GROTON — Temperatures in the 90s both days lent a tropical ambience to the two-day “African Safari” trail rides on June 7 and 8. Although the heat caused a couple of cancellations, 15 hardy riders and horses rode the trails on Saturday and 13 rode Sunday, with five riders opting to do both days. Fortunately, most of the trails were in the woods, keeping riders in the shade most of the time, and extra water for the horses was supplied.
The ride was based at Gail Greenlaw’s Willowbrook Farm, in Groton. Saturday’s ride offered a 14-mile trail through the Throne Hill conservation area, with a water and snack stop near the Groton Senior Center before heading back to base camp; those wishing the longer 20-mile ride did an additional 6-mile loop through the delightful “roller-coaster” trails in the Groton Town Forest.
Amy Mayer, a journalist from Greenfield, came to interview ride manager Judy Lorimer and some of the riders about the sport of trail riding and about the purpose of the ride, which was to raise funds to help the “Build A School In Africa” project to build its fourth school. The interview was to be aired on National Public Radio’s “Only a Game” program.
After the ride, participants enjoyed a home-cooked meal of African dishes from Morocco, Senegal, Kenya and Tanzania. Riders who stayed for both days also had an evening meal of sandwiches and corn chowder.
On Sunday morning, most people chose to do the shorter 10-mile loop because the forecast was for even hotter weather, but several did the longer 15-mile ride, which incorporated trails through Groton’s newest conservation acquisition, Surrenden Farm.
Riders were warned to be on the lookout for loose cows — a herd of about 25 Angus and Angus-cross yearlings had escaped from a nearby farm the week before and many were still roaming the woods and fields. Gail and I had seen hoofprints beneath the power lines when we were marking trails a few days earlier and thought they were moose tracks, until we met some young men from the farm that were searching for the cattle. Fortunately, there were no accidental meetings between bovines and equines on the trail.
A spaghetti dinner followed Sunday’s ride.
The ride was co-sponsored by the Littleton Horseowners’ Association, with proceeds from the ride split 50/50 with the Build a School project.
In a partnership with Save the Children, Build a School in Africa has been donating $10,000 each year since 2005, which represents about 40 percent of the $25,000 needed to build a three-room middle school, complete with two latrines, director’s office and furniture, in the remote rural Kolondieba District of southern Mali, West Africa. Dialakoroba was the first village to benefit from this partnership, in 2005. A second middle school was built in Massamagana in 2006, and a third was recently finished in Koloni-Filala. The funds currently being raised will be taken to Mali in November, where a fourth middle school will be constructed, this time in the community of Diaka.
Although the district is half the size of Massachusetts, there are a relatively small number of middle schools available among the 205 communities in the district, meaning that many children cannot continue their education past the sixth grade unless their families can afford to board them in distant towns. With no paved roads, no reliable public transportation, and very few cars, commuting long distances to school is not an option. Save the Children locates these new middle schools in central areas where there are several small villages within walking distance, putting secondary education within the reach of more children.
For more information, visit www.BuildaSchoolinAfrica.org, or contact Judy Lorimer at email@example.com.