As cliché as it sounds, dogs really are a man’s (and woman’s) best friend. The trials and tribulations of a difficult day at the office are instantly forgotten when you walk through your front door to be met by bounds of excitement and a whole lot of love from your furry friend. So isn’t it about time we gave something back and rewarded them with some extra special hikes? Living North put in the legwork and sussed out the best locations free from ‘No Dogs Allowed’ signs, ensuring neither pooch nor owner has anything to worry about. These are not bleary-eyed power walks in 6am rain; they’re the long, indulgent adventures of a sunny Saturday before retiring to the beer garden with a well-deserved drink and a worn-out dog panting happily at your feet.
In the Northumberland National Park, history and culture are set against vast stretches of Northumbrian countryside acting as a giant playground in which your dog can run around chasing sticks and enjoying plenty of new smells (taking care not to alarm the grazing cattle and sheep, of course).
Yeavering Bell, the twin-topped hill on the eastern fringe of the Cheviots, is great fun to investigate while taking in spectacular views of Cheviot and the Border Ridge, College Valley and the North Sea from the cairn-crowned summit. Yeavering is derived from the name Ad Gefrin, meaning Hill of the Goats, so-called because of the wild Cheviot goats that can be seen around the area. It is the largest hillfort in Northumberland; nearly 2,500 years ago, an Iron Age community turned this special place into their own settlement, building a gigantic stone rampart to protect the 130 roundhouses within. Although the rampart has since tumbled, its remains are still impressive, and a closer look at the hilltop reveals the platforms on which the ancient houses once stood.
Of course, a mere trip around the top is barely enough to satisfy even the smallest of four-legged friends. To rack up the miles, begin your walk at the nearby village of Kirknewton, following the permissive path in the College Burn Valley before reaching the signposts for St Cuthbert’s Way. When reaching a junction of paths shortly afterwards, a veer to the right will lead down to Hethpool Linn waterfall where your canine companion can have a brisk paddle to cool off before beginning the hike up to Yeavering Bell.
The rolling green hills, plentiful flora and fauna and pure country air provide a wonderful setting for relaxed owners and energetic pets alike to explore.
Escape the hustle and bustle of city life with a visit to Jesmond Dene, an enclave of tranquility in the heart of Newcastle.
Stretching over three kilometres, this natural haven follows the River Ouseburn between Jesmond Vale and South Gosforth. The large network of paths and bridges, the luscious greenery of the exotic and native trees, and the resident kingfishers, red squirrels and many others make this destination a far cry from the city skyline only a short distance away.
The Dene is strongly linked with 19th century industrial development and landscape design, mirroring many of Lord Armstrong’s influences. Thanks to a generous £6million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Jesmond Dene and the surrounding parks have been gloriously revamped over the past 18 months, adding a lick of polish to an already beautiful spot. The new plantings, rejuvenation of the bridges, work to the grotto and new street furniture all add to the charm of the area.
Strolling through this idyllic setting with the birds chirping in your ears, watching your dog wag its tail in happiness, does wonders to relieve the stresses of daily life. You’ll never want to leave, much to your companion’s delight!
Tunstall Reservoir, a few miles away from the small village of Wolsingham, is set within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It offers plenty of exciting surrounding terrain for paws to pad through, as well as magnificent views of the vast body of sparkling water. At the northern end of the reservoir there is a small marsh where the nationally scarce thread rush occurs, which is protected as a private nature reserve. The rest of the reservoir is now used for boating and angling.
The bordering Backstone Bank Wood is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and also plays host to a rich variety of wildlife species, from roosting birds such as lapwings and oystercatchers, to trees like willows, hazels and holly. Butterflies flutter merrily around the site, with up to 13 species to spot including the red admiral, small tortoiseshell and peacock.
Dog-walking enthusiast and owner of dogwalks.co.uk Tony Hall is particularly fond of this area. Tony loved his outings with his two Beagles, Darwin and Huxley, so much that he launched the website, which features all of his favourite walks in the region. ‘Tunstall Reservoir is an especially lovely walk, particularly in the spring and summer months. All around the reservoir, you have the diversity of grassland, fields, riverside trails and a walk through an ancient oak wood.
‘I think the whole of the North East is a fantastic dog walking area due to the diversity of the landscape. You have the Cheviot Hills to the North, the moors of the Pennines to the West, the coastline to the East, and the Dales to the South of the region. My dogs quickly figured out that when the rucksack came out, they were in for a good long walk. Different smells on different walks and regular decent exercise helped my dogs stay relatively fit as they got older, letting them live a healthier life. I have walked many miles with and without dogs, and there really is no comparison.’ It seems that for the North East’s dogs and dog-owners alike, it really is time for ‘walkies’!