Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Dog-friendly Weekends: Dunstable Downs


I know it's an English habit to get carried away about summer when there are two days of good weather on the trot, but forgive me. I'd forgotten what the sun looks like! On Sunday, I found myself enjoying a burst of spring sunshine on Dunstable Downs, just off the M1 (exit Junction 9, as for Whipsnade Zoo).

This really is the best setting for entertaining adults, children and dogs in a variety of ways! My husband is a keen kite flyer, and while he was battling with a Flexifoil, I took a wander and watched the gliders, paragliders and even frisbee players, taking the photos above and below. We then went off for a meandering and exhausting walk and up and down the hills, taking in the stunning scenery and practically falling over dogs as we went!

There were dogs everywhere. One Springer Spaniel kept popping up in front of us wherever we went, Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition-style, and a Westie was getting seriously excited about his frisbee. A group of boys herding a couple of panting off-lead Staffies were quick to warn us that "they're friendly!" which made me sad - of course they were! Tails were wagging, tongues were out, and one rushed up to me, bright eyes sparkling and pushed a very wet, cold nose into my hand in greeting. I think the boys found it rare that these barrell-chested boys were viewed without suspicion or hostility, but these looked like happy, healthy and most of all well-socialised lads to me.

Five minutes could not go past without an inquisitive face bobbing by at knee height, paws rooting in damp mud and teeth cradling a mangled tennis ball. Although dogs are not welcome inside the Visitors Centre (unless they're assistance dogs) there are plenty of outside tables where canine companions are welcome to sit with their families as they munch on yummy but not particularly diet-friendly snacks - the chips smelled amazing to us in our tired post-ramble state.

With wildlife trails posted, the gliding school at the bottom of the hill and all manner of airborne entertainment taking place, there's plenty to watch even if you're not feeling energetic yourself. It's a great, clean, open space for kids and pets to run around - just make sure they're all well-behaved!

And speaking of well-behaved, I did have to save a growl or two for the handful of irresponsible dog owners who did not clear up after their pals. Don't ruin it for the rest of the dog-owning world.

Got a favourite dog-friendly place to go? Tell us about it! And don't forget that if you're looking for a dog-friendly place to take a holiday, booking through the special Dogs Trust / Welcome Cottages site means Welcome donate a chunk of your cash to us, with over £100,000 raised so far.

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