An intrepid Englishwoman is about to embark on a remarkable journey through the vineyards of France – on horseback.

Victoria Bishop and her steed Lily are setting off in April this year on a nine-week, 800km journey through seven of France’s great wine regions. They intend to raise £50,000 for charity.

The Great French Ride starts in the Loire Valley and continues through Bordeaux, Languedoc, the Rhône Valley, Burgundy, Alsace and Champagne, where – fittingly – the epic will finish on 28 June.

Victoria and Lily will stay at Château Angludet in Bordeaux, as the guest of the Sichel family, at Pol Roger in Champagne, at Veuve Clicquot and many other places along the way. And in case all hostelries are full, Lily’s horsebox – custom-built and weighing seven tonnes – has room for a couple of humans as well.

The whole affair is meticulously planned, down to the extra sets of shoes for Lily, the spare padded cycling shorts for her rider, the fitted fridge in the horsebox – and the special equine diet.

‘Lily’s feed plan has been worked out by an equine nutritionist,’ Victoria said. ‘It is based on a product called Enduro 100 which is specially formulated for endurance riding.’

Victoria – who spent 17 years in the wine business – will be joined at various stages by an assortment of wine professionals, including Jilly Goolden, masters of wine Claire Gordon-Brown, Pippa Woods and Jane Hunt, and wine journalist Susan Low.

Lily, a thoroughbred 12-year-old mare, whose great-great-grandfather Ribot is one of the only horses ever to twice win the great Paris cup the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, is also bringing a friend – Dromara.

‘They are valuable horses,’ Victoria told decanter.com. ‘My greatest worry is that anything should happen to them.’

Will they be locked in the horsebox at night, then? ‘No, after a hard day’s riding what better than to spend the night in a luxurious meadow by a vineyard?’

  • The charities supported by The Great French Ride are WaterAid, the Fortune Centre for Riding and the Wine and Spirit Benevolent Society. All donations should be sent to Victoria Bishop, 4 Bramley Arms, 1 Bramley Road, London W10 6SZ. Cheques should be made payable to The Great French Ride.

    Written by Adam Lechmere21 February 2002