Outdoor experts’ diary: How a love of the outdoors brought me face-to-face with the Queen

I’m about as far from royal as its gets – but just a few weeks ago I was following in the Queen’s footprints. Or should that be hoofprints?

My fell pony, Quest, was invited to take part in a special event at Windsor Castle to celebrate Her Majesty’s 90th birthday. It was a day the Queen has said was “one of her best birthday events.”

My mum rode Quest alongside more than 130 other fell ponies and I accompanied as a groom. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for two happy hackers whose idea of glamour is clean wellies. So how did it come about?

The Queen, who also owns and still rides fell ponies, is patron of the Fell Pony Society, which organised the event. Members of the society were invited to apply to take part.

Initially 90 ponies were to form a guard of honour in recognition of the Queen’s 90th birthday. Many more people applied to take part than had been planned but when asked about numbers, the Queen told the society she wanted to see all those who wanted to attend.

And so there we were.

People had travelled from across the UK and even Europe to take part. We had organised a lift with a fellow participant who had offered to help us out as we didn’t have horse transport of our own.

The camaraderie between those at Windsor, and even those who weren’t, was humbling. From words of encouragement to generous pledges of assistance and accommodation.

It’s amazing how a shared interest opens up entire communities.

It’s true of all pass-times of course, but especially those in which we rely on the outdoors to pursue our hobbies. That’s because we – those people who spend much of their spare time outside – are a community in our own right.

Whether it’s the buzz of reaching a summit or galloping across moorland, we appreciate things others do not. The freshest air, the true sound of silence, views better than any other.

But these experiences are not unique to our ‘community’ – everyone can have them. That’s the special thing about the outdoors. They don’t really belong to anyone, they are all of society’s to enjoy.

My mum sparked my interest in horses and the outdoors. And her granddad sparked hers.

I’m a mum too now, and I hope my son will grow to love spending time outside. In a world where there is so much technology to entertain him, this has never seemed more important.

I’ve spent hours on the Pennine hills above our village. Financially it cost nothing, but my memories are priceless. And for that, I will be forever grateful.

Because the outdoors have no boundaries, be they geographical, age or wealth. And as I stood beside the Queen – a world away in riches – I realised that because of our shared community, I was closer than ever before.

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