I loved riding - even after Amora smashed my shades

Blood orange, Jerusalem artichoke and smoked haddock salad

LAWRENCE MURPHY: Seasonal ingredients to help your January diets.

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When I was growing up, I would have an allergic reaction if I came into contact with various animals. As we were very much an animal-loving family, this was quite a problem.

My folks literally had a zoo in their back yard (for which we could have charged admission if they’d been business-savvy).

We had everything from dogs and rabbits to guinea pigs, quails, hamsters, fish, budgies and canaries. Oh, and I had a pony.

I know it sounds like something a very wealthy posh girl would say, but yes, daddy did buy me a pony.

Of course I was allergic to it and would return from the stables looking like a puffer fish with my swollen and red eyes. But I still loved it.

As the years went by, I also developed a reaction to hay and straw and decided that someone was trying to tell me something, so regrettably I gave up my pony.

So I was delighted when Lavant House stables near Chichester asked me along for a Sunday morning hack last weekend.

It was lovely to get out of the city and back to my country bumpkin roots. I asked to be put on a horse that would actually do something, as I’ve been on these types of rides before where the horse gets rather miffed if you ask it to do anything other than a snail’s pace.

I wanted a horse that still had a bit of zest left, so they gave me Amora – and she didn’t disappoint.

With the wind in my hair and the sun beating down, we had a great time as we trotted and then cantered.

But as we retuned to the stables, my sunglasses fell off. As I asked one of the stable hands to pick them up for me, I heard a loud crunching sound – Amora clearly didn’t approve of my eyewear choice!

Serves me right for wearing them, I suppose.

It was fantastic though and reminded me of what I love about the countryside in this part of the world.

In the great weather we’ve been having, we should all appreciate what we’ve got – Southsea Common, beaches right on our doorstep and miles and miles of lovely greenery just beyond the city.

So get out there and enjoy it!