Lovely Driving Days by Dee Williams. Some time ago, I was invited to groom for a friend on the Driving Days, which are held annually during the last week of July in Brampton Bryan, on the Shropshire/Herefordshire border. The event is organised by a special committee for BDS members. It was such a delightful experience for me that I wanted to go again. Since then Pete and I have been taking our own pony and carriage, and it has been turned into my annual holiday.
Day 1. There are lovely long drives(through private parkland, Forestry Commission tracks, water crossings, old byways and mostly quiet lanes. Five days of 15-20 miles a day in beautiful countryside.
Some of the tracks are steep but we take them at our own pace and they are manageable.
This is a unique experience and there is nothing else quite like it in Britain, but we had to get our pony, a 14.1 hh coloured cob fit for it which meant driving as much as we could from May onwards.
We arrived to camp on the Friday, had booked a pen in a large barn for our pony.
Most people camp on the larger field and put up a small corral next to their lorry or trailer.
We had also pre-booked our lunches,which are brought to us on the drives, and our home cooked evening meal in the village hall next to the camping site.
The routes each day are marked with numbers which correspond to the route numbers on our maps and instructions which are given to us each morning.
There are approximately 25 - 30 turnouts, singles, pairs, small ponies ,cobs to large horses, everything in between, and lots of different carriages.
A few years ago Pete had bought me a Kutzmann four wheeler which my pony goes well in and is comfortable.
We set off on the morning of the first day in a fine, misty drizzle which brightened up in the afternoon for a perfect day. The countryside is made up of more rolling hills than the steep ones we are used to at home in west Wales. The mare was on her toes to start with so we chose to go it alone for a while. Other people set off alone,or in pairs or threes. We drove through lanes and picturesque villages. Our picnic stop was in a field with beautiful views.
We took the time to unharness, towel the mare down, put on her fly rug and let her graze for an hour or so. Water is brought to the site for the ponies and we enjoyed a nice lunch with a cup of tea chatting to others.
Then we harnessed up and another drive back to Brampton Bryan. 17 miles altogether. We appreciated having a hose in the farmyard to wash the mare down afterwards. Back in time for tea and cakes in the village hall.
Day 2. Once again, driving through rolling countryside and lovely villages on a large estate to the lunch stop amongst ancient chestnut trees.
Then we turned off on to tracks bordering fields of ripening grain and back along a different route. Not too hot so nicer for the ponies as it was also breezy with no flies. 21 miles
Day 3. Through Blackhill, forest drives with butterflies and wild flowers along the route. The weather was very hot so sunscreen and fly spray were very useful to carry with us. Lunch stop was in a lovely field with time to relax before continuing. 23 miles.
Day 4 .Wigmore. Three rolling areas of forest tracks to drive in with spectacular views through the trees along the way. Lunch in a lovely meadow where it started to rain. We were well dressed in our waterproofs and the pony did not seem to mind, happily eating grass.
A fast trot back in the rain approx 18 miles.
Day 5. Known by some as the “Top of the World drive “ it certainly seems like it when we got up there. Started off through small villages and up a very steep hill which Pete walked some of the way to help the pony. This led up to an ancient, rutted byway. We came out on to fields, still climbing and then on to the picnic stop at the “Top of the World “ where we had panoramic views in three directions.
Another lovely day, we were so lucky with the weather.
Back through forest tracks and small roads to the campsite where we had to get packed up to leave.
Thanks to organisers for their hard work , rosettes, tea ,cake,and goodbyes to old friends and new with hopes to do it all again next year.