The Long Riders' Guild

 

Jessica Bigler - Switzerland to the British Isles and back!

Click on either picture to enlarge it.

Jessica Bigler is on a long ride from Switzerland to Ireland and back, 7,000km with her horse and a pack-mule.

June 2007 - The start of the ride!  This email came into The Long Riders' Guild:

Hello Long Riders !
 
I am writing to give you some news about my long ride ! I finally had to take the decision to give up the idea to undertake this journey with a packed mule. Due to an hernia in my back, I was too weak to train both horse and mule, and the mule was terribly strong and big headed :-) So I took the wise decision to go only with my horse, Gitan, which I have since 5 years now. For the travel I want to make , I don't need to have a packed mule to give me autonomy.
 
I started on the 7th June, under a pouring rain, that followed me during 6 days ! I guess I'll have to get use to it as I want to ride around the British Isles ! It was a good point to test out my rain material, which satisfy me, although, after 4 hours under the rain, waterproof isn't waterproof anymore...
After 4 days in Switzerland, and quite a lot of mountain riding, I crossed the French border on Monday. I didn't see anyone there, only a sign that was indicating that I was now in France. People are really friendly and welcome us to stay for the night. They seem really surprised to see a girl travelling alone with her horse! It's a kind of a dream that I am carrying with me!

 
 Anyway, everything is going well, Gitan is doing his job perfectly, he seems to enjoy every minute, and doesn't seem to mind carrying more weight! He enjoys tasting every little grass and herbs that come under his nose, and likes to stop to watch the view ! He is really funny and I am happy to have him for a companion! It's strange to be alone, riding all day, and thinking that you are going to do this for the next months, again and again, it's exciting !
 
I shall be entering the UK , in Dover, in August ( mid or end of the month ) then I'll be riding to Land's End, before going up to Holyhead , to take a ferry to Dublin.
 
I hope to have the sun with me now and I am really looking forward to riding in the UK !
 
I'll write again with some more news soon, you'll find some more pictures on my website !
 
Jessica

July 31st 2007

Hello Long Riders,
 
I have some news for you! I am actually in CALAIS! After one month and half and 900km. Gitan and I are resting a while before taking the ferry boat, on 3rd of August, to reach DOVER! After one month with only rain, I hope the sun will shine and follow me a while! Gitan is very well, he seems to love his new life! Being alone doesn't cause any problem for him. Now that we are in Calais, we enjoy to ride on the beach and Gitan loves to gallop as fast as he can! He loves being in the sea! This week will change his mind and allow him to go a bit faster :-)
 
I followed the VIA FRANCIGENA from Switzerland to Calais; The only thing to regret is many paths are not used anymore! No one knows this ancient road ... The landscape is beautiful though !
 
People in France have been very nice! apart from some parts of France, where it's been difficult for me finding food or even hay for my horse. But, going north, I felt the difference, people are more curious and open. They are surprised to see a girl riding alone and are very helpful! I took off lots of material I had in my saddle-bags. After one month and half, I know now that I don't need much to be happy! Travelling with my horse, with only the necessary things, it s the best thing I've ever done! I still enjoy it!
 
I hope rain will stop and riding will be ok  in the south of the UK ... I am really looking forward to discovering the UK!
 
I'll write again soon with more news!
 
Jessica and Gitan www.suisseirlande.com

Jessica also sent us some beautiful photographs from the beach in Northern France.  Click on any of the images below to enlarge it.

August 2007 - Jessica is having the time of her life!

"Hello Long Riders,
 
Here I am again, to give some news of my wonderful journey! We've had a few problems crossing the border, as DEFRA didnt want us to get on board...As lucky as I am, the foot and mouth disease just appeared the day before, so it's been a bit difficult but then everything went all right. The weather was gorgeous and Gitan didn't seem to care at all, being on a boat!
 
On the 4th of August, I started my English journey, in South Alkham Valley.  From there, I rode to Folkestone, Camber, Rye, Hastings, of course I didn't ride through these towns! East Sussex seems very busy, with plenty of roads and lots of cars...I tried to avoid as much as I could the roads, but I couldn't avoid lanes and so we did a lot of tarmac...which isn't very nice for Gitan's shoes... My solution was to put on his 2 front feet the horse boots (Swiss easy boots) ! I must say it's been a great idea to buy these!
 
I've been riding in England for a week and a half now, and I must admit that people here are really friendly and helpful! They seem more interested in what I am doing than the French were...They keep asking me loads of questions and even stop their car to talk to me! Even more enjoyable, the sun has been with me since the first day!
 
I'll finally enjoy a bit more my ride, as I'll join the SOUTH DOWNS WAY, and hopefully there will be less tarmac!
 
Here are some pictures of my first week in the UK, the long man of Willmington
 
Jessica and Gitan"

October 2007

Hello Long Riders

 

On the 26th of September, after 3 months and a half and 2'000km, Gitan and I reached Land's End! Lucky as we are, the sun was shining and the view was absolutely magnificent. Our picture taken (for those who don't know about it, you can have a photo taken with the famous sign behind you, that shows New York in one side and John OíGroats on the other side. You can write your city and the kilometers you have done to Land's End.) and after loads of photographs, we carried on our journey, walking north along the coasts.

 

The south west of England is beautiful, but not really good for travelling with a horse...The roads are very busy and still a lot of traffic, even though the tourist season is over! Better say that on these narrow roads, you donít want to ride and being afraid of a car coming too fast round the corner.. as the big hedges donít allow you to walk on the verge! I has some hard days there and I really started to wonder why I had chosen England !!!

 

Being now near Exmoor, I know why I have chosen England! it is worth doing it once, when you are riding in the Moors - it is just so beautiful that you forget the hard days! When the mist comes, you feel like you are completely lost, it's like if you were in an old film in black and white. Surrounded by some loose horses and sheep, here comes the rain...here we are, it's great!

 

English people are also very nice and helpful with me, they all think I am completely mad but they admire what I do. It's not a myth, they always talk and complain about the weather, in front of a cup tea :-) Still, a lot of them don't understand why I am walking with my horse instead of riding him all the time! Specially on tarmac, I prefer leading Gitan than riding him. There is always someone to tell me : what's wrong with you, are you ok, why arenít you riding him?...

 

4 months now that we are travelling, and approx. 2'500km ! Time goes very fast! winter is coming, I gave up my tent and bought some warm clothes instead! I am ready for the wet winter Iíll surely get in Ireland, and I am not going to complain about the weather, as some people are working in their office, and I am free, travelling with my horse...what more could I ask....!

 

Visit my website for some more news, in English!

Jessica and Gitan

 

November 2007
Poor Jessica has been driven away from England and forced to return to France, with its extensive and protected national network of bridleways.  Jessica's plans were to ride from her home in Switzerland, across France to England, all round Great Britain and Ireland, then back home (click on map to enlarge it).  But the email below arrived at Long Riders' Guild HQ early in November.

Dear Long Riders Guild

I am writing to tell you that I have decided to go back to France and finish my ride there.  

England is too hard for my horse. All the bridleways are closed or overgrown, everything is fenced, private, mainly I have to walk on tarmac roads.  It is very bad for my horse's legs, when it is nearly every day ! No pleasure for us, although the landscapes are beautiful, the people are lovely, it's a shame that nothing is done to help Long Riders who want to ride around the UK !

Apparently, Ireland isn't better, it's even worse! I don't want to take the risk, my horse is too important. I want him to enjoy the journey, so that's why I am returning to France, where everything is open and easier to travel with a horse! There's no point for me to doing only tarmac roads! And traffic is dangerous...

At least I have met Harry and Lisa Adshead, [the Long Riders who rode from Wales to Jordan] which was great !
 
I'll keep you posted ...
 
Jessica

Coming so soon after the British Horse Society lost its legal battle with the BMW car company over an ancient bridleway, this is yet more proof of the tragedy of Britain's inability to keep horses off the roads.  And how shaming that Jessica has been forced to return to France!

April 2008


A lot of things changed for me and Gitan and I have decided to put my trip on "stand by". My horse was quite tired after the hard time we had in the UK, so I decided he deserved to rest some months. I was a bit upset to go back to France and although I know it was the best decision I could take, still it is a bit hard! I had to think of my horse first of all and I did the right thing for him.
 
Quite right, Jessica - spoken like a true Long Rider.  And thank you for the pictures below!
 

Click on either image to enlarge it.

For information about Jessica's next Long Ride, please click here.

Please click here to go to Jessica's website.

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