Christmas, Dog Friendly, the dog blog

The Annual Christmas Gift Guide – 2017

It’s that time of year again . The time you’ve all been counting down the sleeps until. It’s the Annual Man About A Dog Blog Christmas Gift Guide!! Yay!!

We’ve got quite a few stocking fillers to tell you about this year. There are a number of new products and brands that we’ve found or been introduced to in 2017, and there are also a few old favourites that just keep getting better and better.

So without further ado, let’s step into Christmas.

Cornish Ware

Cornishware, Dog Bowl £25, Treat jar from £32.

Starting off with a nice bit of crockery. For the very stylish kitchen, head to Cornishware to pick up a dog bowl and treat jar, then spend an extra £5 to personalise them! Which doggie doesn’t like to eat from his/her very own bowl?

 

Sweet William

Sweet William, Dog Bowl £20.95, Mug £15.95

For more obvious doggie paraphernalia we absolutely love Sweet William Designs, mainly because the woofster on the water bowl could have been modelled on Grense, but also because we can get ourselves a mug for a nice cuppa.

protect my pet

Protect My Pet, Gift Box for the Dog £14.99

This online service, Protect My Pet, allows you to subscribe to a service which sends you your dog’s (or cat’s) flea and tick protection at the same time each month, making sure that you don’t forget (not that any of us ever forget….). They’re also doing this snazzy little gift box for Chrimbo.

Canine Travel Kit £22 PetsPyjamas_preview

Pets Pyjamas, Canine Traveller Kit £22.00

If you’re a fan of pressies in a nice box then the Canine Traveller Kit from one of our favourite travel experts, Pets Pyjamas, is for you. You can even personalise it, and I think we’ve already established that personalised is very much en vogue in our house.

 

Dog Treat Co

The Dog Treat Company, Trio of Tins £20

We were sent these recently by the Dog Treat Company, and I have to say Grenson absolutely loves them. A new discovery but if it’s up to Grenson they’ll be on the shopping list in future.

 

Lillys kitchen

 

Lily’s Kitchen, 3 bird feast £1.99, Christmas Cracker £3.49, Advent Calendar £9.95

A long time favourite of Grenson’s is Lily’s Kitchen and they have pulled out all the stops for this Christmas. Not only does Grenson give them the paws up for taste, but all of these goodies look absolutely fantastic.

 

Charley Chau Snuggle Bed Velour Cloud from £85_preview

Charley Chau, Dog Snuggle Bed in Velour £85.00

There is nothing that Grenson loves more than snuggling under a blanket. This snuggle bed from Charley Chau, has it’s very own blanket attached. Heaven!

 

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Furbo, Dog Camera £155.00

For those of you intrigued to know what your pooch gets up to when you’re not there, try this gadget from Furbo. You can watch the camera on your mobile via an app, talk through the mic and even throw out treats. And it looks pretty nice around the house too. (And in case you were wondering, Grenson spends most of the time staring at the window waiting for us to get back. Bless him.)

 

Ruffwear

Ruffwear, Knot-a-Long Leash £32.95

This is the leash that we use every day on our walks. We absolutely love it, especially because the safe carabiner clasp provides peace of mind when you’re walking your dog in the city. Ruffwear leashes come in various styles but we love the climbing inspired design of the Knot-a-Long and with a length of only 30 inches it makes controlling your dog by your side much easier.

 

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Fetch and Follow, Winter Dog Coat Sunshine Yellow £60.00

We couldn’t leave old favourites Fetch and Follow out of our Gift guide could we? I’m also aware that I couldn’t get away with a blog post without a picture of the main boy. So here he is in action pose in his very snazzy winter jacket. Doesn’t he look smart? Everywhere he goes in this jacket he gets admiring comments. I’m pretty sure that once he puts it on his normal walk morphs into a full on strut.

So there we go. Hope that gives you some inspiration.

Above all else though, we both hope that you and your four legged friends have a flipping lovely Christmas and an ecstatic New Year.

See you all in 2018.

The Man and the Dog.

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Mercure Warwickshire Walton Hall Hotel and Spa

Mercure recently got in touch to inform us that some of their hotels are now doggy friendly, and to enquire whether or not we’d like to stay at their Warwickshire Walton Hall Hotel and Spa, and do a review. Well, as luck would have it this was also around the time of the anniversary of the day En Brogue became my better half. So what a perfect time for us to take advantage of such an offer.

Now, I’m not quite sure what I was expecting. I didn’t know much about Mercure but was pretty certain that it was part of a large chain. I had visions of an identikit group of hotels that would provide a standardised amount of quality but very little in the way of unique charm . However, whatever misconceptions that I had quickly evaporated as we made our way down the driveway. By rights we should have swapped our car for a Bentley and had staff in the back of the car rather than Grenson. It felt like we were entering the set of Downton Abbey!

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Now be aware. Not all of the hotel looks like this. There is a much larger red brick wing round the back that houses many more rooms, the swimming pool and spa, and the restaurant. But if you’re lucky enough to get a room (and to be truly accurate ours should really be referred to as an apartment!) in the hall then you too can spend the weekend pretending to be Lord of the Manor like Grenson did.

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It’s fair to say that Grenson was in heaven. Not only was he greeted by a luxurious sized bed…

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… but he also got to choose from his own menu in the restaurant. He opted for a ‘Clean Eating Chicken Protein Immune Booster’ as he was feeling healthy (Raw Steak Tartare or Salmon Sashimi were the other options!!). His verdict was that it was flipping delicious!

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But the real clincher for Grenson was the grounds. They are pure doggy heaven, with acre upon acre to explore.

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Although, it wasn’t all sweetness and light in the great outdoors. Grenson did have a close shave when he explored a wasp a little too closely and ended up getting it stuck in his beard. Ten seconds (that felt more like days) of shear panic then ensued as we both hurriedly tried to pick out the offending beast without getting stung. Luckily I eventually managed to flick it out before any damage was done (we were both expecting Grense to end up with a swollen disfigured face for days). What can I say? Hero Daddy to the rescue.

The other fantastic advantage to this hotel has to be it’s location. There is an absolute wealth of nearby places to explore.

First off we headed over to Stratford upon Avon to take in a bit of old Willy.

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If old relics are more your thing then you could go to nearby Warwick or Kenilworth for some good old castle action.

Alternatively you could avoid any of this history and culture and simply head to the pub.

We can heartily recommend the Peacock in Oxhill, although trying to obey the request for not feeding Henry is a Herculean task (just look at those eyes!).

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The Fat Pug in Leamington Spa was a fantastic pub full of character, although sadly no fat pugs on our visit. Judging by the hearty breakfasts that I saw being consumed whilst we were there I’m surprised that all clientele aren’t of larger proportions to be honest, not just the pugs. I would have loved to have indulged if I hadn’t already hit the hotel buffet. Next time!

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And to round off the weekend what better way can there be than a Sunday lunch at the Tom o’ the Wood in Rowington. This place is the kind of dog friendly place where it seems like the dogs may have brought the owners here rather than the other way around. Great grub too.

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You can then try to work off a little of your indulgence with a walk along the Cut (AKA the canal, for you none Midlanders).

All in all, an absolutely lovely way to celebrate our anniversary. But don’t worry it doesn’t have to be a special celebration. You can go any time. Go on. Spoil yourself. you deserve it. And so does your four legged friend.

 

Thanks Mercure!

 

The Man and the Dog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Horse Guards Inn – Tillington

As you all know by now, the Man and the Dog spend a lot of time between the Isle of Wight and London. This means that we spend a lot of time on the M25 and the A3. This also means we spend a lot of time in traffic jams.

If we are ever lucky enough to be forewarned of trouble ahead, we have on occasion diverted our path and braved the ‘b’ roads of West Sussex. This generally leads to an even longer journey, but at least we’re not spending all our time in stationary traffic. The other advantage is that by diverting from the beaten path you do sometimes discover things you didn’t know were there. Little gems. Gems that you would have missed forever if you’d stuck to your usual route.

One such gem that we’ve recently found is The Horse Guards Inn in Tillington.

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Set in a quiet little back road opposite the quintessential village church, this is not a place you find easily, but once you do, you’re never going to forget it!

If you happen to visit at a time when the weather is being kind then there is a wonderful pub garden.

If, however, the weather is being typically British, then enjoy the beautiful interior instead (but booking ahead is advised).

What you must certainly do is try the food. The first time we visited it was meant to be a stop off, just for a quick drink and a break from driving. However, once we saw the menu and blackboard of local suppliers, a light lunch could not be avoided; I chose a venison burger from the herd at Petworth Park around the corner, and Hannah had an incredibly delicious crab linguine. Once we had tasted the food, a return trip was duly booked in for a proper full on nosh up!

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On the second occasion, we brought along the in-laws as we knew they’d love the place too (they did). And as always with those two in tow, it led to an amusing story.

On entering and being shown to our table I remarked how familiar the waitress looked. A number of times I wondered aloud if she was an actress. Several times I enquired if she was the girl who starred in Foyle’s War. Despite these constant pleas for help in discovering why she looked so familiar, it wasn’t until dessert orders were being taken that my fellow dining companions suddenly noticed that the waitress looked familiar. ‘Is she an actress?’ they all asked. Realising that I had been ignored for the entire meal (and probably for the last 20 years, in all honesty), I exclaimed that I’d been saying that she was the actress from Foyle’s War for the past hour! At that point a neighbouring diner on an opposite table piped up that it wasn’t actually her (Honeysuckle Weeks) it was in fact her younger sister (Perdita Weeks), who is also an actress.

This intervention was very welcome as it helped to solve the mystery, but also made us wonder how much of our conversation for the last hour had the entire room been earwigging in to!

Anyway, it then happened that a few weeks later we saw Perdita on the old tellybox in an episode of Grantchester, which just so happens to be written by our very good friend Daisy Coulam!

So what do you think of that then? Small old flipping world isn’t it?

I can’t guarantee that when you visit you will be served by someone off the telly, but if you are, at least you now don’t have to rely on earwigging neighbouring tables to set you straight. You can just concentrate on enjoying your time at this fantastic pub.

 

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Get your eyes off my beer Grenson!

The Man and the Dog.

 

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Yorkshire – The Devonshire Arms & The Lamppost Cafe

A lot of hotels these days advertise themselves as ‘Doggy Friendly’. Just recently, as you all know very well if you’ve been reading this blog, we’ve tried out our fair share of them. Many, like the Cary Arms in Babbacombe and the Old Swan and Minster Mill in the Cotswolds, truly live up to that billing, with doggy treats, doggy dinners, staff that are dog crazy, and basically canines pretty much everywhere.

However, The Devonshire Arms is, I’m afraid, going to have to be put in the category of, ‘Doggy-Tolerant’.

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Now don’t get me wrong, it is a great hotel to stay in with your pooch. They provide a few treats in the room – even a four-poster bed if you request it – and the grounds are plentiful for a good walk (although they do insist that dogs stay on a lead).

They also have the most magnificent dog themed lounge.

It’s very difficult to grumble when you can sip cocktails in a  room with doggy wallpaper.

However, as you may have all realised, Hannah and I are a bit soppy with our little Grenson. He’s part of the family. And unfortunately at this hotel one family member isn’t welcome in any of the dining areas. It’s common even in the most doggy friendly establishments for there to be places that are off limits. That’s fair enough, not everyone is as potty about dogs as we are. But at the Devonshire the only options are to leave your pooch in the room whilst you dine, (not very nice for the other guests if he howled constantly for a couple of hours), or leave him with the staff at the reception desk. To us this is akin to saying we could leave our toddler chained up in reception or in a room on their own for a few hours.

Normally we would have gone elsewhere, but we’d booked this place specifically for the restaurant as our stay coincided with Hannah’s birthday, and we’d been looking forward to a bit of fine dining. So on this rare occasion, we decided to be brave and leave Grenson with the reception staff.

The meal was delicious, but of course we both hardly concentrated on it at all, as our little boy was sitting in reception tied to a lead wondering what he could have possibly done that had caused us to cruelly abandon him and leave him out of our plans. He was convinced that we’d all been having a lovely time and he hadn’t been a bit of trouble. As we rushed back to retrieve him, we found him sitting patiently looking for us with a pained expression somewhere between, ‘how dare you leave me’ and ‘please don’t leave me again, I’ll be good’.

On the second night we had room service!

It could have been worse. During breakfast, (that Hannah and I had to do in shifts, so as not to leave Grenson on his own again), the full English was disturbed by an irate cocker spaniel desperately searching the room. It had been subjected to the reception treatment, but had managed to bite through its lead, escape, and come looking for its owners!

One place that definitely should never have it’s doggy friendly credentials brought into question however, is an amazing little cafe that we found in Hebden Bridge.

The Lamppost Cafe.

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This place is truly doggy nirvana.

Not only do you get hessian sacks for the dogs to sit on. Not only do you get a choice of plain old water, or doggy beer for your furry friend…

…but your canine companion also gets a choice of their very own cake to enjoy alongside you!!

Isn’t that flipping amazing?! Now that is what you call doggy friendly.

Oh and the human coffee and cake wasn’t bad either!

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We absolutely loved this place, and cannot recommend it enough if you’re ever in Yorkshire and you and your four legged friend are feeling peckish.

Which just goes to show, dining and doggies don’t always have to be separated. And if you really want to earn your doggy friendly stripes, you could even go the extra mile and make them their own meal too! I know one pooch who would definitely appreciate it.

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The Man and the Dog.

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cafes for dogs, Dog Friendly, Dog Friendly Accommodation, Scotland, the dog blog

Lakes and Lochs – part 2

So was it to be a wasted trip? I’d promised Hannah and Grenson stunning scenery and breathtaking views, but hadn’t we already had all of that during our stay in the Lakes? Had my memories of the Highlands become over exaggerated in the intervening years since my last visit? Most importantly could we have just stayed in our little hut and done without this extra drive?

Luckily my anxiety evaporated as soon as we hit Loch Lomond (Is it pronounced ‘Lowmund’ or ‘Lumond’? I’ve no idea so I just flit between the two and hope that I’m right at least half the time). On the morning that we drove by it was shrouded in mist and emanating the mystical beauty that only a Loch can. Lakes are beautiful, of course, but only a Loch can truly give off that magical vibe that leads you to half expect a rowing boat to slowly drift from the gloom carrying a druid with a magic sword!

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Afterwards we hit Glencoe and that was it, the deal was sealed. We were all head over heels in love with the Highlands. It truly is like no where else in Britain. ‘Stunning’ really is the only word for it.

 

 

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Our accommodation was to be a Bothy (a little shed) on the banks of my favourite named Loch – Loch Lochy (I’m imagining it was a pretty uninspiring afternoon in the ‘Department for the Naming of Lochs’ that day).

When I had walked the Great Glen Way I must have walked right past it. I imagine that by then my tender feet were giving me hell and as a result I didn’t look up from the path as I trudged on by. If I had have I would have spotted the most amazing little abodes and probably would have been very disappointed with my choice of B & B.  We were all very thankful this time around that we’d found this little beauty – our home for the next few days.

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Walking was the name of the game during our visit. I was keen for Hannah and Grenson to experience a piece of ‘The Way’. I had loved my time walking it, there is nothing like the satisfaction of completing a walk that has ‘Glen’ and ‘Great’ in its title. It’s also incredibly satisfying to walk from one coast to the other. The Great Glen Way goes from Fort William in the west to Inverness in the east. Basically, anything above the Way is essentially an island. Thomas Telford cut it adrift by creating the Caledonian Canal that links together Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness, allowing boats to sail right through rather than go around the top. Unfortunately, by the time it had been finished, vessels had moved on from wooden sailing boats to steam powered iron hulled ships and were too big to use it. So it was all a bit of a waste of time really, but then, it was the Victorian age; they did extravagant constructions that were a waste of time like no one else did.

The section we decided to do consisted of a beautiful old railway track all along the southern shore of Loch Oich. This area is perfect for walking and cycling and the path is a particular highlight for those not looking for gruelling climbs. Having said that, it’s by no means easy. When we’d finished we calculated that we’d done approx 15 miles, which must make it Grenson’s longest ever walk. By the end of it he even seemed slightly tired! Luckily, along the way there are many bench sitting and view appreciating opportunities. If someone has been kind enough to place a bench then it is your duty to have a sit and a bit of a look.

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After a well earned nights sleep we awoke with a plan to venture up to take a peak at Loch Ness. You simply can’t come here without a little bit of Nessie hunting. But be warned, it could easily become an obsession. At the far end of Loch Ness we passed the camp of Steve Feltham, a guy who gave up his life in Dorset 25 years ago to come and live in a van on the banks of the Loch, and dedicate his life to hunting the elusive beastie.

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Now some of you may feel that is a little extreme, but I can think of far less pictureque places to live. You may also say Nessie hunting is no way to spend a lifetime, but I imagine he would say that sitting in traffic jams on the way to work everyday is an even worse way to spend your lifetime. Each to their own I suppose? Before I could start fantasising too much about this radical life path Hannah dragged me away. Apparently she’d spotted Nessie a couple of times already, unfortunately I always seemed to be looking the wrong way and by the time I looked it had disappeared. Clearly I wasn’t cut out for the hunting life.

We were about to make our own equally exceptional discovery anyway. Halfway along the southern shore of the Loch we stumbled across The Camerons Tea Room & Farm Shop – an absolute oasis of delights.

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Forget Nessie. If you’re ever up in this region this place and their delicious teas and cakes are what you should be hunting out!

And why wouldn’t you be up in this region? Yes it’s a long drive. But it’s only really like driving to the South of France, except you don’t have a channel to cross and you don’t need a passport (or a doggy passport).

Seriously, if you live on this island and have never seen the Highlands then you need to sort yourself out. Put down that foreign travel magazine, the world will be there to explore later, first off take a second to appreciate the view from your doorstep.

It’s stunning!

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The Man and the Dog.

 

 

 

 

 

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Lakes and Lochs – part 1

A few years ago I decided that I needed to go for a walk. Somehow, this resulted in me finding myself alone and trekking across the Great Glen Way in the Highlands of Scotland. In hindsight a stroll to the shops would have been easier, but back then I had a strong need to get out and see a part of my own country that I’d never seen before. Again, admittedly I could have conceivably done that by walking to a new shop rather than my local, but instead I chose to go to a region that was about as far away from home as possible, whilst still being home. Scotland really is a long way away. After 12 hours on the sleeper train by rights I should have been disembarking on another continent, and yet here I was, still in the same country, (or maybe not depending on your point of view, but let’s not get all political here!). Despite having to endure the long journey there and back, and despite the very tender feet after my trek, once home again I vowed that one day I would return, but this time with Hannah (aka En Brogue, aka the wife) so that she too could witness the splendour and beauty that I had experienced.

Of course, with the addition of Grenson to the family, trips abroad have become a little more difficult these days. So when we recently began planning our latest UK jaunt, the Lochs that had become my friends during that week in The Highlands were once again calling on me to make good on my promise.

This time the sleeper train didn’t seem like the best option, as Grenson, bless him, isn’t much of a commuter. He’s far more comfortable in the back seat of the car, so long as there are plenty  of stop offs for ‘wee wees’. So out came the UK road map and a plan was quickly devised.

We’d make this a number of trips combined into one big one. First off, we’d explore another region which I’m ashamed to admit that up to that point in my life I was ignorant of  – the Lake District. We’d then motor on up and spend a few nights in the Highlands, before finally heading back south for a night or two in Yorkshire moors.

So with the car bursting at the seams, off we set on a little adventure.

Unfortunately, by the time we’d completed our drive up to the Lakes we managed to arrive in darkness. This was not a good idea for the accommodation we had booked. After our successful experiment with glamping during our Devon and Dorset trip last year (see link here) we had revisited the Canopy and Stars website and plumped for similar abodes for the Lakes and Highlands legs of our trip. Our accommodation was set in a place called the Scales Plantation which was basically a clearing on the outskirts of the middle of nowhere. Being early midweek, and with it also being early March, our shepherd’s hut was, unsurprisingly, the only one in use out of five. This meant that we arrived in pitch black darkness. After clambering around and slipping in the mud more than a few times, we eventually found our home for the next four nights. We knew it was ours as thankfully our pre-ordered shopping was waiting in the kitchen area. After a celebratory beer and an aborted attempt at lighting the fire (more on that later) we snuggled on down in the little bed and entered the kind of satisfying sleep you only enjoy after a full day of travelling.

I don’t know if you know this but birds don’t have lie ins. The raucous first bars of the dawn chorus acted as our alarm clock. Excitedly, we all stumbled outside, eager to check out our surroundings. And what a beautiful shock it was. Stunning. Grenson immediately loved it and set about exploring and sniffing every  square inch.

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Meanwhile, I attempted again to ignite a roaring fire in the wood burner and yet again it quickly reduced itself to nothing more than embers and a thin trail of smoke. Then Hannah stepped in. Man may not be able to make fire in this partnership, but woman sure as hell can. Within seconds the kitchen was toasty warm. She was so proficient I nicknamed her The Firestarter, which I then changed to The Prodigy, which I narrowed down to Keith Flint, before finally settling on just ‘The Keith’. (Oh yes, I’m such fun on holiday, I really am). ‘The Keith’ was a master at fires; glorious rolling flames would arise just from the logs being given a stern look. I was even able to cook a steak on one of her fires! God bless ‘The Keith’. With the kitchen nice and warm we were able to indulge in the most important part of any camping/glamping holiday. A cooked breakfast. Bacon never smells so good as when it’s being fried on a campsite.

With bellies full it was time to explore. Our first stop was Aira Force, a spectacular set of water falls and a walk taking in the views over Ullswater.

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It was meant to be a warm up for the ten mile walk around Derwentwater that we had planned for later in the trip. The map said that this walk was 4.5 miles. On closer inspection we would have seen that most of that was vertical! It was far more strenuous than we’d imagined, but I have to admit the views were definitely worth it.

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Back at camp we quickly clicked into the camping and great outdoors time groove, which is basically: when the big light in the sky goes out, go to sleep, when it comes back on again, wake up. There was to be no late night raving for us on this holiday. Which was a good thing as there was too much to see and do. The following day we visited Grasmere and Windermere, and again the scenery was simply stunning. We found a few excellent local shops and stocked up on pies for our forthcoming walks. Always important to have pie.

The main walk that we had planned in The Lakes, as already mentioned, was to circumnavigate Derwentwater. Little did we know that this walk would be so eventful. It started off so peaceful, but before it was over Grenson had brushed with disaster on three separate occasions.

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The problem was that he was just too flipping excited. He scampered off ahead as soon as we let him off the lead, eager to get on the trail. Pretty soon into the walk we watched as he encountered a cattle grid. Grenson is not a fan of cattle grids. Grenson doesn’t even like drains in the road. Clearly he would stop and wait for us to catch up then allow us to lead him safely through the gate at the side. However, on this occasion the excitement was too much, we helplessly watched on as he careered forward, struggling over the grid with his legs falling down every gap. We watched in horror expecting him to break at least one leg, but somehow he clambered over to the other side and carried on as if nothing had happened. That was the first shock.

The second was even worse. We had entered a wooded area next to a road. The kind of country road that doesn’t have much traffic, but when it does, it whizzes past at top speed. We thought we were safe as a stone wall separated us from the road. Unfortunately we hadn’t counted on the regular gaps that had been made, presumably to let flood water drain away. As I was distracted looking at the map, Hannah’s heart fell as Grenson sniffed around the wall and then casually jumped through a gap, out onto the open road. She screamed his name in terror, and for what seemed like hours he was out of view, presumably wandering around in the road. Finally he calmly hopped back through the gap looking at us as if to say ‘hey guys what’s all the fuss about?’. He quickly went back on the lead until we were certain it was safe, and Hannah had stopped hyperventilating. BE CAREFUL IF YOU DO THIS WALK!

His third little mishap was thankfully at lot more light hearted. Half way around the lake a section requires you to cross a series of boardwalks across boggy land. Grenson kept sniffing either side and looking very much like he was about to leap in, but he had resisted, and had almost made it all the way across without any incident. I was so proud of him that as I walked alongside him I reached down to pat his head. I still don’t know how it happened (I swear I didn’t push him), but as I passed him I became aware of a sudden commotion and turned to see him struggling to keep his balance on the edge of the boardwalk. Panic suddenly shot into his eyes as he slowly slipped over the side and ended up face planting straight into the bog. Luckily he quickly managed to clamber back onto dry land, this time with a face full of mud and no way of playing it cool.

Crazy little fool.

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Despite these near death experiences, The Lakes had given us a wonderful start to our holiday. How had it taken me so long to visit? The beauty on offer is astounding. In fact it was beginning to make me worry. Looking around at the snow capped mountains and shimmering water I was beginning to wonder whether or not the extra journey up to the Highlands was strictly necessary. My memories of The Highlands was sketchy. I was certain that it was awe inspiring, but then so were The Lakes. Could it really be worth dragging Hannah and Grenson all that way? Would they find it as beautiful as I did?

Tune in next time to find out….

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The Man and the Dog

 

 

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