Jane Dotchin wishes younger generations were more aware of animals. She grew up with horses, and is well aware most younger folks haven’t and doesn’t fault them, but when she’s plodding along on her horse Diamond, cars will occasionally zoom past, far too close for comfort. Especially the newer, larger campervans that are dominating the camping scene in the UK these days, like everywhere else. But that, and the weather, are about the only complications Dotchin faces on her annual trip from her home in Hexham, England, to the Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands.
Well, that, and the fact that her journey is 600 miles long.
Dotchin has been making the ride since 1972. This particular crew finds her with her dog, a terrier named Dinky, and Diamond, her 13-year-old Irish cob, a draft horse breed known for their feisty personalities. The ride will take 7 weeks, roughly, as Dotchin occasionally calls on friends she sees only on these rides, and stays a day or two or three, she’s not really counting, with friendly faces.
She carries a tent, and her food, mostly oatcakes, porridge, and hard cheese, and a simple cell phone for emergencies. Dotchin doesn’t need a map, she knows the backroads and trails intimately, and presumably doesn’t want to be bothered with consulting a map every few miles. She’s out there for the freedom and the open country, where she watches stags tussle in the autumn rut, and curious foxes watching from a distance. When she’s hungry, she stops in local shops to top up her cheese supply.
The only year she skipped her ride was in 2001 during the foot and mouth disease outbreak among livestock in England. No matter, she just went on a bike instead, tucking her dog companion (this was pre-Dinky) into a pannier and pedaling north.
When it rains, or when it’s time to bed down, she erects her tent, digs a cathole to do her business, and tethers Diamond nearby. Simple.
“There is always something interesting happening and there is never a dull moment,” Dotchin says. A fine life motto, if you ask us.
Dotchin has written books about her journeys, including Journeys Through England with a Pack Pony. She has a new book coming out in 2022.