We all know that walking is good for our physical and mental health, and the month of January has been designated National Dog Walking Month. Dog-walking is a daily activity whatever the weather, as every dog- owner knows, and Michael Graham’s regions are characterised by some of the most beautiful countryside in the UK, which makes getting outside even more of a pleasure.
Written by Lisa Proffitt | 1st January 2024
The Best Places To Walk Your Dog
If you have a dog and want some inspiration for new places to explore, or you simply want to spend some time in the great outdoors catching the first sight of snowdrops, here are a few of our favourite places for dog walking.
Located between Northampton and Newport Pagnell, Salcey Forest is an ancient woodland and former royal hunting forest. There are three different trails to follow here, The Elephant Walk, the slightly more taxing Church Path Trail, and the longest of the three, The Woodpecker Trail. Dogs can be off lead all around the forest, and the tree-top walkway is exhilarating.
Irchester Country Park
Near to Wellingborough, this former ironstone quarry has a choice of three trails in 200 acres of forest land. Animal rescue centre Animals in Need at Pine Tree Farm is a stone’s throw from the park, and resident dogs are walked here every day – look out for the double leads and yellow Adopt Me collars - and be aware that many of the dogs may be reactive to others dogs, so be prepared to put yours on a lead too. If you’re interested in rehoming a dog – or being one of their dog walking volunteers - you can contact the charity on 01933 278080 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
Evenley Wood Gardens
This 60-acre private woodland garden contains a large and notable collection of plants ranging from unusual trees and shrubs to a wide range of selected lilies and other bulbs. The gardens open after a winter break on February 1st, and visitors travel here from all over the country to see the rare breeds of snowdrops which cover the woodland floor.
Brixworth Country Park
Brixworth Country park is a vast green space next to Pitsford Water, offering a seven-mile circular walk around the reservoir. There are plenty of shorter trails too and wherever you choose, you will see an abundance of birds and wildlife so dogs need to be on a lead.
With over seven miles of footpaths, you can take a gentle stroll around the lake or if you’re feeling energetic, there is a six mile walk to Thrapston with the incentive of a pub lunch at The Woolpack Inn. Stanwick Lakes is a haven for wildlife, and dogs must be kept on a lead at all times. If you visit in the summer months, keep your dog away from the water as the blue algae will be rife and can be lethal.
Tucked away on the edge of Northampton in Great Doddington, Harlestone Firs is popular with dog walkers at all times of the year. Covering 300 acres, it has a variety of woods and open fields where you can run your dog ragged before heading to The Harlestone Firs garden centre across the road for post-walk refreshments in their dog friendly café and pet shop.
Ampthill Great Park
There are a variety of trails to choose from across this former deer park which was landscaped by Capability Brown. Whichever route you take, you can roam freely with your dog and there are areas where they don’t need to be on a lead. A café, tennis courts and playgrounds are on site too.
Rushmere Country Park
Made up of 400 acres of woodland, heathland, and meadows, the park is divided into on and off-lead areas which are clearly signposted. There’s a specific ‘Dog Fun Area’ at the back of the main car park, where dogs can exercise without a lead and burn a lot of energy if you’re in too much of a rush for a proper walk.
Dunstable Downs lies within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and many of the walks are managed by the National Trust. The most popular route around this area starts at the Chilterns Gateway Centre. It’s a circular route taking in Neolithic hill forts, and starts and ends at the visitor centre.
This walking trail is popular with dog walkers all year round because of its diversity - you’ll find flat spaces, open spaces, hills and wooded areas.
This 4.1 mile circular walk near Beaconsfield is well-marked, and takes roughly 2 hours to complete. The age of the trees in this landscape means lots of wildlife, with no livestock to worry about.
Don’t overlook the more beautiful ‘urban’ areas. Ouse Valley Park, Old Wolverton, and New Bradwell is a 3.4 mile meandering riverside walk through the edge of Milton Keynes. Apart from one small section when approaching Wolverton Station, it’s a lovely route for dogs and safe for them to be off lead.
Chinnor to Bledlow, near Princes Risborough
The 87 mile-long Ridgeway is England’s oldest road and is touched on as part of this 5.5 mile circular route from Chinnor to Bledlow. Used since prehistoric times by travellers, herdsmen and soldiers, it offers stunning ancient landscapes, chalky woodland and rolling views.
Wendover Woods, near Aylesbury
There are four well-marked walking routes to choose from of various lengths. The gentle, 2.8 mile Firecrest trail is a favourite for dogs, and takes you through unsurfaced woodland paths, soft on paws, and through a variety of interesting habitats.
This 6km circuit has everything for the perfect dog walk – woodland, open fields and a stream to splash in. There’s a choice of two dog friendly pubs at the Cumnor end – The Vine Inn and The Bear and Ragged Staff, both with roaring log fires.
There are three marked trails around this park, all starting in Mary Sadler’s Field near the car park, and around 2km, 2.5km and 5km long. This is a gem of a spot and unbelievably only one minute’s drive from Oxford city centre. The woodland has a magical feel to it and dogs will love the springs, ponds and bracken, just don’t expect to take a clean pooch home with you. It’s open all year and free to park.
This seven miler will tire out the most inexhaustible of canines thanks to its variety of tracks, field and woodland with good off-the-lead sections. This is one of a series of circular walks that link up to form the longer Wychwood Way, a 37-mile long distance trail. It also skirts the edge of the gorgeous Cornbury Park estate. At the end is a choice of three dog friendly pubs: The Bell Inn, The Bull Inn and The Rose and Crown.
There are two particularly good walks around the Blenheim Palace estate for dogs – the 1.5 mile Queen Pool circuit and the Park Perimeter 4.6-miler. There’s woodland, lakeside paths and ancient oaks to enjoy here as well as the view of the Baroque palace. Refreshment in the Pleasure Gardens include a pizzeria at weekends, and the East Courtyard has out-door seating and takeaway food and drink.
Ashridge Park Estate
This estate is made up of 3,000 acres of varied ground, with ancient trees, rolling chalk downlands, and lush meadows. Dogs can go off-lead if well-trained, but you do have to be aware of deer and ground-nesting birds. The Ivinghoe Hills butterfly walk, a three-hour loop route, is especially beautiful once the butterflies start to appear in March. You can refuel at the Brownlow Café (takeaway only) afterwards.
Wymondley Woods near Hitchin
This woodland and nature conservation area is the perfect place for dogs to paddle in the streams and have a good run. The nearby George and Dragon pub at Graveley is a great place for a pit stop on the way home – they love dogs so much they have their own canine menu of meals and treats.
Ayot St Lawrence
There are some great walks in this area of stunning countryside. Closer to the village, you can take in the ruins of the Norman church and the neoclassical New Church, and enjoy the grounds of the National Trust property Shaw’s Corner – one-time home of playwright George Bernard Shaw. The nearby Brocket Arms is a dog-friendly pub with a huge fireplace in the winter.
Park in the car park of the Hermit of Redcoats at Titmore Green between Stevenage and Hitchin, walk the footpaths to Little Wymondley and loop back to the pub, which has a roaring log fire, dog biscuits at the bar and a resident beagle.