Wednesday, October 16.
Earlier this week, Michael picked up the October edition of “The Cornwall Review,” a visitor’s guide to Cornwall. Figuring prominently on the front page was an announcement touting “The Shire Horse and Carriage Museum,” and we were directed to “see page 5 for location details.” Page 5 carried five column inches, two columns wide and a photo of an adorable foal. The text promised such delights as “a working farm, where the work is mostly done by the horses.” “This is a farm which welcomes visitors, rather than just an attraction with a few horses.” “All three British breeds of Heavy Horses are to be found here, Clydesdale, Suffolk Punch and, of course, Shires.” We read about the new stallion on the farm, Geronimo, from Lady Claire Euston’s yard.
But wait, there’s more: “There is a splendid collection of horse-drawn vehicles . . .. Many of these have appeared in film and on television . . .. The farm is located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty steeped in mining heritage . . .. The pond area makes an ideal place to picnic, far away from the crowds . . ..”
As promised on the front page, the page 5 article concluded by giving us excellent directions for finding it and telling us that the farm is open from Easter to the end of October, Sundays to Fridays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
PERFECT!!! Michael loves horses and I sort of like them. And big horses are so very cool and working big horses are even cooler still. So, we were in.
The directions were excellent, the roadside brown visitor signage was spot on. We had no trouble finding the place. We arrived at a closed gate with a kind of weathered sign saying “car park” and having an arrow that pointed to an ominously empty grassy enclosure . . . well, not quite empty; there was a caravan parked at the far end of the plot and it looked like it had been there for quite a while. Michael says, “I don’t think it’s open. I don’t even see a path anywhere.” I say, “Oh, come on.” And, pointing to a narrow muddly trail, “Look, there’s a path.” And, pointing to a soggy paper sign, “Look, it says ‘Horses this way.'”
I get out of the car and head for the trail, Michael follows somewhat reluctantly behind. We get to a muddy road with a yellow dog straining towards us at the end of a chain. I speak kind words to it, it barks furiously and lunges. Michael says, “It’s not open, Virg, let’s head back to the car.”
“Nonsense,” says I, spotting yet another soggy paper sign indicating that we should head away from the snarling beast, through a gap in a fence that consists of metal posts strung with what looks like crime scene tape. I stride off and Michael follows. Sure enough, there are a couple of picnic tables and a pond . . . and true to the description in the paper, NO crowds. Through a gap between a couple of buildings, we see some horses in a field.
“Virg, there’s no one here. Let’s go.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I reply, “we’ve come this far. Plus, look, there’s a sign on that abandoned looking building that says ‘Entry.'” The door is open, I go in. I shout, “hello.” Silence is the only response. There is a definite air in the place of not having seen much activity lately but I refuse to concede. I walk past the counter that says, on yet another soggy paper sign, “Pay here.” I get to another door with a big, sliding latch on it. We slide the latch and are now clearly within the farm yard. Raggedy old stuff is standing about, doors gape open on the barns, there is a car parked. Again, I shout, “Hello.” Again, there is no reply.
I look at Michael; Michael looks at me . . . “I think I hear banjos,” we think simultaneously. And, not wanting “squeal like a pig” to be the first words we hear in this creepy place, we turn and run for it.