It was a boiling hot Saturday afternoon when the Knackered Riders Club set off yet again on another minibreak to our spiritual home of Country Treks in Shropshire (group pictured above). Jonathan is now our designated driver as he is the only one sensible enough to get us there in reasonable time.
My attempt to cover the 100 miles last year took five hours as my old 1980s road map didn’t have the new bypasses and even parts of the motorway network on it. We trundled around the country lanes, seeing different signs for our destination Stottesdon, each strangely saying three and a half miles, and were so frustrated by the time we got there that I promised not to try again.
Next time we duly set off in Ailsa’s Mini full of hope. This was going to be ok. With her husband’s satnav and a detailed set of instructions, we got there in good time, but had been so busy chatting and being giddy that when we arrived we found she’d forgotten her phone and I’d left my purse behind in my car at home. We obviously managed to overcome the minor hurdles of no money and no means of communication and congratulated ourselves on another great time away. Then, as we were leaving to come home she admitted her eyesight wasn’t too good at night. Darkness was falling and every time anything came towards us, she asked whether we could see what it was. Huge trucks hurtled towards us as she screwed her eyes up desperately trying to focus. Luckily I was in the back and couldn’t see most of the near misses so by the time we got home she too promised not to drive there again.
So it fell to Jonathan who has a very smart car indeed. Nothing like my mobile skip which is used to carry two dogs, trays of plants, and muddy boots around the countryside. His is a proper minibreak car, like something out of the Bridget Jones movies. Small, very clean and sporty and, to be honest, a bit low to the ground for my bad back but, once they crane me into the back seat, I’m ok.
We set off on our most recent jaunt, with bags and riding hats packed all around us and more importantly, the clinking of wine bottles stuffed in our riding boots. It’s amazing how a bottle of vino or two helps anaesthetise your aching muscles after a long day in the saddle.
It was one of those awfully hot weekends, known as the British summer, when humidity is so high that your clothes stick to you. Jonathan, being a careful type, applied his factor 50 suncream all over his face, which luckily I declined, opting instead for long sleeves and a liberal spray of insect repellent.
We started with a lesson, which was hard work to say the least. How anyone manages those smooth transitions is beyond me. I seemed to be trotting when I should have been walking and by the time I managed to get some speed up I was past the point at which I should have halted. Anyway, my face was red and my jodhpurs were glued to the saddle. I glanced across at Jonathan. Normally we exchange an eyebrows-raised glance at each other, but he was too busy concentrating and his face had turned a ghostly white from the thick covering of sunscreen. I wanted to laugh but stopped myself. At least he was doing the right thing, despite looking like he’d had a fright.
A breath of wind got up as we headed out for our ride around Chelmarsh Reservoir the next day. It wasn’t long until the flies arrived, swarms of midges clouded around us as we rode through woods and fields. The horses stamped their feet and swished their tails to no avail. But the worst was yet to come. The dreaded horseflies. I didn’t know they could bite us through our jodhpurs, but by the time we got back, Ailsa and I had enough large lumps on our legs to look like we had measles.
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No matter what you do, the horseflies just keep coming. Flyspray doesn’t seem to work and over the years I’ve tried different ones as well as home-made recipes with garlic, cold tea and citronella, but nothing repels them. They are truly the rulers of the planet. Indestructible, irrepressible and very annoying.
Oh well, Ailsa’s already booked our next trip and by then the temperature should have dropped. After all, the British summer is usually no more than three fine days and a thunderstorm.
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