We’ve cooked up bangers and mash and are now making our way through an
appropriately named ‘gypsy tart’ we picked up at a local bakery. The painted wagon is parked in a field just over an hour by train from London, among rolling Wiltshire countryside, and we are determined not to be downbeat about the weather.

The next morning the sun has returned and Polly, the owner of White Horse Gypsy Caravans, arrives as we store the bedding away beneath wooden seats.

Polly introduces us to our horse, Molly, a stocky looking lady of uncertain colour and unlimited patience. She stands quietly chewing her hay while we are shown how to brush her coat, pick her hooves free from mud and stones and wrestle the complicated harness over her body.

“You will be doing this on your own by tomorrow,” Polly assures us as she readjusts a piece of kit that I seem to have stuck on upside down.

We set off through the Wiltshire lanes. Polly walks at the horse’s head as we sit on the caravan’s front porch learning to steer, stop and navigate. Molly humours our rein-pulling by shifting obediently to the left or right and proves unflappable, even when a bright yellow truck comes roaring around the corner.

At lunchtime we pull into a canal-side field and cook up a makeshift lunch of hot dogs and munch on chocolate bars as we watch the swallows skimming along the hedge tops. Already I feel a million miles away from the stresses of work and commuting on the Underground.

Later that afternoon, Molly plods along confidently as my mate and I study the map with which we are to find our way to the quaintly named village of Bottlesford.

“Past Hope Farm you come to a junction, get off and warn the traffic of your approach,” I read from the list of instructions.

As the sign for Hope Farm slips past I jump from the moving caravan, legs revolving in cartoon fashion, and run to the road junction. Trying to look like I do this all the time, I step into the road, signalling for the traffic to halt. The driver’s angry expressions turn to surprise as Molly and the caravan slowly bend their way around the corner. I run after them and frantically hop about in the road trying to gain a foothold without sliding under the caravan wheels. Eventually I manage to pull myself back onto the platform and lie there exhausted. Despite the bangers and mash and gypsy
tart I am beginning to realise caravanning holidays could e part of a speedy weight-loss programme.

Away from the drama of the junction we relax into the slow clip-clop pace of our travel. The sun beats down on the scarlet and gold paint of the caravan and the scent of wild flowers lining the roadside verges linger in the air. As we turn into the Seven Stars Pub at Bottlesford, Polly is there to meet us at the gate. An untethered Molly gallops off happily to munch grass while we head to the pub for a well-earned steak.

The following morning as we drive through tiny villages, sunken lanes and woods full of bluebells, the day turns wet and windy. We travel through an afternoon full of roaring trees and psychotic drivers, but somehow we have become as unflappable as the horse.

In two days we’ve mastered the art of being able to drive horses, leap from moving caravans and reassure motorists all at once. As we cross the canal bridge on our home stretch and Molly roars a whinny of welcome to the horses in neighbouring fields, we have discovered life in the slow lane can be quite a rush.

Easy does it
Fancy escaping the rush hour? Here are some other options for life in the slow lane.
» Hire a punt in Cambridge and meander along the river to The Orchard tearooms at Grantchester where you can doze in the deckchairs beneath the cherry trees and order high tea. Punt Hire from Scudamore’s Boatyard (01223-359 750).
» Cycle the Crab and Winkle way from Canterbury to Whitstable to enjoy this seaside town’s world-famous oysters.
» Catch a steam train from Whitby on the Yorkshire coast and drift off to the sound of pistons and whistles as the
train makes its way across the moors past spectacular scenery and tiny villages.
North Yorkshire Moors Railway (01751-472 508).