Category: Poppy

Dog Walks in Oxfordshire – Dry Sandford Pit

We’ve been taking advantage of the good weather we’ve been having lately and exploring new places. First on our list was Dry Sandford Pit, which is a BBOWT reserve. There are a number of walks you can around Dry Sandford and we had planned to do a bigger one, but the weather turned and we decided to call it a day. Hail really can spoil a walk!

silver birch

We started our walk in the sun, in the village of Wootton. We parked by the shops (where the parking is limited to 2/3 hours). We walked along the bridleway and through the beautiful village of Dry Sandford, which is worth a visit in itself, especially if you walk past Cothill House school students, on their way to church, looking adorable in their uniforms, as we did. Both ways, in fact! There is limited parking at the reserve, but initially wanted to do the circular walk so parked in Wootton.

the view

Dogs must be kept on leads around the reserve, but they are allowed. Poppy loved it, especially as there’s loads of little holes where creatures must live!

The pit

As it was such a sunny day, the insects that live in the cliff face were out and about and we saw quite a few bees, which was a very welcome sight. There are information boards around, which explain the different types of rock in the cliff, including some of the things they’ve found there.

Poppy at Dry Sandford

We took a long our trusty Thermos and some homemade cake and sat in the sun watching the bugs flying around. Poppy enjoyed a pizzle before continuing sniffing about and exploring.


The walk at Dry Sandford Pit isn’t massive but it’s lovely and quiet. When we went on a Sunday morning, we didn’t see anyone else. It was a lovely walk, with lots of lovely things to see and a fair few birds about. We had planned to walk to Parsonage Moor, but it got very dark, very quickly so we returned to the car park in Wootton the same way.

Dry Sandford walk

The Walk: While the walk at Dry Sandford Pit isn’t particularly long, it is very enjoyable. Plus, you can add bits on to extend the walk. See the map on the BBOWT website.
Cost: Completely free. Just get out there and enjoy!
Car Park: There’s a small car park at the Pit and parking is free.
Refreshments: There’s nothing available at the Pit or nearby but they do have benches around and you could easily bring a picnic blanket and a thermos if the weather was nice enough!
Toilets: None.

Dog Walks in Berkshire ~ Welford Park

This one’s a bit of a cheat, as it’s only open for a few weeks and won’t be open again until January next year. That being said, it’s well worth a visit as it’s got lovely walks around the snowdrops, perfect for photographers, and they do great food. Dogs are required to be on leads on at all times, which is no issue for Poppy, as we wouldn’t walk her there without it. There are lots of great smells for her to enjoy and something got her attention a lot, which involved lots of air sniffing, pulling and refusal to move!

We visited Welford Park on the last weekend, so some of the snowdrops were a little weary after all the rain and wind we’d had. It was a bright, sunny day so we made the most of it and walked all the way around the snowdrops and anywhere else we could find. Welford Park is well equipped for visitors, as there’s plenty of parking in the field opposite (free) and there’s always someone checking the road so you can have safe passage across to the park.

welford parkThe River Lambourn runs through the park and is so clear. There were a few remaining signs of how high the water had been and one or two sections of the walk were closed off. But it didn’t spoil the visit. I’m just pleased that so much of it was open after all the rain.

snowdropsThere really are loads and loads of snowdrops to admire, with a few varieties on show. Some had weathered the storms better than others but there were also quite a few crocuses around to brighten up the day even more. The snowdrop section is fenced off in order to protect them, but you can still enjoy them.

welford waterI really like coming here, as it’s such a beautiful place. I wish it was open more, later on in the year, as I’d love to see it in different seasons. We’re definitely going to make it an annual visit.

spring poppyPoppy was very good all along the walk. There are a few bins around the property and the food tent, but there aren’t any along the walk so be sure you’re equipped to carry full poo bags around with you for a bit. Poppy has an uncanny ability of going when you’re furthest from a bin. She’s got skills! (I love this picture of her, even though her face is in shadow. She looks so small!)

soup at welfordThey do really good food at Welford Park, but it’s not fancy. My OH ordered a sausage bap and that’s exactly what he got. A bap (unbuttered) with a couple of sausages in. I opted for a bowl of carrot soup and it was lush. There is a food tent, where dogs are welcome, as most of the time, you need to order your food indoors. However, on the day we went, everyone was eating in the tent. We didn’t want to put Poppy through that, so we sat outside on a picnic table.

dewey poppyWe have a little pack of things we take when we go out with Poppy. We’ve learnt to include at least one towel, as she often gets really wet! Love the little bits of dew on her nose! She generally walks, led by her nose, which means her ears get soaked too because they’re so huge!

The Walk: While the walk isn’t the longest one around, if you explore the Wild Garden, the Rose Garden and the Bamboo Forest, it all adds up. Plus, it’s an incredibly beautiful place to walk, with lots of gorgeous plants and wildlife to see.
Cost: There is a small fee to pay when you arrive, but it isn’t much. (Can’t remember and the snowdrop section has been removed from their website until next year.)
Car Park: There’s an ample car park in a field opposite, which is manned during opening hours. There’s also a disabled parking section closer to the park. Parking is free.
Refreshments: There’s a lovely tea rooms, serving tea, coffee, light lunches and cakes. Well worth a visit. They also have picnic tables outside and you could easily bring a picnic blanket and a thermos if the weather was nice enough!
Toilets: There are toilets close to the Old Laundry tea rooms.

Happy Anniversary Poppy!

We had a little anniversary in the house over the weekend. It’s been twelve months since we brought Poppy home from the Blue Cross. It’s gone so quickly but in some respects, it’s like we’ve had her forever!

meeting poppyWe’ve had some adventures, some scary, like when she choked on her food, and some brilliant, like our holiday in Cornwall. Everyday she does something new that surprises us. When she yawns, she often howls a bit, which is hilarious! We’re always getting stopped when we walk her, because people are curious about her or think she’s adorable (which she is!)

under the table

We’re always working on her training and getting her to improve her behaviour. At the moment we’re working on reducing her separation anxiety. The other night, she barked for almost the whole hour while we were at the pub. So we’re going to get some help with a 1-2-1 training session from a local dog trainer. In the meantime, we’re trying the mat & kong system that we saw on Dogs: Their Secret Lives. After just a few days, it’s going really well. She’ll sit and stay on her mat while she chews her kong. We’ve gone as far as to stay in the kitchen while this happens, so tomorrow we’ll be moving into a completely different room. Fingers crossed!

enjoying the gardenI can’t wait to see what the next 12 months has in store for us and Poppy, hopefully a few more lie ins, as Poppy is very much an early bird! I’m so pleased we adopted her and were able to give her a happy home.

Walking Poppy the Dog

I’ve written before about how Poppy seems to think her walks are a chance to eat everything on the pavement. It got even worse when the clocks changed last autumn and it became clear that it’s almost impossible to walk her in the dark. Because her sight isn’t as good in the dark, she pretty much throws herself at wrappers, stones, cigarette butts, anything she can remotely see in the hope that it’s food. We’ve checked with the vet that we are feeding her enough and they are happy with her food intake and her weight. They’ve suggested that she was underfed before we adopted her and scavenged from a young age. It’s highly unlikely that she’ll never grow out of this. So to try and stop her throwing herself across the pavement, tripping us up in the process and making each walk feel like we’ve been wrestling a pig, we’ve been training her.

Dog Walking

Dog owners. Do you talk to your dog while walking them? I do. All the time. Poppy walks a lot better when she’s given attention, regular praise and treats. I must look and sound like a complete loony, calling her along, telling her she’s cute and a good girl… But walks are always more successful when I do. Here are some of her commands:

  • ‘This Way’ – when I want to go in one direction and Poppy wants to go in another. Or I’ve spotted some food just out of her reach and want her to come to me instead of having her pull me with her towards it.
  • ‘Leave’ – I use this when she’s got to food or something she shouldn’t be eating. She’s supposed to leave what she’s found and come and get a treat. This works really well, 75% of the time! I’ve managed to get her to spit things out and come to me for a treat. However, there are times when it doesn’t work and it’s so frustrating!
  • ‘Poppy Here’ – This is her command to come to me straight away, though if there’s a squirrel nearby, I haven’t got a hope of getting her attention, which is why she isn’t allowed off the lead.
  • ‘Walk’ – If there’s a lot of rubbish ahead or it’s bin day and we need to get Poppy’s attention, I hold a treat up by shoulder and tell Poppy to walk. She watches me and walks in a pretty straight line. This is a great way of getting her past lots of distractions.
  • ‘Wait’ – Obviously, this one’s for crossing the street or for when I need to catch up with her. She’s pretty good at this, especially if you give the lead a little tug. She’ll wait for as long as you want, until you say ‘Go’. She gets lots of looks from drivers as we wait at traffic lights on our morning walk.

PoppyDogIt can be quite frustrating, because you’ll have a really great walk, where she does everything she’s told, gets lots of rewards and attention, then as we’re nearly home, she’ll do something she’s not supposed to or ignore your command. She’s much better at meeting other dogs, mainly because we’re a lot calmer and we’re learning to read other dog owners, to see if they’re happy with Poppy meeting their dog. If they are, we let the lead go long, they sniff each other, the other dog gets hit in the face by Poppy’s giant tail and we move on.

Dog WalksHalf the battle with Poppy is being prepared and making sure we’ve got lots of treats to hand. That way, when she does something good, we can reward her straight away. The difficulty is getting her not to eat food from the street. It’s quite worrying because we don’t always know what she’s eaten. While putting a muzzle on her would stop this straight away, we want to try and train her to ignore the food. She’s definitely getting better, so we are making progress. The improved weather makes a massive difference, because training your dog to walk better in the rain is no fun whatsoever!

Walking the DogSo if you see a crazy lady, talking to her dog, while walking round the park, that’ll be me, trying to train Poppy! Have you had to train your dog to walk better? Let me know if you have any tips!