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Polly takes the scenic route Book Cover

Polly takes the scenic route
Through France by pony and trap

Written by Gay Pyper 
Illustrated by Paul Withyman 

ISBN: 978-1-901253-33-7
(Old ISBN: 1 901253 33 3)

188 pages, paperback, 146mm x 208mm.
1 colour photo, 5 black and white photos,
12 black and white drawings, 1 Map

Published by Leonie Press, June 2003.

Reprinted November 2015.

Price: £ 8.99 Postage and Packing:

e-Book versions
Kindle format ISBN: 978-1-909727-08-3
Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN): B00J2HU7E6
Click here to buy from Amazon

About the Book

Gay Pyper has spent all her life with horses and enjoys living adventurously. No-one could say she shirks a challenge. When she was young her jobs were all horse-related: working for Riding for the Disabled, then with hunters, point-to-pointers, show animals and racehorses. Next she travelled to Australia as a £10 immigrant where she tried her hand at other things, too. Her jack-of-all-trades duties at a television station in the Outback included reading the news, putting programmes on air - and dealing with the TV rentals!

So when she and her husband James decided to move permanently from Cornwall to their smallholding in South West France, she declared her intention of driving there by pony and trap. Her announcement was met by a stunned silence followed by questions.

"Will you know where you are and how will Dad find you?" asked the children.

"Can you ask for directions and will you understand the replies?" asked friends.

James calmly pointed out the obvious: "We don't have a pony," he said. Their driving pony had died of old age a few years before - but they still had the custom-built trap.

This delightful book traces how Polly the 12.2hh skewbald pony came into, and took over, the Pypers' lives - entering happily into the meticulously-oranised adventure of travelling hundreds of miles through rural France from Normandy to Gascony. Their plan was for Gay to drive the trap (and lead Polly up the hills on foot) while James went ahead each day with a 4x4 vehicle and caravan to set up camp for the evenings and longer rest stops. They did lots of research and reconnoitred the route several months in advance.

But first Gay and James had to buy a suitable second-hand caravan, and persuade DEFRA that they were not exporting Polly in order to eat her.

Then they had to deal with all the things that Fate decided to throw at them to make the adventure more nailbiting. In fact, disaster struck even before they started, putting the whole venture in jeopardy. As was to happen many times, the kindness of strangers saved them...

About the Author and Illustrator

Gay Pyper

Gay Pyper was born in London in 1951 and moved to Essex with her parents and sister in 1956. For the next ten years they lived in a Dr Barnardo's Home where her father and mother worked as house parents.

At the age of 15 she left school to work for Riding for the Disabled, and then she left home to work for a family, looking after their hunters and point-to-pointers. One summer was spent in Ireland learning the art of breaking and showing horses, after which she travelled to Australia as a £10 immigrant.

Whilst in Australia Gay worked in a variety of jobs including as a groom in a racing stables, a secretary in a health insurance office, in a beauty parlour and in a television station on an outback mine. Her duties included dealing with TV rentals, reading the news (when one day a poisonous red back spider slowly descended from the ceiling between Gay and her script) and putting programmes on air. James joined her in Australia and they returned to England to marry in 1975.

A year later they moved farms from Hertfordshire to Devon, making the move by tractor and trailer. During the following 20 years they moved home several times, buying derelict houses and restoring them. Their largest project was an ex-vicarage with outbuildings which James and Gay converted into self-catering holiday cottages.

In 1994 Gay began working at a local school as a clerical and classroom assistant whilst also driving a minibus daily for another school and working as a supply auxillary at a local hospital.

When their son and daughter left home in 2002, James and Gay decided it was time for life's next adventure and moved to their smallholding in Gascony, France, travelling by pony and trap.

Paul Withyman signing copies of the book at its launch party in June 2003.

Paul Withyman was born in Romford, Essex in 1981 and has been studying at Falmouth College of Arts where he expects to graduate in June 2003. He is planning a career in children’s book illustration but will be submitting the illustrations for this book as part of his end-of-year exhibition.

Paul is also interested in editorial illustration and once he has completed his BA (Hons) Illustration at Falmouth he intends to move back to Essex and start to pursue his career in and around London.

Paul has contributed to an exhibition in Falmouth where he and his fellow students sold their work in order to raise funds for producing promotional material for themselves to aid them after graduation.

Paul enjoys staying active; he plays football for the college and rugby for the town. Other interests include cycling, reading and travelling.


"This is a truly delightful book. Rush out and order copies for your horsey friends - and others too! (That's Christmas organised then!).
This beautifully written and entertaining account of their adventures also includes plenty of background interest which adds richness to the story. I really felt for her when she and Polly had their accident in Normandy involving cows, bolting horses and a badly broken carriage. Many less determined people would have given up at this stage but not Gay and her super-supportive husband James.
The Journey takes them through the back roads of France doing about 20 miles a day with rest days interspersed. They meet with great kindness and hospitality from perfect strangers, and James drives the support car and caravan. I won't tell you how it ends, enough to say they are settled at "La Biette", their destination.
If you have ever thought of doing a long journey with horse and carriage this book will be an inspiration to you as well as making you aware of the possible pitfalls, and the huge amount of planning and fitness training that must go into the whole experience. The simple line drawings by art student Paul Withyman complement the narrative excellently"

Judy Green - Great Western Harness Club Newsletter

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