Watch: 80-year-old woman sets off on yearly 600-mile pony trek – with her disabled dog along for the ride
An 80-year-old woman, who wears an eyepatch, has headed off on an annual seven week trek with her pony, from England to the Highlands.
Every year since 1972, Jane Dotchin has packed her saddlebags onto her trusty pony’s back to head off on an epic 600-mile trek from her home in Hexham, Northumberland, all the way up to Inverness, Scotland.
This year she set off on the 600-mile journey on August 31, riding her 13-year-old horse, Diamond, and taking her disabled Jack Russell, Dinky, along for company.
Covering between 15 and 20 miles a day, the trip sees Dotchin carrying everything she needs on her back, including her tent, food, and a few key belongings.
She does all this despite wearing an eyepatch, and plans to keep up the tradition for as long as she can.
Hamilton's love of long-distance trekking began around 40 years ago, when she headed off around the West Country.
“My mother would look after my other ponies but she wasn’t that keen on looking after my stallion, so I rode him down to Somerset to see a friend, which is about 300 miles," she explains.
"It was a bit of a hard slog, but it was good.”
After that initial journey, she caught the taste for the open road, and has travelled to visit friends near Fort Augustus, near Loch Ness, Highlands, every autumn since.
The journey takes around seven weeks, depending on the weather, with Hamilton trying to drop in to see people she has met over the years.
“It's 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," she explains.
"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."
During her trip she lives on porridge, oatcakes and cheese, and carries an old mobile phone, which has a battery lasting six weeks, although she admits getting a signal can be a problem.
"There are a few different routes I can take depending on the weather," Hamilton continues.
“I refuse to go slogging on through pouring wet rain. And 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."
Watch: Britain's oldest hairdresser is still chopping away at 91.
Hamilton's Jack Russell Dinky, who has deformed front legs, travels in a saddle bag.
"She manages fine, when there is a nice grassy track she gets out and has a run, but she doesn’t like stoney ground.
"She is a nice hot water bottle for me in the tent,” she adds.
While on the trek, Hamilton's lifestyle is low maintenance and basic, seeing her dig a hole for her bathroom and collecting water from a stream for days when she can’t get milk for her porridge.
In recognition of her independent spirit, and many years of long distance trekking, Hamilton received The British Horse Society lifetime achievement award last year, which she said was “a bit of a surprise.”
Despite challenges including almost getting swept off the road by camper vans and a rise in littering, Hamilton says she has no plans to stop her yearly treks.
"There is always something interesting happening and there is never a dull moment," she says.
“I will probably be stopped one of these days.”
Additional reporting SWNS.