couple that with such exquisite countryside this place is a diamond in gods countryside. We shall definitely be returning and I very much recommend you head there. Even without a horse it is a dog friendly B&b so all are welcome.
If you are looking for a way to build your relationship with your horse, take them to Exmoor and ride, there is nothing like being in unspoilt landscape with demanding but rideable terrain to bring you together and work as a team.
Click here for Hollamoor B&B website