I have two delightful puppies. They started really small (as puppies do generally) but like Topsy they grew and grew, and now (at nearly 8 months) they are pretty big … and not finished. They are labrador cross standard poodles (labradoodles) and are called Bertie and Banjo. Bertie is built more like a poodle with a huge head and he is as gentle as a lamb but very clumsy. Banjo is a dainty, rounded little girl with a beautiful smaller version of her brother’s head. Her coat is softer and curlier and she bats her eyelids shamelessly. My husband calls them Beauty and Bruiser. Very fitting I think.
This is them on holiday in Dartmouth.
27th October 2010
As an ex teacher you would think I would remember half term wouldn’t you? No, course I didn’t. I headed off for one of my favourite walks around the National Trust property of Cotehele, looking for chestnuts and admiring the beginnings of Autumn colours. We hadn’t been walking long when we met a small family of ladies and children. The doods love children … and they jump and doodle in bliss whenever we meet them. Needless to say several doodly jumps and licks later we left tearful children in our wake. I drew deep breaths until lo! on the horizon more children. Well, I will save you the grizzly details but we left a trail of devastated offspring behind us, with, I must say, very understanding and tolerant parents and grandparents. Bertie and Banjo are clearly very friendly, but oh so big … we will get over this. They do everything else beautifully so we will get over this.
31st October 2010
Today my husband had the urge to visit a National Trust property called Parke. It is just outside Bovey Tracy (have I spelt that right?) We have been there several times over the years and as much of it is based around an old railway track I knew most of it was firm under foot. With this in mind, I headed off in a long skirt, boots, jumper, tweed jacket … only to discover that tractors and trailers had churned everywhere up whilst felling and logging conifers in part of the estate. By the end of the walk, I had soaked up muddy water (like a wick in an oil lamp) and was wet to just above the knee (not a pleasant sensation on the whole).
The colours were amazing. The woods there are a mixture of deciduous trees with a predominance of beech. The canopy glowed like the stained glass windows of a cathedral and the recent rainfall caused the river at the base of the woods to rush and snarl through its various bends, threatening at every turn to flood the adjoining land.
It was a glorious walk and the doods were very well behaved. Hot chocolate and horlicks mixed in the flask added to the experience a feeling of warm wellbeing and our Sunday roast (just veggies for me) was even more tasty than usual when we got home.
3rd November 2010
Bertie, Banjo and I walked at Danescombe Woods today. It was a bland sort of day, but I have to say the woods skirting the river Tamar glowed in a prefusion of orange, pink, red and gold, quite taking my breath away. I rarely walk without my camera, but I had forgotten to put it in my walking bag and I was really annoyed with myself, because it was so beautiful. It was mild and a bit grey but at least dry, so we didn’t rush but spent time enjoying the Autumn display. We only met one person on the whole walk (with a lovely spaniel called Toby) and I was delighted on our way back to the car to see a squirrel casually trotting across an horizontal branch over the stream. It had obviously been out foraging, something my dogs could instruct it in. They ate so many blackberries during the season that I felt sure they would be sick, but they never were. They look quite miffed that there are none on the brambles now, but they have been distracted by sloes, acorns and chestnuts. They would never go hungry, that’s for sure!
8th November 2010
We have had some very wet weather (mostly overnight) which has left the countryside pretty mucky. My favourite woodland walks are sticky, to say the least, so yesterday I took the pups to the lower slopes of Kit Hill. Kit Hill is an area managed by Cornwall County Council. It has a mining history and an associated quarry. It is one of the highest inland points of Cornwall and has fantastic views to both coasts and to Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor. The lower slopes are less exposed than the summit and to the north, particularly, there is an area of low growing scrubby trees and bushes which has a very different feel to the south side. The doods and I followed a path that runs almost parallel with the road. It has blackberry bushes along its length and some small beech which are in full autumn glory. The bracken is turning a wonderful coppery brown and the going is relatively easy. The path swings right up the hill along a gulley that, I suspect, becomes a bit of a stream if it rains heavily.
This path in turn skirts the large granite spoil that tumbles down from the quarry. Huge boulders, many worked, look like a giant child has been playing with building blocks and, having become bored, has knocked the construction over. It is quite majestic and the main path, almost on top of them, leads to the quarry itself. I love the quarry. It has vast rock faces glowering over it. Its many ledges provide precarious micro environments for trees that, for want of nutrition, grow delicate and slender. The whole place has a magical feel and reminds me of fantasy art. At the base of the rock walls lies a lake. Manmade, and who knows how deep, the lake is often used for outdoor pursuits run by the wardens. The dogs love it here. Bertie in particular is a strong swimmer and loves to chase a ball into the depths. He swims back with his shoulders high in the water, powering along holding the ball in strong jaws. Banjo loves to leap from the granite rocks into deep water and then jump about to tease her brother. This usually leads to what labradoodle owners call ‘the doodle dash’. Wild excitement ensues and they chase each other at breakneck speed. My heart is always in my mouth – I am convinced they will run into some unresisting object and do themselves terrible damage, but somehow they always swerve, jump or dodge their way to safety.
We left the quarry and headed down the hill, but I, in my wisdom, decided not to follow the main path. I found a waymarker for a smaller winding path and set off with unwarrented confidence. It didn’t take long for the path to peter out (I must have taken a wrong turning). I was on an animal track which took me to the edge of a precipice and the pups, with characteristic faith in my ability, stopped and gazed at me questioningly. We were lost for some time – something that seemed to delight the doods. They were oblivious to my frustration and followed me religiously over every rock and under every branch (I lost my hat at least three times). Every now and then they would disappear and reappear tantalizingly near to the main path, which I could see but not reach. Eventually I made it and set off with determination down the steep incline back to my car. The rain was just beginning to fall.
11th November 2010
I decided to walk at Clapper Bridge today. This proved to be a bit of a mistake as it had been raining heavily all of last night and when the dogs and I got there we found the river very swollen and powerful. Every time we started along a path we came to a torrent rushing through the leaves to join the main stream and had to turn back. So it was all a bit stop and start as we had to keep returning to the lane where the dogs had to be on the lead. Despite all of this, the windy wet weather and the gushing waters made it a dramatic walk and the dogs seemed to enjoy it anyway.
16th & 17th November 2010
Walked with my friend and her labrador on both of these days. Willow has had surgery on her cruciate ligament and has been having swimming therapy and short walks built up over several weeks. We have just started walking her on the lead with my two pups, with a short bout off the lead together. The trouble is Bertie is so excited he spends all his time hanging off her ears, or her neck. He is now quite a bit taller than her so it is a bit traumatic for us all, but today they did calm down a little. I met my friend with a two year old labradoodle and another gentleman with a fantastic standard, black poodle. He wasn’t cut and looked just like a curly version of Bertie. So beautiful. We were walking on Kit Hill, which despite being very high was still very boggy after last night’s rain. There was flooding further down in Cornwall, but we were lucky and by mid morning we had blue sky and a watery sun.
20th November 2010
Well such adventures … I went to the pet shop late and decided to go on and walk on the north side of Kit Hill. I was quite excited because I have a head torch that I hadn’t used yet and it was getting dusky. When we arrived the light was good enough to walk without light and the pups and I set off along the lower path. As the light failed I grappled with my headlight and turned up the hill towards the quarry. All went well. I was really enjoying the whole torchlit walk experience, but alas I got too adventurous. As we came to the top of the main path back down to the carpark, I decided to challenge my torch and take a more scenic route.
Well, we started well and the dogs had great fun jumping at every bush and shadow and I was feeling very smug about the effectiveness of my torch and my ability to navigate in the dark. What do they say? Pride comes before a fall … well the good news is I didn’t fall, but I got lost! I tried to correct myself by locating a stock fence and walking along it, even though there wasn’t a path. Falling over brambles, down into boggy holes, jumping on and off great fern nodules and getting caught up in thorns, I struggled on for what seemed like hours (about 15 minutes actually), only to find that the fence I was following was at the bottom of the moor running parallel to the road.
Deep sigh … I turned around and the doods obligingly followed. Back the way I had come and further until I reached a 90 degree bend in the fence. Bertie and Banjo suddenly found a path, and as they were so confident, I followed. By now it was pitch black and I was contemplating how embarrassing it would be to have to ring my husband and say ‘I’m lost, come and get me’, but I quickly realized that I should have trusted the doods’ judgement earlier, because they led me straight to the gate.
When I got into the car I gave a huge sigh of relief – mostly because I didn’t have to ring for help … and the dogs didn’t even notice we had been lost, so they had a great time and longer walk than I intended.
6th December 2010
Still no snow to speak of here in South East Cornwall, but we have had the most beautiful hoar frost. I don’t think I have ever seen New Bridge look so magical. The combination of sunshine, crystalline dew and light mist made for an atmosphere of fairyland proportions. The dogs loved it of course, but really haven’t mastered the whole iron hard ground experience and often mimic Bambi as they chase each other madly over ice-covered marsh areas. More alarmingly they have no concept of temperature and still gaily pile into the river where the mysterious hovering fog holds no fear for them at all.
I couldn’t resist taking photos, but was disappointed that I didn’t capture the glinting sparkles on the leaves and seed heads. In addition, the dogs look even more blob-like as they contast with the white background. Still, I have to share …
I would like to say this is an alert dog observing wildlife with enthusiasm, but sadly I think Banjo is just getting ready to pounce on her brother.
I love the combination of the shiverworthy, monochrome frost and the vibrant Autumn colour of the beech leaves.
Despite the lack of sparkle and glints (sigh) this is beautiful.
15th December 2010
Today I slipped out early for a walk in a forest locally known as ‘Kelly Bray Woods’. Its real name is Holmbush Woods and it is the site of an old mine. There are various engine houses and venting chimneys in ruin there and the area immediately around them is undulating and covered in copper coloured beech leaves. It reminds me of Burnham Beeches where my family liked to walk when I was child in Windsor. Most of Holmbush is a commercial woodland and it often changes shape as the foresters harvest and plant.
I went there this morning because my little girl Banjo is in the second week of her first season and I was anxious to avoid meeting other dogs. As it happened, we didn’t see anyone and the dogs went crazy, doodle dashing amongst the fallen leaves and chasing each other over the humps and workings in the leafy mine vicinity. It was lovely to see them enjoying being out. I think poor Bertie is feeling a bit trapped by his sister’s ‘interesting’ condition.
9th February 2011
It must seem like the dogs have not had any exercise, however they have, in fact, gone out every day. Banjo is now in the throws of a phantom pregnancy so she is not quite back to normal, but she and Bertie are still full of energy and enthusiasm for their walks. We try to walk with my sister in law and her dog once a week. Her Hunterway (I think that’s the name) collie, Stella, is the doods favourite walking companion and they use up twice their normal fidgets when they charge around with her. She is a mature dog who likes to run at a distance to her owner and my two love keeping touch with her and us, which means they do a lot of miles!
Today, we were back on Kit Hill, the mist was descending and we couldn’t see the view at all. It had a strange effect on the dogs because when we met a labrador and its owner coming in the opposite direction they barely touched noses and they didn’t greet the person at all – very unusual.
I will be glad when we have light mornings again. I have really missed going out on the terrace at about 6.45 a.m. and listening to the birds. watering my plants and breathing in the fresh morning air. February is always hard, because I breathe a sigh of relief at the end of January only to discover Spring isn’t here yet … oh well, deep breath, last leg.
Monday 14th February 2011
Today I walked the dogs around the summit of Kit Hill. In order to keep our walks fresh, I quite often set off in random directions and today was no exception. Heading off down the eastern slope I negotiated a mare’s nest of animal tracks, booby trapped with gorse at its most unsympathetic (brown, withered and particularly bitter in its dying throes) and scrambling in and out of minor earthworks and supervised subsidence. As I pulled myself out of yet another hole I marvelled at the natural agility of my two labradoodles. Their display of jumping prowess always impresses and their doodlebility (‘It’s my own invention,’ announced the White Knight as he fell on his head.) is almost feline in its grace, needing as it often does, no run-up and a four footed take off which not only propels them long distances, but also to great heights (usually to lick my nose or to try and pinch my hat).
Our walk was doubly exciting because of the presence of two low flying, circling helicopters who I took to be the military, being extremely large and green in livery. They flew by repeatedly, and low, to the point where I felt I was on nodding terms with the pilots. The dogs stopped and straining their necks back stared straight up into the belly of the beasts. This is an improvement because when we first encountered low-flying aircraft on the hill, Bertie used to bark and chase them. It is a testament to his intelligence that he soon realized the futility of this activity and desisted.
It was a beautiful day with a piercing blue sky and skudding clouds that belied the temperature and the icy bite of the wind. We were though, encouraged by the improved light levels to walk further than usual and it was no surpise when on return, and after their mid-day chew, Bertie indulged in a long, and noisy, post prandial nap – that dood can snore for England!
Wednesday 16th February 2011
I decided to walk along the River Tamar with my friend and her labrador puppy, Amber. We set out along the reed bed and suddenly realized the tide was out … I will let you judge the success of our venture for yourself.
Very good for the complexion I understand. They both look very glossy now.
Sunday 20th February 2011
It was a glorious day and our friends rang and asked if we were going for a walk. We had planned to go to Talland Bay and walk part of the coastal path to Polperro. Our friends decided to come too. They have a beautiful black lab who unfortunately has just had her second knee replacement, so they accompanied us with their youngest son and their golden lab puppy. I was quite confident that despite the rain of the previous days, it would be reasonably dry as the way is rocky and steep in places. I couldn’t have been more wrong – it was really mucky, although it didn’t stop the dogs and Sam having a lovely time.
Friday 8th April 2011
The weather here in Cornwall continues gloriously and on Friday my husband could resist the call of the wild no longer. We bundled the dogs hastily into the car and drove to our favourite beach on the north coast and after a long and perilous walk down some impossible gradients, we ended up on the mixture of boulders, shingle, sand and rocks below.
Searching the cliffs above us to try to and locate the calling peregrine, we were rewarded with the reproachful gaze of a herd of goats. The National Trust populate this area with goats and ponies to graze and maintain the balance of wild flora and fauna in the area. They are wonderful to watch, although to be honest, I often watch with my heart in my mouth. They are so confident and agile, which leads to some pretty hairy adventures out onto the cliff ledges and slopes.
The beach was pretty much deserted and it was lovely to be somewhere where my young dogs could charge around, in and out of the sea and rock pools, without offending anyone. They had a brilliant time and we were all exhausted after the massive climb back up to the car, but it was worth it. Judge for yourself …
Wednesday 18th May 2011
I know I am a bit of a wuss, a pathetic romantic, a dreamer, but honestly can you blame me when you see how beautiful the countryside is that I walk in every day? The north side of Kit Hill is absolutely stunning at present. Each area seems to have a little micro-climate which creates very different environments. The north side is full of small hawthorns, crab apples, bluebells, bracken, and has a woodland feel, but with stunning views. I am amazed at how gingerly the dogs negotiate the territory, without squishing a single flower – whilst I, like Gulliver, seem to crush at every step.
The bluebells form a blanket at the moment and it is great to see that they are all native, rather than the spanish, or hybrid, variety that are resident in my garden.
I always feel so calm and free when walking the dogs. It is as good as any meditation for me.
- The view behind me is out towards Bodmin Moor and the north coast of Cornwall. On a clear day you can see the wind turbines at Delabole and the satellite dishes at Morwenstow.
By the way, I am now the proud owner of a new dog walking bag. It is not perfect, but it’s pretty good and as you can see, I can’t lose it.
Wednesday 22nd June 2011
On Kit Hill over the past couple of months there have been some restrictions on dog walking due to the season. I fully support the need for this, as skylarks nest there, and, as we know, they are an endangered species.
At Holmbush Woods, walking in watery, sparse sunshine, I encountered a gentleman crouched by a bank with a notebook and pen in his hand. He glared at the dogs, and although he didn’t speak, it was very apparent he was not pleased to see us.
This, and other recent encounters, got me to wondering when did dogs become the enemy? Everywhere I go lately there are birds nesting, or it’s a site of scientific interest where there are butterflies, or wild flowers, and it seems to me there are less and less places where dogs are welcome. Wide open spaces are locations of limited entertainment value for dogs. They will chase a few balls (Bertie would live with a ball in his mouth given half a chance), or if they are like my two, they will charge manically, snarling at each other in an aggressive and unapproachable manner, grabbing each other by the neck, rolling and skidding to change direction. They do run out of steam, however, and then they need other things to occupy them like interesting smells, trees to weave in and out of, bushes to scramble under and places to ambush each other. They also need encounters with nature like birds, rabbits and squirrels. They love the chase through the woodland, in and out of the bracken and bushes, and no harm is done as both parties seem to understand perfectly the rules of engagement and seem happy with them.
Most people I know pick up their dog mess, not leaving it for unsuspecting people to encounter. I do notice that, as I walk in the countryside, it is generally much cleaner than it used to be years ago, when I first had dogs. So why is it that they are so unpopular? Most people don’t own the acreage to entertain their dogs at home, we need to get out and walk, and they offer a way for people to engage with their environment. They are an excuse for most people to take that time out. It’s a way to keep fit, get fresh air, to enjoy your surroundings, without that nagging feeling in the back of your mind that you should be at home doing the housework.
So, I ask again, why do people dislike them so much? Does this hostility arise from fear of children picking up the toxicaris worm? I know, as an ex-teacher, parents are incredibly protective of their offspring and that stories of blindness caused by worms in dogs faeces, dog attacks and other tales of horror can create a climate of fear.
All I can say is, it is such a shame! They bring so much love and pleasure into human existence, quite apart from fulfilling some of the most important assist and safety roles that society needs. They are a constant companion for the lonely, elderly, children or sick offering a soothing and reassuring presence. They are known to lower blood pressure, and for me last year when I was ill, they built routine into my days and gave me hope and structure which helped me back to good health and fitness.
Whilst I appreciate that we have to live and let live, I would just put out a plea that dogs exist in their numbers because of human intervention, and therefore we owe them, at least a good existence, and at best, our love and respect.
Wednesday 29th June 2011
Today I walked the dogs the two miles into Callington to visit my friend (and the two miles back). That means that their walk today was all on the lead. I like to do this quite often as it keeps their claws ground down with the pavement and road work, and it also gives them much needed lead practice. I also like the fact that we meet so many people, prams, children and other dogs, as well people on bicycles and, of course, cars. I’m not sure that my two are frightened enough of traffic, but they do know to wait at the side of the road and wait for my command to cross and I am hoping that by instilling this habit, it makes them safer.
They are always really tired after a lot of heelwork and are currently snoring on the sofas, unable even to respond to the intermittent applause and cheering on the tennis. Tomorrow we are walking with our friend and one of her labradors – so probably even more exhausted then.
Tuesday 12th July 2011
I am afraid to say that I think the doods might be improving in terms of excitement in case I jinx their progress. They are less prone to rushing up to, and jumping all over, every person and dog that they meet, but they are not foolproof, so I am still on tenterhooks when I meet people. They are perfectly friendly, just large and bouncy. I am beginning to think that Bertie is crossed with a kangaroo. He bounced from all fours onto our wood store yesterday (about 80cm) without preparing, thinking about it or any extreme effort. He regularly bounces so that his head is higher than mine (I’m 5′ 3″) to look out of the little window in the top of our stable door. It is a peculiar experience, standing on the outside, seeing a doodle head appear and disappear like it’s on a spring.
Banjo also jumps effortlessly and it is a curious sight as she disappears amongst brambles and bracken, and then reappears lightly hopping way above them, only to disappear and reappear again and again. Oh to have their energy.
I meant to tell you about a recent encounter they had at the quarry on Kit Hill. I wondered what Banjo was doing, as she kept plunging her snout into the water at the edge of the lake and then going into doodle mode with head between front paws and backside stuck in the air. After a couple of excited bounces she would stick her nose back in the water and repeat the process. After a few enticing snuffles and bounces, Bertie was tempted over. They never can resist each other’s teasing or encouragement to wickedness. Bertie also started pushing his nose onto a rock and, occasionally, a large paw carefully and gently disturbed the water. Fascinated I wandered over to observe at close quarters. Imagine my amusement, when I found that they were watching, and disturbing, a great black cloud of tadpoles, each with four legs and a tail, clustering at the edge of the water, making their first nervous excursions onto dry land in the shape of the rock that Bertie was sniffing. Both dogs instinctively were being very gentle and no tadpoles were hurt in the making of the tale. I soon distracted my pair with balls thrown deep into the quarry for their retrieval, and the tadpoles carried on pushing and shoving at the base of the rock as if nothing had happened. Two days later, when I visited, not a tadpole in sight!. They have obviously made their escape and are now hiding in the undergrowth at the edge of the water. I wondered how the pups knew that they had to be gentle – I was worried they would shovel up mouthfuls of the tadpoles, but they seemed to understand that this was not acceptable behaviour.
Wednesday 20th July 2011
Have been suitably chastized by my son for not including a picture taken of him and the doods on Kit Hill when he was home from university at Easter. Kit Hill is one of the whole family’s favourite stomping grounds and when you look at the view behind Byron, Banjo and Bertie, looking out towards the dark hills of Dartmoor and on towards North Devon, you can see why.
Today, sadly, I had a funeral to attend and I whizzed the dogs down to New Bridge for what I thought would be a quick walk, but, as is often the case, it was peaceful and beautiful and I found myself meandering, which took a lot longer than intended. As Banjo and Bertie run so far from me now I thought I would use a whistle. I had suspected for a while that Bertie was being a ‘teenager’ and ignoring my calls, however I did concede that it might be that he had not heard me. With no enthusiasm I dug out an old PE whistle from my redundant briefcase, and now have to sheepishly admit that he probably couldn’t hear me as they return like bullets whenever I toot.
Except, I should say, when they are chasing rabbits, a new and rewarding pastime that they have discovered recently. Strangely Bertie catches them and then brings them to me, rather soggy and rigid with fear. He drops them at my feet and then he and Banjo watch with pride while I rub the rabbit back to a more compos mentis state. I have to hang on to them then and walk away as the rabbit lurches off for the gorse as Bertie seems to feel that I am partaking in the game by regenerating the object of his attentions so that he can re-chase and re-present.
As Bertie has this lapse of attention when hot in pursuit, I decided to walk in the opposite direction yesterday. Of course he got mislaid. Banjo had lost confidence and run back to me as I was walking off, but Bertie with macho bravado had continued in his hunt. When we finally reunited he was panting and puffing and had obviously had a little panic when he discovered I had moved. I wouldn’t have done this, you understand, unless we were somewhere very safe with no roads etc. Anyway today he returned at every clearing of my throat, so I am hopeful the experience was sobering.
Wednesday 7th December 2011
My friend Paula is always moaning at me that I don’t update this page enough, but to be honest there are only so many things you can say when you visit the same walks a lot. However, we had an experience on a walk recently that I thought was more interesting. A few weeks ago we walked from Talland Bay to Polperro. This is a favourite walk of ours and it was all the more poignant on this occasion as poppies and posies had been left at the memorial on the cliff top. This memorial is dedicated to the men of Talland and Polperro who lost their lives in the Great War, and it was particularly sobering to read just how many families lost two, three or even four members. Once in Polperro, we had a lovely stroll around, but on walking back up the cliff road, we noticed smoke emanating from a cottage up ahead, and a man standing by a parked car. He went towards the cottage and then retreated quickly with a lot of black smoke billowing around him. We raced up the hill, doods in tow, to find the cottage on fire and the man anxiously trying to communicate with an elderly lady, who we could hear moaning inside. The fire brigade was called and a neighbour came to see if he could help. These two gentlemen covered their heads and dived into the cottage, followed rather recklessly by my dear hubby. They all soon emerged, wretching and bent double. Another young man joined us and I suggested someone should try the back of the building which appeared to be free of smoke. The gates was chained, but he climbed over the top and managed to get the lady out of the back. The men lifted the gate off its hinges and the lady was safely removed. To cut a long story short, the fire brigade arrived and it turned out the fire had started in a linked property, but everywhere was flooded with the smoke. Bob and I moved off, very proud of the doods who had waited patiently and moved effortlessly with me wherever I went. We got lost leaving Polperro (it’s not a big place for heaven’s sake!) but that’s another story. Got back to Talland as dusk fell and golden lights appeared in the cottages on the hill – wonderful.
12th January 2012
Over Christmas and the New Year we ventured to the beach on a few occasions (we obviously didn’t learn very quickly). It was great fun, but oh so cold and wet. I had bought the doods quilted wax coats to try and protect our car and furniture from their dust, mud, horse and cow poo, brambles, dead bracken, dust, mud, filth, dust and mud … are you getting the picture? The coats work brilliantly and I have also turned bath towels into velcroed wraps which is definitely paying off. However, the beach in gale force winds and lashing rain is quite a challenge and we really tried everything out fully.
On the 29th December, we wrapped up warmly and headed off for Widemouth Bay. We have always loved the north coast of Cornwall and, indeed, my children’s book is set on this very stretch of shoreline. This time of year you can walk with canine companions on the beach itself and even though it was not very busy, there were several dogwalkers taking advantage. Also we were fascinated by a kite surfer who sped up and down the tideline at terrific speeds. Byron, our son, has been thinking about doing kite boarding on the beach and he watched with great interest. I tried to film him with my new camera, but alas only caught him walking his kite back along the beach. The wind was biting and it was the first time we had tried out the dogs new coats. They didn’t seem to mind wearing them at all, which rather surprised me, and it definitely reduced the amount of sand shipped back into the boot of the car. http://s992.photobucket.com/albums/af46/Beveth2010/?action=view¤t=Widemouth291211.mp4
On the 1st January, whilst staying with my brother-in-law and his wife, we loaded all the dogs into our cars and drove the short distance from Ilfracombe to Woolacombe. We actually walked the day before as well. My sister-in-law was also visiting with her dog Stella, and Bertie and Banjo were very excited to see her. My brother-in-law has a rescue German Shepherd called Chloe and as the tide was low and the weather appalling, we had plenty of room for all four dogs to run. It was bitterly cold and heaving with rain, but I really enjoyed the walk and the doods were reasonably clean in their coats. Sand, however, catches in their wavy, scruffy coats and the car was beginning to show signs of becoming a beach in its own right. On the first, the weather was a bit better, but the tide was high and it seemed like most of north Devon had had the same notion. The beach was heaving with people, dogs and worse – small children. I kept the doods on the lead for much of the time. I could just see them wiping out everyone under three feet tall within a half mile radius. Later in the walk I managed to let them off in the dunes, and they happily exhausted themselves on the soft, steep sand. It was about then that the rain arrived – the whole beach turned its back as one man and started walking back towards the car parks. The dogs didn’t look quite so keen at this point, but their energy levels never seem to diminish. It did make me think about their coats though. Because they are quilted and fleecy lined, they get incredibly wet and heavy. The dogs are well protected, but the coats take forever to dry. So (confession time) I have bought them 3 peaks coats, which are thinner, more waterproof and can be machine washed. We haven’t needed to walk in them the last couple of days, but they look to be a really good fit and both dogs appear to be happy and comfortable – only time will tell!
- Country diary: Tamar Valley (guardian.co.uk)