Deeside set to host the first wilderness challenge of its kind

Ponies for the John Muir Challenge
Ponies for the John Muir Challenge

Deeside will be the setting for the first John Muir challenge in Scotland and on horeback this week, starting at the Tarland Show.

John Muir was a Scottish-American naturalist, environmentalist, and early advocate of wilderness preservation in the United States - he was called by his biographer, “one of the patron saints of 20th century American environmental activity.”

Now the John Muir Challenge is the name given to expededitions where participants discover a wild place, explore its wilderness, take some responsibility, and share their experiences.

Now the Hayfield Riding Centre are set to embark upon the first John Muir Challenge in Scotland, and, the first John Muir challenge completed by horseback.

The girls, led by Keira Matthew, will begin at the Tarland Show this Saturday, where the girls will show their ponies in the Highland Pony classes. They will also perform a musical ride in the main ring, before leaving the show to ride on to Ballater, where they will camp out before taking part in Victoria Week.

Their ride will take them through between Loch Daven and Loch Kinord, on past the memorial of the Battle of Culblean, and past the Burn’O Vat, before arriving at the Cambus of May where John Crawford, who runs the Hayfield Riding Centre, will steward the road crossing before they ride on to Ballater along the Old Victoria railway line to the campsite for Saturday night.

On Sunday after looking to the needs of the ponies they will be giving Pony Rides at 10am on the green beside the Kirk, right in the middle of Ballater and at 1pm join the Grand Parade.

After the parade they perform their musical ride and its back to doing pony rides.

On Monday they will do much the same but also join in with the pantomine horse event, before ending with a ride back along Queen Victoria’s railway line to be picked up at the Cambus of May and return home to Hayfield.

John Muir was born in 1838 in Dunbar, and died in 1914, in Los Angeles. His letters, essays and books about his adventures in the wilderness have been read by millions. His activism has helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park, and numerous other areas.

His legacy is world-wide, and now comes to Deeside this month.

Of this John Muir Challenge, Crawford said: “The John Muir Challenge suits everyone from upper primary children to senior citizens like me. This first challenge in Deeside is a first, but younger children we be able to do easier challenges here in Hazlehead Park and so it will be the first of many.”