Shanks was a man who was too poor to own a donkey, let alone a horse, so had to walk everywhere. This phrase thus means having to walk!
I have had to resort to Shanks’s pony several times in the last few days, often 60 paces at a time and sometimes less, owing sometimes to the steep gradients, but also, in strong winds or if my nerve fails beside a long, sheer, unfenced drop. It has its own rewards. Stunning views; a close look at the gorgeous spring flowers; an immediate ability to stop to investigate all kinds of minuscule wildlife; ditto, to wonder at the din of bees about their hives.
The traffic comes in all shapes and sizes. Goats and sheep, naturally; terrified free range cattle who don’t like my hi-viz vest; roadside hobbled cattle; dogs who these days skid to a rapid halt and slink off when I stop to demonstrate authority (psychology of knowing I have various weapons should I really need them. I never have); donkeys; a magnificent snake making long sideways sweeps into the verge; (I was so glad I had read a chance article about nearly all snakes in Greece being harmless) lots of speedy lizards; wonderfully colourful bee-eaters in chorus on overhead telegraph cables; and delight of delights….. a tortoise speeding across the road with a very athletic look in his eye!