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In the beginning and the „Great Clydesdale Migration”

That first “season”...

starting late in the summer of 2002, had a slow start - we bought two more horses (Jock and Major) and worked the dray whenever possible, as it was a useful means of letting folk know that we were also a Riding Centre (thank-you eternally Peter Mac for letting us start in the first place). By now I had Diane helping me too - and somehow, with not much more than enthusiasm to keep us going, we managed to plod along! Although it was quiet and only a few people were aware we were riding, we still learnt a lot and the finances were looking, well, better!! (And this despite the fact that Diane ran off with my haulier - she's still happy so maybe the next business will be a dating agency!!)


The start of...

Tourisn Awards the farm buildings we were using were not, however, really suitable, and the quality of pasture and continual decline of the buildings (add weather conditions, midges, distance from client base...) had us looking for an alternative venue.

It comes together

The next year saw us better prepared, with the horses better schooled, and ourselves better trained. The "herd" increased ("one can never be too thin, too rich, or own too many Clydesdales" quote Annie!) and I started to get the feel of what was working in our advertising, so people started to realise what we were doing, and come and support us.. I had some more helpers, all fantastic, (we have had some great teams over the years), and over the next few years our reputation grew, we moved right away from the concept of "pony trekking" ie horses or ponies all in a line never moving away from the set route, and encouraged more experienced riders which kept the horses responsive. It also has made us fortunate to have a wonderful group of friends and helpers who started off as visitors, to all of you, thankyou SO MUCH! Equally we loved enabling first time or nervous riders to have a great first riding experience, spending time with them....which is also very rewarding!

Unfortunately, although things were definately much more encouraging as we became known as the only "Heavy Horse" riding centre in the UK (there are only 3 in the world), gained BHS and TRSS Approval, and won local


Our Armadale farm base

West Highland Heavy Horses
(Link to old site)

When an opportunity came to relocate firstly to Portree (which was also unsuccessful) then to nearby Armadale, in the south end of Skye, I jumped at it - relocating and renaming my business accordingly For the first few years the business centered around the dray; myself and fellow driver Tracy attended local shows and had small successes with both the passenger and the 'Wedding dray'. However I knew the Clydesdales were also fantastic fun as riding horses, and voicing this idea to friends, amongst whom were Tom Brewster and Ronnie Black, prominent Clydesdale men, who were very encouraging, I decided to try riding with them commercially.

Moving on in 2006...

and with a whole host of horses, we evolved again - last year saw the Great Clydesdale Migration and our move - lock, stock and smoking barrel from Skye to Cumbria (on foot). Sad as we were to leave Skye and all the wonderful rides along beach, moorland and forest tracks, we are also hugely excited about Cumbria and the opportunities that this much bigger farmstead will offer us in terms of facilities for our horses, riders, clients, friends and helpers.

The Great Clydesdale Migration (Link zur Seite)

This was an amazing journey, a long distance ride using the Clydesdale and Shire horses from "West Highland Heavy Horses", our Heavy Horse Riding Centre, which left the Isle of Skye in September of 2006 and arrived some 40 days later on 31st of October, having travelled 450 miles across Scotland through the north of England to our new home here in Cumbria.

It was a journey of a lifetime for many, for me (Annie) it was an experience I will never, ever forget; for those riding with us, feedback seems to tell of friendships forged on the ride which endure, of life changing moments, of memories held dear, which I can only attribute to these beautiful Clydesdale and Shire horses..they are magic, special horses.

The best way to experience at least part of the journey is to take a look at the DVD we made, which enables the viewer to experience some of the highs and lows, see the scenery we were fortuate to ride through, and meet the horses and folk who rode with us. We were fortunate to have Gilly Fraser of Borders TV with us, and she, along with Malcolm, her husband, and John and Fraser who were working and fancied a shot at cameraman, filmed as we went. Borderway Productions edited and produced this professional and beautiful (it still brings tears to my eyes!) film record of this one off journey..it will never be repeated again.

To purchase the DVD please send a cheque made payable to "Cumbrian Heavy Horses", the price £20 plus £4 P&P, address to send it to (and dont forget to let me know where to send it!!) is:

Annie Rose
Baystone Bank Farm
Whicham Valley
Nr Millom
Cumbria LA18 5LY

Below is John's account of the Migration ride from his perspective, that of working on it, it was sent me as an email, I hope you enjoy it (he writes well...); the second an article I did for British Horse, the BHS Magazine. It is from my perspective and I hope starts to explain the work which went into the organisation of the GCM!

John’s story

My good friends Annie and Tim have run a business called West Highland Heavy Horses up on the Isle of Skye for a number of years, taking individuals and groups riding on their majestic Clydesdale and Shire Horses. Recently, they decided to relocate to the coast of Cumbria- a move of some 500 miles. Instead of trucking the horses down in lorries, they had the inspiration and the vision to decide to ride them down to their new home, using old drove roads, forest tracks and bridlepaths wherever possible. The plan was to invite clients to ride different legs of the journey, which they christened 'The Great Clydesdale Migration'. The route was to traverse the Scottish Highlands, the Trossachs and the Borders, before wending its way through the Lake District to their new farm. Now, you tell me: why would I NOT want to get involved with a once-in-a-lifetime journey like this?!!

Accordingly, I sent them an e-mail, offering to help them out in any way possible. So it was with absolute delight that I received a reply saying that they'd like me to come along and assist over the length of the entire journey. And what a journey it proved to be! After a week of frantic last-minute preparations, we transformed an old seven-ton horse-box into a gleaming mobile tack-lorry / support wagon which could transport a whole heap of saddles, bridles, horse-feeds and sundry bits of gear... behold: 'The Green Mariah'! She was to be my home, and my responsibility, for the next five weeks. I slept in the forward compartment most nights, which had a cosy bunkbed above the driver's cab, and was also equipped with a stove (essential for my morning cuppa) and box-seats. I felt very at home in the old girl. However, if I'd kept a log of the trip itself, the first couple of days would have read like this:

Day 1- Left Skye in a whirl of newspaper and TV attention. Emotional last ride for Annie and Tim along the beach at Sleat. Later on, I crashed the Landrover into a big pile of logs, somewhere along a muddy forest track. Big dent in the bonnet, left-side mudguard torn off. Oh, b*gger.

Day 2 - Drove the Green Mariah into a ditch along the single-track road to Elgol. Had to get an 11-tonne truck from Portree to pull her out. 200 quid's worth of damage. Entire left-side undercarriage now temporarily secured with ropes. Didn't get to our planned rendezvous until 11 pm, as the car I was driving afterwards conked out- faulty starter-motor. Double b*gger.

Day 3 - Cannot believe I have just brought the Green Mariah down this road. Imagine a sheer track just about wide enough for a small car, with rocky outcrops on one side and sheer drops towards murky lochs on the other. The road itself wiggles and winds all over the place, and at some points I swear the gradient must almost be a forty-five degree angle. If I hadn't learnt from bitter experience yesterday just how careful you have to be when putting the truck's wheels onto slippery grass verges, I would probably be dead at the bottom of a Highland glen tonight. Amazing scenery, though.

Day 4 - Green Mariah had a puncture. Tim and I spent four hours removing the wheel and changing the tyre, with the kind help of Donald the Gillie at Kinlochhourn and his cornucopia of tools. We then decided to unload some of the gear from the back of the lorry in order for it to actually be able to cope with the journey back out of the glen. Tim admitted that it was probably one of the most challenging roads anyone could have driven in a seven-tonne truck, and he's driven a few in his time. B*gger me!

...Meanwhile, what of the horses and the clients? Well, they'd traversed some very challenging highland hills, having come across the Sound from Skye on the little ferry to Glenelg. One night they just made it in before dusk, having encountered treacherous, sheer pathways and not a few heart-in-mouth moments. It's fair to say that the first week of the trip was an almighty challenge for all of us, but from there on, the journey began to progress at a more sedate pace (not sure if Annie and Tim would agree with that, but it's how it seemed to me anyway!)

We passed through the desolate beauty of Glencoe and Kinlochleven, and I was lucky enough to have a day's riding over the sweeping expanse of Rannoch Moor: Ten massive Clydesdale horses lined up beside the Commando Memorial on the hill by Spean Bridge must have been quite a sight for passers-by. It certainly felt special to be in the saddle at that point.

My next day of riding was when we'd reached the Trossachs- Rob Roy country. The autumn colours had turned the bracken a deep russet, and the valleys spread out below us in variegated hues of forest-green, brown and purple. Thin ribbons of rivers glinted below us in the pale sunlight, whilst the dark faces of tiny lochs revealed perfect reflections of the mountains. The air was so fresh and clear you could literally taste it, and it made you feel marvellously alive to be passing through this beautiful, historic landscape on the back of one of these strong, silent horses. Everyone who was there agreed that it was not just one of the best day's riding we'd ever had, it was one of the best days of our lives. Unforgettable.

Thankfully, I didn't have any more more mishaps with the Green Mariah- unless you count getting the bl**dy thing stuck in Kendal car park for about an hour, before subsequently becoming jammed in a sidestreet the wrong way up a one-way system, whilst a friend stopped all the oncoming traffic so as I could squeeze back out... Best forgotten, that. Instead, I was largely able to relax and enjoy all the variety of this wonderful journey.

We met some lovely people along the way, and stayed in some wonderful places. I'll never forget spending the night in a cosy little room inside the turret of a 16th-century fortified hall near Penrith, having passed the evening dining on a sumptuous meal served at long oak tables, followed by drams of whisky in front of a roaring log-fire. I'll also be eternally grateful to Harriet and Alan, farmers on a smallholding near Carlisle (whose livestock included cows, pigs, ducks, horses, dogs, an alpaca and a ferret!) who not only fed me with gourmet sausages and mash one evening and farm-fresh bacon and eggs the next morning, but who also allowed me to take the longest, warmest, deepest, most luxurious bath!

It was also marvellous to discover beautiful new places within my own homeland. I'd never explored the Scottish Borders before, but in the area surrounding Montrose, Selkirk and Newcastleton I found gorgeous scenery to rival that of anywhere in the world. Lyne Farm, for example, was an oasis of peace and tranquillity, couched inbetween gentle, rolling hills, with cattle and horses gently browsing in emerald-green fields in early autumn sunlight. Yes indeed, it stirred my pagan soul!

My family originated in the Borders (as my Dad will tell anyone with even a passing interest in genealogy). Now, can you imagine being in my position, riding out of a remote Border valley as dusk falls and the moon rises behind the hills of Liddesdale? A thin mist rises from the river, and the horses hooves clang as they pound the paths that the Reivers rode in times gone by. I could truly feel the blood of my ancestors pulsing through my veins-

"For I'll go raiding in the night, love, I'll ride loyally with my kin! The moon is up and I'm away, love, For there is plunder and there is gain!"
What a welcome we received after that ride! The people of Newcastleton all turned out to see the horses arrive, and we were feted with drinks and congratulations in the square outside the town's old pub. It could truly have been a scene from another era.

The journey concluded with our triumphant ride into Chappel's Farm near Millom on the Cumbrian Coast. Annie and Tim had kept the final day of the ride reserved entirely for friends, and for the handful of us who'd made the entire journey with them it was a fabulous way to finish the adventure. We rode through the timeless beauty of the Lakeland Fells, the autumn sun contending with a chilly wind to bring colour to everyone's faces. As the shadows began to lengthen, we cantered across a wide field and out onto the track which led to the farm. A hundred or so well-wishers had gathered to welcome the horses to their new home, and as champagne was quaffed in the farmyard, cheers went up, cameras flashed, hugs were exchanged and happy tears were shed. A party in the barn continued long into the night.

How lucky am I to have had experiences like that? How much richer is my life and my store of memories as a result? New friendships forged (hello Gilly and Malcolm, Frazer and Dana, Garry, Roni, Andy et al!) and old ones firmly cemented. And above all, a lasting admiration for the strength, endurance and silent fortitude of the Clydesdales and Shire horses who made this journey so utterly marvellous.


At Fort William on the migration

And my turn - article in
British Horse March 2007

Some think of the Clydesdale as a gentle giant, a beast of burden, an agricultural horse bred to pull the plough, but from where I sat overlooking this incredibly steep and difficult mountain pass from Glenelg to Kinlochhourn, with Scotland's finest West Coast wilderness before me, on Tommy (aka ASBO Boy!!) my 18hh Clydesdale, I felt nothing but awe and sheer admiration for the sure footedness and stamina that he and all the horses had displayed that morning... with more to come.

We were on day three of our 40 day journey from the Isle of Skye to Cumbria, and it was proving more than tough; within the past 24 hrs we had crashed the jeep, put the lorry in a ditch, and our car had broken down twice, so the support vehicle situation was, to say the least, tenuous..... the horses???? Well they, our greatest cause for concern before we left, were absolutely fine, and it had been hard going, deep gullies with streams gurgling within, boggy slippery hillsides, paths non existent, tracks which dissapeared, rocky undulating terrain I would never have dreamt of putting any horse over before this ride and steep angles I felt sure the horses had mentioned they “didn't do”!!

A few amongst you will have heard of our journey, dubbed “The Great Clydesdale Migration” others not; we are formerly “West Highland Heavy Horses” an Equestrian Tourism business based on Skye with the niche market of riding using heavy horses. Initially started by myself, my partner Tim joined me some four years ago and together we have tried, within the boundaries of what the Estate on Skye offered, to create a thriving, quality, family-run Equestrian tourism business based on high standards with excellent customer and horse care and management. We won local tourism awards, and remain both a BHS and TRSS Approved Riding and Holiday Centre. However we were struggling with many issues; our remote location was a strength yet also far from our clients, equally the horses required feed, bedding and farriery – our bills were enormous due to the distance everything had to travel, and the pasture was, to be honest, ghastly, mostly rough hill which, coupled with the Estate's refusal to improve or maintain any of the buildings or grant any decent lease meant we ourselves were reluctant to put money into the buildings or pasture. And lets not forget midges or the rainfall figures!!!!! The situation was far from ideal, we were working crazy hours striving for something we couldn't have, and eventually we decided to relocate. Difficult when we so loved where we were.

However, the old adage “all clouds have a silver lining” may have some truth in it.... we were offered an opportunity to start from scratch by a farmer friend, Robert Morris-Eyton, in Cumbria. A difficult descision as we were still clinging to our dream but eventually we realised that we just couldn't turn such an opportunity down.

The best, and also the hardest, part for us was the Migration.... a snap descision made one evening in March (which seemed like a fine idea at the time)

“Lets RIDE them down!!” So naïve, I had no idea of the logistics involved!

Hence “The Great Clydesdale Migration” was born, Skye to Cumbria, on Clydesdales and our Shire, Prince, who at 19 was also the oldest participant. The various facets of running what was in essence an Expedition were rather overwhelming at times. Hardest for me were the months spent in the office missing the yard, the hum, the teamwork of summer.

Initially the route was planned, then the daily riding – questions such as “how far, how long, what was the terrain like, would it be too far, too short, how many hours of daylight did we have, where could the backup reach us, who could we contact about it” had to be answered, then the “legs”, days off, accommodation for horse and riders, how to access farriers, vets, feeds (we were fortunate and had a sponsor, Montgomerie Feeds) and then the practicalities....... how many horses, what to do if a problem occurred, how would we transport the spare horses, where would we keep all our equipment and spare gear for riders, and where were WE going to live for 6 weeks??!! Lets not mention Risk Assessments, how do you risk assess a horse on a mountain – I did my best!!!!

Tim had his work cut out with the practicalities, the vehicles, painting our lorry (now called the “Green Mariah”) checking and double checking the horses, their equipment, spare shoes, spare anything else, the list was endless. I was busy promoting the ride, too late for many publications, but we had a good website, so finalised as much as I could before, with frightening speed, I was taking bookings (the procedure for which was a learning curve!!)and suddenly we were off.

The 21st of September arrived along with our first clients, all of whom were wonderful, the local and national press, a whirlwind of frenetic activity, and suddenly we were away from what had been our base on Skye, forever. I barely had time for reflection but once Tim lead the group towards Kinloch, Brutus and I took a last ride across the beach. I felt so sad - no more would our horses meander down to the beach, or to the viewpoint in the hills above the farm, no more to Dalavil, and the farm lay empty and bare. We had only a vague idea of what would lie ahead, we had left behind all that we knew, the future was uncertain, we had branched out into unfamiliar territory.

This brings me back to sitting on ASBO Boy on a mountain pass; the first “leg” was the toughest for all, the terrain challenging, with the behind-the-scenes vehicular problems, however we did settle into a routine, Tim and I shared the leading, with our excellent support crew of Dana, Fraser and John, and the horses trundled south; terrain permitting we'd cover the ground quickly, yet the northern parts were rough. We had amazing views, from deep in Scotland's wild places, we became a tight knit family, a team. Wonderful to ride from North to South over the weeks of Autumn watching the season change, the scenery soften, cope with whatever was thrown at us and enable everyone who joined us to have an experience of a lifetime. We want to thank so many, those who rode with us, and the many kind souls who helped us both before and during this ride Your kindness will never be forgotten.

Weeks later, of weather both foul and fair, after some long day's riding, having learnt a lot about access – or lack of – about how what's on the ground isn't what's on the map and vice versa, with images of the scenery we rode thru' which will remain forever with us all; of laughter, friendships enduring, amazement at the horses abilities to cope with the terrain, building such strong relationships with them, seeing their ears prick up every morning as we headed out as if to say “so, where are we off to today??” , I can only say that it had been an amazing experience, a journey never to be repeated, unforgetable for all who joined us. As we headed into the Lake District on “leg nine” I heard rumour of a party on arrival, fantastic... both Tim's and my parents as well as friends and GCM riders were coming to see us ride in, so on the 31st of October, our last day, we rode across the fells from Seathwaite to Chappels to a wonderful champagne reception, what a welcome, cameras flashing, we did the obligatory interviews, tucked the horses in, (who were by that time the fittest Clydesdale's in possibly the world), cut the most enormous cake, drank a glass or two to celebrate, and, with mixed emotions at the end of the journey, started our new life here in Cumbria.

Several months on we've worked non stop to transform the old farm buildings into a serviceable working and customer friendly area for man and horse alike. We open on the 24th March, remain a BHS and TRSS Approved Centre, and are delighted with the better facilities we can now offer. With the experience gained on the GCM we are confident in offering Riding Holidays around the Lake District, heading into the heart of the Lake District on our faithful Clydesdale and Shire horses, as well as shorter local rides both into the fells and to the fantastic West Coast beaches.

2006 was a year we will never forget, now we are moving on, looking to continue to promote the Clydesdale as a riding horse; we have planning permission for a large school, and I hope to resurrect my Driving by offering weekend courses to both able bodied and disabled clients. We are full of ideas, and already have a strong team this coming summer. Our website is continually updated, the horses are getting fitter by the day, and we are very excited about building Cumbrian Heavy Horses into a viable and thriving, welcoming little business. In all honesty, it's the horses who are the real stars of the show!!!


 (c) 2004-2015 Cumbrian Heavy Horses

Call +44 1229 777764 or mail annie@cumbrianheavyhorses.com - open all year 7 days a week!


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