GUINEA PIGS IN THE BLACK MOUNTAINS
It was another night at the youth club, with my close knit group of the friends, we were standing around watching a game of snooker, when Eric popped in to put a proposal to us, Eric stood about five foot ten he had a strong physic, a hansom face that was toped out with a wavy mop of hair. Eric was a laid back character, as a young man he attended Loughbourgh University here he gained his teachers qualification specializing in physical education. He worked in a hard school where pupils were difficult to manage he did the two evenings a week at the youth club for extra cash. I learnt a lot about life from this man, he and myself were to cross paths in our lives several times, I always will be grateful in knowing him. He lived in his own world, he was not really interested what you had to say to him, if you tried to talk to him you could usually only get about three words in. Tonight was not going to be the exception.
“ Right lads we are going to be Guinea pigs for the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, Mobil Camping on Horse Back in South Wales, we are going to see if this is possible, get your names down we are going at Whitson half term holiday.”
He was gone before we could ask anything. Ten of us agreed to go, we hoped one or two girls might be joining us, but all the girls at the youth club declined. We were told to meet up at the Railway Station on the Saturday morning of that weekend with all our camping gear and food for four days, Eric had informed us that two other lads who were older would be joining the group, they were police cadets.
That Saturday came around, the motley crew poured out onto Derby railway station platform. We all decided to wear the appropriate headgear; we had five Cowboys, one Davy Crocket, a Daniel Boone, one Indian, a Confederate soldier and one Union cavalry officer. To top it off Eric the Sheriff turned up with two Mounted Police Cadets, the posy was all-together. We boarded the train and headed to the Welsh hills.
Late afternoon we arrived at a small remote Railway station above Hay –on- Wye, it must be one of the most beautiful views seen from any railway station in the country, the River Wye runs along side of the station, the view across the valley was breath taking. We were greeted by the broad smile of Ronnie Miller, a ruddy-faced chap with bushy eyebrows who was no bigger than a jockey. He wore an old ratting cap pushed to the back of his head and a worn out wax jacket and downed an extra large pair of Wellington boots that he could possibly drown in.
“ Welcome boy o’s.” he said in a broad Whelsh accent as he pushed his hat further back and scratched the top of his forehead, I bet he wondered what he had let himself in for.
Outside the station was Ronnie’s mode of transport an old series one Landrover that looked like it had seen better days. We threw all our gear in to the back of it; off it went in a cloud of blue-black smoke. We started off walking up the lane after it. On and on we walked, the only marked difference in the lane as we made our way up was the gradient which got steeper and steeper, after an hour we eventually reached Ronnie’s Farm and our camp site high up in the Brecon Beacons.
The tents were quickly erected as the evening was drawing in. It was Pub time, but nobody was looking forward to another walk. We walked down the lane past the Farm only to meet up with Ronnie again; we persuaded to get him to give us a lift to the closes pub. Ronnie reluctantly agreed, so all thirteen of us plus Ronnie managed to get aboard. We climbed in it, on its bonnet, on the roof and we were hanging on the back opening of this short wheel based Landrover. The engine started and consumed us all in a cloud of black smoke. The Landrover struggled to get out of the farmyard on to the lane, but what the hell it was down hill all the way.
We arrived safely at The Thee Horseshoes Pub and piled in for a nights drinking session. Most of us were under age drinkers apart from the leaders, all but two of the group and the two police cadets had been regular drinkers in our local pub back home. We had learnt how to be brazen enough to order our pints, in these establishments. I remember my first time in ordering a drink I was twelve, I had gone with most of the group I was here today with on a school trip to London to see the schoolboys final at Wembley Stadium to watch England play Wales. None of us was interested in football so we sold our tickets outside the stadium to a ticket tout. We hung around outside until the game had finished then boarded the awaiting coach to take us to the next venue, which was the London Palladium. We had one-hour free time before the show. Our little group headed of to find a pub. We sheepishly entered a pub; I was pushed to the front because I was the tallest. All the names I could think of was Guinness and mild.
The barman snapped, “We have light an heavy”
“Oh we’ll have heavy.”
To my surprise over the bar came my order, even though most of our heads were not much higher than the bar. The barman asked where were we off to; I said,
“We’re just killing time before the show at the Palladium.”
“Where are you from” he enquired,
“Derby.” shouted one of the lads.
“Oh,” he said. “ I thought you were from Epsom I thought you were jockeys.”
We got away with it. At that time I couldn’t think why adults drank this liquid, as it tasted pretty foul to me. Now I had acquired the taste and was enjoying it.
Our group was made welcome in the Three Horse Shoes, the hours rolled by and we were soon in lock in time.
“What if the local copper comes by,” someone asked Ronnie.
“He will,” he replied, “any minute now.”
At that moment there was a knock at the door, the landlord went to unlock it, in stepped a round ruddy-faced policeman.
“Busy tonight Dye.” He remarked as he removed his helmet and made his way to the bar, where a pint was waiting for him.
The two police cadets were trying to make themselves inconspicuous, which was pretty hard for them to do as Steve was six foot six and Dave was not much shorter. They were obviously worried about putting their careers into jeopardy. The two smallest lads in our group had magically changed their drinks to lemonade. It turned out the landlord had exchanged them while they were not looking. Eventually we said our goodnights and thanked the landlord for his hospitality and returned to the Landrover and climbed aboard. The Landrover chugged into action the fumes made us all cough, it painfully crawled its way slowly back up the hill to the campsite.
We were up bright and early in the morning, after breakfast we were to be introduced to our mounts. We were all given a piece of rope with a loop in it; apparently this is called a halter. Once you have got this round a ponies neck it supposedly stops. We went into the next field each horse or pony was pointed out in according to our body size, we were told to keep an eye on the one allocated to us. The names of the horses and ponies rolled off Ronnie’s tongue, they match our dress Trigger, Smoky, Thunder, Silver, Rusty, the only name that came out that didn’t match was Lollipop. We were told to herd the ponies and horses into the corner of the field while trying to keep an eye on our own mount. We headed towards what seemed to us a wild pack. We edged them into the corner as one horse headed to freedom, our line broke and the others followed it. Ronnie told us to hold the line and not be frightened of them. We were to try again in the bottom corner of the field. We had cornered them again when Ronnie took a sweet from his pocket and rattled the wrapping paper, over came lollipop for his treat the halter was on hand, the pony was handed to my friend Alan, Alan smiled while leading his pony away to the next field. One down fourteen to go. The line broke again, two hours later after many times up and down the field we had caught the last pony. Now we were going to have to learn how to tack them up.
I was to learn about these animals quickly, you are in charge or they are, the horse kept dropping the bit every time I put it in, the horse was having me for a fool. Eventually I mastered this operation. Next to come was the saddle, first on with the blanket, off came the blanket as the horse shook. On again, off again.
I said, “ Don’t piss me about you stupid mute.”
Then I prodded with two fingers in her side, to my surprise she rolled her eyes at me and stood perfectly still. On with the saddle blanket on with the saddle, girth strapped up, stirups lengthened, I was ready. I stood back to admire my handy-work then looked round the field, it was pandemonium.
One cowboy’s horse was wearing its saddle on its stomach, another cowboys horse had broke free and a cowboy was in hot pursuit. Daniel Boone’s horse was walking round in circles going backward with its reigns tangled round its front feet. The union cavalry’s horse had found some tip bits inside one of the tents and when he lifted its head took the small tent with it. The Confederates horse had tramped across someone’s remains of breakfast kicking all the cooking stove, plates and pans all over the place. Right at the top of the field was only two mounted riders surveying the scene that was Steve and Dave dressed in full uniform, jodhpurs, black riding boots and black hard hats bearing the word Police. They looked like they were about to set off on riot control duties.
Eventually order was restored; we all set off for a short trek. The majority of the ponies were Whelsh mountain ponies, however some had a different fathers from over seas, they were much bigger and darker they had fiery tempers, mine was one of them called Flash we seemed to be getting on fine after our initial troubles.
On return to the campsite we let the ponies loose in a much smaller field, we were grateful for that. Tomorrow was going to be fun, how on earth were we going to tie all our equipment to these small riding saddles; we thought this was going to be interesting. We decided we would not go down to the pub that evening, as we were not too well of money wise at fifteen years of age. After a meal a campfire was quickly made, we sat around telling stories. Eric however had nipped off to the pub with Ronnie.
Eric was to return later with some beer and another man, a Mr. Norman Pugh, a Wheslh man through and through, he was a big powerful looking man with dark curly hair and bushy eyebrows. He had the nicest Whelsh twang I had ever heard, he introduced himself and in a jovial voice,
“ Helloo you little Englarsh bastards I’m Norman Pugh.” He said as if it was to mean something to us.
He then set us all off singing, we carried this on for the next three hours or so, before creeping off to our tents for a goodnights rest.
I awoke the next morning, the tent was flapping in the wind and the pitter-patter of rain was hitting the canvas. The sound of a primas stove could be heard in the distance, the smell of bacon cooking drifted across my nostrils. Norman broke into song,
“ Oh what a beautiful morning, oh, what a beautiful day.”
It was time to get up to start the day. Eric had the foresight to bring along with him some bright yellow waterproof yacht stuffing bags, he handed these out with lengths of bailing string. We were to stuff all our belongings into these bags and tie them to the saddle with the string. When all the bags had been packed it looked like there was a giant crop of bananas crowing on the hillside. The lads had figured out a strategy to catch the ponies, we were to walk in a line cornering the ponies leaving a little gap at one end, Alan was to be at the end near the gap, he was to rattle a sweet paper for Lollipop, hopefully she would head up to Alan and the other ponies would follow her to the gap, hopefully lollipop would stop for her sweet and block the gap, we would rush in and catch the closes pony, not necessarily our own. It worked a treat. We swapped our mounts, tacked up in good time, the problem came in threading the bailing string though the only possible place on a riding saddle which was where the stirrups hung from, so we threw the bananas over the ponies shoulders in front of the saddle and strung them on as best we could. We mounted up, we were on our Mobil Camping Expedition with our knees pressing against the yellow banana bags, the ride was uncomfortable, little did we know it was going to take us eight hours to get to our destination. The rain had eased and the sure-footed ponies took us up the mountainside we now had time now to enjoy the views and the experience, with only a few minor adjustments. On our way up to the higher mountains we past several rotting carcasses of dead ponies, which had got the interest of several crows that were picking away at them. The narrow track got steeper the higher we went. It was felt we all should dismount to help the ponies reach the summit. Our troubles then began, once we had dismounted, the yellow bananas started to slip, as it was only our knees that had kept them in position. The heavy movement of the pony’s shoulders as they climbed the steep gradient bounced the bananas all over the place. Strings started to come adrift. The bags began hanging from one side or other of the ponies, other bags hung lower and started dragging on the ground, some split open, scattering the contents out which then proceeded rolling down the mountain side. The posy started falling over the hanging bags they were forced to let go of their mounts leaving them to make their own way to the summit. Two cowboys and the Indian set off running down the mountainside in an effort to retrieve their belongings. Davy crocket and the Confederate Officer were swearing sweet profanities at one another as their bags had got tangled together. I seemed to be OK until I tripped over someone’s yellow bag, Flash walked past me carrying on up to the top on her own. I climbed to the top only to find the Mounties and the leaders sitting on their horses surrounded by our mounts. Apparently they had come up the less steep route and had never dismounted at all. We waited for the rest of them to make their way to the ridge. Last to arrive was Davy Crocket and Confederate Officer who were still swearing sweet profanities at each other, sweat was pouring from under their headwear. It took sometime to sort ourselves out before we could get going again. Once we did we headed down the ridge of the mountain. As we looked down either side it seemed along way to the bottom should we fall off. No one spoke for some time so we moved on in silence. At the end of the ridge we could see where we were heading to, a small hamlet, which supported two farms, a pub and a red telephone box. We zig zaged our way down the mountainside until reaching the open fields at the base of the mountain. The rain returned as the ground flattened out. Alan who was ridding lollipop decided to put on his bicycle cape, he let go off his reins while fumbling in his anorak pocket to retrieve it, he took out a bight yellow cape and gave it a good shake. This startled the majority of the ponies, they had up to now, put up with the yellow bags, but now they had a larger one flying in the air that they did not like. Lollipop bolted at a full speed canter down the long field. Others and I chased after him. Alan was struggling to put his cape on, keep his balance while trying to find his reins at the same time. Only the Famous Five had got their ponies in control. Fortunately the ponies slowed down to a trot, we all bounced around on our Ponies like sacks of potatoes, nearly all of us once again lost our yellow bananas.
Norman came riding past me doing a perfect rising trot.
“ How the hell do you do that,” I asked, as I bounced up and down in my saddle trying stop my teeth from chattering together.
“ That’s a military trot that you’re doing boy o,” he explained, “ squeeze your knees together, lift up your arse.”
In a very short time, he said, “ That’s it, you’ve got it boy o.”
I must say it was a far more comfortable ride. I started to really enjoy myself but felt sorry for the Household Cavalry. I had mastered something today, so I rode past my mates going round and round showing off while screaming out with pleasure. Luckily we were to camp at the end of this long field, which was opposite the pub. We reach the end of the field. I dismounted only to find out I could hardly stand or walk. We removed the tack from the ponies and let them loose in an adjoining field then set off hobbling up the mountainside to gather our gear and belongings.
We spent the next two hour extracting the jumble out of the bags, the primas stove had come out of its container the bits from it had buried themselves into the butter container which had lost its lid, the bacon had come unwrapped and was sticking to the sides of the tent bag, the plastic milk bottle had split and its contents were nicely soaking into my sleeping bag. A large piece of cheese had also come undone it had picked up anything that would stick to it, I took hold of this a threw it across the lane into a chicken pen which was owned by the pub, the chickens attacked it they seemed to enjoy it.
The mess was eventually sorted out, the tents were erected, it was time to make a brew, I went down to the little stream that ran down the edge of the field to collect some water while wishing the pub was open. Alan and I enjoyed a warm drink, we soon had a meal cooked and eaten. It was time to wash the pots and have a wash ourselves, so we collected all the gear together then headed for the stream, did the pots then had a strip down wash. As I washed my face I felt the bum fluff bristles on my chin, I was self conscious of these whiskery hairs sticking out of my face. I had brought a razor with me, Eric had told us about lightweight camping in preparation for this trip. He had told us to cut the handle off them to save weight, in those days all razors were made out of metal. I went back to the tent to get it, and poured myself out a cup of warm water then realized I had not got a mirror but recalled every telephone box had one. I headed to the phone box; I wondered why they put a mirror in them, maybe it was for this reason I thought as I placed my mug on the conveniently placed shelf. I finished my shave, turned around only to find a few lads had formed a small line with towels wrapped around their necks, all were holding mugs of warm water, half way down the queue was a little old lady who wished to make a phone call. One of the lads asked her what time the pub opened.
“ Why it never closes,” she said.
The queue immediately dispersed.
Eric, Norman and Ronnie had apparently been in there for over two hours.
One entered the pub through a stable door you came to a flag floored sitting room, there was no bars or hand pumps, there was settees and arm chairs scattered about and a kitchen table with chairs around, a half side of pig was hanging from the low ceiling beams the best of all was a large open fire roaring away, beer and cider came out in jugs from somewhere in the kitchen. Alan suggested we should try the rough cider, we were in the company of Steve and Dave the police cadets, we agreed to buy a round each. Four-pint jug of amber liquid with no frothy head on was brought forth; we filled our glasses as we lifted the glasses we noticed bits floating about, but dare not ask what it was. We settled in and laughed about the day’s events. Two little down syndrome children came out of the kitchen to see what we were laughing about, we made a fuss of them, they smiled at us their special smile with their tongues sticking out on their bottom lips. The rest of our party was now settling in for a night of drinking. The news must have got around the area that we were in the hamlet as the pub started filling up with the local population. They were eager to tell us of the history of the area and how the ponies were set loose on the mountains to fend for themselves during the winter months. They told us how they rounded them up in late spring then divided the herd up between four families in the area. They told us how close knit these families were and who was married to whom within this little community. They explained how they broke the ponies in with the use of a halter, how after catching the ponies, they would leave them for days tied up with this piece of rope, until the pony realized it could not escape. They told the tale of Old Sam who last year jumped the hedge across the lane which had a steep banking down to the lane surface. Old Sam who was sitting in a high backed kitchen chair gave us a nod and a smile and told us it was true. We marveled at this old man who was eighty six years old, he told us we could catch trout in the stream we had collected our water from, we humoured him and said we would have a go tomorrow. I ordered another round of cider it was cheap and it was going down well. Norman broke in to song, everybody joined in, and one by one each of us had to do our party piece. After each performer they raised their glass and shouted something like,
“ Yagidar, Yek cum bum sise,”
We all raised our glasses we all repeated it,
“ Yagidar yek cum bum sise.”
The pub now was filling to capacity, as each new comer came in they had more to offer, we had spoon players, bone players an accordion player .The songs went on and on, we would raise our classes and shout in unison,
“ Yagidar, Yek cum bum sis,” and every body applauded and cheered.
The next act to take the floor was the stick man. He looked like he had just stepped of a painting by Lowry. He took the centre stage, all the locals moved back a pace to give him room, they started beating the table in a slow drum beat rhythm, the musicians started playing a different type of music. The stick man took to the floor and started dancing a jig like an old man who thinks he can keep up with the younger generation, he danced round and round to the music he then bent down and pulled the raffia rug off the floor and wrapped it around his body disappearing into a cone shaped matting which proceeded to hover across the floor, first in the largest circle he could manage, as he decreased the size of the circle the faster he went until he stopped with the music in the centre of the room. Cheers went up and it was,
“ Yagidar, Yek cum bum sis,” again the glasses went up in the air.
He called it a Tiger Dance; I was to see a similar dance ten years later in a bush village in Africa. We were now on our third pint of rough cider it was beginning to take affect, Steve said he must go to the privy which was in the back yard, he headed to the door opened the top half of the stable door and walked ahead I just saw his nice shiny riding boots disappear into the darkness over the bottom half of the door which he forgot to undo, he did not return. This rough cider had a strange effect on you, you were all right sitting down but when you stood up you had little control of your legs. I saw Alan returning from the kitchen he was having serious problems balancing three more glasses of ciders on a tray and was losing directions as he attempted to get them over to us. Another song, another player, another Yagidar and another Yek cum bun sise. I asked Norman what yegidar meant in the Welsh language.
He replied, “ Cheers.”
“ So what is Yek cum bum sise?”
“ That’s arse holes to all English men.” He replied with hearty laughter.
A cruel thought raced through my head, had all these Welshmen grown up and learnt to be prejudice towards the English through some misdemeanor of an English government some distant years past or was this inbred, most with in the room were related to one another, I felt they should do what they have done with their ponies introduce outsiders into the fold which would produce better stock that has not got this inbred loathing. I was drunk, I was saddened, was I too to become prejudice now towards them or was it just a light hearted joke at us, at our expense, it was time to leave. The four pints of rough cider had made its mark; I stood up and found I was not in control of my legs below my kneecaps, my lower legs bent in peculiar angles. Alan and Dave were having the same problem, we headed towards the door bumping, banging, and hanging on to people on the way out, who all laughed at our efforts. We made it, the three of us leaned back against the outside wall of the pub, we had now to negotiate the lane and the embankment opposite the pub, we took stock, Alan said, “ Right lads one, two, three go.”
We set off at a wobble across the lane hit the grass slope, crumbled and fell over. We started to climb the slope on our hands and knees.
Dave blurted out, “ How the hell did an eighty six year old man after jumping over the hedge manage to get his pony down this sloop without falling off? ”
“ Because they bloody well strapped him to his ponies saddle.” Alan replied in hysterical laughter.
The more we laughed at this silly remark the harder the climb got. I reached out and put my hand on something soft, “ Oh hello Steve what you doing here.”
“ I can’t get up, so I sleeping here tonight,” said a sleepy drunken voice.
The next morning, Norman, who was still in good baritone voice, woke us up. “ Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.”
Alan shouted, “ Shut the fuck up Norman.”
We both pulled our sleeping bags over our heads. Eventually we crept out of our pits, I had the distinct smell of sour milk on me. Alan swore again, as he searched around our small stock of provisions. Most of our provisions had fallen down the mountainside out of Alan’s bag he had not retrieved some of the items, “ We’ve got no bloody food left,”
I told him it was his fault for not packing properly and for not picking it all up.
“ Where’s that lump of bloody cheese you had, we have to make a pack up lunch.” he shouted.
“ I’ve thrown it to the chickens.”
Alan moaned in anger “ I’II bloody well go and get it.”
He stormed off to the chicken run; I thought I better follow him. At the run we could see our dirty heavily pecked block of cheese in the corner.
“ That’s bloody good cheese you’ve thrown away Roger,” he scolded me with more abuses as we entered the pen.
“ And you bloody well smell like vomit,” he added.
The chickens now came under his attack as he booted them out of his way. While he was retrieving the cheese, I stole six eggs out of the nesting boxes and slipped them in my jacket pocket. Alan and I made up, as I made him a bacon and egg butty for his breakfast. We were good friends again our hang over’s were clearing. We took stock of what we had left, a half loaf of sliced bread, two dinted tins of beans, a tin of peas, four packets of dried soup, two packets of Smash dehydrated potatoes, a tub of butter without a lid which tasted like paraffin. We had lost quite a lot of our rations. We made some hard-boiled egg and cheese sandwiches for our pack up, broke camp, re packed our yellow bags then headed to the stream to have a scrub.
As we stood straddling the stream having our wash, a large trout swam between our legs, “Look at that,” I shouted. Alan and I were immediately in hot pursuit. The old man was not having us on. We slowed down and started feeling under each rock slowly moving up this tiny stream.
As my fingers felt a trout, I shouted, “ I can feel one, what do you do next?”
“ Squash the bloody thing, stun the fucker on a rock,”
This I did then scooped it out on the bank. Very shortly after Alan did the same, we were pleased as punch with our catch we both knew what was on the menu that night.
As we walked back to the campsite, we could see there was a meeting going on, Ronnie, Eric and Norman were facing the posse, pointing and waving their arms at times.
“ I hope they have not discovered the pub is six eggs down this morning,” I said.
“ Better put the fish down our tops, we might get done for poaching too,” Alan replied.
“ It’s a good job we didn’t take a bloody chicken.”
Fortunately for us, it was a discussion about the day’s trek and what they were planning doing for the day. Ronnie was to telephone his brother to come and collect the yellow bags in the Landrover and transport them over to the original campsite. For those who did not feel confident they would be taking them back an easy route, for those who were, they would take different route over the mountain. Alan and I stepped forwards volunteering for this party. Norman and Ronnie spoke in their native tongue to each other, frowning.
Norman nodded, “ Go get your ponies.”
The ponies did not run away from us this time we just went over and led them away, they too probably wanted to get home. We had been told it had been a hard winter this year on the mountains with not much good grazing, which accounted for the dead ponies we had seen, Ronnie had a load of hay at his farm and the ponies probably knew it. We were soon tacked up and on our way, Norman said we would have to make could pace and led the way .We cantered down a long track, all the party was once again on a high, we quickly got to the foot of the mountain then started to climb. This time we reached the ridge with ease, we paused here to take in the Mountain View, it was wonderful, this is truly a beautiful land. I thought perhaps the Welsh were right not to want outsiders here, especially the English. I realized at that point the horse-riding bug had bitten me, I would return one day. Over the top we went, we made our way down to a wide track on the other side from which we could see a river running way below in the valley. We could see this track meandering down the mountainside; we could presume it would inevitably come to a bridge or ford to cross the river. Rain had set in; Norman turned off the track then announced we were going to take a short cut. We leaned back in our saddles and headed down to the tree line in the valley. Once in the trees we had to virtually lie on the ponies backs to miss the branches of this thick wooded area, we could hear the river getting closer we weaved our way through the undergrowth that got thicker and thicker, eventually we reached the river bank. Norman rode his mount into the river without any hesitation, we all struggled with ours to get them in, the river was running fast, the ponies were probably feeling like we were, very nervous. I wished I had gone with the other party. We ventured in uneasily following Norman, the river got deeper and deeper. Soon the River was touching our feet then our knees and soon we were nearly sitting in the water. As the animals raised their heads we thought we all would be soon swimming, we never noticed how cold the river was until we had made safe ground on the opposite bank. We made our way through more deep undergrowth and trees we soon came out on a main road, Norman twanged out,” We are going to see Mrs. Evans for a nice cup of tea.”
“Yeah hee,” we shouted, as we trotted, dripping down the road.
I could now feel my already sore knees having their skin taken off them, as they rubbed between my wet jeans and the saddle. I was pleased to see Mrs. Evens.
Mrs. Evans had a proper Welsh Dresser in her house, it was as big as one wall in her sitting room, opposite it was a huge stone fireplace with an extra large fire in it, her husband must have been a coal miner, the hearth supported four large coal scuttles which must have been needed to feed it. Seven of us stood in front of this fire while drinking our tea and eating our sandwiches and at times our legs would disappear in a steamy mist. We thanked her for her kindness, we were sorry to leave her fire. By the time we arrived back at the campsite we had done ten hours on the back of our ponies, the last few miles had been painful, we all virtually fell off the ponies backs on arrival. The ponies too were very tired, after we took the tack of them they never moved, they eased one back leg up to fall asleep. We were very slow in making the camp that night; everything was an effort to do. Every muscle in my body seemed to ache; everyone in our party was well and truly knackered. The only highlight of the evening for Alan and I was our fresh trout dinner topped with peas and creamed Smash potatoes with a hint of paraffin. We were the envy of all those camping.
As young people we had learnt a lot over those few days.
We all slept on the train most of the time on the way back home.
I was glad to get home, I was going to tell of my adventure, but nobody was in, the backdoor key was found under the mat on the back doorstep. I ran a hot bath, eased myself in to it gently and felt the hot water sting my open chafes, I lay back closed my eyes then dreamed of returning to the Black Mountains again. I dreamed of entering the rodeo they have each year, when they bring the wild ponies off the mountainside and have a competition at staying on a wild pony the longest, I dreamed that I would surely win this prize. In years to come I did have a go and lasted four seconds.