W is for… Walkies, Woodland, Water, Waiting, Wandering
If you have a dog and live in a city like me, you will find that you go for a walk at least once a day. It is a question of finding places to go that suit you and the dog and being a little brave and exploring the neighbourhood, asking other people where they go and it can be glorious fun.
I am lucky in that I have several wonderful places nearby where we can go. The dog can go off the lead in parts providing he behaves, there are often poo bins to take his waste and gates and fences to keep him safe and off the roads.
Dry days are easy, very hot weather is tricky and we resort then to early morning and late evening walks, or go to Leigh Woods where you are always under the tree canopy in the heat of the summer months. There are cows there as well as the more usual squirrels and rabbits, I’ve seen slow worms and birds, inspected mushrooms, picked blackberries, and on occasion got lost on the steep slopes running down the sides of the Gorge to the river Avon.
On wet days we stay out of the boggier woods and the huge puddles and walk on the skylarks meadow at the top of Ashton Court.
Sometimes we go down the bottom of this estate, where one finds the Rose Garden, the Wall of Urns and the lime trees blossom in the spring. It’s a big place, with old trees in the Deer Park and a huge quarry with buzzards soaring overhead at the far end. Orchids flourish in the long grass in the meadows in the Spring; the Estate offers mountain bike tracks and kite festivals as well. All these places breathe and give us grace; the green lungs of the City.
If we want to see the sunset, we go to Kingsweston House from where you look west towards Wales over Avonmouth or stride down Dog Alley on Clifton Downs.
For amazing views over the city and swathes of blackberries in August we go to Purdown, marred only by the constant rumble of the Motorway below, wending its way into the heart of the city.
Walkies can be stressful, full of unpredictable moments and events, but once you are in a routine and the dog settles down, it is also a time to put one foot in front of another and just stroll, to stop and wonder at plants and fruits, to reach up and take a handful of berries or rosehips, to notice the direction of the wind, the planes overhead, the crows down by the stream holding court; far away from the desks and the computers and the kitchen. I take an old mobile phone with me but that is usually it.
My deal with the dog is that he gives me unconditional devotion and I give him food, a warm place to sleep and a visit to the outside world each day. We do OK.