Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Little Lost Lurcher

Happy New Year Blogosphere!

I seem to have taken a bit of a break on the blog, mostly to do with the Christmas season, but as the last five of the Twelve Days of Christmas see us getting our lives back together, I thought I would put finger to keypad and get going again.

I’m going to start with a look back to Little Christmas Eve – the 23rd December. It was a lovely day with blue skies, light winds and mild air. I had planned a bit of a change in the usual round of dog walking to include exercising our little ones as well. Some days you can get away with not exercising your children but they had broken up from school the day before and Christmas was two days away. They were in more need of unbouncing than Tigger.

So we got in the car and drove up to Whittle Dene. This is a favourite walk for ourselves, the dogs and the little ones and that day we also had Stephen with us, our second-born, back from University for the holidays. We drove up the A69, turned off for Ovington, then took a bumpy, splashy ride along St Andrew’s Lane, which is a public byway, and parked up in the usual spot at the Lane End. Rover was over-excited from the start and he grew more and more squeaky in his barks as we got closer, for he knows and loves this walk. Amazon and Holly stayed in the back, but Rover squeezed through to the middle and had a good view of what was going on.

We had our walking boots on as we know from previous winter visits that the Dene gets pretty muddy at this time of year. We had to hold the dogs back while we put on our boots and they were getting very hyper. Eventually Amazon squeezed past Cath, closely followed by Rover. Holly stayed in the back until it was opened and then ran around us barking for a while as she had not been able to do her trademark trick of running after Amazon and barking at the point that she could no longer keep up.

From the start Amazon was off doing her own thing. This is the normal pattern for this particular walk as she know that she has flushed deer out of cover in this location before, and in typical Amazon style she thinks there will always be deer to flush out. So we walked down into the Dene and waited at the bridge until the lurchers were back, giving Holly some time to feel a little more adventurous than usual.

We didn’t expect to see many people and so it was. Normally there is at least one other car parked up at the Lane End but not that day. As we headed up the Dene I noticed a couple of other dogs, one of which was an Alsatian, ranging about higher up the east side of the dene. Holly must have thought it was R&A as she sped up the hill to join them, but the lurchers were already well ahead.

This is the usual pattern of our walks here, unless we have plenty of time and are in the mood to explore: down to the bridge by the huts, wait for R&A to turn up after their initial romp, head up the valley with R&A going on ahead, wait at the upper bridge for them to arrive, climb out of the Dene and follow the bridleway that runs alongside the Dene southwards to  St Andrew’s Lane End. That day did not go according to plan.
The boys were having a great time getting their clothes muddy as they found all of their favourite climbs and scrambles. When they reached the bridge they were not inclined to wait and headed off. Holly was nearby and Rover returned to the call of the whistle, so we decided to start up the hill and not wait for Amazon as we thought she would find us as long as we were whistling for her. We made decent progress, stopping from time to time to call or whistle but there was no sign of Amazon. We carried on anyway, as we knew that she could quite happily appear at any point of the route back and still be able to beat us back to the car. However, the further along the bridleway we went, the more nervous we were getting as she was looking to be more and more lost.

Then Cath’s phone rang. I laughingly suggested that it was Amazon calling to find out where we had got to, and that turned out to be about right. It was a call from home: someone had called to say they had found Amazon “at the bottom of the Dene.”

Before I say anything else, I have to say that I am very grateful for this call, and for the subsequent help. However, we interpreted “the bottom of the Dene” to be where it comes out near Ovingham, over a kilometre from where we were. I hurried on, overtaking the boys who had been keeping ahead of us all the way. I called and whistled for Amazon from the Lane End but of course I was pointing the wrong way, as it turned out. Cath decided that she was unhappy with the information, so she called back home and got Owain to find out the number of the person who had told us they had found Amazon. She was then able to speak to them directly and learned that Amazon was near what I think of as the upper bridge. Some people walk into the Dene from the A69 and I imagine that to them this bridge is the lowest point of their walk and so would be the bottom of the Dene.

By the time we had this information, we were back at the huts. The boys were already ahead, ready for lap 2 of the Dene. As I was sure that Amazon would find her own way back to the car, I decided to go back and walk the route backwards. I ran up the slope and jogged back up along the bridleway, calling and whistling across the fields in case she was up looking for rabbits or hares. Eventually I reached the path down to the upper bridge and I called again, to be answered by Cath – they had found her.

When Amazon saw me she didn’t want to look me in the eye. She knew she was in trouble. She was wet and muddy and looking as unbounced as I had ever seen her. I decided to put her on her lead rather than risk her running off again. I know her style, as soon as she thinks she is forgiven, she is off again. Cath thought I was being mean to her, but by the end of the bridleway I was vindicated. Rover was off again and Amazon straining to be after him. I put down water behind the car and fastened her lead to the tow bar. Holly was happy to have a drink and be back in the car, but Amazon was distracted until Cath finally got Rover back.

Thus ended our double walk of Sugley Dene. Unfortunately it will be our last for some time as two days later (yes, on Christmas Day!) the timing belt went on the car and we are now without our own car, so it will be local walks only for the foreseeable future.

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