Lancashire to Dover…
Setting off from our home in Lancashire was a whirlwind. The wagon was barely complete as we made our first day’s travel to Formby, Merseyside in the early evening. We arrived at our first stop as it was getting dark. The following day we made it to the Liverpool Women’s Hospital by teatime. The LWH is a place we hold very dear to our hearts, we stayed here for the whole of Elsie’s life, once she was transferred from Ormskirk Hospital, where she was born. The neonatal nurses, doctors and midwives who looked after us are second to none. We could not have gotten through this unexpected turn of events without them (they know who they are :-)). The fundraising team at LWH have given us a lot of support for this journey and had even sorted a quiet spot for us to stay at, at the back of the carpark. We had visits from many of the staff members that we knew from our previous stay here and also from many that we didn’t know. After a quick interview with Radio City, we set off for Claire House Childrens’ Hospice.
Claire House Children’s Hospice is another charity we have chosen to support, although we did not take Elsie there, Kat (one of the nurses) is heavily involved with parents at the LWH who may need the services at the Hospice at some point. Kat is another person who has been a rock for Phill and I during this difficult time. We arrived (after hitching a ride in a horse box through the tunnel) mid-afternoon, set up camp at the bottom of the field in front of the Hospice and then headed inside to enjoy some home-made food from the volunteer cooks.
After Claire House, we set off in the general direction of Chester, passing through the village of Raby (close to where Emily did her final years at university). We were given a contact for a stop near Capenhurst, so that is where we headed. Driving past the Cheshire Armed Police we crossed our fingers and smiled politely, heaving a sigh of relief as they passed us. This was short lived as they turned around and asked us to stop…. to take some photos to share on Twitter!
We spent the next few days resting at Capenhurst and made some new life-long (we hope) friends, a theme to be continued throughout the journey. From Cheshire we went to Shropshire and Staffordshire and met up with BBC Radio Shropshire when we were camped at the village of Trysull at the local pub. From here we headed to Blenheim Palace for Countryfile Live, four days of all things agricultural and equine and rain! It has rained every day of this journey so far. Phill and Joe (his former apprentice) demonstarted Wheelwrighting to the public and we also did some fundraising. Stuart, from the Dog and Duck Show and the Sheep Show, also helped us fundraise for the charities and between us we managed to raise £1200 to add to the kitty. the four days here allowed us to gather some energy for the push south towards Dover.
Phill’s son, Aaron, joined us for the next few days south choosing to sleep in his hammock, not the best idea as he had a very wet night!
Next major stop was at Chertsey, Surrey, where we were in need of a farrier and it just so happened that the yard owner’s son was a farrier, it must have been fate! We spent a few days with the lovely people here (again we hope to stay friends and will hope to visit them again in the future).
The troupe then spent six days at Sevenoaks in Kent. Emily had to go to a course in Swindon for a few days and Phill undertook some repairs to the wagon in her absence. The horses went out on some lovely hacks around the Kentish countryside and the Sevenoaks common. From there we had several scheduled stops (mainly at farms) all the way down to Hythe and John Parker International, the horse transporters yard.
We have managed to learn the ropes of travelling by horse and wagon with few major complications, although we are sure we are going to have a lot more to learn before we reach the Mediterranean.
Passing though some of the most beautiful countryside in the UK has been a real pleasure despite the poor weather over the first three weeks. The rain may have dampened our enthusiasm but it wouldn’t stop our mission and so we arrived in Calais on Friday 25th August, waiting on the horses arriving the day after.