Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Not really places for exercising dogs

17th May 2016

My last post on here got my mind running down memory lane’s more recent reaches and this has turned out to be another of those. During the twists and turns of life in recent years, going out for walks close to home has become a fixture. There have been spurts of cycling too, with 2015 seeing me rekindle my love of that exploit once road confidence was allowed a chance to re-grow.


This piece though is inspired by something that I increasingly encounter while frequenting local parks during lunchtime and evening strolls: the exercising of dogs. It might have been life’s other distractions, but this is something that I only really started to notice over the past year. In fact, it would appear to be a growing trend, yet that is a perception rather than statistical reality, so this is best treated with care.

Nevertheless, dog excrement appears to be a problem that at least refuses to go away with Macclesfield’s Riverside Park and Tegg’s Nose Country Park. Like with other things in life, it seems that some owners are more diligent about cleaning up after their dogs than others. While the task admittedly is an unpleasant one, spreading diseases that cross species boundaries is not neighbourly either and some of these afflict humanity. It is for that reason that I have seen signs on a playing pitch in Prestbury that advertise a ban on letting dogs on there.

Speaking of the nuisance that dogs can cause, I saw one person allow their two dogs chase a heron about the aforementioned Riverside Park with their not being able to catch being offered as an excuse when I stared at what was happening. It cannot have been good for the bird and it moved away soon afterwards. Would you blame it?


Maybe the latter incident displays a certain detachment from the task of exercising dogs and even the fact that all of our urban centres are surrounded by rural areas. The first of these manifests itself in the use of smartphones while in charge of an animal, giving a very clear hint that the activity possibly is seen as an unattractive chore, hardly a good thing if you want to retain control. You even might wonder how folk who walk half a dozen dogs at a time manage, yet dog walking services frequent the same parks that the rest of us use and seemingly without incident, though I do wonder if one should have some space of your own for such a commercial enterprise.

The second kind of detachment is a more worrying one for it affects wildlife and livestock. The latter especially affects those of us who enjoy trotting through the countryside for attacks on farm animals by dogs hardly enamour us urban types to farmers. It is not for nothing that dogs are not allowed to run loose in many places. Early 2015 saw a spate of these attacks with signs appearing all over the place. A number are reproduced with some being so graphic that I thought it to be best to keep the lot in monochrome.

Sheep worrying sign at Tegg's Nose Country Park, Macclesfield, Cheshire, England

Sheep worrying on February 22, Langley, Macclesfield, England

Sheep worrying on March 17, Langley, Macclesfield, England

Cow worrying sign, Hare Hill, Prestbury, Cheshire, England

Garden of Remembrance sign, Crematorium, Macclesfield, Cheshire, England

The first sign was seen on a visit to Tegg’s Nose on Easter Sunday 2015 and remains there as I found on a more recent visit on a recent warm sunny Monday evening. Easter Monday 2015 saw me walk from Walker Barn back home via Macclesfield Forest, Shutlingsloe and Langley, which is where the second and third signs were encountered. The attack must have been so appalling that a shocking colour image was added to a poster; to protect the tinder of disposition, all of them are in black and white here. The fourth sign was met on a walk that took in Alderley Edge and Hare Hill, which proves that cattle are not immune from canine harassment. Subsequently, the permissive path was closed for the winter season and it is not hard to see why such a restriction came to pass. There has been criticism but it shows what a careless dog owner can cause us to lose in terms of goodwill. Even now, its opening is restricted to the hours from 10:00 to 17:00 between March 1st and October 30th and that highlights the need to always keep others in mind whatever we are doing, hardly a popular message in these individualistic times. Lastly, you would like that cemeteries and gardens of remembrance would be immune, but the above sign sadly is needed. Are we also losing awareness of our own mortality too?

Farm Dogs

It is all too easy to show disapproval of what others but we do have to look at ourselves too. While I never would own a dog myself now, I grew up on a farm where dogs were allowed to run loose. My first memories are of two Border Collies, an apparently placid mother and her son. However, there were some rumblings about his having had a go at someone walking on the road, so all may not have been as well as anyone would hope. Usually though, things were uneventful and they lived until an advanced age (for dogs anyway).

On a less friendly note, a lad working with my father on the farm had an enthusiasm for Alsatians and an intrusive one was kept in the farmyard for the sake of security. The creature did not last long though, since it was believed to have found either a poisoned rat or some rat poison. Up to that point, it had been a bit of a nuisance so it was not missed like the Border Collies that I think outlived it anyway.

After a few months without any dog in the place, there was something of a female puppy buying binge with three arriving one after the other. The first was another Alsatian, but this was nothing like its predecessor and showed the type of temperament for which many of the breed are known, albeit with perhaps less in the way of intelligence.

An Old English Sheepdog came afterwards and was anything but what my mother expected. She had wanted another placid Border Collie but instead got a lively hairy affectionate creature that was as daft as a brush and often wished to jump upon us, a right nuisance if we were dressed in better clothes.

Then, there was a cross-bred that was part Labrador Retriever and part Pyrenean Mountain Dog. Even though that one was the most sober of the lot, it still did not save my mother’s washing from being pulled off the line from time to time. The tormenting cannot have made the lady enthusiastic about having any more young dogs about the place.

Sadly, both the Alsatian and the Old English Sheepdog met untimely ends. The latter was knocked over by a car on the road and rat poison or poisoned vermin was the suspected cause of death for the former. That left the Labrador cross-bred, so things were quieter, though my father, a light sleeper, got enough of all night barking sessions and puppies appeared from time to time too. It will make a dog lover wince to learn that all of these were destroyed and not always in the nicest manner either. After all this, the cross-bred eventually met her end and I seem to recall canine cancer being mentioned as a cause of death in the animal’s older age.

After that, there was no replacement and I reckon that I am inclined to reckon that both of my parents were weary of having dogs by this point. Farm cats became substitutes though their begging at mealtimes grated enough to ensure a porch was added to the back of the house for the sake of extra peace. There also was a comical episode when my mother chucked a dustpan brush at cats to disperse them and my brother came the same way with a mate of his.


Now that I look back on it, I am amazed by how freely those dogs were allowed to roam and how they largely were left to their own devices. Maybe it was when the three young dogs were about the place that it was realised quite what was involved in having them and the nuisance that could be caused. There might have been Barbara Woodhouse programs on the television along with One Man and his Dog, but the world outside the house was far less disciplined.

That is not to say that there were no rules for there was hardly any question of dogs being allowed into the house, though the pups were allowed in on their first night. That was the sum total of any such invasion. Even an attempted incursion during a thunderstorm was met with a rebuttal.

Since those times, my views have changed to agree with those of our local “DogFather”, who writes in the Macclesfield Express and AlderleyEdge.com. Dogs need training and it was the lack of that that caused my parents so much intrusion. They also need continued discipline or they could be roaming the countryside causing havoc. It was not for nothing that there were ads on Irish television promoting the locking up of dogs by night to cut down on livestock worrying.

Another factor has been my being nipped in the ankles by dogs myself. The first was done by a Border Collie when I was returning home on my bike from a visit to my aunt and the light failing. More recently, a Jack Russell terrier did much the same while I was on a walk around Alderley Edge. After both incidents, I got my tetanus status checked and updated for very obvious reasons. They also colour my current view of dogs such that I give them a wider berth than during my days growing up in Ireland. That is not to say that I do not appreciate the need for dogs to be exercised and I also feel that those in charge of the creatures need to realise their responsibilities too. Not realising those will bring you the sort of nuisance that blighted my parent’s lives and could affect wildlife, livestock and other people too. It is not for nothing that there is the slogan about a dog being for life and not just for Christmas.

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