My companion is Storm, an opinionated 12.2 hand British moorland pony. Our playground is the North Wales coast bordering Snowdonia National Park.
The Sychnant Pass was built in 1772 and snakes through a deep cleft in the hills between Alltwen and Maen Esgob. The tiny access road from Pen Pyra Farm snaking down from Conwy Mountain runs below Carreg Felen, an outcrop of rock formed from volcanic lava c.450m years ago. I am in awe of such historical facts and feel slightly nervous that Conwy council have closed a mile or so of this unique road – more specifically the section which runs between the walls of Pensychnant Estate and down towards Dwygyfylchi – in order to carry out ‘essential groundworks.’ Some humorous soul informed me that they were putting in a dual-carriageway. Jokes aside, it seems we’ll be under siege until December 21st with barricades at strategic places in the form of flatbed trucks occupied by dozing workers. I see the patch of tarmac chalked up as temporary (I think it’s been there since 1972) has morphed into a cavernous hole, then abandoned and coned off. On the eve of my sixty-second birthday – of which we shall speak no more – my pony pal and I venture over Conwy Mountain to ascertain current access onto the Pensychnant bridleway. I dismount to walk down the steep access road, with Storm shuffling beside me. I’m poised for his reaction to the bulldozers, pneumatic drills, bleeping dumpers, and groups of shouting men in case we need to double-back. Ears pricked, he’s wide-eyed but not especially worried about this secluded section of country lane changing into one of noisy chaos resembling some sort of apocalypse. We cross the road sneakily and bound up the opposite grass verge, passing into the calm safety of the Pensychnant Estate. The sea is shivery and there’s a fierce breeze as we climb higher.
I’m glad when we change direction at the top, as my face is like cardboard and my gloved hands are cold. The sky is purple out towards Aber but as we meander downhill towards home, Conwy castle is bathed in a welcoming glow. Storm remains in mellow mood and canters nicely around the lake before we head up the Pass back home. Pertinent to the feel of the day someone has made a poster for their bedroom window which reads, Save Are Planet. I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment but the mis-spelling makes my teeth itch. I’m thinking about this when two minutes from home, Storm spots a horse having some dental work done. The sound of the rasp behind the hedge is enough to have him trot out an impressive range of lateral dressage moves. He propels us both rapidly through the yard gate and stands for a moment, head up, spinning, snorting and blowing, worried that he’s next on the hit list. Clearly, the dentist is a far bigger threat than any amount of road-works, high-vis outfits, or bottomless pits.
Down in the field the shelter has been modified into an escape-proof stable. Can’t beat an old-fashioned straw bed for coping with mud and keeping out the draughts, but most of all this golden cloud makes me very happy to look at it. It certainly seems to be holding its own, unlike Storm’s bright blue cagoule – which has been rapidly and mysteriously destroyed. Maybe he felt the colour clashed with his halter. As I tramp back over the muddy grass to the feed store, I’m tempted to make my own poster, Save Are Rugs. But an impatient whinny has me focus on other, more pressing matters. There’s an empty bucket at stake. Afternoon tea is late, and saving the planet or a wardrobe malfunction must remain on hold. I strongly suspect the local council might be following a similar philosophy.