Cumbrian Heavy Horses - The couple who relocated themselves and twelve Clydesdale Horses
PUBLISHED: 09:55 02 February 2011 | UPDATED: 19:33 18 April 2016
When a couple decided to move from Skye to the Lakes, packing was the least of their problems. What do you do with 12 huge horses? Mark Gilligan reports
We all know moving house is one of the most stressful things. I remember all too well our second move which coincided with the imminent arrival of our first child. I blame that for my balding pate!
So, imagine what it’s like not only moving home but relocating your business at the same time? Oh yes, and I forgot to mention that you have to bring along 12 Clydesdale heavy horses on a journey from the Isle of Skye and across the Lake District to the Whicham Valley near Millom.
For Annie Ross and her partner Tim Ancrum that was the reality. Their Scottish business offered visitors the chance to ride their beautiful horses and Annie went on tourist guide courses to help build up the business.
However, it soon dawned on them that the short season on Skye, as well
as the location, was stifling the business. ‘Something had to happen as
I couldn’t see us furthering our potential,’ said Annie.
Then, she received a call out of the blue that changed their lives. On the line was Millom farmer and landowner Robert Morris-Eyton, who wanted to borrow one of their Clydesdales, as his daughter’s horse was in foal.
‘Tim and I came down with the horse and while we were here Robert offered us Chappels Farm. It was fantastic and we instantly saw that this was where we had to be. The longer season and the excellent year-round tourism gave us the chance to realise our potential.’
So, with a new location to stage riding days and holidays with accommodation firmly in their sights, all they had to do was plan the move. ‘Simple it was not!’ said Annie. ‘What a nightmare. We had moved one or two horses to shows before and that was expensive but the cost for twelve was prohibitive.
‘I was discussing this with a Scottish farmer and I glibly said that we’d be better off just walking them there. â Then I realised that actually made sense! Tim and I discussed it and thought - why not?’
And so the idea quickly grew. Careful planning meant they organised overnight grazing, accommodation, ferry crossing (yes they rode them onto a ferry without a hitch!) and they even sold sections of the journey to competent riders. In September 2006 the ‘posse’ rode off towards their new destination.
‘The looks we got as 12 large horses strode gracefully onto the ferry alongside normal traffic were amazing,’ said Annie. They arrived a month later and quickly set about completing grants that had to be ready for January 2007 and the real work of turning the farm into the ‘Cumbrian Heavy Horse Centre’ began. It opened six months later.
It’s a beautiful day when I arrive on site and a group of Lancashire women are there celebrating a ‘special’ birthday for one of their friends. They are excited by the prospect of the forthcoming experience and although one or two are regular riders most aren’t.
I watch as they get ready and saddle up and began their ‘adventure’. It’s smiles all round and they are still laughing upon their return some
Annie tells me they have riders of all abilities and nationalities coming to the centre. ‘From the minute I speak to someone on the phone, their arrival, being fitted in the tack room, the ride and debrief, our aim is to ensure that quality is paramount.’
You can tell this is more than just a business to Annie and Tim, more like a real love affair. Not only are they partners in life but the dedication that they show to their staff and the horses is very obvious.
Others agree. They have been given a ‘Cumbrian Tourism Award for 2010’ and also won the North of England section. Now they are awaiting results of the national finals.
You get the impression that for Annie and Tim, the ride is only just beginning.
The Clydesdale is around 18 hands, that’s about six feet. The breed was founded in Lanarkshire and dates to the middle of the 18th century when native horses were bred with Flemish stallions
These horses were in widespread use on farms across the country. They became popular overseas, too, with more than 1,500 stallions exported in 1911.
Clydesdales were ‘conscripted’ into the British Army during 1914-18 war but the need for high levels of productivity on our farms meant they started to be replaced by tractors during World War II.
During the 1960s and early 1970s, breed numbers dwindled and the Clydesdale was deemed vulnerable by the Rare Breed Survival Trust. There has been a revival thanks to people like Annie and Tim encouraging people to ride these gentle giants.