Category: Poppy

Dog Walks in Somerset – Cheddar Gorge

Okay, before I get going on this post, I just need to get the following out of my system. I thought the Cheddar Gorge tourist attraction was awful. Partly, because it’s not really aimed at me or my situation, but also because it’s tacky & has spoilt a quaint village with overpriced hideousness. I’m sure that if you’re a kid you think it’s ace, but at my age, it’s awful and not worth the ticket price £20! (though I can reuse my ticket any time in the next 10 years. I won’t be doing that!) Once we bought out tickets (Poppydog went free), we headed down into a cave with a hideous audio tour. I hate audio tours. I can’t explain why, but I do. Needless to say, we didn’t spend long down in the cave. I could have lived without ever going down there to be honest. Not worth it in my opinion. I don’t think you need to buy a ticket to walk the Cheddar Gorge, as there are numerous ways you can access it without having to give up your precious money. (Can you tell I’m bitter about this?!)

View from Cheddar GorgeThe walk is awesome. Hard work, but awesome. We climbed the 200+ steps to get up to the cliff top walk and it’s a non-stop climb that, at times, feels like it is never going to end. (Can I just point out that I live in Oxfordshire, which is pretty flat on the whole?!) You don’t have to go very far before you realise that the views are pretty spectacular. The walk isn’t easy, as it’s fairly rocky so you have to keep an eye on where you’re walking.

The Cheddar Gorge Poppydog at Cheddar GorgeOnce we’d got to the top, we stopped for some lunch, which consisted of Tofurkey rolls, crisps and an apple. Lush! Poppy was ace walking the whole way up. She really enjoyed the smells and, as per usual, liked getting close to the edge of the cliff. I didn’t, so kept my distance! After lunch, we headed down towards the road. This was a pretty easy descent and we spotted some wild goats having a bit to eat too.

Cheddar Gorge goats Cheddar Gorge view Walking Chedder GorgeWhen you get down to the road, you have a choice. You can either walk along the road back to the hideous tourist attraction or cross the road and climb up the other side of the gorge. Having climbed a ridiculous number of flights already, common sense would probably say ‘just head back to the car’. But that’s not what we did! Powered by Tofurkey, we headed on to the other side of the road and started to climb the opposite side of the gorge. This wasn’t particularly easy. In fact, it was fairly savage. It’s a good job I didn’t know that worse was to come, as I would probably have just set up camp and move there to avoid walking up. It’s steep, uneven and very, very high. And I fell over.

Cheddar Gorge walk The Cheddar Gorge WalkThere are some great flowers on the gorge and quite a bit of livestock, which I always love seeing. The view was breathtaking the whole way. Then you get to the descent. I was really pleased to be heading back down (the map tells you it takes two hours. This is a lie!) The final descent is terrifying. Now, I have dodgy knees and going down hills can cause me pain and I didn’t take my walking pole/stick, so I did have to go pretty slowly. But that descent is a killer. It just goes on and on, using leg muscles you never knew you had! The ground is also quite tricky, with massive tree roots and loose stones. When you get to the end, you (almost) want to kiss the ground. You definitely want to sit down and eat cake.

While the challenge of the walk was awesome, I wouldn’t do it again, just because it was so brutal. However, it does link in with the West Mendip Way, which I would be interested in walking and there is a nature reserve, which looks a little bit easier on the knees. We didn’t go into any of the shops there, as it was mega busy so we just headed back to our wigwam for a snooze and some cake.

The Walk: Brutal. It looks us about three and a half hours but we didn’t go particularly fast, plus I’m slow on hills and I fell over. We also stopped for a picnic. Having said that, you won’t want to rush it because it’s pretty awesome.
Cost: It can be free, if you go up one of the paths from the road, but if you want to climb the steps like we did (don’t!), it’ll cost you £19.95 of your hard earned pounds.
Car Park: There’s quite a bit of parking at the Gorge costing £5, but there are also lots of areas where you can park for free. If you get there late in the day, this might be your only option.
Refreshments: There’s a Costa at the tourist bit (woohoo) and about a million tea rooms (slight exaggeration!)
Toilets: There are some at the Gorge but I didn’t notice any others about.

#30dayswild with The Wildlife Trust

There’s something about getting out and about in nature that really makes me happy and content. Whether it’s standing in the garden watching a bat fly about in the evening or seeing a spoonbill for the very first time at a nature reserve, it’s an easy reminder of the awesomeness around us and a great stress reliever. It’s so easy to caught up in every day life and forget the amazing natural world that’s around us, whether you’re heading out into the countryside for a ramble or simply walking into town alongside a hedge. I’m a firm believer in the power of nature as a stress reliever too. As soon as I’m out walking Poppy, whether it’s about town or out into the wilds of Oxfordshire, I can instantly feel myself feeling happier.

This is why I’m supporting The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild throughout the month of June. The whole point of it is that for 30 days, you get reacquainted with nature, in whatever way you can, whether it’s watching a bee collecting pollen from a flower in your garden or heading out on a coastal walk & try your hand a bit of bird watching. Once you start exploring nature, you start to be more aware of it around you all the time, rather than something you choose to go and visit. You also become more aware of your impact on nature and what you can do to give it a helping hand.

Ducklings Blue butterfly Swans and sygnets wisteria Tar Lakes Witney Cow Parsley

You can sign up to 30 Days Wild here and get your hands on one of their packs to help you do something wild everyday for a month. You can also get inspiration from their app, which you can download here. If you’re in or near Oxford, you can get involved in the Oxford Festival of Nature or head out on the Wildlife Trail, something which I’m definitely going to be doing. You can also follow some of the bloggers who have signed up, including moi. Find out who has got involved here. Make sure you follow the #30dayswild hashtag on most social media platforms to see what amazing random acts of nature people are getting involved in. I’ll be posting about on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest & Instagram as well as documenting the wildest of my days here.

30 Days Wild

Dog walks in Oxford – Iffley Meadows

While the weather on Bank Holiday Monday wasn’t exactly what we all wanted, it was lovely having the extra day off. I’d been nagging at Phil for ages to go for a lovely walk somewhere but between the weather and redecorating the bedroom, we hadn’t been anywhere for ages, with the exception of Stowe Gardens the day before. We planned to head out early, taking a breakfast of marmite sandwiches and a Thermos full of tea to eat somewhere. The main reason we went to Iffley Meadows is because of the fritillaries. There aren’t many times where flooding can be a good thing, but at Iffley Meadows, where the ground was still very wet (wellington boots were essential), the damp conditions mean the fritillaries thrive there. And thriving they were!

Snakehead fritillary at Iffley meadows Snakehead fritillary at BBOWT Iffley Meadows BBOWT Iffley Meadows Light purple snakehead fritillary White snakehead fritillary There were a few different ones but they were all lovely and I took about a million pictures. I can’t believe we haven’t been before, especially as we’ve driven right past it loads of times. The fritillaries were coming to the end of their season, but I’m so glad we went to see them. We didn’t just see the fritillaries, but we also saw what we think was a badger paw print in the mud and we heard loads of birds, including a cuckoo, reed warblers and a grass hopper warbler.

Muddy Iffley Meadows Badger print Snakehead fritillary Poppydog at Iffley Meadows Purple snakehead fritillary Poppy loved it there as there were so many different smells for her to enjoy. She was so tired when we got back home! She didn’t mind walking through muddy water as it meant she could smell lots more things.

We walked back along the Thames, as we wanted to have breakfast at Iffley Lock. It was lovely. The sun came out and we’d headed out quite early so it was still pretty quiet. Poppy wasn’t overly keen on the ducks flying about (she’s got a real thing about them at the moment) but apart from that, it was pretty idyllic. It’s well worth visiting Iffley Meadows, even when the fritillaries are out of season, as it’s a wonderful little spot. But make sure you go back when they’re in season. Just make sure you wear your wellies!

The Walk: There are some paths around the meadows from where other people have walked, just be careful not to get trapped by water, as we did!
Cost: Completely free, so why not join BBOWT to help them look after this beautiful place?!
Car Park: There’s no car park, but we parked just the other side of Donnington Bridge. Just make sure you check for areas that are permit parking only.
Refreshments: We took our own but there are lots of places to eat in East Oxford.
Toilets: Nope. Don’t forget to pack your She Wee!

Dog Walks in Buckinghamshire – Stowe Gardens

My sister and her partner visited us last weekend with their very energetic puppy, Jasper. We knew we needed somewhere good to go to walk the dogs so we decided on Stowe Gardens. It’s about a 40 minute drive from us, but it’s fairly straight forward. We’d not been before, but after a lovely time there, it’s definitely somewhere where I’ll be going back to.

The gardens are the grounds of Stowe House and Stowe School and are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. There are a number of amazing and beautiful buildings, temples and statues, all linked to Greek mythology or politics. There’s even a cave and a grotto! While there are three mapped walks you can do, by following the path of vice, virtue or liberty, you can ramble about on your own as much as you like. You could easily pack a picnic and spend the day there.

Eleven acre lake Rotunda at Stowe Gardens Statue of Venus Temple of VenusDido's caveQueen's temple at Stowe Gardens Stowe House Temple of Ancient VirtuePoppy at the temple of friendship Stowe Garden sheepThe Grotto at Stowe GardensInside the grotto at Stowe Gardens

We headed along the path of vice when we arrived at the gardens and followed it round until we got to Dido’s Cave. Then we headed up to Stowe House, which was closed, but still incredibly impressive from the outside. We then picked up the path of virtue and headed to the Grotto, which was incredible! I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the gardens to be your garden. Can you imagine playing in the grotto as a child?! Amazing! We then headed to the gothic temple, via the queen’s temple and picked up the path of liberty from there. We headed back to the New Inn for lunch, where Phil and I had the leek and potato soup and Diana and Adam had the risotto. They were okay, not massive portions, but that left room for cake later!

Leek and potato soup

Both the dogs loved the walk we did. They were very tired by the time we got home! Dogs must be kept on the lead, as there are grazing sheep in the gardens, and there are lots of dog poo bins around the gardens, which is always helpful! We didn’t go into the shop, but according the Stowe Gardens website, they have dog treats and dog ice cream available! This is brilliant, as not all National Trust properties are as dog friendly as Stowe Gardens. We all thought that the £11 entry fee (with gift aid) was a little steep, but if you spent the day there, you’d probably consider it money well spent. However, it only costs £99 to become a member (for two people) so it wouldn’t take long for you to cover the cost of membership. This is something I’m thinking of doing, as it means you can also park for free in National Trust properties too.

The Walk: There are three different walks you can do, but you can mix them up and do as much or as little as you like.
Cost: As it’s run by the National Trust, it’s not free. It’s £11 for adults for the gardens if you’re not a member of the National Trust.
Car Park: There’s quite a decent car park at the gardens, but you have to pay £2 if you’re a non-member. It’s free for National Trust members.
Refreshments: There is a lovely little cafe, which has seating outdoors with an undercover section where dogs are welcome.
Toilets: There are toilets at the New Inn, which is the entrance to the gardens.