When driving around the British countryside, it’s very easy to get lost. The roads meander around like a drunken snake, the signs are marked with phantom towns that according to Tony Robinson may have existed in 1642, and you’re always three miles from everywhere.
It’s like being in the Twilight Zone.
So when we set out to find Castle Drogo, a castle atop a gorge about 15 miles outside of Exeter, it surprised no-one when we ended up lost on the moors with the castle nowhere to be found. Just when we were thinking about turning around and going home, we came across a sign.
When I woke up that morning, there was maybe a thirty-percent chance of cuddling ponies. Now I could be sure. The other guys were a bit nervous about going to an attraction probably designed for children, but I insisted.
So we went into the pony farm, and the lady at the counter looked at us like we might have escaped from somewhere. This was not helped when my brother, helpfully paying for the tickets and making small talk, said “we haven’t cuddled ponies before. Well, Adam has. But we don’t talk about that.”
The faded sign outside didn’t really do the place justice. It was beautiful – a slice of Devon countryside you only see on postcards and in doctored Tourist Board pamphlets. There were more than just ponies there, too. There was a herd of donkeys, some comically large Shire horses, guinea fowl, chickens and lambs. It was a bit like an open-plan Crealy Farm, without the rotted playground and sulphur-spewing Go-Karts.
The sun was shining, it was unseasonably warm, and we were surrounded by the sights and smells of flowers, trees and animals. The ponies had a huge pasture all to themselves – rather odd for animals so small. And they really were small. The largest one was about three feet tall. They were a bit indifferent to our advances, but clearly happy and well looked after.
They had something called a Willow Walk, which is… well, it was just a field really. But it had pussy willows in it, so I can’t argue with the description.
A great time was had by all. We had a picnic on the bench, where we drank Pepsi and slurped up the liquid that had once been Mars bars, and I tried to feed a duck but the ungrateful bastard ran away. After two or three hours, we all had sunstroke and I was all cuddled out, so we hopped back into the car and onto destinations new.
We actually found Castle Drogo in the end, by heading away from it. That’s no joke.
Oh yeah, in case you were wondering, we were banned for life and ordered to never come near the pony farm again. They put up a sign.
And that is how you know you’ve had a good time, folks.
“It had pussy”