British team event rider and Dartmoor Derby Ambassador Lucy Wiegersma finally gets to explore the moor she sees from home each day.. in some style
I work in my outdoor school for around six hours a day, and we have a view across the valley to the north west of Dartmoor. We watch the seasons changing and I am fascinated by it, but I never really have had the chance to explore it. I grew up in Cornwall, and did not spend my holidays roaming this region as a child.
So I was thrilled to be asked if I would be an Ambassador for the Dartmoor Derby, and take part in the Pilot Event. Here finally was a first chance to take on Dartmoor with abandon — lthough I was quite sure it would be rainy and foggy when I did!
Pony Club camp — but rather more swanky
Our overnight in the specially built ‘glamp-site’ was great. It took me right back to Pony Club camp days, albeit considerably smarter! No stone barns here but ornate swanky yurts, complete with lamps, flowers, mattresses, duvets and chocolate on our pillows. But I still had my crash hat by my bed and reverted to that old childhood trick of warming up my breeches under the duvet before climbing into them.
After a hot breakfast in our lovely riverside ‘dining yurt’ we were off for our day’s ride. The others in my group were really nice, from all walks of like and very easy to talk to, with a common interest in riding and exploring the countryside.
It was amazing being out on the moors beneath such vivid blue skies. We crossed the terrain at a faster pace than I had imagined, with the semi-urgency of hunting, but with pit stops permissible — before stopping for lunch by Fernworthy reservoir, enjoying fabulous views.
The moor 300 years ago was completely forested, so it’s interesting to see how deciduous trees are now being replanted. I love to see beech woodland rather than all the slightly sinister firs, with the eerie sound the wind makes rushing through them.
For our final two hours after lunch, we were able to ride from one point to another, following clear visual targets, which was lovely. Among other things, we passed Hound Tor and Jay’s Grave (complete, of course, with the fresh flowers which are forever mysteriously present on the grave), and finished our day not far above Widecombe-in-the-Moor.
I’m always amazed to see how many walkers reach the tops of these tors, but then this was a sunny September Sunday. It’s lovely to see people out enjoying the moor.
After some 10 or more hours in the saddle over the weekend, and a night in camp (albeit a chic one), there was some rejoicing as we were delivered to the superb Bovey Castle hotel for our final night and celebratory dinner. Some in our party shot straight off to the spa and swimming pool.
The Dartmoor Derby has combined great local food, hotels, riding and glamping with terrific countryside. It’s very bespoke and high end and you are very well looked after from start to finish. And most of all, it’s very good fun.