After the road and off road roaring around of the recent car rally it’s an apposite time to feature a more traditional and leisurely form of transport. Our rural thoroughfare is regularly used by horses and riders. The neighbours at North Farm for instance have developed livery as part of their operation and nearly all farms hereabouts have a horses or ponies on site. The fox hunters hold occasional meets in the area. A road safety campaign – Dead? or Dead Slow? – is currently being promoted through a joint initiative from Northumberland County Council and the British Horse Society (BHS).
The figures quoted by the BHS are sobering. Over the last 9 years 315 horses and 43 humans have been killed in incidents on UK roads. In the last year, of incidents reported, 73% were caused by cars passing too closely to horses, 32% of riders reported road rage or abuse while 31% were caused by vehicles passing too quickly. BHS also urges riders to always wear bright or reflective clothing along with fitted covers for their mounts as well as LEDs when necessary. All good advice, and timely as Winter draws in.
For many years the RAC Rally was a popular event in and around the forest. Remote location, oodles of space and absence of population made it the ideal location to test the skills and resilience of the nation’s rally drivers & navigators. TV coverage gave it great publicity and profile. Eventually the kudos and rough glamour faded as roads and tracks, torn up and unusable, needed repair or replacement and other even wilder locations in Wales and Scotland presented better alternatives for the dedicated petrolheads. Today an annual motorsport event still takes place right on our doorstep, albeit on a reduced scale with less environmental damage. The Roger Albert Clark Rally is the longest of its kind in the UK, covering 300 miles in forests and 700 miles on public roads. More than 100 classic cars from the 1970s and 80s took part in the regional leg of the event last weekend, which lasted 12 hours and covered 100 miles beginning and ending at Carlisle. We heard the competitors before we saw them as day turned into night, gearing high and low along narrow twisting roads. What photos I took with the phone were only possible because the vehicles had to slow for our 90 degree corner. Later, going out for the evening, we scented the lingering petrol perfume on the freezing air and passed pulled over support vehicles and the odd customised car of bright stripe all caked in mud doubling back to complete this day’s leg of the overall five day event.