The Dartmoor Derby!
PUBLISHED: 15:55 18 July 2016 | UPDATED: 15:56 18 July 2016
Actor Martin Clunes is saddling up to support a special equestrian event on Dartmoor later this year, as he tells Liz Parks
He’s charmed millions of TV viewers through his role as a grumpy Cornish doctor, but Martin Clunes has set himself a new challenge for 2016 - riding for miles across the wildest parts of Dartmoor. The actor, who lives on a 130-acre farm near Beaminster, in Dorset, will be preparing for the epic Dartmoor Derby this autumn by spending a couple of days riding on the moor in early summer, with his wife Philippa and daughter Emily, and he then hopes to return in September to take part in the event itself.
It turns out that the Clunes family are regular visitors to Dartmoor, thanks to their commute between Port Isaac, where Doc Martin is filmed, and home in Dorset.
“We have loved Dartmoor for years. As an extended family we get to go to various hotels and cottages to meet up there. If I’m working in Cornwall it’s halfway to home so it’s a good family meet-up,” says Martin.
The actor, who found fame as Gary on ITV’s Men Behaving Badly, is famous for his love of horses. He is president of the British Horse Society and has narrated several documentaries about man’s relationship with the animals. Although he did some riding as a teenager, Martin rediscovered his love of horses when he and his wife moved to Dorset. At present, he thinks they own 15 horses as part of their menagerie, including two Clydesdales, Ronnie and Bruce. When the pair of gentle giants were aged five last year, they spent time with Tim Ancrum, who runs the Adventure Clydesdale trail riding business at Dartmeet. This proved an education for both horses and their famous owner.
“Until I went riding on Dartmoor last year I didn’t realise that there’s something like two thirds of the moor that you can just ride on, without having to stick to bridlepaths. From my point of view, leaving the Clydesdales with Tim and then going back to them, I found that they are just so sure footed because they have come across every kind of obstacle and they have gone across rivers,” he explains.
This love of riding on the moor saw him agree to be an ambassador for the Dartmoor Derby, a three to five-day ride around the moor organised by Liberty Trails, based near Tavistock, which specialises in organising long distance rides on the moor.
“The Dartmoor Derby is a great idea. It’s lovely to go for a ride round the block but to go on a journey, a mission like that, is a real buzz,” smiles Martin.
Now aged 54, Martin has spent much of the last three decades in the public eye thanks to a range of high profile film and television roles. The time he spends in the saddle has proved to be the perfect antidote to this fast-moving and high pressure world.
“Horses are just really lovely. They are good for your soul,” he says.
SADDLE UP FOR THE DERBY
After the success of a pilot event in 2015, this year’s Dartmoor Derby will be held in September. Riders will travel in small groups, navigating their way through the spectacular moorland landscape either staying at hotels, or at high end camps ranging from an African-style bush camp through to Mongolian yurts.
Described as ‘a luxury riding challenge’, the Derby is not a race, although riders do need to be confident. Participants can either bring their own horse, or can ride one of the Liberty Trails’ herd. As well as Martin, the event has two other ambassadors – the Devon-based three day eventers Mary King and Lucy Wiegersma.