• Lesley Lewis

Cirencester and Quantock with Lesley Lewis and Sofi

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

"Just getting round to updating our story on our marathon globetrotting TREC weekend, making the most of the final weekend of the summer season of events. So happy to be back out competing, really missed this. Day 1 Spin up to Cirencester Park on Friday for training POR with Wessex Trec based at Greenhill Equitation and so envious of this livery yard. What a location! The facilities there are amazing with a super licensed café, showers, xc , sj, two yards, indoor and outdoor and acres of flat grazing, all riders and horses immaculately turned out. A super welcome from Natalie the General Manger who went above and beyond to make sure we were comfortable. The morning opened up with a dense mist over the Park which freaked me out as i get lost in forestry when I can see where I'm going, let alone when I can't! And the entire route turned out to be forestry Sofi was rather excited to be holidaying with her two Buddies again, Mr Pi and Teddy. They were out directly in front of us so we caught them up pretty quickly, not surprisingly, and it all went downhill from there. Extreme brake failure! Not fun when you have acres of grass mown firebreaks to race down. Checkpoints were no chance to rest as Sofi just spent them spinning in temper cus her mates had gone ahead again. Doesn't help trying to read a map and orientate yourself with a compass on a horse doing an impression of a spinning top! The scenery and tracks were spectacular.....I think I saw them as we raced through. Needless to say "we got lost". I had this not so brilliant idea that if I just let Sofi run then she would run out of steam. STUPID IDEA! The brakes disappeared completely and we were hurtling down a beautifully wide grass track edged by trees and brambles, we went over a brow of a hill and running downhill now , me calling my horse all the names and telling her I was selling her when we got back home, and I saw in the not so far distance a WALL with a tiny bridleway gate that was already open … and we were hurtling towards it out of control . Choices. .1. trust my horse to stop....not without catapulting me over the wall probably 2. Aim for the gap and hope we squeeze through at speed...…probably smash both of us up 3. Spin her into the brambles/trees...…. most likely success if we avoid a tree collision. So 3 it was! Entered 3 feet high brambles at speed. Result? Instant stop, I'm still on board then a prickle from the bramble made her leap straight up and i plopped in a heap in the brambles!! After extracting myself and my horse and picking the brambles out my bum and leg, I led my horse for 10 minutes while she still pranced around doing airs above the ground. When I got fed up of walking I got back on and we WALKED the rest of the POR. Sofi was furious! Spitting snorting little dragon! We made it out of the forestry somehow, more by luck than judgement, and we finished which is good. We met a resting cyclist on the road back to base and I stopped for a chat as I'd switched off by then, and guess what, I MISSED the final turn with the finish flags so that was 30 penalties too......just about summed it up! "

Day 2 TREC Weekend

Base: Quantock Hills, Somerset

After hot footing it down the M5 from Cirencester, we landed at our base for the next 2 nights. Lovely host who has an Air B and B vintage caravan and offered a paddock for the horses to corral. We could only have the caravan for one night as it was booked, so after a walk to the local pub across a field for scrumpy food, we bedded down on the yard in our usual sleeping accommodation with various types of chickens and a blinkin' Cockerel that woke us up at 6.30am. No need for an alarm! Good job we wanted to be away early.

I got voted lead vehicle to get us to the event venue....probably never again as my sat nav took us through a really pretty quaint village Nether Stowey, so quaint and small that Donna's lorry was in danger of taking out several residences along the way and had me hopping out my jeep on several occasions to check they had made it through

We found the venue which was good and feeling confident after yesterday's training ride , entered the Map Room , looked at the map,....and froze . I couldn't get my head round the loops marked and I couldn't orientate to where we were based. Blank blonde moment! So left the Map Room late, hopped on Sofi who was looking decidedly more chilled than yesterday ( must have been the threat of selling her!) and wandered off on route praying that I would have an epiphany. Nope! 20 mins later I was none the wiser and seriously off track so decided to just go sight-seeing until I saw something that made sense on the map.

Hallelujah! A finger post told me I was completely going the wrong way! So about turn which Sofi was not happy about and we were back where we should have been. Having lost that time the objective became just getting round ! The final loop was still bothering me but I'd worry about that when we got there. Surprisingly the route flowed well after that, we didn't go off track, we navigated the twiddle bits, found the checkpoints, manoeuvred through cows with HUGE horns, didn't run over any cyclists or walkers as there were loads out, saw some amazing views over the Bristol Channel looking back to Wales, managed to orienteer along paths in forestry where my compass really earned its place in my pocket and approached the start of the final loop which had confused me in the Map Room .

I knew I was on the home run. Sofi had been really chilled all day, we had some cracking long canters ( in control) across fields and open hills on the buckle end. It was going great, we dropped down through the forestry to go back to base...…and popped out 500m further on than we should have been. I just knew that we'd missed the final checkpoint! Going back in meant running another huge loop in the forestry to get on the correct track to the final checkpoint. I was knackered, Sofi was knackered and It just felt wrong to do that to her so I decided to forfeit the final flags and save my horse and just take the penalty points. Off to base we went!

My annoyance at my map reading errors was alleviated in the final presentations. The organiser congratulated us on standing there and finishing and confirmed that it was a challenging route. Very few riders completed. Sofi and I ended up placed 3rd, should have been better but small mistakes can be expensive penalties. But we survived sound and finished. Donna and Amanda riding as a Pair bagged 1st place ( two brains are better than one when you are lost) .

Back to camp avoiding taking out any native properties and then worrying about finding diesel as we were both empty

and our host had cooked food for us as the local pub shuts on Sunday evenings. Saviour! We moved camp to the caravan which was very quirky, wood fired hot tub and compost loo.....the loo worked but the hot tub stayed cold which was a major disappointment but after several vinos who cares so in we got. Lovely off grid spot, but when the storm hit that night we were hoping the trees didn't come down on top of us! .Donna opted for the safety of her lorry on the yard which worked out well as the wind blew down our corrals and she was rounding up horses while we slept

Diesel crisis passed after a bit of driving around and off we went the next day. I set off in front. I'd like to say the trip home was uneventful but that wouldn't be in keeping with the weekend. Merrily driving up the M5 and hit a sudden accident resulting in slamming the brakes on and watching the huge HGV behind me getting closer ! Sofi held her balance luckily! I held my breath as I watched the HGV aim for the hard shoulder instead of the back of my trailer! He stopped alongside us, I have never been so grateful for his quick reactions! A 3 vehicle pile up had just happened in front of me and there were children sitting on the central reservation. I'm not ashamed to say I was quite shaken. We were on stop till the police arrived which gave me a chance to calm down and we got waved through. Far too much drama after a long weekend but it seems nobody was seriously hurt luckily.

End of the outdoor Trec season. Till 2022!



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