Friday, February 8, 2019

I fell for the Fells



When I first holidayed in the Lake District, in 1968, I was determined not to like my mother's choice of venue. The thing that swung my acceptance was the promise that she would come pony trekking with me if I accompanied her planned "little toddles" up the fells.

I enjoyed the holiday, plodging in the rain over Catbells and round Stonethwaite and Watendlath, but the highlights were always going to be the pony treks. I fell instantly in love with my mount. He was a Fell pony, brown, rounded and muscular, with a long black tail and a massive curtain of mane that entirely hid his face. Nonetheless, the eyes underneath were friendly. He carried me up Latrigg with an eagerness I hadn't met before in ponies of his size.

I didn't know it then, but the trek leader was Betty Walker, a leading light of the Fell Pony Society. She rode another brown Fell pony, Angus.
She fed me snippets of Fell pony lore at every opportunity. Did I know the Fell ponies had been in the Lakes as long as the Herdwick sheep? No; I was much more impressed by the ponies' strength and willingness and the fact that they were capable of living free, all year round, on the fells where I'd been walking. I was 16, and freedom was a magnet.

Because of those Fell ponies I spent every university vacation in the Lake District, working with them. When I married I moved here permanently (and bought a Fell!).

Over the years since then I've done a lot of background research about Fell ponies, and their spell over me has grown stronger. They are a distinctive part of our farming and industrial history. Until the 20th century they were the mainstay of local transport: hardy and hard-working, they took the shepherd up the fell, carried hay to the stock in winter, pulled the trap to market, or walked hundreds of miles as pack-horses with wool destined for Europe.

For thousands of years we'd have gone literally nowhere without them.



Sue Millard is a writer, Fell pony owner and amateur historian who lives on a small farm in the Westmorland Dales section of the National Park. She serves on the Fell Pony Society's Council as its webmaster and Magazine editor.

Links:
The Fell Pony Society http://www.fellponysociety.org.uk
The Fell Pony Museum at Dalemain http://www.fellponymuseum.org.uk
Jackdaw E Books http://www.jackdawebooks.co.uk

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Strutting my stuff again

Having completed and published SCRATCH, the sequel to Against the Odds, I am quite chuffed with having both books in Kindle's top 100 in Sport this week (despite not having any bare chested men on their covers!)
There's a Val McDermid and a Dick Francis lower down the order

Against the Odds

Against the Odds paperback coverLeaving home to work in a racing stable, Sian finds that the long hours and hard work are more than she bargained for. The only compensation is her responsibility for her favourite filly, Double Jump.
Sian is badly treated by her boyfriend, the trainer's arrogant son, Justin. When Double Jump's owner moves the filly to another yard, Sian decides to follow so she can escape him.
At the new yard she meets stable jockey Madoc Owen, who is battling to make a National Hunt winner out of Cymru, a bored flat-race stallion. Sian and Madoc may have a future together but there will be more than steeplechase fences in their way – Justin will see to that.
http://www.jackdawebooks.co.uk/odds.htm

Scratch

novel, Cover image of Fell pony, mountains and cloudy sky, SCRATCHA Woman. A Family. A Farm.

Sian and Madoc have borrowed heavily to buy a neglected farm, Stone Side, in the beautiful countryside of east Cumbria. They are land-rich now but short of cash and indebted not only to the bank but to members of their family.

Racehorses and Fell Ponies

In this sequel to Against the Odds Madoc has reluctantly had to give up his ambition to breed thoroughbreds, and instead runs the sheep farm and pre-trains young horses for National Hunt racing. Sian is a fierce mother of their three teenage children, Robbie, Cerys and Jack, but in what free time she has, she buys and trains Fell ponies.
Although it will be a long haul before Stone Side begins to pay, with the children growing up and helping it looks like it just might work. But...

Someone is Out to Destroy Them

When Madoc’s brother calls-in a big loan, the tensions begin to mount… and on the wild fellside, for someone the stakes are as high as murder.

http://www.jackdawebooks.co.uk/scratch.htm