Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Delayed in Amherst

Lady was not the only one to feel sad at leaving Folly Farm on Monday, but it was a glorious ride through Oxford and up over the Leicester Ridge ....... West Leicester, pronounced Lyesester here in Nova Scotia - I find it quite difficult to remember not to say Lesster!
Here we were put up by the genial Norma Tower and her partner Bill Carter.  Lady had a pile of hay in the barn while I feasted on stew with chow (green tomato pickle) and apple crisp (crumble) with blueberry ice-cream.  You may notice that blueberries feature heavily on the menu in these parts, not surprising in view of the fact that the little town of Oxford claims to be 'Blueberry capital of the World'
Norma, Bill and camera shy cocker spaniel Rascal.  They also had two superb Percheron geldings.
 It was a relatively short morning ride into Amherst, where we were kindly being hosted by Gillian VanSnick-Daniels and farrier husband Justin at Gillian's VS equestrian centre.  Gillian has worked and trained in the UK and now mainly trains warm bloods to sell on, so Lady has been in very exalted company
I suppose it was only a matter of time before I ran into the inevitable setbacks, and the latest has been that I found myself unable to withdraw cash from my bank accounts - a disaster when in the process of buying a second horse and booked in for urgent dental treatment in Amherst.

 It has meant that I did not make it to New Brunswick today as planned, but I did have the opportunity to drive down to the Petitcodiac river estuary yesterday afternoon.  The one piece of information about Nova Scotia that has stayed with me since my school days is the fact that the Bay of Fundy has the greatest tidal range in the world.  Tidal water is funnelled up the long narrow bay to form 50foot tides. And I was not disappointed - here you can see the huge mud banks exposed on the sides of the river by the falling tide.
Amazing to think that only six hours before, the sea water was up to the level of the grass where I am standing.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Back to Canada

 Gillian met me at Moncton airport on September 4h after a flight in an old twin propeller plane from Montreal, and we drove back to Folly Farm, stopping en route to pick up my truck which had been fitted with a new battery.   Lady was looking very content and sleek after her summer break with the haflingers - umpteen thanks to Gillian for looking after her so well.
Gillian had arranged Lady's summer quarters so she had access to a grassy field and also to a fenced off section of the indoor riding school to escape the biting insects.  They have all but gone now, though there are still plenty of flies around, but in comparison to the nippers these do not trouble the horses at all.
Thursday was spent sorting out arrangements, and on Friday I spent a long day driving around to look at potential second horses to alternate with Lady as riding/pack horse. 
Yesterday I made a tentative start on the next leg when Gillian and I rode 25kms from the farm along quiet gravel back roads to the outskirts of the small town of Oxford.
Setting out across the Wallace River....
We paused to chat with neighbour and recent immigrant from the UK Charlotte (whose husband Huw is Welsh!) before a scenic if windy ride through Nova Scotian countryside.....

... stopping to picnic on tea and blueberry grunt in a grassy meadow...
Blueberry grunt is a traditional Nova Scotian blueberry and dumpling dish originating from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, an area settled by German immigrants.  You can see my ample portion in the foreground and I can testify to the fact that I grunted in satisfaction.
Gillian's husband Nigel and son Robert brought the trailer over to fetch us from Oxford, and Nigel will drop me and Lady back there tomorrow to make a proper start.

Summer break

Sunday, 3 August 2014

The Last Leg

 A couple of days later we rode the final leg back to the farm, joined by Gillian's friend Kathy for part of the way.
About to set out from Tatamagouche. L to R Gillian with her Haflinger mare Marigold, me and Lady, Kathy and her part Belgian mare Sylvie ..

Riding out along the Trans Canada Trail to the north of Tatamagouche. The Waugh River estuary is to the right.
As we have seen, beavers can constitute quite a nuisance by blocking stream outlets under trails and roads to form beaver ponds. The cunning contraption below allows stream water to drain out through the long pipe even when the outlet is covered over with branches piled up by beavers.
An osprey chick in a nest on the Wallace River trestle bridge eyes us curiously ...
The end of the road for the time being ...
...arriving at Folly Farm as the shadows lengthen. You can see the white outline of Gillian's indoor school, and the grey shapes of Nigel's stone circle to the right - of which more later. 

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Avoiding Arthur

We were now warned that Hurricane Arthur was headed for Nova Scotia, and would strike the south eastern coast over the weekend. Yet another reason it had proved a good decision to take a more northerly route. But when exactly would it hit land?

It was still relatively calm when I left Herb's on Saturday morning July 5th, having decided to take a chance and head out early on the short leg to Lyons River near Pictou.  I had been invited to stay here with horse owner Mary McKinnon, and arrived safely around midday as the gusts of wind began to strengthen. Still time for Mary to take me on a car tour of the area and the quaint little town of Pictou, sometimes dubbed 'The birthplace of New Scotland'. It was here that the first two hundred Highland Scots were carried by the ship Hector in 1773.  A suitably dramatic photo of a replica of the Hector preparing to ride out Hurricane Arthur as the storm brews in the background.
But whereas other areas of Nova Scotia received gale force winds and heavy rain in the following hours, the Pictou area was relatively unscathed and the storm was mainly confined to strong winds.
Mary with husband Jack and photo bombing dog in the window behind.
Mary lives right on an up graded section of the Trans Canada Trail running along a former railway track from Pictou to Oxford, and the next few days provided some of the best riding I have had in Canada so far.  Not only was the surface ideal, but large sections were shaded by trees, a relief even though Arthur had cleared the air and dispersed the sweltering heat.
An idyllic ride through the woods with the tail end of the hurricane rushing through the tree tops .....
..and across the open country near Scotsburn..
I had been a little concerned about the possibility of the trail being blocked by fallen trees, but in the event it was not an issue as Lady and I were able to step over, duck under or as in the case below, scramble round the windfalls.
  That night we stayed with the lovely Bethany McClellan at her Squire Hill stables not far from the trail at River John.  Here she is with partner Jason outside Lady's stable window.
They gallantly insisted on sacrificing their bedroom to me, but I am afraid I did not prove a very sociable guest as having disappeared for a quick snooze after supper, I crashed out and did not wake up until morning! 

I had been invited to stay with Haflinger breeder and driving enthusiast Gillian Allan and husband Nigel at their home near Wallace River, and Gillian intended to ride with me from River John.  I was looking forward to meeting her as she was the first person in Canada to join me on the trail, and she had also kindly agreed to look after Lady while I returned to Wales for a few weeks summer break.   So I was delighted when Gillian and Nigel turned up with Haflinger mare Miss Arati in the trailer. It was tremendous to have company to chatter away and laugh with for a change.
A beautiful trail still, but one could have furnished a small flat from the domestic goods dumped in the woods.  Love the strategically placed paper!..
Yet another beaver lodge. You can see how the pond created by beavers blocking the stream outlet is  causing the flooded trees to die off.
We were impressed to see members of the Tatamagouche Area Trails Association out in force clearing the trail of fallen trees so soon after the hurricane, and doing an excellent job ...
Well done boys for your much appreciated efforts!  I can safely say this was one of the best kept sections of the Trans Canada Trail I have encountered so far.

An unfit Miss Arati was becoming a trifle tired, so we called it a day at Tatamagouche and Nigel drove over to fetch us with the trailer.

Hiking the Highway

July 2nd.   Fairies at the bottom of the garden?  In Nova Scotia it seems they have little fisher boys..
Unpronounceable and inexplicable to all but someone from the Maritime Provinces.  
Somewhere to hang out drinking and gassing all day maybe?    No - just a shack with a couple of petrol pumps - but then again...     I have no idea how to pronounce their name, but the Paq'tnkek are a band of the first nations Mi'kmaq (Mi'qmaw) people who are indigenous to Canada's Maritime provinces, and this was on a small reserve that I passed. Unlike the unfortunate Beothuk of Newfoundland, the Mi'kmaq were able to survive the intrusion of Europeans into North America, most likely as they managed to acquire firearms to protect themselves. There is still a population of around 40,000 in the Maritime provinces and Newfoundland, of which around 500 belong to the Paq'tnkek.
 Interestingly (to hockey players at least!), before the industrial manufacture of hockey sticks, the Mi'kmaq were renowned for hand crafting ice hockey sticks from local hornbeam.
This gruesome scenario of suspected scarecrow abduction and beheading must be one of the most horrific scarecrow crime scenes I have yet encountered....
...and all before breakfast, which I had hoped to find when I reached the Trans Canada Highway. Surely there must be a convenient cafĂ©?  But I was to be disappointed, and resigned myself to continuing with an empty stomach.  But I cheered up considerably when I was invited in for a morning coffee and bagel by a delightful couple I got talking to on my way through Heatherton - (sadly I have forgotten their names as I was unable to write them down immediately -if you are reading this, please let me know!).  Who needs a Tim Horton's when you can be welcomed into a Canadian home ...
 To avoid a long detour I had to follow the Trans Canada Highway for several miles. Negotiating road works..
It was a long hot trudge through the heat of the day - apparently temperatures were well into the thirties, so Lady was very glad of a garage pit stop to refuel with water ...
.It was a relief to arrive at Antigonish where I had found stabling care of pacing enthusiast Jim Kell, who made me supper and provided a welcome shower and bedroom. Pacing races are very popular in Canada, and he still keeps a few young standardbreds.  Jim in front of some of his racing photos....
Temperatures continued to swelter in the thirties for the next couple of days, though I managed to avoid most of the heat by setting out as early in the morning as reasonably possible.
A welcome spring at Glen Bard..
Forced back onto the Highway for a few miles before Barneys River Station...
It was only later that I was told that this particular section was notorious for the number of accidents!
Oonagh and Louise (shown here with daughter Caedda) who kindly took me in when I turned up unannounced on their doorstep in Barneys River Station on July 3rd..
In spite of a full stables, they managed to find temporary space for Lady in the corral.  And for me it was a real opportunity to relax and recharge my batteries as they put me in a glorious cool studio apartment they have created in one of the buildings.   I was able to indulge in shower followed by a welcome siesta, read and nibble on the food Louise put in the fridge for me, before sauntering down later for a glass of wine with my hostesses, who were busy preparing for their forthcoming wedding. Many thanks and all the best for your future happiness!
The headstones in the cemeteries are a constant reminder of why Nova Scotia is so called...
Bear X-ing.  Just as well Lady can't read.....
The sign is on one of the wooden rubbish bins that all Canadians have outside their houses to prevent wild animals from destroying rubbish bags awaiting collection.
On July 4th we were hosted by the unstoppable Herb Best, a consummate horseman who breeds and trains quarter horses on his impressive  Krymsun Farm in New Glasgow.  He specialises in producing western pleasure horses, including three AQHA (quarter horse) world champions.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Crossing the Canso Causeway

Thursday July 1st and Canada Day!  Cape Breton is in fact an island, and was only joined to the mainland of Nova Scotia by the Canso Causeway in 1955.  I was glad to find accommodation in Port Hawkesbury a short ride away, as I planned to cross the causeway early in the morning before the traffic built up.  Michelle kindly volunteered to get up at the crack of dawn to drive me to the stables, which meant I was able to sleep in a comfortable bed rather than doss down in a corner of the barn.
Crossing the Canso Causeway Canal bridge which is the official dividing line between Cape Breton and the Nova Scotia mainland..
 As I had hoped, the traffic was very light on the causeway ...
The ship on the left hand side is loading gravel from a rock quarry to supply construction projects.
Breakfast stop at Tim Horton's in Aulds Cove on the other side where there was a there was lush grass and a convenient sign to tether Lady to while I had a coffee and bagel..
...but Lady had only just begun tucking in when she was moved on by a jobsworth workman who needed to mow the grass NOW!  
I had planned to take a southerly route more or less following the proposed Trans Canada Trail route. But this took me through more isolated country where I could not guarantee finding overnight shelter for Lady.  It had become evident that camping outdoors was not an option for Lady with the biting bugs, so I changed my plans and decided to follow the more populated northern coast where I was more likely to find barns.
With the construction of the new Trans Canada Highway, the old road has become a quiet backwater - not quite the remote forestry tracks I had imagined I would be following in my original plan, but pleasant nonetheless. 
Some of the houses here have immense lawns - apparently a leftover from when people owned smallholding plots large enough to accommodate livestock, such as the ubiquitous horse now replaced by mechanised transport. 
Canada is a BIG country with lots of space, as born out by the house numbers!...
Nova Scotian flower bed....
 Something tells me it is Canada Day....
A rest stop on the shore of an inlet at Monastery and Lady has a good roll..
The decision to follow the north coast was turning out to be a good one, as a sea breeze helped to keep the bugs at bay. However not all the time, as can be seen by Lady's attempts to rid herself of mosquitoes.
 But it also proved easier to find barns along the way, and I was thankful to be taken in by Dan and Thelma MacGilvray at Tracardie, who provided Lady with a loose box and a large feed of hay.
 On top of this they generously included the last minute foreign gate-crasher in their Canada Day BBQ celebrations, of which I was most appreciative. I have to say Thelma's peanut butter and chocolate sweets were particularly scrumptious!
Dan, Thelma and son...
And true to Canadian form, I was provided with a bed for the night.