Tales from Crychan Forest

Well, where do I start…..?  at the beginning I hear you say!

For those of you who like to holiday with your horses and haven’t yet discovered the delights of Crychan Forest, you may be interested in my horsey experiences of this area.

Crychan is located just outside the Brecon Beacons National Park, near Llandovery in Wales.  I discovered it quite accidentally through booking B&B for colleagues at work.  We had a contract in Wales and needed overnight accommodation for some of our workers, they came back singing the praises of said B&B and told us that they did horsey accommodation and would be worth a visit.  So, the following Spring, my good friend Diana and I set off in borrowed transport (which looking back I’m amazed made it there and back with no mishaps – but that’s another story!) with our trusty cobs, Treacle and Philly, for a long weekend.

We arrived at the B&B after 5 hours on the road, turned out our equine friends and went off for lunch.  We were then presented with maps of the forest with all the routes marked for walking, cycling, horse riding and carriage driving.  We had to ride a mile up a single track lane to find the entrance to the forest where there where picnic tables, round pens and hitching rails.  We could not believe that all this was available completely free of charge…… where we came from in the South East you would’ve had to have purchased a permit to take advantage of facilities such as these.  Our poor horses didn’t know what had hit them as they were used to 2 or 3 light hacks a week and were now expected to take on 6 hour days in the forest!  However, they took it all in their stride and we all had a memorable mini break sharing our packed lunches in the forest and enjoying hearty evening meals at the B&B, before setting off for home the following Tuesday.

All the way home, we planned the holiday for the following year, by which time we were rather more clued up and organised with sensible transport and better equipment.  This trip included exploring more of the forest and taking a day trip to the beach where we fulfilled a long held dream of riding in the surf.  Little did I know then what the future held for me……

About the time of the second trip to Wales I got together with the wonderful man who was to become my husband and a year later we were married – that scuppered any horsey holidays for that year but it did see the arrival of our beautiful Friesian mare, Freya, as my husband-to-be caught the horsey bug.

Life was good, but it was about to deal us an unexpected blow.  About 18 months after our wedding, my husband became ill and was unable to continue working, a year later he was offered early retirement and we thought “time to escape”…….

We started to scour the country for a suitable property with land for two horses and good out riding.  That was the crunch point……  We looked at lots of lovely properties with land for our girls, but the out riding was the hard thing to find.  One day some details plopped into our inbox of a property with six acres in a village called Babel in Carmarthenshire.  “Ahhh, Babel…. I remember seeing an area on the Crychan Forest map called Babel Shelter….. I wonder if it is the same place?”  Sure enough, on investigation it was the same place but there was nothing about the forest in the house particulars.  We went to visit and discovered that the nearest entrance to the forest was about a mile up a single track lane, the opposite side to the part of the forest that we had previously ridden in but lots more to discover.  On this first visit we also bumped into two new friends out with their horse & trap, little did I know at that time what good friends they were destined to become, getting me out of all sorts of trouble during the coming years.  We will come to that later, but suffice to say we have renamed them “International Rescue”!

Six months later saw us moved in, two weeks before Christmas in appalling weather with everything falling apart about our ears.  What I didn’t realise when setting out on this adventure was how long it would take for our horses to settle in their new environment when they were used to a livery yard.  I don’t really think our Freya ever really settled properly and we sadly lost her very suddenly about a year later.  At that point I decided to have a go at driving my trusty cob as this was a long standing plan since I had see a driving display at a County Show.  I had already taken myself on a 6 lesson introductory driving course and bought some harness, but that was as far as I had got.  So, with the help of my new friend Nikki, I set about breaking Treacle to drive.  This is an on-going project, Treacle has so far taken everything in her stride and we are ready to progress to hitching her up…… watch this space for the next instalment  – Living the Dream!