The word ‘sconish’ I’ll explain later but for now I want to take you on a journey of new friendships, laughter and donkey tales when two like-minded people met with one thing in common... their love of donkeys.
Let me set the scene how this all came about. Back in 203 Hannah Engelkamp had an idea that was to take her on a 1,000 mile walk around Wales in the company of one very special donkey called Chico. During their travels Hannah kept a diary and it wasn’t long after returning home, she came up with another idea... to write a book about their adventure. To help fund the project, Hannah asked people to donate money to her Kickstarter campaign. In steps my partner Dave to make a pledge in return (if the project reached its target) to take Chico for a two day trek.
So here we are. Hannah’s project got funded and we have a donkey to take for a walk. In fact, two for the price of one because Chico has a friend - she’s called Florence (Flo).
For those of you who know me, I am donkey-mad. So with a week booked off work we headed off to Aberystwyth in Wales where we were met by Hannah and her mum Jo(anne). I already felt we would become great friends and we easily slipped into ‘donkey’ talk.
We all bundled into the car for a short drive to meet Chico and Flo while Hannah and Jo left us while they took all our paraphernalia to the B&B we would be staying in overnight. The plan was to walk from Chico’s paddock to the B&B and then walk back the next day.
This was real donkey time. Having owned donkeys myself for years, old habits kicked in so it was off to check their water, grab head collars and give them a grooming. I was in my element and the world just drifted into oblivion for a while.
Chico is a real gentleman and what a handsome donkey he is. I was drawn to Flo like a magnet possibly because she reminded me so much of Little Pippa, one of my own donkeys. When you lose a donkey, they stay forever in your heart and Flo helped me relive some precious moments.
As soon as Hannah started putting on Chico’s pack saddle, he knew he had a job to do and stood perfectly still while final adjustments were made. The weather was perfect as we opened the paddock gate to begin our adventure up the valley with Chico and Flo happily setting the pace. The four of us followed chatting with the ease of how friends catch up after not seeing each other for a while.
Nothing phased Chico as we made our way up and over the ridges. He was very much the lead donkey and knew his role was important to carry everything safely to its destination.
He has a great sense of adventure and is extremely inquisitive. It was amusing to watch Chico stop at every gateway we passed. I wondered what he was thinking as he stood and gazed across the rolling hills.
Hannah and Chico have come a long way together and their mutual trust in each other was clearly being demonstrated in the ease in which they walked together with Chico hardly straying very far.
When we sat and ate our delicious picnic on a hillside, both Chico and Flo grazed around us. Can you picture the scene? Then throw in the whistle of a steam train as it made its way across the valley below along the Vale of Rheidol Railway. We followed a section of that railway track in the afternoon and decided to stop for refreshments.
Chico was very keen to stand and gaze up the track and each time we led him to where we were sitting, he made his way back. He knew long before we did that the train was approaching. As the tell-tale sound of the whistle got louder and louder, Chico’s ears stood to attention. Into view came the train with billows of white fluffy steam coming from its funnel.
I should say that earlier in the day I had told Hannah how I was out walking one of my own donkeys along a path that wasn’t too far from a railway track, when all of a sudden Jack pricked up his ears and ran alongside the train with me running after him. I genuinely think he was having fun. We all laughed. Roll forward the clock... Chico did exactly the same... this time with both Hannah and me in hot pursuit. Chico was having fun!
With saddle bags packed, we were off for the final leg of today’s journey to reach the B&B where we were to spend the night with Chico and Flo booked into the paddock behind. With both donkeys safely installed and tucked in for the night, we were off to the local for a well earned drink and something to eat.
The evening didn’t end there because as we were sat enjoying our meal, a group of musicians started to set up in the corner where we were sitting. An unexpected bonus... it was ‘live music night’ at the Druid Inn and a local band called Kashmere were performing a wide repertoire of music. I’m not sure where the time slipped away to, but it was about 1.30am when we turned up back at the B&B to be greeted by that all too familiar sound that donkeys make before they let out a bray... if you're a donkey owner, you'll know the one I mean!
More on that sconish moment that I mentioned at the beginning next time...