Keep safe!

Keep safe!
You are responsible for your own safety and that of your dog. The walks listed in this blog are not detailed guides. Plan your route! Click the landrover image for safety advice from Bowland Pennine MRT.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Parlick, Fairsnape and Saddle Fell

The Forest of Bowland is a confusing place for dog walkers. Some parts of the fells are completely off limits to dogs, even on leads, whilst others welcome dogs and their owners provided of course they follow the rules which apply to that area of Access Land.

Our last visit to Parlick was New Years Day 2009. On that icy cold day I was somewhat frustrated that such a large area of land was off limits to me and my dog, including the summit of Fairsnape. Largely because of that, and the slightly longer journey time, we tend to visit the West Pennines instead.

One of our fellow tweeters, Mark Sutcliffe from Lakeland Walker Magazine ( recommended a return visit a few weeks ago. We had planned to go the following day but atrocious weather resulted in a postponement, until today.

After dropping my better half at work we drove through Chipping to the parking spaces at Fell Foot, just below Parlick. The weather wasn't too bad so we enjoyed some fine views over towards the coast as we rose steeply to the boundary fence which divides the Wolf Fell and Fairsnape Access Areas. Dogs are not allowed to cross the boundary so, keeping to the east side, we followed the path towards the summit of Fairsnape.

Unfortunately our fine views were soon lost to swirling mist but undeterred we continued upwards, through assorted snowdrifts and peat bogs, until we reached the point where the boundaries of Fairsnape, Wolf Fell and Brown Berry Plain meet.

From here we began our descent across the peat before joining a good path that led across to Saddle Fell, yet another area of Access Land where although dogs are allowed, they must be on the lead between March and December. Below the cloud, we enjoyed fine views once again, marvelling at the variety of landscapes, plantations, small lakes and farmland, carved out of the hillside below us.

On reaching Saddle End Farm we struggled over numerous awkward stiles and mud baths towards Wolfen Hall where we we greeted by a friendly farmer who thanked us for having the dog on a lead.

On the final stretch I reflected on my previous attitude to the dog ban on Fairsnape. Throughout our route we encountered many pheasants and the estate is very clearly focused on shooting. Whilst shooting has never appealed to me I can see that rampaging dogs are a threat to nesting birds. Personally though, I still think that a complete ban is unnecessary. With a dogs on leads policy I'd like to think that dog owners and the shooting fraternity could both enjoy what is a wonderful part of Lancashire. I'm greatf for the more tolerant approach taken in the areas we walked today.

It can be a bit tricky to navigate the Natural England website to get up to date Access maps showing the various restrictions on dogs so I included a photo below.

All in all a good walk in a great part of Lancashire. I mustn't leave it so long before we return again.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

More snow on Darwen Moor

One of today's better decisions was to not go out early, despite being awake at 5.30am. Much of the morning was spent listening to the rattle of hail and sleet against the windows before finally, sunshine and blue sky emerged from the grey.

There was no great thought needed to decide where to go today. A simple repeat of yesterday's walk on Darwen Moor and Roddlesworth. The only difference being that we began with the woods, there was even more snow and of course that we weren't caught in a blizzard.

Another good day!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A winter walk on Darwen Moor

There's nothing better than being out on the moors with the dog after a fresh snowfall. Especially if we're up an out early, with ours the first foot and paw prints of the day.

Yesterday saw the first snowfall of any significance to hit Lancashire this year and although nothing had really settled in Preston I knew we'd stand a good chance of a snowy walk on the West Pennine Moors.

It was just turning light when we arrived at our usual parking spot, the United Utilities car park between Abbey Village and Belmont, by the turn to Tockholes.

Our walk followed one of our regular routes up on to Darwen Moor where small streams of icy meltwater carved their way down the bridleway. On reaching the top we headed towards Darwen Tower, although low cloud initially any chance of a view. the dog was well happy chasing snowballs, wrapped up in the waterproof jacket that is reserved solely for days like today (particularly has he had a very short clip last week!)

As we neared the Tower the clouds lifted, giving fine views to the east and revealing a band of 'blackness' moving slowly over Preston. Unsure whether we were in for torrential rain or heavy snow we continued along the ridge before starting the descent down Lyons Den to Roddlesworth. Within five minutes we were in blizzard conditions but sure of our route and relatively close to the road there was still time for a photo opportunity!

By the time we reached the woods the snow had passed and we were soon back at the car, refreshed and very satisfied with our first snowy walk of the season.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

White Coppice, Healey Nab and the Reservoirs at Heapey

The weather is foul today. Cold and raining with the occasional hail storm thrown in. Just the day for an early morning walk around some of our favourite footpaths!

We parked up at the picturesque village of White Coppice and after the dogs usual photo opportunity by the cricket pavilion we took the bridleway towards Anglezarke, quickly reaching the dam.

Turning right along the road for a short distance we took the stepped path leading up from the reservoir, signed to Healey Nab. The word muddy doesn't adequately describe this stretch. Even the dog, who normally likes a muddy puddle, was unimpressed!

Reaching the higher ground on the top of Healey Nab we watched sheets of rain and hail moving slowly across Preston and Chorley, eventually obliterating any view we may have had. I counted us lucky though that we had any views at all from the summit cairn.

We descended through the woods, which can be busy with mountain bikers, towards Heapey. The dog was on lead here in parts as there are some steep drops in to the old quarry workings.

Finally, we joined the path adjoining the reservoirs where we endured numerous hailstorms and stalking cattle.

Despite the weather, a lovely walk!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A misty walk on Winter Hill

I've lost count of how many times we've walked up to the trig point on Winter Hill. Despite the array of radio masts, the access road and even occasional evidence of a discarded McDonalds meal wrapper it still has an attraction, which is probably based on its visibility from almost every corner of Lancashire.

With bright sunshine forecast yesterday it seemed like a good time to revisit, and walk from Belmont up past the reservoir before taking the steep but direct route to the summit.

Unfortunately, although Preston was bathed in sunshine, Winter Hill remained shrouded in thick cloud. Undeterred we headed on upwards, enjoying a play with a ball en-route, before reaching the trig point. I failed to spot that the trig had been recently whitewashed so spent a few minutes washing my jacket in the adjacent puddle. Typically, the cloud lifted about 15 minutes after we had descended.

Still, it was enjoyable as always, and, quoting from the Doves, "I'll see you back on Winter Hill'.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

A day out on the Llyn Peninsula

Day two of our weekend near Pistyll started early. Perhaps the dog could smell the sea, only a stones throw away from our cottage, or maybe he was just hungry. Either way, we were off down to the rocky beach just after dawn where we once again struggled over the large stones before pausing for a game of fetch by a stream that had ended its short but lively cascade down the hillside.

After a breakfast of bacon and halloumi we decided to take a drive round the Peninsula, stopping first at Abersoch. We were pleasantly surprised to see a fair number of shops which remained open out of season, and wandered down to the beach where the dog enjoyed another good run. The mountains of Snowdonia provided an impressive backdrop.

Next stop was the small village of Aberdaron, the final resting place for pilgrims journeying to Bardsea Island in days gone by. Out of season Aberdaron had a rather somber feel to it. The few small gift shops and cafes were shut, although the terrace of the hotel overlooking the beach seemed to be doing brisk trade, and dogs were welcome. Once again, the dog enjoyed a run on the beach before we made our way back to Pistyll.

After a short rest we headed round the footpaths circling Moel Ty-Gwyn, a small but nicely shaped hill that rises up from the sea. As with yesterday's short walk, the views were great. The dog was unimpressed though, making it clear he much preferred playing with his ball on the beaches and nearby open fields.

Happily for the dog, we ended the afternoon on the fields around Gwylfa, returning to the sheep free enclosure for a game of fetch.

I suspect there won't be too many fireworks around here. If there are, I think the dog will be too tired to care!

Friday, November 04, 2011

A short walk from Pistyll on the Llyn Peninsula

I don't visit North Wales very much. I don't know why, as it's an easy trip from Preston and I love the ruggedness of the landscape. In my student days I spent many weekends camping at Capel Curig, walking in Snowdonia. I've never visited the Llyn Peninsula or much of the Welsh coastline, so today's short walk from Pistyll was a first.

We began near the small church, which was a real delight. Whilst the dog waited patiently outside the open door I took a few minutes to enjoy the peace and quiet, being careful not to disturb the straw that covers the stone floor.

We then headed across the field adjacent to the church and down the path to the beach. It was near to high tide when we visited, with no sand exposed. Walking on the large pebbles proved difficult so after half an hour or so we retraced our steps up towards the church.

The National Trust land around Gwylfa looked stunning in the afternoon sun so we wandered through sheep filled fields and flowering gorse bushes towards the headland and old quarry workings.

The views back towards Pistyll and Nefyn were great, and we spent a while just watching the world go by before retracing our steps.

Happily, the field by the church was sheep free so the afternoon was rounded off with a game of fetch.

I can see this won't be our last trip to the Llyn!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A dog is for life, and it changes your life!

We had thought about getting a dog for months. Living with my wife's family inbetween house moves had been the turning point. They had a wonderful Springer called Oscar, who would have been about 5 at the time. Oscar was very much part of their family and his unconditional love was clear to see.

To be honest I hadn't imagined we would ever get a dog. We had our new house with a new cream sofa and near white carpets. Hardly the best choice for any prospective dog owners. We had though moved much closer to work (about 10 minutes drive) and gained a decent sized garden.

It was my wife who decided we were to have a dog. She registered on some reputable looking breeder sites and several months later announced a litter of Springers were available from St Helen's. We were soon off to see the pups and, like many people, instantly fell in love.

There was just one dog in the litter. He was amazingly cute. We both knew instantly that, subject to the breeder accepting we were going to give the little chap a good home, he (Finney) was the dog for us.

Our first lesson was that puppies aren't cheap. Bedding, bowls, puppy crate, toys, vaccinations, insurance and the cost of buying Finney from the breeder all mount up very quickly in the first few weeks. Then there was the time off work to make sure he was never really alone for the first few months with us. Holidays away were cancelled in that first year and we did 2 week 'shifts' to make sure Finney settled in to his new surroundings and mastered the basics like toilet training. There were plenty of disturbed nights sleep listening to the pitiful whine from the kitchen so in more ways than one, we were glad of the time off.

Our second big lesson was that puppies can get ill, and that when they do they do downhill rapidly. Soon after his second injections and first walk out, he developed diarrhoea and became lethargic. Within 24 hours he was so weak he couldn't stand. The emergency duty vet gave some injections and care advice but when we finally fell asleep exhausted that night a part of me was terrified that he'd be gone when we awoke. One of the happiest days of my life followed, when our bundle of fluff wandered shakily out of his bed and wagged his tail. If we hadn't known before then, we knew now that the relationship with a dog is special.

As with all special relationships, there are some aspects that need working on. We soon realised that puppy teeth are sharp, like needles. Finney liked nothing better than to launch himself at us and sink those needle sharp teeth in to ankles, cushions or any other closeby object. Chew toys became our greatest assets. A firm 'no' our most used word. In many ways we were lucky though. At no time did he try to eat the kitchen, sofa or any other major item!

Balancing work and home was our next challenge. We found a great local company who were able to come round every lunchtime as needed and take him out for a walk. Although we worked locally, it look the pressure off in terms of having to get home by a certain time at lunchtimes and we soon found it to be an essential part of dog ownership for us. 5 years later, Chris and Martin, who walk him, are now as much a part if his weekday routine as we are.

Training came next. Every week we attended training classes and over 18 months or so progressed to the Gold award. 5 years later the dog might have escaped but I continue to help out as best I can.

So what else has changed for us? Holidays. To be honest we have never been great sun worshipers. For the past 8 years we have headed down to Cornwall once or twice a year. All that really changed for us is that Finney comes too, and we enjoy our holidays even more as a result. There are plenty of good places to stay that welcome dogs. Restaurants may be out of bounds but we have found some amazing pubs and cafes. In nice weather eating pasties or fish and chips on a harbour wall, with a dog drooling at your feet, becomes a treasured memory.

Walking the dog is never a big issue. He is as happy walking down the road, with all its familiar smells, as he is walking further afield. We have enjoyed walks in places across Lancashire that I would never have been to if it hadn't have been for him. Over the past year or so my quest to seek out new places has been replaced by a more relaxed approach, just to enjoy those places which I know are a pleasure to visit. Even a couple of hours with a ball on our local park is great.

Owning a dog is wonderful, but it is huge commitment lasting maybe 10 to 15 years. In that time the dog doesn't grow more independent like a child. It will stay dependant on you for everything it needs, even going out to the toilet. Days out without the dog (football, shopping, fishing and more) will become rarer unless another family member is prepared to stay at home. I have found that raking my wife and friends to the Trafford Centre provides a good excuse to visit Dunham Massey with the dog. As your dog gets to old age it will need you even more, unlike a teenager who will no doubt be trying to spend as little time with you as possible.

A dog really is for life and changes your life, in a big way. For us, getting a dog has been wonderful. Hopefully he'll be with us for many years to come.
Oh, the carpets. Replaced with a darker pattern after about 6 months. Finney owns the sofa!