North Cheshire Riders

Article on Horse Holidays by Laureen Roberts for Horse Magazine

 

Horse Magazine 2000

 Here, on the Downs at Lambourn, it’s truly England’s own horse country. We’ve just come back from a ride with just a mile of minor road and fifteen of bridleway, mainly turf, with just a handful of gates. Mind you, even the roads here are no problem. There are so many racehorses worked here that often field edges are dedicated as bridleways to keep you off the tarmac. In any case, frightening a horse with your car must be a hanging offence. We even find that lawnmowers are turned off as we ride by.

It’s so nice being able to bring our own horses on a riding holiday. The youngster has learned how to gallop and she’s also developed a taste for Wadworth’s 6X beer. My horse Lady has not set a good example; she turned off the Ridgeway and tried to go into the beer garden at the Shepherd’s Rest unasked. We’ve obviously been spending too much time having pub lunches on our rides.

There’s a bit of a downside to being surrounded by all these knowledgeable horsy people. We passed a string on their way to the gallops and one of the lads, cheeky thing, asked us if we were from Henry Cecil’s’ yard. The Two Fat ladies, more like. Every passer-by seems to be scrutinising our horses. We are making sure our turnout is up to scratch now.

It was very easy to get here, considering how remote and undeveloped the area seems. There are sweeping green vistas with hardly a house or road to be seen. Then you find that you can see the M4; a disorienting experience. Lambourn is only a few miles from Swindon; amazing.

We spent the first part of the week at Maddle Farm in Berkshire and the second half at Russley Park, a couple of miles away as the crow flies but actually across the border into Wiltshire. This gave us a different ride every day. Some of us stayed in the farmhouse bed and breakfast and the others camped in the horsebox. The food has been fantastic. Our host Pauline Spence at Maddle Farm gave us an unforgettable dinner on our first night. We’ve had a barbecue as well and visited some of the excellent local pubs. The Pond Concert at Aldbourne was memorable. This isn’t as aquatic as it sounds; the musicians set up next to the village pond.

We got up early one morning to see the racehorses working on the gallops but we left our horses behind in case they had delusions of grandeur and tried to join in. It’s not the done thing to sneak your horse onto the gallops. As many of the bridleways go up the side of the gallops you can pretend you are riding the next Derby winner anyway!

I think the best ride was the one from Maddle Farm to the pretty pub at Woolstone. Leaving Maddle Farm you ride up a broad green valley with five bridleways, no roads and hardly a fence. The route climbs up from the valley to Woolstone Down, where it runs alongside a gallop before diverting onto a green lane. This leads to the entrance gateway of Uffington castle, next to the famous White Horse. This has just been dated to 3500BC, which makes the bridleway five and a half thousand years old! Makes Roman Ermine Street to the south of Lambourn seem hardly older than the M4.