Riding the moors of England
Monday’s trail along the wooded valleys of the Camel Trail to Hellandbridge and beyond was simply magical. Clouds were still rolling in and out but the secluded valley and the tree-lined trail offered shelter from the wind and the changing weather. Some of the trees were adorned with fresh buds and leaves and everything shone in different hues of greens – a stark contrast to the ride across the moorlands the day before when we experienced everything from windblown rain to hail. This welcome to Bodmin had left me quite cold and wondering what the week would hold in store for us, especially in terms of weather, and so the variety that the next day offered was a welcome development. The beautiful blue sky and warmer weather allowed us to sit out in front of Blisland Inn for lunch, across from the village green where the horses were tied up and also enjoyed a lunch snack of fresh green grass. Afterwards we explored the village church before heading back to the riding stable via Jubilee rock, a huge granite rock with carving that were started in 1809 and 1810 by Lieutenant John Rogers and his men to commemorate King George III’s jubilee. It features Britannia and various Coats of Arms and is updated with new carvings on special occasions.
Our week in Cornwall started on Saturday, when upon arrival by train from Paddington we were picked up by Tone, the taxi driver who would provide transfers for us during the week to the different pubs used for evening dinners. Once we had settled into our accommodations in one of the cottages at the riding stable we enjoyed lovely scones and clotted cream and hot tea, a wonderful refreshment after a long travel day.
Sunday was the day the moor tested us during the introductory ride with very windy, wet and cold weather, although our return to the stable and cottage provided us with a warm lunch of cornish pasties. We must have past the test of the moor as the weather was considerably better on Monday and from Tuesday on we lucked out with beautiful sunny and clear skies and much warmer temperatures for the rest of the week.
Bodmin Moor is a wilderness on a relatively small scale, spanning about 10 miles across with a strong human imprint, scattered with ancient remains of Neolithic settlements, hut circles, burial chambers and in its more recent history it was the domain of smugglers and pirates. It is the perfect destination to experience horseback riding in England. We rode by rocky outcrops such as Alex Tor from where we could take in the breathtaking moorland views reaching as far as the North Cornwall Coast. We climbed the summit of Rough Tor and rode by the highest point in Cornwall at 1375 feet – Brown Willy – which means Swallow’s hill.
During the week’s riding we were enchanted by the stories that Jen, our guide, told us about the moor and its long-standing history. We enjoyed lovely canters and gallops as we explored the different areas, rode along quiet country lanes and even onto an old airfield that played an important role during Second Wold War when it was home to American and Canadian troops.
My mount for the week was a forward moorland pony named Freckles who was extremely surefooted, responsive and fun to ride. She is a mighty little mare of 13’2 hands who I came to love during the week. The riding stable has a small variety of horses to choose from, including a big Shire, and ensures that each individual in our group was satisfied with their mounts.
Dinners during the week were at different local pubs, each of them with wonderful items to choose from and I can honestly say I enjoyed each and every meal we had. We dined near the stable at the Jamaica Inn, St Tudy Inn and also went further afield to St Breward Inn and Port William Pub at Trebarwith Strand near Tintagel. To ensure a well-rounded itinerary we had the opportunity to explore King Arthur’s castle at Tintagel and visited the local fishing village of Padstow, a quaint tourist place well worth a visit.
The week flew by with riding and sightseeing, and too soon it was time to say good-bye and our trusted taxi driver took us back to the Bodmin Parkway train station in time for our departing train back to London. Paul and Jen at the stable are now working on incorporating longer trails into an itinerary that may even turn to be partially progressive in addition to the stationary itinerary we now offer. I can’t wait to return to ride Freckles and explore the new longer trails on my trusted steed.