Ride Overview - Dartmoor Cross Country
A premier cross country equestrian vacation in England! “It really is the most wonderful riding you can imagine” quotes Eventer Mary King MBE, Olympic silver medallist and ambassador of the 2016 Dartmoor England Cross-Country Derby. This is not a competition rather a carefully planned ride across the rugged moorish countryside that made even Steven Spielberg weak at the knees when he filmed “War Horse.” The event’s format was inspired both by the international success of the famously rugged and breathtaking annual challenge across the Steppes, the Mongol Derby, and the enduring appeal of chic African riding safaris. The names of the woods, tors, farms and landmarks are as lyrical as any string of adjectives, and sound as if they have tumbled from the pages of Thomas Hardy. Even if you don’t know the places they represent they help you imagine them — Foggintor; Holming Beam; Great Mis or North Hessary tor. Your lodging includes “glamping” in immensely comfortable camps built exclusively for the event. Each camp will have a different theme i.e. Mongolian, African etc. OR you can stay during the entire ride at 5***** Bovey Castle. Your partner is a fit horse with plentiful experience who will carry you across rolling trails with stream crossings and rocky outcrops. To participate you will need to be fit and confident at every pace, this is not a race and there is no need to jump.
WHAT YOU WILL SEE:
Dartmoor oozes with history and wildlife. You will pass ancient stone circles dating from the bronze age (folklore recounts how in the past standing stones have been mis-sold to local farmers as sheep on a hillside, and money exchanged, before the con was discovered!); old tin mines and even old gunpowder making mills, where Napoleonic prisoners, kept in hideous conditions in the still used Dartmoor jail (you will see that too), were forced to undertake the dangerous work of making gunpowder. Your guides will get you safely past the moor’s legendary (and very real) bogs – they know from the colour of the grass (and a lifetime on the moors) which ground is solid and which is not. The countryside varies from high tussocky moorland, to heather moorland blooming purple and yellow with the gorse — one local man used these as the inspiration for his racing silks — to passing the odd gorgeous village and thatched cottage you might have thought were the stuff of chocolate box lids. The wild Dartmoor ponies are everywhere, and their quality has been much improved lately through selective breeding programmes. You will see foals at foot and shaggy maned mares with great dark eyes. There are also cattle – including some stunning Scottish Highland cattle in some areas since they are a great, tough breed to put on the moors, besides the very typically Dartmoor Belted Galloway cattle with a large white stripe around their bellies. There are buzzards overhead, plenty of deer and sheep and sometimes signs of military activity – you will see the odd shell case from British Army exercises. Dartmoor is a major training base for them at certain times of year.
Mounted on local, fit and quite fast hunters, you ride in guided groups of up to 10, with English saddles. There are frequent long canters, in your group, when you will travel at a fair hunting pace, tucking in behind or alongside other riders, with all the excitement and camaraderie you feel when hounds are running. The terrain varies from tussocky high moor that is so high it’s treeless, to gorgeously grassy hills with peat underfoot that just beg you to up the pace. You will have to cross streams and the occasional ditch, and deal with upward and downward gradient.
On the two full days riding you will be in the saddle for over four hours so you need to be reasonably fit. This is not a trip for a novice or nervous rider.
You will be in great company – all of whom love riding and the countryside. Last year we had a former professor, a professional rider, a former successful dressage rider and others amongst our guests. It’s also possible to bring a non-riding other half with you, and this worked well last year. There is outstanding hiking of course for them, but we can arrange fishing, falconry and more as well.
CAMPING, EATING AND NON-RIDING TIME:
> Camp is situated on a farm in the heart of the moors. You unzip your yurt to see the river running below you and the sun lighting up the heather on the hillside beyond. The air has a clarity about it you don’t find in many places in Britain. There are solar heated showers — or the river for a quick plunge if you are really hardy!
The catering at the event scored consistently 10 out of 10 with last year’s guests. The ingredients are sourced in Devon wherever possible and one can see just riding past them why the cattle that graze these ancient moors taste just a bit better than cows anywhere else! I can do no better than quote one evening’s menu:
An example menu:
Plymouth Gin, elderflower, lime, cucumber, mint
Miniature Pork belly, Line caught Devon fishcakes, Celeriac veloutepasted
Dartmoor slow cooked beef blade with red wine and shallot
Herb mashed potatopastedGraphic.png
Roasted rosemary vegetablespastedGraphic.png
Buttered tender stem broccolipastedGraphic.png
Toffee apple cheesecake, salted caramel sauce
A trio of great Devon cheeses with crackers, Devon chutney
Cafetieres coffee with chocolate truffles
Of course, you are offered a famous English hot breakfast before you start and lunch pops up, rather as on a top-end safari, in a sensational setting – crab, delicious cold beef, pate and creme brûlée all featured on the lunch menu last time, plus of course water and carrots for your horse. An equally famous English tea is served as soon as you return from the day’s ride, and you don’t need to feel one bit guilty about demolishing it after so many hours on a horse.
A glorious open fire space, surrounded by straw-bale seating, awaits you right by the river, with candles illuminating it as the dusk settles. Pre-dinner drinks and canapés are served there (weather permitting) before supper in a magnificent dining yurt.
Ride Itinerary - Dartmoor Cross Country
You will be met at either the Exeter, Devon Airport or the Exeter St. David’s train station.
After you receive a detailed travel plan, you will arrive at Dunna Bridge Farm on Friday morning. There will be a light lunch followed by an afternoon ride. During this time, you will be introduced to your ground crew and guides. You will also be either shown your tented accommodation or your room at Bovey Castle. Shortly after lunch you will ride out in small groups with one or two guides, these are Dartmoor folk who know the moor well and will not only guide you but will be able to share many stories of the moor (some of which may even be true!) Once back into Dunna Bridge, the tack is stowed, your horses are washed off and then placed in individual paddocks. There will be over-night security for both the horses, vehicles and tack. Tea and cake will be on hand plus showers / changing tent for those who would like to change. A big campfire will be lit surrounded by straw bales where you can sit with a glass of wine, beer or gin and tonic before supper. Supper will be cooked by a local chef using, as much as possible, local Dartmoor fare. After supper it a one hundred yard stroll up to your Yurt, Bell Tent or hotel lodging room.
Saturday and Sunday:
In the morning, breakfast is served in the main dining yurt before you set out on your days riding. Lunch will be out on the moor. Your ground crew will be on hand to look after your horse during this time. The evening arrangements will be as per Friday evening.
After coffee and farewells, you can then depart for Bovey Castle and the start of your post-ride. After you have settled in, you can enjoy a ride in the afternoon.
Tuesday and Wednesday:
For the next two day, your trails will lead past prehistoric settlements, through some of Europe’s finest examples of the Bronze Age and across the dramatic countryside that provided the backdrop for the movie “War Horse.” The open moorland brings rolling grounds with stream crossings and rocky outcrops.
You will be transferred to the train station for your departure home.
Ride Details - Dartmoor Cross Country
Dates: September 21st- 27th
Airport: Exeter, Devon
Train Station: Exeter St. David’s
Riding Days: 5
Daily Riding Hours: 2 – 6
Riding Ability: INTERMEDIATE: Confident and in control at all paces including posting trots, two point canters and gallops in open country
Group Size: Teams of 4 – 6 will be created
Horses: Quarter horses, hunters
Accommodations: luxury cottage and glamping themed camps
Price: Bovey Castle: $4,835.00 per person, per person, double occupancy $5,800.00 single package
Yurt: $4,840.00 per person, double occupancy, $4,835.00 single package (sharing with two other people – 3 people per yurt)
*Price is based on dollar/sterling exchange and will be fixed at final payment.
Includes: lodging, transfer from Exeter train station or airport to cottage, four two-hour rides, horse for 3 days of Dartmoor Derby, all breakfasts, Devonshire cream teas, all suppers, all lunches, post ride: three nights accommodation at the 5 Star Bovey Castle on a bed and breakfast basis, Dinner each night, two nights in Smiths Brasserie and one night in the Great Western dining room, three days guided riding with lunch, either at an old Dartmoor Inn or a picnic lunch at a remote beauty spot, fully supported from Land Rover based ground crew, transfers between Bovey Castle and the start of each day’s ride.
Not Included: airfare, train tickets
Dartmoor Cross Country: Gallery
Dartmoor Cross Country
Southern Devon, England