Category: Poppy

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.

Dog Walks in Oxfordshire – The Thames: Abingdon to Clifton Hampden

A few weeks ago, we decided that we’d like to have a go walking the length of the River Thames. Not all at once you understand, but going from lock to lock. While we’ve walked parts of it before, we’d like to make sure we walk all of it. We aren’t planning to do it in any particular order, as it all depends on how far the distance is between locks, how far it is and where the pubs are!

We decided to start in Abingdon and walk through Culham lock to Clifton lock. We didn’t want to walk back the way we came, so we parked one car at Rye Farm car park in Abingdon where we started our walk and another at the Barley Mow car park, as we planned on eating lunch there.

Abingdon Lock The Thames at Abingdon Rowing on the ThamesThe Thames Path at Abingdon Poppy in the Thames Culham Lock Mallow wildflower White YarrowRailway bridge over the Thames Poppydog at Clifton lock Clifton Lock

I love walking by the locks with their lock keeper cottages. They always make me thing of ‘times gone by’! It’s fascinating to think of the locks being built to help boats get about and I’d love to travel along the Thames by boat and wave at dog walkers walking on by.

The walk from Abingdon lock is a lovely one. It’s easy going with beautiful views across the river and fields. There are loads of pillboxes hidden all over the place along the Thames, as well as loads of different wildlife and plants. We even saw a heron in the middle of a field!

Be wary of other people using the path, especially at points where the path becomes narrow. We met a cyclist coming in the opposite direction and it wasn’t easy to pass them, especially with Poppy trying to get close to them, wanting to get a chin rub off them!

We aren’t doing the locks in any particular order. I can’t wait for the next installment!

The Walk: The walk along the Thames path is fairly easy, just about 6 miles (I think). There are a few sections that can get muddy and slippy, most noticeably just after the Culham lock, near the firing range.
Cost: Free
Car Park: We parked one car at the Rye Farm car park for three hours for £1.50. That was enough time for us to walk up to the Abingdon lock to start our walk. We parked another at the Barley Mow car park for our return journey.
Refreshments: We had lunch at the Barley Mow in Clifton Hampden, sitting outside with Poppy. While vegan options are limited (I had a jacket potato with baked beans!), the food can be pretty good here.
Toilets: There is a toilet at the start of the walk just under the bridge in Abingdon, but you do have to pay for it.

Dog Walks in Oxfordshire – Wittenham Clumps

A few years ago, BP (Before Poppy), we walked up Wittenham Clumps, or more realistically, we wheezed our way up them. We were determined then to improve our fitness and return, with the aim of getting up them without needing a rest at the top. We decided a few weeks ago that it would be a good idea to have another go at the clumps! Previously we’ve parked in Dorchester-on-Thames, walked to the clumps and back along the same route. This time, we started at the top of the clumps and parked in the Earth Trust car park. We did the Little Wittenham nature reserve walk and you can find a map of the circular walk in the Clumps car park, and here, but we extended our walk by popping into Dorchester for a spot of lunch.

The walk starts off from the car park up a gentle incline towards Castle Hill. There was a herd of beautiful cows there when we arrived. Poppy is so used to them now that I only worry a little bit! The views from the top of the hills are amazing and there’s a guide at the top of Round Hill that shows you what the different points of interest are, which is a great idea. We then headed into Little Wittenham wood. It was amazing. As you walk down the steps, the atmosphere changes so much. It’s much cooler and quieter and trees are really tall. There were loads of butterflies throughout the more open areas of the wood too. Along the way, just off the path, there’s a bird hide, which is well worth popping into. When we went, the water level was quite low so there weren’t many birds about. However, there were loads of butterflies gathering pollen from the buddleja. We headed towards the Thames once we left the hide. We followed it towards Dorchester, where we headed for Lily’s Tea Rooms. It’s a lovely little tea room, where they offer a light lunches, a selection of breakfasts and delicious cakes. It’s well worth a visit.

View from Wittenham ClumpsWittenham clumps cowPoppydog at Wittenham ClumpsBee with pollenWhite butterfly on thistle Double Butterfly ButterflyThe Thames at Dorchester Wittenham Clumps

On our return, we knew we had to walk up Round Hill. It’s a steep old climb but we were determined to do it. And we did! What I was most impressed impressed with was how well we recovered from it. It’s not an easy climb, and if you’re put of it, you can go round the base of the hill to get back to the car park. But if you can, go for the climb and reward yourself with cake!

The walks around Wittenham Clumps are really lovely. There are a number to choose from, depending on how long you’ve got and how much you want to challenge yourself. Whichever you choose, make sure your get to the top of Round Hill for those amazing Oxfordshire views!

The Walk: The walk isn’t always easy. The clumps can be quite steep in places and there are times where the walk is very uneven underfoot. Good walking boots are essential! If you’d like something a little easier, then have a look at the other walks available on the Earth Trust website.
Cost: Free
Car Park: There’s quite a decent car park at the start of the walk, which was almost empty at the start of our walk. It’s the Earth Trust Clumps car park.
Refreshments: We had a lovely spot of lunch at Lily’s Tea Room in Dorchester and there’s a little farm stall on the public footpath between the clumps and Dorchester, where you can get a selection of drinks, cakes and ice cream.
Toilets: There are some in the car park in Dorchester.

Dog Walks in Oxfordshire – Hartslock Nature Reserve

A few months ago, Ockviewer told me about BBOWT Hartslock Nature Reserve near Goring. It’s one of the best places to go to see wild orchids. Not only that, it has amazing views over the River Thames. Sadly, we didn’t make it to Hartslock before the end of orchid season, but we did do a fantastic walk from Goring to  Hartslock, along the Thames and saw some lovely wildflowers anyway. Plus, we’re all set for orchid season next year, as it’s going to be at the top of my list!

We parked in the train station car park in Goring, mainly because we missed the turning for the long stay car park, but as we weren’t sure how long we were going to be, we thought it might be easier. It only cost £2.80 for the day, so is quite good value. I think the long stay car park uses Ringo and I’m pretty sure it’s got toilets too, but don’t quote me on that. We headed out of the car park and across the bridge onto the high street towards the Thames. We headed away from the lock towards the reserve. Walking along the Thames is lovely, especially in Goring as you get to see so many things that you wouldn’t normally get to see.

The Thames at Goring Homes on the Thames The Thames Path at Goring Bridge over the Thames Dogwalks on the Thames Path Abandoned house on the Thames Cows on the Thames path

It was lovely walking along the Thames, seeing the boats going by, cows cooling off and having a nosey peek at some of the fancy houses on the opposite side. Before you head into fields, you come to Little Meadow Nature Reserve, just before the railway bridge crossing the Thames. It’s a tiny reserve but there are benches to sit on and enjoy watching butterflies dancing over the wildflowers there. The walk for Hartslock continues on, going away from the Thames itself, due to riverside properties, but you get to walk past fields of horses and cows, which I always enjoy. Before long, you come to a wooded area and this is where the walk steps up a notch. First of all, you need to climb up a short hill, where you’ll see a gate and a map, showing the reserve. I thought this was it. It isn’t, but the views are brilliant so we stopped here for a bit (to catch our breath) to take in the views. We walked over the crest of the hill to the other side where we found the entrance to the reserve. We passed two locked gates. Don’t be put off by these if they’re locked when you get there. Just keep going until you get to the unlocked gate at the foot of the hill towards the reserve. Once we’d caught our breath, we headed up to the reserve.

Hartslock Reserve Scabious Wild campanula Hartslock Nature reserve The view from Hartslock

As I said before, we’d missed orchid season, but you can see where they are. They’re in a fenced off area just as you get into the reserve. By the time we’d had a look around the orchid area, it was really hot, so we decided to head back to the car and not look around the rest of the reserve and save that for next time. We headed back the way we came, as it was really, really hot and we knew that most of it was shady. However, the Wildlife Walk we were following is circular and will get you back to Goring. Had it not been so hot, we definitely would have done it. Not that I minded heading back the way we came, as it meant we could stop by the lock for lunch (I’d managed to make us some marmite sandwiches!) and we got some delicious cakes to take away from Pierreponts cafe – well worth a visit.

Poppydog at Goring

Poppy really enjoyed the walk, as there were loads of smells for her to track. She was completely unfazed walking by the cows and relished the walk up to the hill. She’s such a great walking companion. Next time we go, I’d like to do the circular walk during orchid season. Am tempted to get Poppy one of these Ezydog Rash Vests to help protect her in the sun, as we’re always very aware that she has no sun protection. Though she did enjoy a little paddle in the Thames on the way back to the car. There are some easy to access mini-beaches where she could get down and get her paws wet!

The Walk: The walk is fairly easy along the Thames path, but the walk up the reserve itself is steep. There are steps, which make it easier, so just take your time. If you’d prefer not to walk from Goring, you can park close the reserve and just walk up the hill to get to it. I think the views are worth it! We followed the instructions on the BBOWT’s Wild Walk information sheet and it got us there without a hitch.
Cost: Free
Car Park: There are 97 spaces in the train station car park so there’s plenty of room there on the weekend.
Refreshments: No but you could always have lunch at Pierreponts, just make sure you book in advance if you want a table inside.
Toilets: Not on the walk itself, but I’m sure there are some in long stay car park in Goring.