In the first of a new series for scottishfield.co.uk, blogger and Longdog lover Kerrie Lindo shares one of her favourite walks.
By Kerrie Lindo
For me, the best thing about having dogs are the walks that we share together. I love getting out in the countryside and being part of all that it can offer and luckily my longdogs are the type of dogs who will happily spend hours with me out in the woods. I am lucky in that I work from home and am able to walk my dogs every day. Straight after my son has left for school, as soon as I get my boots on, my two dogs are at the back door with their ears pricked wondering why I haven’t got my coat on yet. If you have dogs yourself you will know that they are very adept at reading non-verbal signs and the putting on of the boots signals for them a chain of events that will lead to the best part of their day (apart that is, from the bits that involve lazing around on the sofa and eating).
Longdogs differ from Lurchers in that they are a cross between two sight hounds and involve no working dog at all. Kizzy is a Greyhound/Saluki and Gordon Mac Donald (mostly just known as Big Mac) is a Deerhound/Greyhound (but mostly Deerhound, which explains some of his more eccentric characteristics: shyness, laziness, the ability to go from 0 to 60 in three strides…). Both are very good at thieving things from the kitchen (when they were puppies I once lifted up their bed and found five empty yoghurt pots and a pair of very chewed up undercrackers) and as he has got older, Mac’s ability to get up on his hind legs to reach the stuff that I leave on the back of my range cooker has improved considerably and I have lost two shepherd’s pie and a hotpot to such activity.
Sighthounds take special handling out on walks (they tend not to spend their time trotting at your feet waiting for instruction – they are independently minded and think nothing of ignoring your panicked screaming and arm waving when they have spotted the white bob-tail of a rabbit) and need a lot of training, especially when it comes to recall, which is not their forte (after all, why bother coming back when there might be something else worth chasing?) but the results are worth it and there is nothing so exhilarating as watching your running dogs race across a beach at 40 miles an hour, turning and jumping and generally having the time of their lives.
I live in East Lothian, on Scotland’s beautiful East Coast and one of our favourite local walks is to Balgone Lakes. As a rule, I don’t drive my dogs to a spot and then walk them as I am lucky enough to have plenty of really fabulous walks on my doorstep, but I also think it’s important for your dog to be able to find their way home should they get lost and this is much harder for them to do if your walk starts with a car journey.
The Lakes are part of the Balgone Estate, which includes 100 acres of woodland and a farm. I get to them along a section of the John Muir Way, which runs across East Lothian and provides some great walks (you can find maps at http://www.visiteastlothian.org/activities-walking.asp) .
I have to go through the farm to get to the Lakes, so my dogs are always on the lead for that part of the walk and I am always mindful of what time of year it is because Balgone is a shooting estate, so at certain times of the year there are guns and at other times of the year there are nesting ground birds, both of which you need to be aware of if you are talking your dog’s there for a walk.
The Lakes themselves are beautiful, surrounded by woodland and full of wildlife – a walk around them in the early spring will reveal nesting coots, moorhens and a pair of swans who nest there every year and have successfully raised at least 5 chicks for the last four years or so. I always think that spring has properly begun the day I walk round the lakes and hear my first woodpecker ratt-a-tatting at her tree (in all the seven years I’ve been walking my dogs I’ve never actually managed to see one, but I live in hope) and it’s a double spring whammy if I see a Skylark rising up to sing on my way back through the fields.
There are nearly always pheasants dodging about and often a small family group of shy roe deer, who keep an eye on us from their hiding place in the trees (luckily my dogs are too busy chasing each other up and down the path to notice). One end of the lake seems wilder than the other and being there always makes me think of the bit in The Wind in the Willows where Ratty and Mole go out to look for Otter’s lost son and end up seeing Pan – it has that kind of deep, green mysterious feel that some woods have and is a lure for every child that has ever swung out on a rope over a river and felt the urge to let go and plunge into the silvery water.
The walk takes me about an hour and a half, longer if I decide to walk over to the other side of the lakes and up through the estate to Sheriff Hall. But I only go that far if I am procrastinating, because I do actually have to go home to work (at some point….but if the sun is shining and the dogs are up for it, we have been known to stay out for two hours or more. No wonder my boots need re-heeling so often!).
Still, we have to go home at some point. At the thought of breakfast Mac and Kizzy will pick up the pace when they are about half a mile from home, and then it’s off to the sofa to make the most of the morning by studying the inside of their eyelids, whilst Delores the Cat sleeps ostentatiously in their bed and I retire to my office, rather sad that the walk is over, but looking forward to the fact that we can do it all again the next day.
You can stay on the estate at The Granary luxury self-catering accommodation (with pool!) http://www.balgoneestate.co.uk/index.html