17 July 2021
Asterton to East Penyllan
The sleeping arrangements at Sally and Mat's was interesting! Oscar slept in the games room with Nelson, and we slept in a very nice old barn conversion. Peter and I had a double bed with our feet under the eaves and in front of a dinky window. Walk up a step and there are two single beds on either side under the eaves and Carol slept in one of those. At the end was a very well appointed bathroom. The views from Handless Farm were breathtaking with views of fields and rolling hills with the Long Mynd mountain behind.
We had to make an early start as we had a very long way to go. Neville and Viv were in control in their cars and we set off up the hill towards Asterton. At Asterton we turned left at the cross roads in the middle of the village. I was worried about the first part of this section as there were so many small turnings and when we were doing the recce we got hopelessly lost. Carolle was driving so I was able to navigate and Viv drove on to each turning to make sure we went the right way. Suddenly, there is a phone call from Peter (how did we manage without mobile phones?) the main section of these country lanes were closed.
We had a good look at the map and there was no option except to do nearly 3 miles of A road. We started on our way again and who should overtake us but Tom and Fiona Clark. We had a short chat and agreed to meet at our coffee stop just before the main road. A little further on we pulled in to allow vehicles to pass – there were no less than 10 Mini Mokes following us. That was an amazing and unexpected sight in a remote country lane! The first Mini Moke stopped and gave us a donation so all of the others followed suit and did the same! We soon came across the 'team' parked just before the junction with the main road so we took the boys' bridles off and tied them to a gate and let them munch grass while we had drinks and munched dairy free flap jacks made by a friend. We were able to catch up a bit with Tom and Fiona who had driven out specially to find us.
The main road was well managed by Neville. He went ahead and every so often where there was good visibility stopped the oncoming traffic to allow a stream of vehicles overtake Peter and the trailer and then us. He did this all along the way and this meant there was no dangerous driving as we had experienced before and everyone was smiling. We picked up our original route which was mainly B road through the top of Bishops Castle. There were steep hills around Bishops Castle but the boys stoically kept going. When we come to hills everyone gets off except the driver – one walks ahead with treats to encourage the boys to keep moving and the other – Oscar – pushes the carriage from behind to help alleviate the weight for the boys. This works well and soon we were on the downhill stretch where Neville and Viv had found a spot where we could tie the boys to the trailer where they were in the shade (from the trailer) and could munch grass. We carried water for the boys in the trailer and they both had a good drink as the sun was hot. Humans too were mostly able to sit in the shade and the donkeys and humans got along fine sharing the shady space. Viv had brought the remains of our delicious supper from last night (she and Neville were staying with Yvonne and George.
On our way again in the hot sunshine and we were relieved to be able to have shady trees at intervals to stop and rest under. At one point I noticed that the boys had tar all over their hooves. The road had been recently re-surfaced and the tar had melted in the heat. Oscar leapt down and got the hoof pick and managed to get the tar off, On we trudged – it was relentless in the hot sun, but the boys kept going and the scenary was amazing. I thought “Why do we bother to go overseas when we have so much unexplored beauty in our own country?”
After a while the boys suddenly stopped. I thought they might be going to pee but no! I then realised that they needed water, so we stopped in a shady spot and I rang Peter – no reply, I rang Neville – no reply – I rang Viv and at last someone replied. Whilst waiting I fed the boys some grass which I pulled up from the verge. Soon Viv arrived with our barrel of water and two buckets – the boys had a good drink but in the meantime Neville had gone into a house to be greeted by a lady in a bikini! She gave him a bucket of water but by the time he arrived the boys had already had their fill. Neville returned the bucket and as we went by the aforementioned houst the lady in the bikini came out and patted the donkeys and offered to have us in for tea. We were already running late, so were unable to accept but we had a chat to her and learnt how they managed to get planning permission to convert a lovely old mill. Shortly after this two figures could be seen cycling down the road it was Carolle's son Greg and his wife the bubbly Ali. It was great to see them and we chatted as they cycled and walked behind. Greg and Ali then went ahead but Greg cycled back filming the boys as he came towards us. Greg and Ali carry the bikes on the roof of their car and they had come over to pick up Carolle and take her home for the night.
Finally, we arrived at East Penyllan Farm to be greeted by Gary Holloway – the boys' host, Tina and Richard Pascoe and the team. The boys had had an amazingly long day 14 miles! Gary had placed hardboard sheets over the cattle grid and the boys went straight over. BUT! There is a steep climb up to Gary's farm and the boys would NOT entertain climbing up after such a long day. I suggested that it would be best if everyone went on up and left us to coax the boys up the hill, which they did quite easily and we found a lovely big stable/stall for them. This is normally the maternity unit for Gary's herd of stabilizer cattle. There were lots of cows around and the boys have a young bull as a neighbour who was making a lot of noise mooing away. Everyone helped unharness the boys and I made sure their hooves were fine – we gave them their evening feed and two large straw/hay bags. Muffin had a good roll and then we left them happily chomping away. Dawn and their son came out to say 'hello' to us and the boys.
We said farewell to Oscar as Neville was taking him back to Eardiston to pick up his car – Greg and Ali took Carolle who insisted on taking our washing! We fed Nelson and then Elana arrived. Gary said he would look after Elana and bring her over to the hotel for the dinner. We arrived at the Dragon Hotel in Montgomery to be told that it was a dog friendly hotel and we were able to have Nelson in our room and in the conservatory where we were dining. Peter and I had a much needed shower and then went down to meet the crowd for dinner. Yvonne and George had come across, Gary came but Dawn wasn't able to come – their daughter was in the middle of D of E silver and because they couldn't camp because of Covid she felt she should stay at home with the children. Then there was Elana and Tina and Richard. So a jolly evening was had by all. I was too exhausted when we finally got to our room to write the blog so it is this morning that I am writing this and I will take a day off from 'blogging' now!