Though wary, the horses remained at a distance. So G. and I let the stiffness fall from our limbs and attempted to leave as much room as possible between their activities and our own. Fortunately, the pasture was not a large one. As we neared the far end, we could see that the enclosing fence was the last separating us from the park’s higher reaches and the hiking path seen from the road.
The horse-pasture was not, however, ready to be done with us in that its gate showed one marked difference from those below. Perhaps unsettled by the thought of incomers or outgoers, the farm’s caretakers had strengthened its defenses first by running wire along the top of the stone fence, thus doubling its effective height, and then by wiring the wooden gate shut. Push as we might, the gate did not give an inch. All of which left G. and I in a worrisome position. Backtracking could land us in an awkward situation with the owners; staying would mean a life with the horses. So, the only way seemed forward or, more precisely, up and over the fence.
While I would not say that a lifetime of clambering had prepared me for that moment, my hands and feet performed admirably, as I was able to scale the base and balance myself on the loose-stone pillar before putting a leg over, then the other and hopping gently to the ground the other side of the fence. G. followed my lead and acquitted himself well, until the time came to hop. As he braced himself, the uppermost stone shifted beneath him, such that the short hop became an ungainly crash into the soft ground, one leg crumpling beneath him.
Luckily, I was able to catch his right shoulder and lend support. In the end, he emerged largely unscathed, a twisted ankle at most, which he was able to bear and walk off with the afternoon. At last free of sheep-pens and horse-pastures, our feet had carried us no farther than fifty meters before we found ourselves stranded in boggy terrain and the going difficult. I managed to plant one foot on a clump of grass, which proved firmer than the soil around. Looking more closely, I noted that the ground sported as much moss as it did fescue grass. Little wonder that the land squelched underfoot and sucked at our shoes.
My companion and I tried as best we could to find the driest way to reach the path, again lost to sight. Hopping from clump to clump, we managed to extract ourselves from the hillbog and to join a stream running through a defile. Strangely, the land to either side of the stream was far drier than that around, perhaps due to the drainage which the waterway provided. Even when the going proved wetter, we were able, by stepping from stone to stone, to avoid the worst of it and so spare shoes and feet. At a point perhaps ten minutes upstream, we came at last upon our goal: the path, descending one side of the defile, crossing some flat stones, and climbing back up the other. We had only to follow it.