Partially-sighted pensioner, 81, on epic 600 mile horseback trip – without a map

She may be due to turn 81 in December but every year she gets itchy feet, packs her saddlebags on to her trusty pony’s back, and heads out on an extraordinary 600 mile round trip to the Highlands.

Eighty-year-old Jane Dotchin on her annual adventure. Photo: Katielee Arrowsmith/SWNS

Jane Dotchin set off on her latest expidition on August 31 from her home in Hexham in Northumberland, with her trusty steed, Diamond and her disabled Jack Russell, Dinky, for company. Carrying everything she needs for her seven week adventure including her tent, food and just a few belongings, she is continuing a series of epic journeys which began in 1972.

Almost 50 years ago, Ms Dotchin rode the 300 miles to Somerset to see a friend and has been hooked on the open road ever since, completing a yearly pilgrimage to visit friends near Forth Augustus.

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

Eighty-year-old Jane Dotchin who travels from Hexham to the Scottish Highlands with her horse Diamond and Dinky her disabled Jack Russell. Photo: Katielee Arrowsmith/SWNS

On the way, she checks in with people she has met over the years.

“It is nice to go and see them again. I ring them up in the morning to say I’m going to be there in the evening, I don’t warn them too far in advance, because if the weather suddenly changes or I decide to stop early then they can be left wondering where I’ve got to."

Although partially sighted she doesn’t let that or old age stop her in any way and added: “I don’t bother with maps I just keep to the routes I know.”

Dinky, her Jack Russell companion, who has deformed front legs, rides in a saddle bag.

Eighty-year-old Jane Dotchin back on the road again near Peebles. Photo: Katielee Arrowsmith/SWNS

She described her journey, which sees her travelling between 15 and 20 miles a day as beautiful, but her pace is entirely weather dependent. Her diet consists of porridge oats, oatcakes and cheese which is bought at local shops.

For emergencies she carries an old mobile phone as the battery lasts six weeks. “I keep it switched off and just ring out to ring up landowners to get gates unlocked or to warn people when I’m coming but sometimes the trouble is getting a signal,” she said.

During the foot and mouth crisis, she went on bicycle instead.

“I covered many more miles with the dog in a pannier but it was not the same, I missed my horse.” During her travels she said “there is always something interesting happening and there is never a dull moment."

Eighty-year-old Jane Dotchin with her horse Diamond and Dinky her disabled Jack Russell. Photo: Katielee Arrowsmith/SWNS

And she said she has no plans to stop her equine adventures anytime soon.

“I will probably be stopped one of these days.”

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

Ms Dotchin has written some books about her horseback adventure over the years with a new edition being published this autumn by Wagtail Press

Heading for the hills, eighty-year-old Jane Dotchin. Photo: Katielee Arrowsmith/SWNS
Keeping Jane Dotchin company on her travels are horse Diamond and Dinky her disabled Jack Russell. Photo: Katielee Arrowsmith/SWNS

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