To get there you go through picturesque Hawskead and down the incredibly winding roads until you eventually come to Grizedale National Park. An area of the Lake District near Ulverton that is dense in forest and a bit magical!
We had booked in to one of the camping pods (they have 6 available in total) as we thought it might provide a bit more shelter from the elements this time of year. The pods are spread out across the hillside behind the farmhouse so you are in the trees and it feels tucked away from other campers.
Each pod is also set up with a fire pit outside and you can buy wood and chippings from the farmer for your own campfires- nice touch. Note to squeamish campers- don’t go during lambing season as the farmer will insist on shaking your hand and taking your money with blood on his hands!
On to the horse riding… The yard owner Danni is bit of a legend in my opinion. All of the horses on her yard have been rescued from previous homes and retrained by Danni herself. It’s harrowing to hear how badly some of the horses have been treated and awe inspiring to see how healthy and happy they are now. She’s a real life horse whisperer.
I rode Tizzy, a 22 year old, 16h Hanoverian x Thoroughbred, bright bay mare. At first I was shocked by her age worrying she might keel over at any point but quickly realised how eager to please she was and still full of beans. We set off on the road below the campsite before taking a track leading up into the forest. This is where the fun began.
The paths were so steep and rocky- not something I ever associated with horse riding before. Danni told me that she had trained the horses for fell riding, so they were used to going up almost vertical banks and didn’t mind the stones under foot. Thinking about it, this is probably necessary to enjoy the miles of jagged landscape in the Lake District.
There’s a certain technique to fell riding that I quickly adopted. You basically just give the horses the full rein, to the point where you could just be holding on to the front of your saddle. This allows them to put their heads down and climb. Also I learnt quickly that the horse might find it easier to trot up this type of terrain, so just sit tight, lean forward slightly and enjoy.
After 30 minutes I was so relaxed with this new style of riding that I just sat like a passenger and enjoyed the view, putting all my trust in the very capable stride of Tizzy. The forest and scrambling paths open out towards the top of the hill where they have started felling the trees. The nice wide tracks allowed us the opportunity for a canter through the dappled Spring light.
The 2 hour trek took us up to the top of the hill behind the farmhouse, across the ridge of the fell, back down to the valley and up the other side which was equally steep and rocky before ending up back where we started. The cost was £45 for two hours which I though was well worth it as I was the only one in the group so we could go at exactly my pace.
The camping pod cost £30 per night and at that time of year you had to stay for 2 nights on the weekend to be allowed to book it, which is not always ideal but understandable. The facilities are a bit on the basic side of things but the showers are hot and clean which is the most important thing.
I would definitely recommend going for a ride with Danni and her fell ponies and enjoying this new experience of scrambling on horseback.