A post should appear each Sunday!
Sunday December 12th 2021
Now we have a tried and tested portfolio of walks: Kings Heath Park, neighbourhood roads, Highbury Park, Holders Lane, Cannon Hill Park, Clowse Woods, Earlswood Lakes and Jasmine Fields are all within a ten or fifteen minute drive away.
The most important criterion when deciding on each day’s venue, is, of course, the weather.
When it’s dull and wet, Isis is happy to go anywhere, but invariably chooses a road walk. Usually she wants to walk to Kings Heath Park, but sometimes she prefers a circular tour of the neighbouring streets. These walks are all about smells. As I perceive it, the only challenge for her is whether she can retain enough urine in her bladder to pee on absolutely every scent she picks up.
Highbury Park, large and varied enough to offer a choice of routes, used to be a sea of mud at this time of year, particularly during the Covid lockdown when hordes of people stomped round, intent on grabbing their hour of exercise.
Now, thankfully, there’s space again, and since the new paths have been laid, it’s possible to circumvent the muddiest areas. Even if the sun is popping in and out, and making Hairy One nervous, the park is large and the landscape varied, so it’s possible to choose ‘safe’, shady paths for her.
And when the weather is settled, she can pick her own itinery,
or, when it’s very warm, even spend much of her time in her cool, watery apartment.
Walking through the tree-lined paths in Holder’s Lane can be difficult for her when the light is changeable, or even when there’s steady sun, because of the alternating strips of light and shadow; but there are so many off-path tracks, so densely wooded that the sun can’t penetrate them, or deep down beside the river, shielded by high banks, that it’s usually possible to find a non-threatening sections which she can enjoy.
Isis loves exploring Clowse Woods, which she has visited many times with Rufus and Nancy. The trees and undergrowth there are so dense that the light rarely penetrates as far as the ground, and the woods are so extensive that even Bev can lose her way, so there are always new areas for dogs to explore. Unfortunately, when there are prolonged periods of rain, as there generally are at this time of year, most of the paths are swamped with mud.
Bev reports that the through pathway to Earlswood Lakes, closed for over a year because of extensive drainage work, is open again, so that a walk round the lakes is now viable. It’s years since I walked there, and Isis has never been, so that should be interesting for her.
When the weather is unkind to us, when clouds scud across the sky, the sun plays peepo, and poor Isis cringes on her way from the house to the car, our default destination is Jasmine Fields.
Even though we have to face the sun when we enter the main field, once we’re through the gate, Isis has choices: she can run into the centre of the field which is completely open so that there are no shadows, or she can turn left or right. Any one of these routes gives us access to the walk above the canal where the tangle of trees protects her from any glare. Whatever the weather, she feels safe here, and she’s thrilled with the stimulating scents left behind by nocturnal creatures.
She is more wary when we descend from our happy meandering and reach the canal towpath. For about two hundred yards the trees are not dense enough to shield her, and when it’s sunny, there are stripes of light and shade to walk through.
Her tail drops, and she has to be coaxed to walk on; soon though, the path is shaded by high banks and tall trees, and she can relax again.
Ah, as the Beetles almost sang, ‘Jasmine Fields forever’!
As we urban dog walkers often tell one another, we are very, very lucky to have access to so many open spaces.