Monday July 5th
North Littleton to Ragley Hall
We had such a warm welcome from Claire and John Harper and with a day off we were able to do our washing which dear Claire rushed round drying and folding for us.
The day off was a 'Godsend' as we could sort out the car and it gave the donkeys and us a rest (I slept for 3 hours in the afternoon) Elana arrived and we all had supper together. In the morning it was all go. Our lovely new set of helpers, Andy and Sandra Knatchbull arrived with their land rover and tent on the roof!
We left Claire and John's at 10 am. We were due at Cleeve Prior at 10-30am but as always we were hopelessly late! A lovely old lady came out of her house and gave us a donation and stroked the donkeys. She tried to cross the road but even with her stick she was a bit wobbly so we took the donkeys across to her.
We rounded a bend and a roar went up from all 37 pupils at Cleeve Prior Primary School. The teacher brought two at a time out to stroke the donkeys and the school had collected a pot full of donations. They took lots of pictures and it was a lot of fun. After a while the donkeys were beginning to get restless so we moved on to Diana Hough's house where all her neighbours came out and yet more donations, and a most welcome cup of coffee.
A little further down the road and we realised we were being followed by this car – it was Kim (our daughter in law) and our two Grandchildren Luna and Lucas. Peter, Andy and Sandra had found a lovely park on the edge of the river at Bidford on Avon. We were able to tie the donkeys to the trailer and they happily munched grass while we all had lunch. Luna and Lucas and Kim presented Peter with a lovely shirt for his birthday and a bottle of wine. Luna had made me some delicious dairy free cup cakes.
Luna and Lucas then sat on the carriage from Bidford on Avon to Ragley Hall – poor Elana walked the whole way but seemed quite relaxed about it. At Bidford we had to cross a bridge with traffic lights so Andy went over to stop any cars coming in the opposite direction. We then had to negotiate a round about but the boys did really well and the traffic was very helpful and considerate. On we went to Broom and then on to Dunnington.
As we arrived in Dunnington all the children were coming out of school so they came up and stroked the boys and the parents kindly at to the pot! One little girl, Sofia was bewitched by Muffin and her eyes lit up as she cuddled and stroked Muffin. I will never forget the adoring look in her eyes.
Finally we arrived at the back gate of Ragley Hall and there was Bex McKellar, the Head Groom at Ragley waiting for us. She led us all the way through the park, past the big house/Stately Home where there were a whole lot of people on the roof waving at us. Bex told us that they were the family waving to us! There were film crews everywhere as they had taken over what seemed like the whole of the grounds with tents and props and hundreds of vehicles from cars to lorries.
We finally got to the magnificent stable block – you go through a massive arch into a circle of stables and coach houses. Bex made us very welcome and gave us an empty stable to apply the hoof armor and had got a wonderful bed of wheat straw for the boys and lots of water so they were quite happy. Antonia, Lord Hartford's daughter and a couple of friends came to see the donkeys and they made a great fuss of them.
Surprise, surprise – another car drove into the stable block and it was Diana Hough and Aileen Egan – such great 'Groupie's!! Andy helped Elana erect her tent. Bex told us so many stories about her horses and we fell in love with her two springer spaniels.
We are now at Arrow Mill where we will have supper and collapse into a very comfortable bed.