An 82-year-old woman has completed an annual seven-week trek from England to the Scottish Highlands with her pack pony and pet dog.
Jane Dotchin has been making the epic 600-mile journey every year since 1972, catching up with friends she has made along the way.
Heading north, the horse lover travels between 15 and 20 miles a day until she reaches Inverness in the Scottish Highlands.
This year, she set off again with her steed Diamond from the off-grid smallholding where she lives near Hexham, Northumberland.
‘I love camping and I love the countryside,’ she said.
Jane Dotchin (above) has completed an annual seven-week trek from England to the Scottish Highlands with her pack pony and pet dog
Jane travels between 15 and 20 miles a day until she reaches Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. She carries everything she needs including her tent, food, a few belongings, and her Jack Russel, Dinky, tucked into the saddlebag
‘The more I’ve done it, the more nice people I’ve got to know en route who I want to go back and see again.’
Jane carries everything she needs including her tent, food, a few belongings, and her Jack Russel Dinky tucked into the saddlebag.
‘She loves sitting in the saddlebag,’ Jane said. ‘She’s quite happy sitting in there, watching the world go by.’
And despite wearing an eyepatch, Jane is determined to continue the annual tradition for as long as she can.
‘I know the route so well, I don’t need to read maps. I can manage if I keep to the routes I know,’ she added.
‘If ever I were in trouble, I know somebody would be there, not far away, to help.’
Jane first got a taste for long-distance trekking when she trotted off to the idyllic West Country around 40 years ago, in 1972.
Speaking previously, she said: ‘My mother would look after my other ponies but she wasn’t that keen on looking after my Halfinger stallion, so I rode him down to Somerset to see a friend, which is about 300 miles.
Jane says the more times she has made the trip, the more people she has got to know en route
Jane explains that Dinky is ‘quite happy’ sitting in the saddlebag, ‘watching the world go by’
‘It was a bit of a hard slog, but it was good.’
Jane made the trip every year, riding south where the bridleways were much better.
But as the area developed, she noticed the route becoming more congested and decided to head north instead.
She has made the journey north every autumn since, for the past three decades, visiting friends along the way – including some near Fort Augustus, at the edge of Loch Ness.
‘It’s 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,’ Jane said.
‘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.’
The journey takes around seven weeks, depending on the weather.
‘I refuse to go slogging on through pouring wet rain,’ Jane added.
Despite wearing an eyepatch, Jane is determined to continue the annual tradition for as long as she can
Jane is devastated by the littering she has seen over the years, which she finds ‘shameful’
‘I don’t want to go over hilltops in foul weather, but I work it out on the way. I don’t bother with maps, I just keep to the routes I know.’
Jane lives on porridge, oatcakes and cheese, and carries an old mobile phone that has a battery that lasts six weeks – although getting a signal can be a problem.
While Jack Russell Dinky has a diet of porridge oats, oatcakes and cheese, which is bought at local shops.
Jane is devastated by the littering she has seen over the years, which she finds ‘shameful’.
She once said: ‘It’s appalling, in particular single-use barbecues, which are left lying all over the place.’
Jane previously received The British Horse Society lifetime achievement award, which she said was ‘a bit of a surprise’.
‘There is always something interesting happening and there is never a dull moment,’ she added.
The British Horse Society Scotland wrote in a Facebook post: ‘Well done Jane, Dinky the dog and Diamond – 2023 was a wet one but even well into your 80s you never let the rain deter you. You are an inspiration to riders everywhere.’