Ben and I took Marty out for lunch twice last weekend, which was very pleasant. On Saturday we went up the lane and back to visit the local cafe, and on Sunday we made a longer hike over the ‘mountain’ with Marty carrying our picnic in his rucksacks.
The cafe visit was only three miles total, but it was a trickier walk as the setting blew Marty’s brain a little bit, and the road to get there was busier than our usual routes – but still remained a very narrow lane with blind corners.
However, Marty did discover that he likes bread after all (he wouldn’t take the bread I offered him a few weeks ago), and we also had yet another Mature Marty Moment: having been giving him pieces of bread from our sandwiches, Ben decided to mix things up a bit and offer Marty some cucumber. Marty did not like cucumber and spat it out. Now, do you remember the Great Banana Incident of 2014? When I foolishly offered Marty some banana, thinking he might like it, and he disliked it SO MUCH that it was over a year before he would accept any food from me that wasn’t this one particular brand of pony treats? Honestly, we held our breaths for a moment here, but although he decided he wouldn’t take any more bread from us that day he refused it politely and there has been no lasting effect on his ability to accept hand-held treats. Amazing. My boy is all grown up and acting like a normal, rational animal.
Sunday’s walk was much more picturesque. We’ve climbed the mountain before; last time, we came at it from the opposite direction and via a long-forgotten bridleway that was the kind of route you enjoy in hindsight only. What started out as a nice, sunken path between fields turned into a ditch strewn with literal boulders, and in the end I had to throw the rope over Marty’s back and let him pick his own path. Here’s a video of the worst part (he did stand on me, but it was my own fault for not anticipating where he’d go. From this experience I learnt to let the mule go first when navigating tricky terrain).
This time we took the more direct route there and a longer, less hazardous route back. Well: I say less hazardous. Basically, to get onto the mountain from our side, you have to cross a 50mph road and follow a narrow trail up past some houses. Right at the entrance to this trail is a house which always seems to have a bunch of small dogs in the yard, and these little buggers come flying out of nowhere to fling themselves at the gate and make a level of noise that seems incompatible with their small stature. I personally think it’s very dangerous, as it’s the kind of thing that would spook most equines and the proximity to such a fast road bothers me – particularly as, once you’re on the trail, you’re hidden from sight.
Ben and I reflected on the knowledge that neither Iris nor Xato would have handled such a fright particularly well, and we were impressed that Marty – you know, our mule with the dog phobia! – has walked past without hesitation on both occasions.
On the other side of the mountain, after we’d stopped for lunch, we wound our merry way through lanes saturated with wild garlic (I wish I had smell-o-vision and could’ve captured the scent for you, but you can probably imagine it) and on through a small hamlet and farmyard to the lanes beyond. With the exception of that busy road it’s a very peaceful circuit, and we hardly saw another person.
I put together a little video compilation, which you can view here (it was filmed and uploaded in HD, but the quality looks crap to me – I don’t know if that’s just because we’re on a very slow internet connection here):