Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Dere Street Plus

I knew we wouldn't be able to ride all the way along Dere Street (part of it is now under the A68, for example) but thought we would try to follow it as far as Newtown St Boswells. Mostly this part goes through woodland, a change from yesterday's open moor.

James (last night's historian) had told me that the Romans cleared away trees well back from the road: not only for building purposes, but because trees could so easily hide marauding ancient Britons!

These days, though, Dere Street passes through lovely mixed woodland - much beech and oak. In places it has been very badly damaged by 4x4s and trail bikes, leaving extremely deep ruts and these were challenging for the ponies, especially combined with the clay soil which today was slippery after a night's heavy rain. Still, I was able to identify lots of different original layers of construction. I know it's a little bit sad.

We picked our way along it to Monteviot House in Teviotdale, -well almost, we could see it across a very deep and fast-flowing Teviot! The little swingy pedestrian suspension bridge was of little help to us - time to play today's 'angel card'.

As usual, up it popped - today in the guise of Marie who came jogging along on her handsome elderly thoroughbred. I showed her the alternative route I'd been plotting on the map. 'Oh no,' she said, 'you'll get lost'. I forbore from pointing out we'd managed to get this far!

'I know,' she added after some thought, 'we'll go and see Andrew Crow. He'll know, cos he's a racehorse trainer.'

I didn't quite follow that logic, but sho 'nuff, Andrew gave me precise directions to get where I wanted to go. (He turned out to be an old jump racing acquaintance of Bill's, too). I was relieved when he said the Teviot was probably 'a bit high to ford' (my sentiments exactly - Doogs). So he rattled off directions including a potato field, the back of some cottages, a track and a drainage ditch (and a bridge, hooray). Just before I left he added " your dapple grey'll need shod soon..." - turns out he's a farrier as well (if only I'd known!)

That's how we ended up picking our way through the policies of Monteviot House (still on the remains of Dere Street, too.) I'm fairly certain they don't actively encourage horses there (and we're truly very sorry about the plank in the little bridge,too) but we were egged on by Annie, owner of a garden centre we visited, lured in by their 'cafe' sign (very hot thirsty day, y'know).

We lurked around in her car park and drank ginger beer with me telling her customers that we were the weekly bulk manure delivery for the garden centre - I think some of them them may have believed us! A good whip round on behalf of World Horse Welfare too.

Much to my disappointment after these adventures, we were foiled by a couple of ladder stiles from getting all the way to Newtown St Boswells on Dere Street. But this was a memorable section of the trip - and one of the garden centre customers told me it was now August! Who knew?

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