OAP sets off on 600-mile pony trek to Inverness with beloved dog Dinky in saddlebag

By Sarah Ward & Sarah Vesty

An 80-year-old woman in an eyepatch is showing no signs of ageing as she continues her annual pony trek from England to the Highlands.

Jane Dotchin has been packing her saddlebags on to her trusty pony’s back every year since 1972.

Her jaunt involves leaving the hills from her home near Hexham, Northumberland, on an epic 600-mile trek to Inverness, covering between 15 and 20 miles a day.

Jane Dotchin first completed the adventure in 1972 (SWNS)

She set off on August 31 with her steed, Diamond, aged 13, and her disabled Jack Russell, Dinky, for company.

She carries everything she needs including her tent, food and just a few belongings.

Jane’s first trek to Scotland saw her visit friends near Fort Augustus in the early 70s and she has been returning every autumn since.

The journey takes about seven weeks.

She lives on porridge, oatcakes and cheese, and carries an old mobile which has a battery that lasts six weeks – although getting a signal can be a problem.

Jane said: “I refuse to go slogging on through pouring wet rain.


“There are a few different routes I can take depending on the weather. I don’t want to go over hilltops in foul weather but I work it out on the way.

“I don’t warn them too far in advance because if the weather changes or I stop early then they can be left wondering where I’ve got to.”

Jane is never lonely with Dinky by her side.

She said: “When there is a nice, grassy track, she gets out and has a run but she doesn’t like stony ground. And she is a nice hot water bottle for me in the tent.”

Diamond, the pony, is tethered on a long rope at night to graze. She is shod with tungsten carbide welded on to her shoes to reduce wear and tear.

Jane got her from a local horse dealer – and the only concession she gives to her age is to no longer shoe the animal herself as she used to.

She said: “I asked for something good and solid in my old age and he got me a cob from Ireland. I struggle to get on her half the time but otherwise I manage fine.”

In recognition of her independent spirit, and years of trekking, she received The British Horse Society lifetime achievement award last year, which she said was “a bit of a surprise”.

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