The blog / The journey

The milk of human kindness, full fat

So far I have met one horrible person. That’s really not bad for three weeks on the road, doing something conspicuous, peculiar and demanding. I’ve been calling people up with wild appeals for help, generally with dying battery and intermittent reception, not enough warning and ETAs I don’t stick to. I’ve been getting in the way on pavements, fencing off sections of people’s campsites, leaving little cairns of finest donkey fertiliser around the place, failing to halt Chico’s stride when kids run up to stroke him, camping wild on people’s early morning dog walk route, and alarming motorists when Chico point blank insists on munching furiously on a blind corner. I’ve been turning up many hours late and with nothing to offer but a crotchety donkey and catalogue of needs. I am so bowled over by the kindness, enthusiasm and generosity for the adventure that there has been at every turn (except one).

Bryn and Nia at Merthyr Farm

At Merthyr Farm campsite up above Harlech, owners Lizzie and Bryn didn’t bat an eyelid when I called up a few hours before. They gave Chico and I a field full of daisies, buttercups and huge rocks, and when I asked if they had any spare meths lying about for the stove, Lizzie made me a giant mug of tea, while Bryn found a gas stove. In the morning, before I woke up properly, Bryn had bought two bottles of meths from the shop and left them outside the tent like a trippy purple milkman’s delivery. Lizzie – also a vet – came and pared down Chico’s hooves while Bryn held him calm, and I held their gorgeous, cheerful baby, Nia. Then, Lizzie brought us a picnic, including one for Chico, refused all payment, and insisted that I fill up my egg box from the well-populated hen house on the way out. Astonishing kindness, like a great billow of fresh air through my tired mind, but offered forth so gently and matter-of-factly.

Chico was cross that day, and Lizzie’s lunch really helped

The next night we bowled up to Eurliw’s riding stables – she gave Chico a choice of grazing areas, and me a caravan to sleep in so I wouldn’t have to put up the tent after we arrived at dusk, exhausted and wild with the midge bites that kept coming like invisible zombie attacks whenever we slowed down. She’d also been out to look for us on the drivable part of the route, brought tea (a paned – cuppa in Welsh), told me local folklore, lent me tools to modify the pack saddle and donkey sandals, and called me a North-Walian term of (I hope) endearment that I’d never heard before but have heard several times since, and can’t remember right now…

Eurliw Jones, heart the colour of gold

Iain and Lindsay took Chico, mum and me in during a fearsome gale. Their fortress is on the top of the far headland at Black Rock Sands, and on the night of the 12th of June it could just as well have been November. We staggered up, soaked and whipped about, and they came out to greet us – Chico got a whole stable and grassy patch with views of the deserted, rain-battered beach below, and fresh hay to eat and roll in. He really liked it there. Mum and I got creature comforts and an insight into the couple’s exciting project – an equine therapy charity that uses horses to help children with behavioural difficulties. And most exciting of all – the horses are all rescue animals, and the process helps them too. The couple are idealistic and passionate, practical and sweet, and very inspiring.

And now I am writing fuelled by homemade elderflower wine after a rest day at Natasha’s farmhouse near Sarn Meillteyrn, some way down the Lleyn Peninsula. Lots and lots of food (I didn’t think I could be full anymore, now that I eat constantly all day long, but it turns out that a roast dinner, bacon sandwiches, homemade bara brith, banoffee pie, gammon sandwiches and a curry will do the trick), trampolining with toddlers Ela and Tomos, much love for Chico, and twelve-year-old Iona sewed a mini Chico mascot out of her own sock for me. He will be seated regally on the pack saddle come the morning’s departure. Papa Harri wasn’t interested in donkeys, no sir, but secretly busied about getting buckets of water ready for him, and then left the outside light on so Chico wouldn’t feel all alone out there…

This is just in the last week – the first two weeks had their own contingent of angels, who had even more fraught visitors to deal with as all was so new and terrifying. I don’t know North Wales at all, and all of these kind people are found by phonecalls out of the blue, Facebook messages offering overnights, recommendations from previous hosts – I am just so honoured. Thank you.

Iain and Lindsay of Penytrip Projects, equine therapy centre, and Hannah-and-Chico saviours

And the one sour old experience? Sadly the head honcho at a campsite – Shell Island – that I have been visiting and loving for three decades. We walked through on the footpath from a long, hot beach walk (with nudists!), totally out of water, out of battery, and Chico hadn’t seen anything fresh and green for hours. We’d been looking forward to a lunchbreak in the shade before moving on, and had plans to buy lots of things in the camp shop. The sad, sour, furious woman came charging out of her tollgate and threw us out, with “You would ask me to leave if I came into your house with a horse!” and other such statements that I was powerless to formulate responses to, taken so completely by surprise as I was by the power of her baffling vitriol. Ah well. We walked out quickly and never have to see her again, whereas she is stuck with her forever.

And everyone else is deep-hearted and delightful. Anyone who is worried by the loss of compassion in the world right now, I urge you to go out and ask for help – you’ll find it plentiful, I’m sure of it. In our personal fortresses of self-reliance I think we’re all really out of practice at asking, perhaps it’s seen as weakness. Be weak! Be helped! It’s really, really refreshing.

Little Ela, mama Natasha, and Iona holding new mascot Mini Chico


Merthyr Farm campsite is gorgeous:

The Penytrip Project is awe inspiring:

Eurliw Jones is lovely and does pony treking: Felen Rhyd Fach, Maentwrog, 01766 590 231



  1. Sandra Souza-DeSimone says:

    Hannah, your blogs reinforce how wonderful people are. Sadly, it can take only one bad apple to spoil the whole basket. Thankfully you are not dealing with apples

  2. Nancy in Iowa says:

    Although I’m terribly sorry you encountered the ONE sourpuss, I am greatly heartened that you have found so much compassion and assistance so far. I have finally had to learn to not only accept random help, but to ask for it on occasion as my mobility has lessened with age. I am still in awe of your marvelous adventure!!

    Nancy in Iowa

  3. Good to hear of the kindness and hospitality to you and Chico!:)

  4. You and Chico have met some wonderful people on your adventures. Yes, there is so much kindness out there – shame about the one nasty woman, but, as you say, she has to live with herself 24/7 – we can only pity her.

  5. This is what I love most about travel, and what makes me want to keep getting back out there – the people you meet along the way. As you say, it restores faith in the world and is a great exercise in remembering the important things in life.

    Loving your blog posts and following your journey. Give Chico a big hug from me.

  6. There are wonderful, helpful people everywhere! I am enjoying reading your blog, it’s well written and you have a good sense of humour (which you probably need!).

  7. I’ve got friends called Iain and Lindsay (who are a couple and Iain spelt in the same way). I’ve sent them a picture of your Iain and Lindsay (the equine therapy duo).

    I’ve been very lazy, instead of reading your blog post I have made my mac read it to me in its robotic voice. “Invisible zombie attacks” was hilarious.

    Have fun!

  8. Mary Anne in Tennessee says:

    Am loving your posts, especially this one. A Judy Collins songs says “It’s easier than pie to be kind” and you are proving her right indeed. What a wonderful journey, both physical and philosophical, you are taking. Where I live, in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, the big journey is for folks to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, over 2,000 miles, from Georgia to Maine. I hike locally, several times a week with others in our supposed ‘elder’ state. I am the young one at 65. Journeys can be long or short, they all teach you about yourself.

  9. Learning to ask for help when you’re young is a golden lesson learned.

    I’m enjoying your trip so much!

  10. Oh, how I wish you were taking this trek in my neighbourhood! We would love to offer some hospitality to two weary travelers and all I would ask for in payment would be a photo with the handsome Chico.

    Happy Travels!

  11. We have only lived on the peninsula for a few months and I have never met such friendly, hospitable, welcoming people. I once commented on this to a local. The response? “You’d better get used to it”!!

    My message for you Hannah, is technical reception may well be intermittent, but you won’t find better human reception anywhere!

    Happy travelling to you both.


  12. Ah, but without the sour pusses of the world, how could we appreciate our angels? Sounds like you are meeting so many of the wonderful people that makes our ways so much easier.

  13. Enjoying keeping up with your blog & sending our love on your travels.

    Chenda & Dave xx

  14. Sian Williams says:

    We met you and your lovely donkey at Port Dornellion on Friday 21st. It was such a shock to stumble upon Chico. You gave us some tips on our forthcoming trip to Aberystwyth. We all hope you achieve the trip and wish you well. Take care.

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