Woman rides along pipeline route

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Sarah Murphy, of Afton, Va., rides Rob Roy, her 25-year-old male Percheron thoroughbred, with her 5-year-old male thoroughbred Unbridled Flourish at her side on Wednesday as they travel along Old Bailey Highway in southern Nash County. Murphy is riding the proposed route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to protest and bring awareness to the natural gas pipeline.


Staff Writer

Thursday, June 27, 2019

A Virginia woman riding horseback along the length of the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline crossed through Nash County this week.

Sarah Murphy and her horse Rob Roy are on the southern stretch of their journey to bring awareness to the pipeline.

Dominion and Duke Energy are building the 42-inch natural gas pipeline planned to run from West Virginia to eastern North Carolina.

Murphy, 34, lives on a farm in Afton, Va., eight miles from the pipeline. Her ride is a way to protest the pipeline and learn about it and the communities it might run through.

Murphy said West Virginia was steep mountains and Virginia was a lot of trees. North Carolina is a lot of farmland.

Murphy said the number of solar farms in Nash County is encouraging.

“Nothing’s perfect, but at least a solar farm won’t blow up on you,” Murphy said.

Murphy and Rob Roy began at the beginning of the pipeline last year in West Virginia, taking a winter break after three months of trekking through mountains.

On a rainy day last year, Rob Roy lost his footing and fell into a mudpit up to his belly. They barely escaped.

“We’ve been through cotton and peanut country, sweet potato fields and now we’re in the land of tobacco,” Murphy said. “Not too far to the Nash County line and a handful of counties after that and we will reach the terminus in Robeson County. Hard to believe.”

While in Halifax County, Murphy spent time with the Haliwa-Saponi. She thanked members of the tribe for a tour of their community and teaching and sharing with her their history and pride in their culture.

She has learned a lot during her travels. She has stayed with Dominion employees and folks adamantly opposed to the pipeline. While her ride is meant to protest the pipeline, she said both sides could learn something from the other.

Murphy learned from families along the way about how pipeline construction adversely affected them. In one incident, a fence was cut without notice to a farmer and cattle escaped. In another situation, a cherry tree was cut, causing cows to get sick from ingesting newly wilted leaves.

Murphy also stayed with families who lived off pipeline work. One man said he had worked building pipelines across the country since he was 15 years old. She said some of her fears were put to rest as he taught her about inspections, standards and quality control set in place for pipeline projects.

Murphy has either been camping or staying with families in exchange for housework.

Murphy said she is heartbroken to see some of the things being done to the land she grew up loving.

While the people — on both sides — have been friendly, the weather and terrain have at times been treacherous.

A thunderstorm hit Murphy and Rob Roy on the very first day. They battled rough trails and had to avoid trespassing along the way.

She has been blogging about the experience.