A rider from Scotland rode her two fell ponies into central London on Wednesday 25 August, ending a 900 mile ride from the Isle of Skye to Smithfield Market.
Vyv Wood-Gee, from Hoddom, Dumfriesshire, followed the traditional cattle drovers’ route from the Outer Hebrides to the capital, in a solo ride that lasted eight weeks.
Setting off at the end of June, Mrs Wood-Gee rode through torrential rain in the Highlands and, along the way, traversed bogs, forded rivers and had to chase after her own ponies after they escaped.
Riding one of her fell ponies and leading the other as a pack horse, Mrs Wood-Gee completed the journey without back-up in aid of Cancer Research.
“Travelling alone without any support was challenging and I can’t deny that at times it was tough going, mentally and physically,” she said.
“But it’s been the realisation of a lifetime’s ambition. Since I first heard, 20 years ago, how up to 100,000 cattle were walked from the Highlands to market in London, I have wanted to follow in the drovers footsteps on horseback.”
Ms Wood-Gee, a former investment broker turned countryside management consultant, worked on a contract restoring old drovers’ roads and started researching their history from there.
Her route was planned to follow in the drovers’ footsteps, starting at the north-west end of Skye where the cattle from the Outer Hebrides were unloaded from their boats. Although the cattle were then swum across the Sound of Sleat, roped together tail-to-jaw, Ms Wood-Gee opted to give the swimming a miss.
“We were chicken and caught the ferry instead, but even that was pretty risky – I was seriously worried one of the ponies might jump ship!” she said.
Travelling down the country via Norfolk – the traditional cattle fattening grounds along the route – Ms Wood-Gee rode through London without a police escort to her, and the drovers’, finishing point at Smithfields.
An experienced long-distance rider, Ms Wood-Gee rode the 1,335 miles from John O’Groats to Lands End with her daughter Elsa, raising £11,245 for Cancer Research, in 2006.
The Skye to Smithfields ride has so far raised £830. If you would like to donate visit www.justgiving.com/droversfootsteps <http://www.justgiving.com/droversfootsteps> . For more information on the ride see www.ride-for-research.org <http://www.ride-for-research.org> .