New Year, New You – Wintery Walks
Whilst navigating myself through the wet, wild and rugged side of the British countryside, whether it’s the Lake District, Snowdonia or the Central Highlands, I’ve found myself trudging up mountainsides alone with my thoughts, thinking the same thing every time: I wish I had my dog with me. Now, not everything I do is exactly ‘dog-friendly’; a lot of terrain I encounter is far too treacherous for our pooch’s paws - not to mention his obsession with chasing any animal in the vicinity! However, if you’re lucky enough to live in close proximity to these wonderful areas, there are many routes to be taken that teeter along the line between relaxation and challenge. As the festive spirit dies down, the Christmas food settles in and the new year approaches, what better a time to get out and about amongst the elements, and discover these places canine to hand!
Not every mountain-walk comprises of the dangers and intricacies presented by the north face of the Eiger. Yet, it must be remembered that dogs (however lazy) like the odd challenge too. With a few guidelines understood and safety precautions undertaken, I’m going to help you make it not just safe for your dog, but enjoyable too. Each week throughout the festive period I will be outlining some winter escapades to get your teeth into, adding a bit of extra spice to your usual walk round the block. However, I must apologise; this week it’s the boring stuff…
- Controlling your dog: Consideration to surrounding livestock and birdlife is of the utmost importance. Although most National Trust conservations or areas of outstanding natural beauty are there to be enjoyed, many people’s livelihoods rely on them being properly maintained and well looked after – especially concerning pastoral farming. Therefore, it is vital not to disservice other walkers or farmers who’s land you may be walking on; this means keeping dogs on leads, away from children and with good distance from cattle, ground nesting birds and enclosed livestock.
- Developing his/her abilities: It’s advisable to avoid such committing walks till your dog is at least 12 months old. Even then I recommend starting with shorter days to avoid burnout and setting off as early as possible to ensure reasonable daylight (this will also allow you to enjoy the rest of your day whilst your furry friend sleeps off his morning adventure!). Again, it’s vitally important to be aware of your dog’s limitations so start off with some challenging hillwalking before moving onto Grade 1 scrambles.
- Preparation is key: Ensuring you take the right gear for yourself and your pet is also imperative in allowing you to enjoy the day to its fullest; for a day of winter-walking I would advise taking the following – a lead (obviously…), a whistle, some spare water, a collapsible dog bowl, a harness (Ruffwear do some great ones!), a few plastic bags and for those who want to engage with the adventure on a more extreme level, a working dog jacket, dog GPS and a first aid kit (which might help you too come to think of it!).
There are some superb routes to be conquered across the country and over the next few weeks we will be travelling from Crib Goch, over the Snowden Horseshoe then moving north to Cumbria and the fantastically atmospheric Jack’s Rake before finally embarking on our most northerly challenge, that of Ben Lui in the southern central highlands.