There is a B&B in Dorset where you can take your horse on holiday
- Credit: Archant
Anne Brunner-Ellis takes her horse on holiday to a B&B in Ashmore where they both enjoy three glorious days of exploring the local countryside as well as a spot of pampering
In April I found myself on holiday in Ashmore, the highest village in Dorset. But this was a holiday with a difference – our horses were coming too. I had been told that Dorset offered some of the best riding in Britain – large estates, woodland, long bridlepaths, few gates and quiet villages for lunch stops. It sounded ideal.
Seven miles south east of Shaftesbury, in an area of outstanding natural beauty, Ashmore lies on chalk downland on the western side of Cranbourne Chase. Our destination, Well Bottom Cottage, is tucked away at the end of a long and quiet leafy lane.
On arrival we were greeted by Sheila Baker, an experienced horsewoman who has been running riding holidays for more than 20 years. Offering excellent bed and breakfast and dinner, there is nothing to be done except to look after your horse, ride and relax.
On our first day we took a short afternoon ride through Ashmore Forest accessed straight from the cottage. Managed by the Forestry Commission, it is a mix of natural broad-leaf woodland and areas of planted conifer. In early spring it’s filled with primroses and daffodils, these give way to a carpet of bluebells before the leaf canopy fills providing a cool shady ride on a warm day.
We were a group of four and of mixed riding ability. Two were well seasoned riders who had been on riding holidays with their horses before. For me it was the first time I had taken my horse with me, and for Simon it was a new experience as he only recently took up riding. With few roads, lots of woodland paths and grassy fields this really is the best place to gain experience. The horses were happy to trot through the forest or enjoy a canter on the soft turf.
Sheila, who has ridden most of her life, offered top notch horse facilities at the cottage. Fields are immaculate (poo is vacuumed by quad bike), post and railed fenced with field shelters. The good¬sized stables, with deep shaving beds on rubber floors, are even mucked out for you if you wish, and all the feeding paraphernalia is provided.
Back at Well Bottom, with the horses happily munching in their paddocks, we enjoy afternoon tea in the conservatory. Sheila, formerly a professional cook, had a selection of homemade cakes – carrot, lemon and chocolate – along with a range of teas. Dietary requirements can be catered for with advance warning. Most importantly there is ample hot water for that post¬ride soak in the bath.
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Dinner is served at 7.30pm with Sheila and her guests eating silver service style (bring your own wine). This was also an opportunity for us to reflect on the day’s events and plan the next ride. Shelia explained that the nearby bridleways include a variety of planned safe circular rides ranging from five to 25 miles. All have been tried and tested by Sheila and her horse. Maps and easy-to-follow instructions were provided in waterproof cases, and we found well-maintained arrows on the bridleways at most junctions, as well as easy opening gates. For the older riders like us this is very much a bonus!
For our second day we ventured further afield. Again riding straight from the cottage we sauntered through a large valley field to Stubhampton, up through the Stubhampton Estate and onto open fields offering wonderful vistas of Cranbourne Chase. Here my partner, Jonathan and I parted company with our friends who trotted down to the farm shop in Tarrant Gunville, whilst we went for a canter across the fields. We all met at the farm shop for an excellent sandwich lunch. Thanks to Shelia, the post rails at the farm have been fitted with tying rings and strings and a bucket with headcollars and ropes.
Our final day started misty but brilliant blue skies soon emerged so we chose a circular route to the ancient village of Chettle which dates back to the Doomsday Book. With the sun on our backs we enjoyed a wonderful ride across Chettle Common stopping for lunch at Chettle Village Store. Situated in a pre¬war army hut from Blandford Camp, the store stocks a wonderful array of foodstuffs. We tucked into a delicious homemade pie washed down with local lemonade. On the way home through the woods we set up a herd of fallow deer. We had hardly seen a soul on our rides – our companions were buzzards, red kites and deer.
On our return to Well Bottom Cottage, as a treat to ourselves, Sheila had arranged for an aromatherapy massage. This was followed by a slow roasted lamb dinner. It was a wonderful finale to three glorious days exploring the Dorset countryside on horseback. I can’t wait to get back in the saddle and return for more adventures.
Staying at Well Bottom
All inclusive B&B(two twin-rooms) with two or three course dinner (guests choose) £95 per night. Supplement of £5 per night if staying fewer than 3 nights. If using stable, additional £10 per night. Open April to October with a short break in June when flies are a nuisance.
For more details contact Sheila Baker on 01747 811058 (evening preferred) or email firstname.lastname@example.org